Friday, 17 March 2017

We Need To Talk

I haven’t posted anything in a while. I have things written – quite a few things. I’ve got things I need to get off my chest, things I simply want to write about and things that are just ideas I feel I should throw into the great aether of the internet – they might help someone, or get lost forever, but that’s for others to decide, not me.

Partly, I’ve had a lot a real-life stuff to deal with that hasn’t been great, partly there’s been some relief of not reliving the same memories over and over – why do I torture myself? – and partly it’s been the things that I want to write and talk about that’s been the issue.

Because, in the LARP community, there’s just things you don’t talk about. Not because they’re racist, or homophobic or whatever, not like that. Something, I think, is much darker than that.

LARPers don’t want you to make them look bad.

Why do I say that and not ‘LARPers don’t want you to make LARP look bad’? For the simplest reason of all – LARP is a hobby that one spends a lot of time, money and socialising invested in – as a person only has so much time spare, socialising itself is a capital along with time, meaning that outside of work and some personal issues at home, for many LARPers, their life revolves around LARP.

For LARPers then, any part of the community and its lifestyle is very, very personal. Any slight taken against a game that a LARPer plays at, minor criticism of a game, of a person in the community, of an aspect of the culture gets take too literal, too deep and as ‘offensive’ without really seeing the bigger picture or the intent behind it (see some previous posts about people takign everything to heart!)

I’ve been a bit lucky really the past couple of years – I joined a game system that I wrote an article about, and the game organisers didn’t shun me for it, but the opposite, they embraced it and made minor changes to the game that’s made it visibly better (I will write another article about it) and ask for my opinion at times. In my experience, this isn’t what normally happens at LARP.

I’ll give you an example: look at this article written by LARP Guide member Leah Tardivel (yes, we’re back to looking at this, but they’re one of the few article machines out there that talk openly).
A LARP Guide team member that’s never played the Lorien Trust game system attended and wrote a review on her experience.

The first and third comments on the article are direct attacks. Not justifications, not counter-points (as I countered about ‘That Event is Too Expensive’ – even though my counter was very critical and inflammatory, it didn’t attack), not even ‘yeah, I see what you mean… but...’ or ‘come back and have another go’.

No. Leah was struck with ‘your fault, you didn’t get involved’ and ‘you didn’t use maps’ and ‘well, that’s just your experience’.

First – I’m glad Leah got to experience LT that way, and the snobbish replies afterwards. Leah saying about the difficulties she had, what she perceived of the game and the replies she got were exactly what new players get to large system - particularly those new to LARP.

Leah might be surprised to learn that she criticised the exact areas of the game that I had problems with when I started CP - and she's a CP lover.

Being ‘new’ no-one wants to talk to you much – you get pushed to the edge where you see the crappier costumes. You must find your way around, and there certainly wasn’t a lot of maps handy at CP when I started around 15 years back. Sure, the guide had a map at the back – but if you were new you didn’t have a guide, and not knowing a lot of people, you don’t always want to ask, especially when someone points out that it’s something OOC ‘ruining IC immersion’.

New players struggle to get plot – or indeed, anything or anywhere – new players struggle to find out what’s going on. Of course, this isn’t true for all new players, but the majority, certainly. Many long-term LARPers won’t notice this, however, as, even if they’ve never played CP before, they’ll have friends they can go see and talk to. They’ll set an IC excuse as to why people that have never met before are best friends, so they can hang around their OOC friends without worry.

And those veterans LARPers that do notice these problems know that – at least for them – it won’t last long as they’ll find their own way into the game, know the general steps to take etc. Even though learning this takes years. Unless you have a friend willing to guide you, LARP generally leaves you out in the cold.

And that’s exactly my point. The two commenters didn’t want ‘their’ game looking bad – Leah didn’t realise that the exact things she criticised are also in her game. 

LARP doesn’t want to talk about its problems.

A friend posted on Facebook something about people saying ‘you shouldn’t hold grudges’ and being bullied, and then, of course not wanting to be friends with that person again, because well, you were bullied by them (duh?)

