So this post is going to be longer than most of my other blog entries. While I know the rule of internet reading is 500 words or less, it is difficult to summarize an entire year into less than 500 words without being super vague. So, I am going to give you my year in review as a writer, game developer, and game designer. I will save all of the personal year in review materials for my personal pages (save for pointing out that SHE SAID YES).
That being said, lets dig into 2015.
For the Dystopia Rising LARP Network 2015 was a year of getting through some professional growing pains to prep for the coming years. We are now registered as a full franchise based company instead of simply licensing materials for individual use. We invested heavily in professional services to ensure we had the accountants, software developers, franchise lawyers, marketing companies, and development tools to support our projected growth over the next 5 years. Instead of just taking care of current issues, we built support structures for years to come. While this made 2015 a very stressful, and less glamourous, year in house here at Dystopia Rising LARP it has put us in position to again double our network wide membership in 2015.
We (and by ‘we’ I mean mostly Ashley) ensured our database software had expanded ST tools. This includes being able to pull demographics of professions, strains, or skills for individuals in your chapter or at your current event. Adding future tools like linked background storage, adjusting character sheets, communication and tracking tools, as well as automated character tracking systems. There are also a few items that will be rolled out in 2016 that I can’t talk about yet, but, they are incredibly neat tools that players will dig.
We also launched the Dystopia Rising Support Net, and hired on call professional counselors for the network members. We have always prided ourselves on being a community, but realized that our authority and ability to help our community members was limited once they weren’t at game. So when a person is having a crisis, an emotional hardship, or needs to talk to someone about real life trauma there is now professionals we have provided that can help you. Better to have the support and never need it instead of not having it and it being wanted, right?
Event production support materials for individual chapters has grown immensely. With additional threat resources, rules for creation of custom local animals, new Director training classes, updated Story Teller guide, new Coordinator manual, and before the end of the year a new Marshal guides being rolled out each individual chapter has more resources at their disposal than ever before.
Next we go to DOWNFALL. Holy shit what a success. Over 828 total attendees hosted by 3 chapters with a combination of ongoing events, combat zones, and standard plot. It involved live vehicle combat, giant veloci-geckos, an encrypted language, a ton of meta material, dissection of real brains, a multi-tiered mine scenario, and the building of a defense wall. It was an amazing experience, with amazing people, and I have already started working on how to make Downfall 2016 bigger and better than 2015.
Overall, this year was a workhorse year that will pay out in 2016. When I started working on DR back almost a decade ago, there was only two kinds of LARPs you really ever knew about. You had the parlor LARPs that were all Minds Eye design, and you had your immersion fantasy LARP weekends. When we opened the doors to Dystopia Rising to the public in February 2009 we were aiming to do something that had never been done before in the US. In a few months, we will celebrate 7 years of operation. In those 7 years we have gone from 80 players, to 280 players, to 560 players, to 2100+ players, to 3300+ players, to 4100+ players, to where we are now at 6000+ players. With us having just opened Virginia and Colorado, and with Wisconsin and Kentucky opening very soon, we are looking at another 2,000+ players being added to the network this year. Add in the applications we will be reviewing soon, I anticipate that we will be at 25 active franchise locations.
Now to go from the DR LARP Network to our Publications.
2015 looked slower from the outside, but inside, the publications and creation process has never actually gone faster. In 2015 we produced our largest DR Table Top materials book, released the monster ExArcana, and prepped a ton of 2016 releases. For Chronos we have the supernatural theme deck, Devil Days deck and book, and Sleepy Hollow deck and book all set for release over the next 5 months. For independent projects we have Writers Blocks ready to go in the next few months as well as Merican Bar Brawl and Gobbos getting ready for their 2016/2017 release.
The big story in house is a little thing called Utopia Descending. A modern industrial-fantasy LARP that breaks a lot of US standard trope approaches in regards to contact safe events. It has been a project in development for nearly two years, and now we are at the last flavor text and getting artwork produced. This is going to change a lot of how people view the fantasy genre, and, how they LARP as a whole.
The Eschaton Media team is more streamlined and productive than ever. Projects that used to take us almost 2 years to release are taking closer to a year, and items that we have had to pass on in the past due to material overload are items we no longer need to pass on. A lot of bottlenecks and work redundancies were removed from our process, and we have started working with amazing freelancers who produce high quality on time-table. It also has allowed for us team members to have some degree of personal time as well, where we can enjoy the great big nerd world that we are influencing.
Lastly, here is my view on LARP as a whole in 2015.
I think in 10 years when we look back 2015-2020 will be the transitional growth years for LARP as a medium in the United States. We are starting to see larger mainstream media companies seeing the value in interactive entertainment, with more and more IPs having both tangible and interactive experiences, and adapt much of what we do with LARP into augmented reality experiences. Now as we watch companies try to grow into this field, I have seen multi-million dollar companies stumble over blocks we overcame as the LARP community years ago. Figuring out things like degrees of agency, community building, system design, and immersion techniques… and often times fumbling on a much more expensive scale than your first back yard LARPs use. As I see this I can’t help but think “HEY! We are already here! Come work with us!” Maybe, if we are lucky, some of the larger corporations will realize the marketing and profit potential of working with existing LARP designers instead of attempting to rebuild the wheel over and over again.
But, either major corporations with larger media connections and IP pulls will either figure out what we have been doing over the next 5 years OR maybe we will start seeing a larger degree of synergy between major corporations and existing LARP community and game designers.