With sword and shield in hand and dressed in a white cap, blue cloak and polka dot gloves, Catherine Ruddy looked ready to embark on an epically whimsical adventure. Will she use her blade to defeat a horde of enemies or utilize her shield to guard from incoming attacks before thinking of another solution? Perhaps she’ll rely on her intellect and quick wit to befriend her foes?
Wait, are we describing a play or a video game? Well, in Lambia, it’s kind of both.
In addition to being the name of a fantastical make-believe world, Lambia is also a theater workshop geared towards gamers. Taking place inside Lamb Arts Regional Theatre, the event is an experience for kids and teens in grades 5-12. Participants will create their own avatars or characters and traverse the world of Lambia, solving riddles and puzzles and choosing how they want to play out their adventure.
Ruddy, who also teaches at Lamb School, is the event’s organizer and creator. It’s an idea that she said has been building up for many, many years.
“I’ve always wanted to do something like this, but growing up I could never find anything like it,” she said. “I was always into playing make-believe-type games, but I also lived in Minneapolis deep in the city, so I couldn’t really play outside very much.”
Which eventually led Ruddy to playing video games. With gaming, she could play make-believe in a world already created for her by controlling her character and completing quests in games like “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.” By the time Ruddy entered high school, she was landing parts in plays and saw similar traits between gaming and theater.
Ruddy found out a way to appeal to gamers while also teaching theater skills by combining elements of live action role-playing (LARPing) and the puzzle solving qualities in escape rooms. All the while, participants will unravel a story through different themed locations inside Lamb Theatre.
There’s an emphasis on player choice and encouraging alternative solutions to problems. For instance, Lambia adventurers will eventually come across a fearsome dragon and can choose to either fight the dragon head on or talk it out with the fire-breather. Or maybe another solution entirely. Ruddy likened the experience to the game “Undertale,” which encouraged players to often seek comedic ways of dealing with enemies – whether it’s flirting with a gelatinous monster to stop it from attacking or by coaxing a dog knight to be petted until it surrenders.
“I’m really focused on seeing what we can get out of the kids by giving them this opportunity to be someone else -- this creation that’s purely from their imagination,” said Ruddy. “Lambia is very open. It’s like the most open world you can think of in that it’s all imagination. There are no wrong answers because I don’t want to limit their creativity.”
Through the trials participants face in Lambia, Ruddy hopes they can feel empowered for a job well-done, having faced things that were challenging in an immersive fantasy world. For inspiration, Ruddy took to “The Legend of Zelda” series, the first video game saga she was ever introduced to.
“I didn’t even play it at first!” said Ruddy. “My first exposure to it was watching one of my older brothers play it. I would just sit there and watch. Eventually I started playing it, which added another level to the exploration aspect of it.”
The imaginative TV show “Adventure Time” also played a big part in the construction of Lambia, not only with its fantasy setting but with the way the show subtly intertwined themes and messages into its story.
“They’re able to address realistic, moral issues and things like that,” said Ruddy.
Lambia begins at 10 a.m. Saturday (Jan. 6) at Lamb Theatre.