Social Politics And LARP

There is a subject that I have been struggling with in my mind for a few years now, and that subject is the place and influence of applied activism and social reform integrated into LARP. The reason for my ongoing thought process about the subject is that I do, beyond a shadow of a doubt, see the potential to use LARP as a medium to enact social reform. By designing environments, situations, and communities to adhere to a set guideline of interaction a game designer can have a degree of influence on the direction and growth of their participants.

This is part of the reason I have always tried to err on the side of entertainment LARP with a touch of social commentary instead of focusing my LARPs on the constructs of pushing any form of direct medium. I am a LARP designer and a writer. There are dozens or so of people like me in the world, and, in my opinion most of us are not qualified or entitled to tell other people how they should live. That may be a part of my “define your own life and buck authority” thinking bleeding through but I don’t think your TV, music, or games should be used as a means to program the masses. Just thinking about that idea makes me want to yell “drugs and guns” while shaving a Mohawk into my hair.

Artistic rendition of how I feel when people start getting political around me online.

Artistic rendition of how I feel when people start getting political around me online.

The two primary influences in my decision making process that I use now are “can we make a fun experience for as many people as possible” and “can we do so while hurting as few people as possible”. So far that has worked pretty well for me. Sometimes people reach out to me and go “hey, could we do this to make things a bit better?” and I respond with “sure, lets figure it out”. Seems like a good process, and, overall it’s kept me from becoming a raging alcoholic.

However there are people who urge me to the protective extreme. I occasionally get commentary or emails or feedback from people that want to sand off all of the edges of a world’s content, what to control the in character concepts of conflict, and actually aim to censor or control what I write with threats of “making efforts of public shaming” as their weapon. I have, beyond a shadow of a doubt, been threatened a number of times by individuals that they would “go public” about something or another if I didn’t do exactly what they said. It is a frightening throwback to some ideas that the comedian George Carlin used to rant about in regard to people wanting to control your language. If only I hadn't given up on the idea of a public identity years ago, it probably would work incredibly well. 

But people pushing me to be more and more protective isn’t the part that makes me feel fuzzy about the entire situation. I get it. People want to create a better and safer community based on their viewpoints and expressions, and I can’t fault people for wanting to influence others to do more. I can fault them for not actually going out and making the change happen instead of poking other people, but, that is a different concept and discussion for another time. No, the part that scares me is when the lash-back eventually happens.

Whenever any group, organization, or system attempts to police and define degrees of what is acceptable and what is not we end up in a situation where there will be a number of people who rebel against that standard. Creation of a system, to a degree, inspires and drives a resistance to that system. So far, from my perspective, we have been lucky in the fact that LARP as a medium has been primarily populated with more free-thinking and liberal mindsets. However, I am concerned for the day when the push-back begins and one form of pressure to move to an extreme is met with a push in the other direction. LARPs that focus on more conservative, closed off, and exclusive mindsets are just an eventuality. While one group focuses to push the medium towards a very liberal and progressive thinking, it won’t be long before we start seeing conservative and nationalistic or religious traditionalism LARPs. I can see environments where people play “religious soldiers” fighting against the influences of damnation. I can see LARPs being made where the world is designed with clear cut “good and bad” influences defined by political interests. I can see LARPs that recreate historic events in such a way to rewrite history to serve a single interests group’s perspective.

And when the day that the political and social war becomes that embroiled into our hobby, I will watch the flames of the internet grow so high that the purpose of having fun at a game would forever be lost.  

To summarize with a joke that really isn't that funny if you think about it... this is how we get Trump the LARP.