Superfans

Larpers, Gothic Lolitas, Star Wars freaks, and Nintendo game devotees lurk among us.

They serve your food. They sort your mail. They man the ladder trucks.

They are your accountants. Your nurses. Your personal trainers. But when they are finished cooking your food and bagging your groceries and driving your children home from school, they become something bigger: a heavily armored stormtrooper, battle rifle in tow. A demure Gothic Lolita, smiling shyly behind linen and lace. A short, sword-wielding night elf, enacting a living role-playing game. Super Mario himself.

Ricky Torres, executive officer of the 501st Legion of stormtroopers, poses as Jango Fett. Torres has also constructed a clone soldier, a blue variant, a tie pilot, and Darth Vader.
C. Stiles
Ricky Torres, executive officer of the 501st Legion of stormtroopers, poses as Jango Fett. Torres has also constructed a clone soldier, a blue variant, a tie pilot, and Darth Vader.

What drives these otherwise ordinary people, these superfans, to cast off their mortal lives and slip into the realm of fantasy? For some, like Denise Ritenour, who has spent the past ten years playing powerful vampires, fandom is escapism. "You can become anyone or anything when you larp," says Ritenour, who participates in "larps," or live-action role-playing games. "I have the ability to check reality at the door."

For others, it's about developing bonds that are greater than this world. That's how it's described by Ricky Torres, executive officer of Vader's Fist, the 501st Legion of Florida stormtroopers. "I could call anyone in Pensacola, Jacksonville, Tampa, or Orlando," Torres says, "and my brothers would drop anything to help me if I was in trouble."

Mostly, fandom means dedication to a cause. It means falling asleep humming "The Imperial March," dreaming of elaborate designs and Victorian gowns. It means working tirelessly on your next costume or staying up all night painting and gluing and honing your broadsword. It means the only way the real world of doctors and lawyers and tax attorneys will ever take that Nintendo controller from you is if they pry it out of your cold, dead hands.

It's the fans' world. You're just living in it.

Click here to view the full slide show.

 
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