A person walks into a vegetarian enclave with a poodle under one arm, and a 14 inch salami under the other. The person is greeted by the host, who says ‘I’m sorry, we don’t allow outside food in our restaurant. Also, the fact that you brought meat in goes against the spirit of what we are trying to do here.” The sausage carrying client says, ‘This is ridiculous, I only eat meat! Why don’t you serve meat here? I’m going to go to the bar up the road for my meal, but I am going to tell every person I see from here to there about how lousy your customer service is!’
Seems pretty damned ridiculous, doesn’t it?
However, if we changed out some of the details of the story (like loose the attention grabbing 14 inch salami and the poodle) we would find ourselves facing what a lot of game organizers face today. Attendees who demand a specific set of service and options, despite the fact that those options go against the intent of the event they are attending. Combat focused players complaining that a lightest touch combat system isn’t realistic enough, emotional train wreck yearning players not getting enough complex emotional exploration, and players looking for large degrees of personal one on one attention in massive sandbox style games. It creates for an environment of frustration and eventual ill will, as well as an entire internet filled with vitreous and flame filled posts.
So how do we prevent the salami in the vegetarian conclave? Well Timmy, I’m glad that I posed that you asked this leading question.
First off, the people who are hosting a game need to advertise and accurately describe their game to the public. While not every plot, story, or interaction is going to match a single guideline it is the responsibility of the person who owns the ‘vegetarian enclave’ to let the people considering on coming in side know that they are coming into a vegetarian enclave. If you are intending on hosting a combat heavy escapist fantasy holiday… SAY SO! Let the people who are coming to your event know what they should expect. If you are hosting a deeply emotionally probing interaction that takes place in a handful of rooms that is hyper focused on character back story then SAY SO. That way the player who is looking for a very casual combat scenario will go somewhere else.
Just saying that you are a LARP is not enough. LARP is a term which covers so many different mediums, formats, and mechanical devices in regards to Live Action Rile Playing that ten completely different experiences can all be called a ‘LARP’ and they would all be correct. Be more descriptive with your public announcements and advertisement to the outside world. Are you a massively interactive sandbox style LARP? Are you a direct and interpersonal emotional LARP? Do you engage with a high degree of combat in your day to day activities? Is your game a single scenario or more of a campaign style interaction where players are expected to create depth to their personas?
The other step that needs to happen? Game organizers and event staff need to be able to say ‘Thank you but, that isn’t what we are doing here’ when someone comes into the door and requests something completely outside of what it is the game is doing. When a person comes into an event that has been clearly defined as a role-play and emotional drama focused scenario, and complains that there isn’t enough punching stuff and standing triumphantly, the staff needs to explain that event isn’t focused on punching stuff and standing triumphantly. And do not get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with punching stuff and standing triumphantly. I may write a LARP entitled Punching Stuff and Standing Triumphantly, however if you are looking for that sort of interaction in a game that is designed to explore the interpersonal and emotional connections that people have… the staff should feel comfortable enough to say ‘That isn’t what we are going for here, maybe this isn’t for you. We can still hang out and grabs food or drinks later, but we’re looking to focus in a different direction.’
And when the person looking to punch stuff and stand triumphantly is told ‘it’s cool, but that isn’t the flavor or LARP we are going for here’ then in theory both sides can go about their business like humanoids vaguely disguised as adults. Maybe the visitor goes ‘Ok, cool. I’ve not tried this other approach, I’ll give it a shot and if it’s not for me no hard feelings if I don’t come back?’ That’s fine. When everything is said and done both sides can high five, hang out, and maybe get together online to play a video game... assuming that you can agree on style of game and which one to play.