Anyone who’s seen the much-emailed clip of the “Lightning bolt! Lightning bolt!” kid may think they understand LARPing, or live action role playing: a beyond-geeky mashup of Civil War reenactments and Dungeons & Dragons. Darkon sets out to show that these hardcore gamers are not simply easy targets for ridicule, but real people with jobs, families, and yes—lives outside the game. Codirectors Andrew Neel and Luke Meyer spent nearly three years following a group of Baltimore-area LARPers who meet every other weekend at parks and campsites to further the exploits of their alter egos through a combination of acting, political strategy, and full contact battles with foam-padded medieval weaponry. Each of the participants has their own reasons for spending so much time in Darkon: Andrew (aka Shapwin of Laconia) laments the suckiness of our modern age, saying “Everything that was once noble and good in this world is gone and is replaced with Wal-Mart!” Danny (aka Trivius the Nomad) gains the self confidence he lacks in reality: “I can act like I’m not Danny. I like Danny, but sometimes Danny doesn’t have the balls to do what Danny needs to do. I’m afraid to go up to girls.” The filmmakers have made a surprising technical choice for a doc, with traditional handheld shots and one-on-one interviews capturing the participants’ real world existence, while steadicams and crane shots lend a slick cinematic quality to their in-character interactions and warfare. Although jarring at first, it does give the non-initiated a taste of what it feels like to be so immersed in a fictional world. But by the end of the film, the real surprise may be recognizing an amped-up version of the role-playing we all do in our daily lives.