How to Shamelessly Self Promote: Part 2

My post made it to LARP Haven

Woo. Now I can finally die.

And predictably, the comments came in 3 camps:

  • I have experienced this
  • This makes sense but is extremely discomforting to read
  • This never happens and boy, is this dude bitter

I had a post about safe spaces prepared, but first I’d like to clear up some of the imbecilic fog that’s accumulated.

To those who have experienced the absurdly catty and socially manipulative underworld of LARP, thanks for having the balls to post in agreement. There’s so much overwhelming pressure to be positive at all costs that as a hobby, LARP resists scrutiny in all but the most rarefied academic circles.

Yes, I am bitter. 

No, I do not hate LARPing. Quite the opposite, it is out of my love for the hobby that I post difficult truths, hoping that people will pause to think about the social mechanics which are, in many cases, more important than the game mechanics we obsess over. We, as players, perpetuate these problems by noticing but not addressing them, and it is our responsibility to fix our own community. The accusation that my critique comes from lonesome hatred stinks of the “No True Scotsman” fallacy, which being fallacious, is utter bullshit.

Yes, this is meant to be humorous. Why the fuck else would I post a kobold to illustrate a point? More importantly it’s satire, a form of humor most effective in exposing the emptiness of ideologues and customs, which the LARP community has an abundance of. If my hyperbole sounds just a little too mean to be satirical, well, it’s probably cutting you too closely to the bone, and that’s a symptom of your problem, not mine.

No,  I’m not a high functioning sociopath (though if I was, I wouldn’t tell you, so take it as you will); those who cannot see the transactional nature of LARP are either blind to it, participating in it (willingly or unhappily), or actively promoting it. The former makes you ignorant, the middle makes you sad, and the latter makes you every bit as cynical and unempathetic as I appear.

To the incredibly facile suggestions that criticism without solution is unhelpful: go fuck yourself. Then use your indomitable positivity to create solutions for the flaws I reveal. My goal is to be the guy who finally mentions the elephant in the room; I am not obligated to provide elephant-catching services for the privilege of pointing out the obvious. The fact that these posts are so alarming and upsetting when the problems are so widespread points to a stupendous communal intolerance for self-critique that borders on the pathological.

To those who say that social capital in a LARP is the result of making cool props, being a good community person, or being the best roleplayer in the room: HA. Sure, plenty of awesome people in LARP become renowned for being great at some ancillary skill. But there are taste-makers who promote them, or they are effective social climbers themselves. Further, how many people promote or lend credence to an amazing craftsman, merely to use their product as a means of self promotion?

Another word for meritocracy is natural aristocracy which has the unfortunate side effect of implying that there are also natural peasants,  and call me crazy, but it’s the 21st century, and many players pay to attend LARP, so why should anyone be classified as a natural peasant out of someone else’s subjective assessment of communal value?

To those who think my rant is geographically-isolated, or that I “must have a very toxic local community,” I think that your thought process is exceptionally lazy. I would wager that your community has the exact same issues which you are, willingly or accidentally, blind to. Or maybe you live in a miraculous and perfect place, where all the abusers and manipulators have been thrown out.

“Our community is positive and free of toxicity!” said the homogeneous, economically self-selecting group of LARPers

Finally to the bland, boiler-plate comments of “these problems are common throughout all social groups;” when the fuck did we, as geeks, decide to go along with the status quo? When did we decide it was OK to be just as mediocre and shitty as everyone else?

We have no problem, as a culture, coming up with elaborate rituals to make us believe, even if only for a short while, that we’re fucking elves, vampires and werewolves. I think it is well within our intellectual wheelhouse to imagine a better, kinder community.

For more acerbic, clearly bitter, definitely toxic rants, follow me on Twitter

How to Shamelessly Self Promote: Part 2

13 thoughts on “How to Shamelessly Self Promote: Part 2

  1. aaronvanek says:

    Larp Cynic: I want to pay you money to write/rant for Larp World Magazine. If you want, get in touch with me (editor at larpworldmag)


  2. Unlikely Shrew says:

    He’s calling the College of Wizardry fanboys a ‘homogeneous, economically self-selecting group of LARPers’. Which they are. They are about as inclusive as Hungary’s immigration policy.


