Hoo boy. HOO BOY. These last 4 months have been the longest year, haven’t they?
Every time I try to write a post, a portal to some newer, fresher hell opens. The speed of decay in the larger networked US games is staggering, and I mean staggering. Not to mention I, the bitterest of bloggers, have become obsolete, as memes have taken up the mantle of the drunken diatribes I labored so long and angrily to write.
But that mean, salty fire hasn’t left me yet, so enjoy what may be the final, furious ride of Bitter Bruce.
A Quick Recap
For those with substantive lives, and no time to follow the immaterial and toxic drama of the LARPing world, here’s your “year in review,” 8 months early:
- The MES club in the US has calamitously shrunk, and if rumors are to be believed, there are 1,000 or fewer active players. Venues are closing nation-wide, the national plot has been widely panned, and the national team has closed ranks, as usual.
- Dystopia Rising has gone through a series of “ownership changes,” where venue owners with troublesome reputations have “stepped back” from being directors, hiring replacements … while they continue to own the business and dictate its policies. Meanwhile, rumors abound that national has been purchasing chapters, meaning games will now be owned by a company which consistently refuses to admit it even exists to avoid responsibility for local drama.
- Dziobak, the darling of high-dollar, one-shot divas worldwide, has imploded, while its former owner is definitely not behind a series of GoFundMe campaigns to save him from bankrupcy, wink, wink. No effort was made to refund players for upcoming games, which Dziobak gladly sold tickets for, knowing it was financially collapsing on itself like a bearded neutron star. Womp Womp.
- A well-known LARP youtuber and influencer threw their Nth tantrum at an overseas LARP, claiming to have been utterly ignored by the staff, and for once actually suffered tremendous backlash for it. Apparently they never reached out to staff, which the LARP politely, and publicly pointed out. The broader LARP community erupted with horror stories about said-influencer, past abuses, nightmarish rumor campaigns and other skullduggery.
- Larp Saltposting and its ilk have come into being on Facebook. Despite rendering me and this blog largely irrelevant due to the speed at which imbecility can now be mocked and that mockery shared through memes, I am incredibly proud of this diseased little mutant of a page, and the dozen copycat pages it has spawned. I see them as my disgusting, salty, and most importantly honest offspring. I categorically however, deny any hand in their creation, and refuse to pay paternal support of any kind.
All of these are important, and all of them are connected. Vitally connected, in fact, because they are the embodiment of the entire life and death cycle, the very ecosystem, of LARP, except now that ecosystem has public skepticism, which means I can finally die a happy alcoholi- I mean man. A happy man. Once this post is done, anyway.
Networked Games are Dead. Long Live Networked Games
The insularity of the upper staff, the aggregation of control (without oversight) of the club in the hands of the NST and the Board of Directors who have all the professionalism of a dozen ostriches sticking their heads in the sand, these are the ailments which will finally lay to rest a very sick, old org. Struggling to find and keep volunteers, and with a diminishing pool of players who can afford to travel to national events, as local venues shut down, the MES’s outlook is … grim, to say the least. Short of rising, enraged, from its own ashes like a phoenix of cheetoh-dust and furious email chains, it will become a thing of memories, good and bad.
There are people out there, those who praise one-shots, who will claim that this is the fate of all campaign games. But to those arrogant naysayers, I remind them: Nero persists, to this day, like some nautiloid or lobed-fish that will never die so long as it finds a deep-enough, backwards, toxic ecosystem in which to gently filter-feed. Therein lies the future of even the worst networked game: a game doesn’t have to die, no matter how heinous its actions, no matter how damning the drama, it will live as long as someone is willing to pay for that special brand of pretend.
And in very millennial fashion, newer networked games have learned to simulate great labors of change while remaining functionally identical. Dystopia Rising is a snake that keeps shedding its skin, each time convincing thousands of absolutely gobsmacked and clueless players that things will get better, as if the shedding of one layer of skin for an identical layer means anything.
Meanwhile, for all the hyped and advertised training by a major PR firm to prevent sexual assault and abuses, horror stories continue to slip out past the network’s rusty, genre’d iron curtain. And speaking of Eastern Bloc doublespeak, this same network, which once endlessly praised its community when it was profitable, now claims that there is no LARP community, in an extremely obvious attempt to avoid responsibility for that which it fostered.
Campaign games aren’t going anywhere. Neither are networked games. And for-profit games are only going to become more common. It’s time we stopped blaming the game format, and started blaming bad practices and bad people for our troubles.
1 Shots and Blockbusters Aren’t Your Saviors
Remember oggling Czocha castle, dreamily imagining yourself as a student of magic in such an amazing setting? Dziobak had such a knack for finding amazing locations and selling you on a destination trip, go to a place so that you can be something amazing there… Too bad the owner had a trail of wreckage and allegations behind him, and had the economic integrity of Bernie Madoff.
Let’s say the thing that needs to be said: blockbusters have flaws, but they are largely ignored because of sunken cost.
When a game is your big vacation, and you balance your annual budget to accommodate it, if it fails, you’ve committed an incredible quantity of resources and emotional energy into that failure. It’s much easier to focus solely on the good, to utterly ignore the bad, and the chalk up the success to the pinkies-up, nordic-style atmosphere.
Let’s not forget that the games are economically self-segregating, only being accessible to those who can afford it, meaning the players come from a specific economic bracket, except for those volunteers who Dziobak famously worked to the bone.
And even if the game goes well, truly well, and has no malefactors, it doesn’t have to deal with the long term inevitability of people staking their claim and competing, oops, except when it comes to higher-level participation, writing, volunteering and other creative control.
There is still room in this world for campaign games, even inexpensive ones. Your tour de force European excursion is not the optimal format for LARP. It’s just a new ecosystem which the bacteria have only begun to thrive.
This is the future, and it is probably my doom.
Thank fucking god.
These blog posts take a long time to write. 10% drinking, 10% writing, 80% editing and butt covering to hide my identity and avoid targeted meltdowns. It’s a labor of love. And hate. And a lot of things I should probably see a psychologist about.
But Saltposting and its ilk have sped up the process of cynicism and criticism exponentially. Where once I might have made a post and waited, watching, for days or weeks or months until I’d see changes in the way people discussed topics, now someone makes a meme, the page posts it, and it’s like same-day delivery of a guillotine to the French Parliament. In a sense, these pages are a windstorm, and are able to rapidly tear apart the exterior of any facade, any media effort, any attempt to obfuscate wrongdoing.
Then again, they are also capable of amplifying wrongs, spreading misnomers, or making a mockery of something complex, or even sacred.
But I don’t give a single, solitary fuck.
This is the evolution of our market that I have dreamed of. A mass and grassroots uprising of anger and humor and funny captioning, a field of weeds that chokes out the carefully manicured but ultimately unsustainable horticulture of the LARP community.
LARP Saltposting has made it very difficult for me to write or finish a post, for months now, because they’ve beaten me to every crisis, every punch, and every story. They’ve done so more efficiently than me, more democratically than me, and more entertainingly than me. So to them I raise my cup of salt, and wish them well, and say: if they have rendered me obsolete, then I am thus happily rendered.
Now, to finish this bottle of scotch, and go look at some memes.
2 thoughts on “2019: A Song of Fire and Salt”
Hey Bruce I know you’ve just said you’re ready to start your retirement, totter into your easy chair, put in your dentures and enjoy some nice meals-on-wheels but your Item #4 is howling for the long form treatment that those adderall gobbling weasles at SaltPosting simply don’t have the attention span or stamina to provide.
Your country needs you for
(It will not be the last op.)
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