This morning was a shock to many people. A person who had ran a political race based on hatred, division, racism, and opposition was elected into the White House. I could spend multiple updates outlining his quotes in regards to the people he marginalized and threatened, but that isn’t the focus of my blog. The focus of my blog is gaming and LARP culture.
I am going to say something that needs to be said, but, very few want to say. Keep in mind, this isn’t just about DR. This is about parlor LARP networks, about other boffer LARPs, freeform events, and damn near every LARP community I have been witness to over the past 24 years of running LARPs. This is about our culture as a whole.
LARPs that focus on inclusive communities, equality in our culture, and creating safer spaces have been fighting an uphill battle for years against a sea of bullshit that sometimes seems insurmountable. I think I speak for most of the game designers I know and community organizers when I say we want a perfect, safe, play space that is a utopia for everyone.
We don’t have that and for the most part it’s not due to a lack of effort on our part.
Game organizer can’t wave a wand and make all real-world issues go away. We can make little social changes here and there and we can set guidelines to try and build safer spaces, but we are limited to the culture and larger social system we operate in. We have been and are fighting an uphill battle of ingrained toxic culture in both our hobbies history as well as in the real toxicity in the world. We are approaching subjects that our government (and we the voters in the US) can’t seem to grapple and overcome. Somehow people expect their gaming community and its leaders to operate at a higher ideal function than our own law enforcement, legal, and judicial system.
This conversation might get less comfortable here.
Attempting to hold your smaller social groups (LARP groups) as the utmost authority in regards to social safety, real world crimes, and potential breaches of legality is a displacement of authority. Your game designer and smaller community leaders are not actual authorities outside the scope of their creation and operation. If two players get into a fight away from an event and the police are not involved, there is very little that your event host or community leader can legally do. Your community leaders do not have authority to determine guilt or innocence, or to dictate actual punishment. While a group of friends can easily not invite someone back, public LARP events have to follow tighter guidelines in regards to operation.
What we as a culture need to do is involve the due process of the legal system as well our political leadership in regards to the social, legal, and standards of our shared culture. As people, if we do not have faith in the due process or our system, then it is our responsibility to work to enact changes in the systems that we choose to govern us. For those that feel that these changes are impossible to make, and that going the route of the actual authorities will not create change, I ask you how it is in any way fair for you to shift the responsibility of taking agency for change off yourself and moving it to a game organizer. Your game organizers want to make a perfect utopia, however, they are game designers and event runners. Your event runners, unless they are coincidentally involved in social/political/legal processes and reform… can’t really change shit. We can just make small pockets that the systemic issues in our culture sometimes don't effect.
Despite this many people are fighting hard to make safer spaces. We are fighting to make “safer spaces” and not “safe spaces”, because the fact is there are no such things as safe spaces in this world. I think that we were lying to ourselves whenever we thought there was something close to an actual “safe space”. As of the time of the writing of this rant, it is illegal to be homosexual in 72 countries and 5 sub national jurisdictions around the world. Several major religions in the world still treat women as second class citizens. Racism is still entrenched in our collective cultures. We, the United States of America, just elected a president that rode into office on a wave of hatred and division.
So with this in mind know that many of us are working REALLY HARD to institute change and provide a safer environment where we can. We are, however, limited in the degree of change we can make while the world continues to tumble around in a shit show. If you want to yell at the people making change about how what they are doing is not enough, then I challenge you to do something to engage change. While game designers can tell you how their fictional world mechanically and socially interacts, we can’t tell you how the REAL WORLD socially and mechanically interacts.
And if the safer space being provided is not good enough by your standard, I would ask that you first take a few moments to reopen your eyes to the real world. The real world that many of us do not have to look at on a daily basis due to the privilege we are born with. The fact that your game runners, people who are designing pretend for you, have to focus on making spaces that are safe for you to be yourself in says a lot about the world as whole. Think about that and take a step back and look at our world situation with a critical mind. Reform of our social and political systems is how we truly make safer spaces. Gaming groups working to make safer spaces is just a series of oasis in the desert… ones being forcibly made against all odds.