Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, as it follows its protagonist, Marcus, juxtaposes complex technological and political conflicts with intimate moments of childhood and adolescence. The passage from this book that resonated with me the most, and by far my favorite passage, was the passage in which Marcus recounts his memories of LARPing, or Live Action Role Playing. He delves deep into his memories about how much he used to love to play these games, and how one specific game had led him to an extremely embarrassing moment. This passage was particularly important to me because it touched upon two prevalent themes in my life: the longing for childhood innocence and the difficulty of moving on from a moment you intensely regret.
In this passage, Marcus begins to recount his fondest memories of childhood. He begins to talk about “scout camps,” which were weekend-long role playing games. He remembers how in the first one he was a wizard, and he was wholly invested in the character and he felt that his only goal was to seek out the one person who was his designated target. The important thing is that Marcus called these games his “favorite thing in the world.” This is something that keeps me up at night. I can’t think of anything in the world that could be more fun than being a kid, having the ability to totally forget the world around you and create a new world. I can’t think of anything more fun than truly believing that you are a wizard and that all your best friends were other magical beings. I often worry that I will never be able to achieve that level of release from real world problems. I often worry that I will never be able to achieve the level of innocence and bliss that I could play as a kid. I often worry that my best days are behind me.
As Marcus nears the end of his story, he gets to the point. He used to play another LARPing game which involved pretending to be a vampire and running around a hotel. At one point, a reporter who was staying at the hotel where the game was being played asked Marcus what he was up to. Marcus responded with a funny lie about how his tribe was on a search for someone in their royal bloodline after they had lost their prince. The journalist, however, published this as a story. In the end, Marcus’s joke belittled this LARP game and more importantly made him the subject of great teasing and humiliation. Marcus begins to describe how it feels to think back on this memory of embarrassment, and there are few literary passages I’ve related to more than how he describes it. I know how it feels to have done or said the wrong thing and to think back on it. It is almost a physical pain. The intensity of regret mixed with the hopeless desire to change the past momentarily overcomes you. This is how Marcus felt about what he did, and it is how I felt about many of my words and actions throughout life. That is why this passage touched me. L