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.
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