“Fuck that guy,” you mumble, referring to that shlub whom no oxygen-breathing, food-eating, born from a womb person could like. The braggart. The thug. The condescending ape. The bully. Maybe his hygiene is questionable, maybe he’s got ugly shoes. Maybe he’s just mean. You saw him your first game, maybe in the registration line, telling people about how strong he was. You watched other people nod in agreement and encourage him to continue. You saw him metagame, swing too hard, cheat with items or lie about his HP. He argues and bullies incessantly on Facebook, and runs with a pack of equally merciless primitives, ready to embarrass and harass you into silence.
“Fuck that girl,” you grumble, referring to that lady with an arsenal of corsets who says things like “I have boobs, so I win this argument,” to end meaningful discussions, or who brags openly about resolving conflict by saying “tee hee!” or pouting extra-saucily, or who casually admits to flirting with people out of game to gain favors in game. The one who cuts in line and shuts you down when you object. The one whom staff members seem more eager to help than the rest of you, who has a platoon of white knights on the internet, ready to defend her every arbitrary or caustic declaration.
“Fuck that clique,” you sigh, of the people who always seem to know when plot will strike. Who sit at afters with the storytellers, or take road trips with game staff, taking all those selfies. The ones who get express access in ops, who get NPCs made for them, for specific subplots someone took the time to write for them. Who are, as a result, geared to the teeth with items that the rest of you apparently unlikable degenerates can’t even imagine. Who deny at every turn when confronted that this sort of conflict of interest exists (how dare you!)
They are … the Favorites. Or maybe that’s how it seems.
Before we drink too deeply of the hateraide, it’s important to note that there are guys who are worth their bragging. Girls who are worth their coy flirtations. Cliques that do daring deeds and earn their plot. People who are decent OOC. Decent online, and decent at game. Who will let the newbie go on the mod, who will let the deserving get the item, and who don’t play to win at all times. Let’s remember that those unicorns, bless them, do exist.
As for the rest…
Larp is full of favoritism. There’s no denying it. The bullies, be they violent or sexy, dominate so many of the games we play. They will get better stuff. They will get lighter punishments. They will get cooler roles and cooler plots. They will get more bang for their buck than you do.
We can point fingers, assign blame to the owners, to the staff, or to the broader network (if your game is networked). We can lay the blame at the feet of those in charge of rule making, conflict resolution and mediation. Those who vote on regional storytellers. Those who control listservs and chatrooms and forums. But complaints will only do so much.
You see, most larps don’t need you to be happy, just present. Especially those that are pay to play. Especially long-term campaign larps. If you’re discontent or your character is weak, that’s just more incentive to buy perks, or buy experience, or create props, or volunteer. None of these things will stop bullies or halt favoritism. Instead they encourage it: in the frenzy to do everything possible to get ahead, we create an illusion that everyone is eager, everyone is invested enough to do what it takes to succeed, and as a result, must be happy with the status quo.
And so the blame lies with us. The rest of us shmoes. Not the bullies.
We keep paying real money, and spending real time, to go be second class players. We don’t demand new systems to decide who gets what. We don’t call out favoritism publicly. We don’t feel safe criticizing staff or game runners. We let bullies bully us. We don’t call them out, decry them as childish, violent, or broken. We let their damage dictate our experience.
Why should the game runners change? You keep coming back. You don’t make your discontent publicly known. And they have bills to pay. Why would they change course, change their games, to accommodate a need you haven’t expressed?
When you’re at a larp and feel ignored, mistreated, or the victim of someone else’s favoritism, ask yourself, “Have I made my discontent clear?,” “Have I asked others how we feel?” “Have we petitioned?”
And ultimately… “Am I willing to quit?”
The best way you can vote is with your feet. How can a business improve its service if customers don’t make their discontent clear?
No amount of investment is worth continuously living in someone else’s shadow. This is also called the sunk cost fallacy. Totally applies to us too.
But if leaving isn’t your style, next time we’ll discuss “Playing the game, while playing the game.” You get it? It’s a joke. Two kinds of games.