Monday, 12 October 2015

How to Complain – A Guide for LARPers

Perhaps the worst thing about LARP is the bitching and back-biting. It’s not the ‘drama’ – the playground, school-kid ‘I’m not talking to her because of what they said about our Sharon’ – that’s just fall-out.

No, the worst thing is what causes it. The rumour-mongering, fear-spreading, lie-creating, poisoning that seems to be accepted as part of the community.

I can see somewhat why this exists – though I probably am going to have to refer to stereotyping and generalisation to do it. Why? Because some people really think that because they fit into box labelled ‘X’, therefore they should also conform to the perception of ‘X’.

LARP doesn't have a forensic system of analysis, nor structure for policing itself. Indeed, many LARPs don't have any any form of conflict resolution other than "someone's done bad, uh... ban them, uhuh-huh...."

Take this example from Profound Decisions (of all people...):
Yes, they will warn you, and can potentially ban you, based on hearsay. That's disgusting - it's downright abusive.

But when all you can rely on is word-of-mouth, it's not surprising. But it does mean it's open to abuse, and that's exactly what I've known to have happened before.

I happened to my old game, when I banned a person for 1 Event - well, I say 'ban', I mean 'gardening leave' - it was an issues of possible Conflict of Interest. Without going into detail, the guy bitched about it over Facebook - and had overy 50 comments, most along the lines of:

"I don't know what this is about, but yeah, fuck that system, they're cunts!"

Way to go judging something when you have no details whatsoever.

Dafuq? We wouldn’t give the time of day to these kinds of pathetic remarks at any other time. In our daily lives, someone bitches or moans, you carry on as usual. Why on earth do we give such weight to these drama queens?

To be fair, I think the bitchy types are a very, very small portion of the LARP community that unfortunately many people pay attention to. What isn’t justified, however, is exactly how much influence these people have.

For some reason, LARP as a community not only accepts these people, it actively embraces them.

We’ve been fooled into thinking that, because you’re always going to get bitches and bitching, therefore it’s ok. I was actually told by a few group members of a local LARP that, as a referee, you shouldn’t confront people that you know to be bitching, or independent people have told you are bitching, simply because “you’re always going to get them”.


That makes it ok then, yeah?

Of course not.

Bitching is a degrading process, like wind erosion or mould. It doesn’t change someone’s mind now… but it does eventually. It wears a persons’ perceptions thin, twists ‘truthiness’ to appear as the bitch wanted.

Talking with my mum about this recently, she told me that “people who believe the bitching about you, weren’t really friends to begin with”.

I don’t think that’s true. I think their opinion was changed over time by more than one individual – thereby, the ‘stories’ seem to corroborate, and therefore must be true. Past incidents get twisted to appear different in hindsight.

So, I’m asking for every LARP participant to do the following:
  •  When you hear someone complain about the game, game staff, or another player, tell them that you’re not interested, it’s nothing to do with you!
  • Stop asking for opinions on a game, game staff or another player – especially if you might not like the answer! The number of times someone’s got upset about an opinion…

 Oh my… the times someone’s reacted to something ‘offensive’!

I was once asked my opinion on a local LARP that the person asking me used to attend. I’d been to maybe 6 Day Events. My opinion of the game was rather dim – I hated the game, I hated the man that ran it, I hated the set-up, the design, the rules. To me, it was a shit game – it does nothing but upset its players, made them feel worthless and cheat everyone that it came into contact with.

The person asking was so offended! How dare I give such a bad opinion of ‘their’ game!? I surely must be such an arsehole to say such things! Um, no, love… you asked for my opinion. I gave it. If you didn’t want to accept what I had to say, you shouldn’t have asked. I was later told by my referee team that I shouldn’t be giving opinions on other LARPs as a LARP organiser myself – because then it was ‘bitching’. Huh? I was asked. I gave an answer – you know what the answer changes?


I wasn’t spreading lies or rumours; I wasn’t attacking the game or its creator. But I did give my reasons why the game was so poor, and that’s what these people didn’t want to hear – so clearly, I was being manipulative.

You have a problem with some aspect of the game? Do exactly the same as what’s acceptable in Real Life. Here’s what you should do: 
1.      Remember the difference between ‘feedback’ and ‘review’
·         Feedback is given directly to the Game Team. Not to anyone else. It should consist of:
·   What the game did well
·   What the game did poorly
·   What the game should improve on
·         Reviews are opinions in the public eye that share experiences. They should cover:
·   What you liked
·   What you didn’t – and why
·   An attempt to be non-biased despite coming from subjective experience
·   Your overall rating of the game
2.      Complain in person directly to a lead referee. They should take notes, and pass the complaint back to the Direction Team. Referees should be truly interested in your complaint, review, feedback and what you have to say – otherwise their game will not improve. Have a friend come with you, or do it for you if you would struggle with this confrontation

3.      If this doesn’t work, take it higher. Write a letter to the Direction Team, expressing your issues. The same applies here – you should expect a well-reasoned, informative response. Your issue should be taken on board as constructive feedback. Bear in mind that:
·         If you’re rude, coming from opinion only, or aggressive, prepare to be ignored entirely. No one should suffer abuse for your crusade
4.      If this still doesn’t work, write an open letter. Take it to Twitter and Facebook. Go public. You’ll get a response pretty quickly then! Bear in mind that:
·         This is poor way to do it when a simple, polite word would have solved it first. It’s also poor form in general – it should make you look bad too. But if you can show you’ve at least made a polite attempt first…
5.      If this doesn’t work, stop playing that game. The game clearly isn’t interested in you – so why should you support it with your time and money?

I must say, I’m really shocked – still! – that there isn’t a (possibly) anonymous Review site that give reviews of LARP games so we can see what the game is actually like, rather than hearing third-hand bitching.

There’s a better, healthier way to do it.

Let’s start remembering that, and reminding others.

You don’t like something in a game, don’t tell your friends. Don’t tell the newbies. Don’t go out of your to spew your hate over bystanders.
  • ‘feedback’ and ‘review’
  • Complain in person
  • Write a polite letter to the Direction Team
  • If this still doesn’t work, write an open letter
  • If this doesn’t work, stop playing that game