I lost a friendship around this time last year – because I had dared criticise a friend of a friend. I was explaining to my friend that this guys had recently joined the small parlour LARP I attend, seemingly because he knows I attend it. This guy used to send quite abusive emails and messages on Facebook to me.

At the time, when I pointed it out to people I was told to keep it under wraps – we didn’t want to upset others do we?

This time, it was almost like I was the one abusing my friend – how dare I say such nasty thing about his friend? If you read ‘5 Geek Social Fallacies’, you’ll see why – my friends have to also be friends. No one can not get along.

Another friend I know has recently posted up about the sexual abuse she suffered from someone she met at LARP that has scarred her for life – and how another LARP friend has been bullying her into going to a game where this guy is known to attend.

My friend has spent 6 or 7 posts trying to justify why she doesn’t want to go, and that she shouldn’t put herself in an abusive situation again.

6 posts. At least.

What a loading of utter fucking bollocks!

If she doesn’t want to go, she shouldn’t have to defend herself, or justify herself. It’s her choice! Leave it at that!

LARP doesn’t want to talk about its problems.

“Wait, yes it does! I’ve seen loads of articles about dealing with abuse at LARP!”

The article mentions all the things that can happen at LARP – without directly asserting that they do, in fact, happen, except in a round-about ‘it happens in the macrocosm, therefore it happens in the microcosm’ spurious kind of way. It mentions all the bad things that can happen, and the pledges we must pro-actively strive to include to make sure these things don’t happen.

I have a couple of major issues with this article that I’d like to deal with in another article, but mainly, whilst I praise the article for its candour and for being empowering and honest, it doesn’t resolve anything. It doesn’t mean anything. You can pledge all kinds of things you want, but when the worst happens, you’re going to need to know how to make it better.

LARP doesn’t. It sweeps it under the proverbial carpet. ALL LARPs should make the pledges mentioned in this article – and once again, I despair that such things must written out for people – and yet, the community still struggles with the basic principle of policing itself in a humane manner.

LARP doesn’t want to talk about its problems – the community will says that maybe there is some, so it looks like its talking about its problems – but it isn’t.

Recently, another friend of mine was telling me about how his friend at CP is suffering from harassment from another player couple, and how she’s possibly having to move factions because of it. Apparently, not all of it has been by messenger either – some of it has been by constant texts and telephone calls, by threats and even to her face.

What would you do? In a normal, everyday situation? At work? What would you do?

You’d complain to a higher manager, wouldn’t you? You’d go to an employment law adviser, wouldn’t you? You’d save it all up and go to the police, wouldn’t you?

Wouldn’t you?

There’s no such recourse in LARP. It’s worse if the person in question has influential friends in nthe LARP community. It’s worse if the person in question is friends with the ref team. It’s worse when they are the referee team.

I wasn’t ‘allowed’ to speak about the messages and grief I used to get from players. I can only imagine the situation this young lady is trapped in, no one to speak to, no way to sort it out other than change her life.

When I said to my friend that maybe what she should do is publish the texts and messages she receives, my friend said “well, no she can’t do that…”
“Why not?”
“She’d get lots of people upset”

Hang on. She’s being abused emotionally and she isn’t allowed to say anything? She isn’t ‘allowed’ to stand up for herself? In the article, it mentions Missing Stairs – players simply avoiding the issue, moving to another location or another game, whatever. Skirting around it.

That’s exactly what this woman is expected to do – but it’s not coming from her. It’s coming from the community. Others are expecting her to not speak out.

LARP doesn’t want to talk about its problems – it knows it has them, but doesn’t want to admit it.

A friend posted another article to me: Remember, The Party is Under No Obligation to Adventure With You. This is accurate and right – though again, I’d like to express more in another article.

The issue here is though – is it’s not being dealt with. It’s pushing it to one side.

In the LARP community, this is often the way certain people are ‘dealt’ with. Look on most forums, for example, players will often say cheaters are ‘ignored’ or ‘avoided’. I know one cheat that was ignored so much he became a referee.

LARP doesn’t want to talk about its problems.

But it needs to. And it needs to sort them out.