Make-believe becomes very real at Riverside Park

The Victoria Amtgard battle gaming club is called Griffon's Keep. Griffon's Keep is part of one of several Amtgard kingdoms across Texas.
  • IF YOU GO

  • • WHAT: Griffon's Keep, an area battle gaming club

    • WHEN: 1 p.m. Sundays

    • WHERE: Grover's Bend, Riverside Park, 476 McCright Drive

    • COST: Free, must be 14 years old and up

We were running through the woods trying to keep the leaves from crunching too loudly beneath our feet when a zombie caught up with us.

A teenaged boy wearing a white, oversized shirt waved a handmade foam sword through the air as the rest of us 'humans,' crept closer to the water on Pebble Beach.

Melissa and I had decided to spend our Sunday afternoon checking out the area battle gaming scene at Riverside Park.

Battle gaming, not to be confused with live-action role playing, or LARPing, is a North American medieval combat sport where players use foam-padded weapons in battles.

This particular group falls under the Amtgard category of battle gaming, founded by James Haren, of El Paso, in 1983.

Amtgard combines elements of battle gaming and LARPing by including magic spells and armor according to class but is focused primarily on combat.

Griffon's Keep was started in Victoria 17 years ago, said Felipe Garcia, also known as Lord Riot.

Garcia has been playing since he was 14 years old and even started a battle gaming community called The Condor's Loft, in Bolivia where he graduated high school.

That's how he earned his Lord title.

During the week, Garcia, 29, makes deliveries for Pizza Hut, but on Sundays, he takes on a more serious job as a role model for the high school-aged kids in the Keep.

"It's a good activity for kids that don't really fit in with other sports," Garcia said. "It's for kids who want to live out the games they play on their computers, and it keeps them off the street."

In addition to pulling kids from behind their television screens and out to the field, the club has also raised money for an area cheerleading booster club and Toys for Tots.

After observing a few practice rounds of foam sword fighting, one of the leaders invited us out to the woods to participate in a game of humans versus zombies.

The adrenaline started to kick in when an older member of the human team brought out a bow-type weapon with foam balls on the tip of each arrow.

Suddenly, I felt like I was in a scene of out "The Walking Dead," with the yellow sun glazed over the gray pebbles from an open forested sky.

A member of the human team engaged the zombie in combat while my partner and I crept away from the battle scene and trailed back into the woods.

We yelled out, "humans rule," to ward off any oncoming attacks.

You know they're a zombie if they respond with, "humans suck."

Other members of the human team, echoed the phrase back to us, reassuring us that no immediate danger was near.

An abandoned camp made of a few spare branches canopied over small, torn pieces of fabric - clues of a previous inhabitant.

"It's probably a homeless person's home," one member of the human team said.

"This is how horror movies begin," said another.

Desperate to abandon the camp and return to the modern comforts of civilization, Melissa and I dashed through thorny grass fields and back to the Riverside Park picnic area where it all started.

I felt bad abandoning ship, but we had shorts on and were afraid of risking a possible brush with poison ivy.

Overall, it was a good time, but next Sunday, I'm wearing boots.