Monday, 9 February 2015

The Importance of Being Vile

Though I have only recently been to a new LARP for the first time in two years, already the shit comes out of the woodwork.
LARP can have a tendency to bring out the worst in some people, and in general, can be abusive and even downright torturous. I want to explain why in another article, and also in another article why I say this - my particular experiences in specific.
A guy I know goes to a local LARP. He runs his own - this may be what's behind this particular crap, but I suspect that he's not the only one suffering this way and it's just a convenient 'excuse' for certain behaviour (though from my experiences, this is a 'good excuse' for all manner of shit) - but he has been playing at this particular LARP for over a decade.
He said he had a very bad time, and, after the day he went to, would rate the day as less than 0/10 (he'd read one of my previous reviews). That's.... worrisome.... to say the least.
What could give someone such a low opinion of a LARP?

Is it the low safety standards? The poor set up? The crap rules and rulings of the referees?
In actuality, when it comes to LARP, experience is much more like a game of DnD table top - it is the 'experience' itself that is rated. Look at the reason so many LARPS do well even though they have crap rules (Heroquest anyone...?) or a crap setting (Alrune?) or even lack of plot (Curious Pastimes?) - players go to meet friends, catch up, relax, have a holiday as well as play. Experience of a LARP is more-or-less the standard by which it's success and provision is rated by a great number of people.
It's very easy for the experience to become sour and bitter - even with great rules, good rulings, and good safety. I know because it happened to me. The reason experience turns sour is the same reason why I wanted to set up my own LARP in the first place - and the reason my LARP went downhill so quickly.
I love that word. Makes it sound more dramatic than it is. Insidious, certainly. Vile, yes. It's a fantasy word that brings to mind sickness, plague and blood magic. In my experience it's most definitely a sickness.
But, as with religion and politics, corruption isn't as dramatic as it is in fantasy books, and it's something much darker and menacing.
Before we go further, I'd like you to do something for me. It'll only take 10 minutes at most.
Look up 'LARP review' on Google. Better yet, do it in a Private window, that way your results won't be filtered by the search engine based on your preferences.
What did you find? Let me tell you, and you can see what I mean.
No LARP system has a star rating on any site. They don't have feedback forms or review forms on their own sites. You can't find star ratings anywhere, in fact. There are indeed 'reviews', however. They all read like 'I'm going to be coming back to this game' and ratings are skewed high, the review having nothing bad to say and not even being critical or holding any evidence or reasoning.
Here's some reasons why:

  •  LARP is an insular society - it's also very bratty, more so than almost any other hobby I know. Piss one person off and you piss of their friends (why? they have nothing to do with it!) and possibly the system (as if that's something to do with them as well?!?). I was worried about my last review simply because I had negative things in my opinion which has caused me to be ostracised from a group before.
There was a high amount of bitching even in my small game. One woman was banned because of it - telling everyone that I "wouldn't allow her to play what she wanted" as if that wasn't fair. First off, what she wanted to play was a highly restricted DPC, and secondly, it was awarded to the creator of said DPC ahead of her. Simple tough luck. But spreading malicious rumours was exactly the method she used to try to get me to give it to her - I even caught her doing it! When I confronted her, I asked her why. Her reply? "I didn't want you to be upset that I had an issue with the game". My game team later banned her, not necessarily because of the rumours, but because of the treatment of our good nature - the assumption she'd created.
I remember I once had an artist/photographer at my LARP. She also attended another LARP at the time. When I saw here work I was amazed; "Would you do some photos/drawings for my game?" I asked. Not entirely for my benefit - I believe LARP should be a creative release and a foundation for building confidence and skills in one's works. She told me that the other game didn't like her doing drawings or photos or their game and that's why she'd never raised it with me before. I could only reply thinking about her, trying to get her realise her potential: "It's such as shame - you're being wasted. You have real talent and it should be used"

That became the start of a major 'fuck you' tantrum. From a 26 year old woman. Jesus, the sniping I heard (from her) behind my back. You see, she'd got upset at the fact I'd 'offended' the game she played and loved. How? What? Huh? Ok, even if I did 'offend' the game why is that her problem?
  • I've spoken to many people before about these kinds of experiences. Many times I've heard of people excluded from a group for raising issues, criticising the ref team or similar.
LARP in general, does its best to control these issues. Mostly, it ends up as whining and complaints - mostly also because many see differences in rules or system concepts as 'subjective' and therefore open to interpretation - when in fact, many things (head hits?) can be ruled objectively.
  • More than that, few LARPers will actually confront issues within a system. There is a certain amount of fear, I feel, that were one to critique the game that referees would take it personally and ban you, or 'spam' you with attacks or lower your character's abilities. The amount of bitching and behind-the-scenes- badmouthing is breath-taking - an aspect some more long-term LARPers deride as 'yet more whining', but yet must contain a grain of truth otherwise the scale of the bitching wouldn't exist.
It's bullying. Whether from referees or from players, it doesn't matter. It's cruel, it's twisted, it's demeaning and it's just plain wrong. This kind of thing damages mentalities - and no, before you say something, not everyone can 'get over it' or 'man up'. Fuck you for thinking so.
Corruption doesn't stop there. I hear this particularly bad system this guy has a problem with has many layers, so ingrained that players have threatened to leave if the game changes. if this doesn't highlight the amount of bullying that goes on, I don't know what does. You shouldn't have to kowtow to players wishes - or anyone's for that matter. "Do it, because I say so". Um... No.

If you've got an issue, if there's something to say, you should say it.

And you shouldn't be afraid to do so.