  3. Gargamel says:

    College of Wizardry is one of the most expensive larps in the world, and it’s player base are mostly people from the Nordic countries, or at least all sharing a taste for nordic-style larping.


  4. Bowstreet says:

    I’d like to offer a different point of view on the topic.

    My GM group is actively promoting our most engaged players in our campaign game. We praise them publicly for roleplaying, costumes, makeup and individual initiative. We give a chance for participants to name the best players in polls. Up to date, the results were overwhelmingly positive. By setting good role models, we encouraged other players to engage more. The quality of costumes and makeup went up. And the role models are helping: a girl who won the poll for best makeup provides free makeup for people who need it. A guy who won the poll for best costume published photos describing how he built his armor, and gives tips how to follow his steps. Faction leaders work hard to engage withdrawn or introvert players.

    As a side note, I’m usually playing at one-shot larp projects that aren’t targeted at a single larping group or community. Different people from all around the country mix together, and they have different play styles and expectations. This results in the “cool kid” syndrome being almost nonexistent. It’s hard to self-promote at a one-shot event full of new people, and good GMing tends to shrink the problem even more.


  5. Mark Darkling says:

    There will be a US version of the College of Wizardry, called New World Magischola taking place in late May and late July at the University of Richmond, Virginia. Tickets are just under $500. I came into a windfall and decided to make this my holiday present this year and see if it is cracked up to what it is.

    There are people who pay much higher prices for spa days or luxury weekends. I don’t see the cost being elitist and I do not consider myself one either. In fact, if I feel that the event wasn’t worth the cost, I’ll be the first to admit it.


  6. consciousgizzard says:

    Bitter Bruce, I’ve read your three recent posts, and the comments on them.

    I don’t like the tone. I don’t find any of your articles to be funny or entertaining. Rather, I find the writing to be angry, harsh of language, and to use your own term, toxic. For example, the statement, “I’d like to clear up some of the imbecilic fog that’s accumulated,” does not, in my opinion, benefit from the inclusion of the word “imbecilic” which actually distracts from any points you are trying to make.

    However, that’s just a difference of style, and probably one you’re seeing a lot of people like me react to. Once I take a moment to look past our differences in choice of language and humor, I see a lot of truth.

    I stopped playing campaign larps for many of the reasons you cite. Off the top of my head, my main reasons for quitting the campaign scene were:

    Lack of respect shown to game space.
    The endless hours some players spent nebulously in/out of character during game time, rather than playing the game. I appreciate that you’re playing with your OOC friends (often I am too!) but save the bulk of your OOC socializing for outside of game space.

    Lack of respect shown to the boundaries of game space.
    The endless hours some players spent nebulously in/out of character OUTSIDE of game time, especially with GMs and those who play powerful NPCs or characters. I understand that these people are your OOC friends, but you should not use those relationships to advance plots outside of game space, access information unavailable to others, or have special sessions run for you that impact the game. That’s cheating on the part of the player, and favoritism on the part of the staff.

    Overemphasis on seniority, compounded with favoritism.
    Long-running campaigns with progressive experience/treasure that reward longevity over other considerations. It’s difficult to listen to “Prince Rupinheimer, Lord of the Vincinidici, Wielder of Lightbringer, Champion of the Herfnarben…” say that he started out at the bottom, and you’ll grow too, and everyone plays an important part even if your character is built on 10 (units) and his is built on (Wait, you don’t even know your total, do you? Power level over 9000 isn’t it?). He’s been playing that character since the start of the game, so was never really below anyone when we was “at the bottom”. In fact, often he was granted special considerations, numeric or positional, from the beginning.

    This might be okay, or even constructive, if Prince Whatshisname is played by a very good player, who sees himself as staff-like in responsibility, and takes joy in making sure the plebs are having a good time. If he’s less than stellar, he’s (with the help of his group of similarly equipped friends) likely ruining the game for many, many plebs, using the methods you wrote about.


  7. Unlikely Shrew says:

    Saying “you don’t like the tone” is a stupid thing to say. You’re are like person number 5 I’ve read so far doing this. Guess what, Bruce’s tone is making these things actually get talked about. There’s being belligerent for no good reason, and then there’s being belligerent because the pathological need to positivity and good fee-fees around larp makes it impossible to even scratch the paint otherwise.


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