Strange Philosophical Issues Related to LARP - Part One of a Series

Creating, producing, and running LARPs for a living has created more instances than I can count where I have to chew over larger philosophical questions that you wouldn’t imagine being a LARP designer would bring up. Lately a mental debate that I have with myself that I never thought I would have outside the realms of considering government. Lately the idea of the modern republican and the democratic approach to overseeing social groups has been one that is taken a lot of my time.

There are people, like myself, who believe strongly in the freedom of speech (and the freedom to respond and challenge speech) is crucial in modern day social circles. Through censorship, muting, and “shouting down” others we prevent the expression of ideas, thoughts, and emotions and stunt the potential for social growth and evolution. As a writer, a creative, and a community organizer the idea of the individual being able to express themselves is incredibly important to me. That desire for self-expression has driven me to create LARPs, publish over a dozen books, and express my philosophy to the world.

This same freedom has allowed me to be questioned, have my thought processes challenged, and to improve as a human. I have learned, grown, and considered many different aspects of life and philosophy inspired by the expressions of others. I have grown as a person based on being able to engage in philosophical debate and discourse with people who do not share my exact view. It has allowed for discussion, and at times still not being able to agree, but providing a medium to process and really digest an idea.

This same freedom of speech and self-expression is the tool that allows individuals to threaten, abuse, and mistreat other humans. This freed of expression in social groups introduces pain, suffering, spite, and toxicity that poisons the well of human potential. It threatens, it endangers, and can cause harm.

When the use of language causes harm, endangers, and threatens others many times the individuals within a community look to the community leadership to make the harm stop. The individuals look to the community leaders to provide guidelines of acceptable behavior, to act when any individual acts against the health of the group, and to do what can be done to take the route to cause the least harm.

But how do you keep the ability to express yourself without fetters when you also are asking an outside force to act as a leader, guardian, or mediator?  By the simple act of asking for a third party to tell others what you can and can’t do, you are not only giving up a portion of your own free speech but also asking a third party to enforce limitations of free speech on others.

This gets murkier when the idea of privacy comes into play as well as the definition of the board of what “is and is not” under the purview and operation of a social group. When two individuals who are a part of the same faith who are also members of the same hobby social circles have a disagreement, and the disagreement occurs in a virtual communication space outside of the control of either groups, what authority is involved and to what degree? Should the individuals even involve the social groups at all for moderation, mediation, and involvement?  As individuals, when we attempt to force our social groups to expand their involvement outside of the direct engagement relating to their social group focus, are we then abusing the entire design and validity of social safety? What do we do when the activities of a private third party group endanger, threaten, and cause harm to members of a larger social group and organization?

The issue at hand becomes worse when the freedom of expression and the limitations of it comes into play. As a child of a military family I find the destruction of actual American flags to be distasteful (along with a hundred other emotions). However do you allow a member of your community to tell others how not to express themselves regarding the use of the American flag? Moreover do you silence the person looking to impose their will and philosophies on others using the medium you oversee?

There are number of these debates, questions, and issues that crawl through my brain while people yell about errata details and their favorite blueprints. I think I will spend some time sharing these different scenarios and issues.