Saturday, May 14, 2016

The Rules

The social contract is a powerful thing.  It’s also wildly malleable.  Anytime people get together to do something specific, whether it’s build a bridge, fight a war, perform necessary work, save the world, or even just try to have a good time by pretending to be fantastical creatures of some sort, you’ll see politics and sometimes, even in the most well-meaning group, you’ll see ugliness.

It can’t really be avoided. It’s part of being human and being around other people. Look at it like this.
Life is a like wedding.  You have a whole bunch of people who come together for a singular purpose. And each of those people may have, in their own minds, a vision of what the “Perfect Situation” is.  And even in the most well-meaning group of people, even in a group of people that ISN’T peppered and salted, with people who are socially maladjusted, afflicted with mood disorders, or on the autism spectrum, you’re going to have these visions clash with one another.   And that’s not even taking into account the occasional ex-boyfriend who’s determined to crash and burn the whole ceremony.
   Add to this the idea that some people have done some serious thinking and planning to make the event happen, and others are just trying to add to the basic happiness of the event, but are pulling things out of their butt on the fly.

This is why, when I DJ weddings, I make certain that the Bride and Groom have a code word so that if they send someone to me with a request, I can make sure it came from them as opposed to some wild-ass idea that some well-meaning person had on the spur of the moment.  “Dude, when the bride comes out, we’ve decided to change the song to Judas Priest’s “Screaming for Vengeance”
“Yeah. Sure. I’ll make sure THAT happens.”

But while this sort of thing can’t be avoided, It can be minimized.  The best way to do this is to communicate, to work hard to make sure as many people as possible are on the same page. To make sure that people understand the concept of collaborative art and how fragile it is.  Frankly, the main problem with the social contract is that often, it’s not worth the paper it’s NOT written on

So. With that in mind, let me offer some carefully considered guidelines.

Respect the Venue
Finding a decent place to play is the single biggest stumbling block that most Larps have.  I mean, while Geek Culture has made great strides in the last couple of decades, it’s still considered weird to dress up in some form of sartorial excess, roam around in public and pretend to Vampires, Werewolves, Changelings or whateverthefuck.  Not all places are keen to have that sort of activity take place, but even if they ARE cool with it, they won’t be if you leave the place a mess, or you comport yourself like an asshole.  So don’t.
This includes the following:
1) Clean-up after yourself. And if you make a mess, ask someone for a mop and bucket and fix it yourself.
2) Don’t do anything that might constitute a “Physical Stunt” on the premises. You could cause damage and/or injure yourself or someone else. If this occurs, it could expose the venue to legal liability and most people who run places would rather have herpes than a court case.
3) If Civilians are present in the immediate area, moderate your volume and refrain from molesting them. (I’ll cover this in more detail below)  The LAST thing you want to do is drive off their other customers.
4) If the venue sells food and drink, it is permissible to NOT eat or drink, but it is rude to bring in food and drink from an outside source.
5) Be nice to the Venue’s staff. They’re working and do NOT have to put up with your shit.  Every single hotel, that I have ever played a larp in, I have made it a point to approach the front desk and thank them for the lovely, clean, venue they have provided.  There has been only one instance in which I thought rudeness was called for to the venue staff and it didn’t even get that far. We simply took our business somewhere else the next year.  TIP WELL, if tipping is involved.
6) If the venue is good to you, be good to the Venue.  Kind words on Yelp cost you nothing. Kick business their way if you can. Fire off the occasional letter to corporate extolling the virtues of the staff… These are all things you can do, and will likely cost you very little.
7) If the Venue is one that requires a site fee, Pay it.  In fact, over-pay it. If you really like the game and you want to see it thrive, then make sure that you kick money in that direction.  There will almost certainly be an evening where you are short on cash some night.  But if you tend to over-pay you can still go play and not be wracked by guilt. 

Seriously. I’ve been saying that this is rule zero for years.If you larp this ought to be hardwired into your head by now. No one wants to be the guy or girl who did a completely stupid or classless thing that got the group bounced from their play-space.  Don’t be THAT player.

Respect the Storytellers
Just in case you forgot, let me put you wise.
Your Gm is not making any money off this little enterprise. He’s likely swiping office supplies from work just to make this game happen. He or she has likely done a non-trivial amount of writing in preparation for this shindig.  In fact, there may have been a non-trivial amount of planning, transport, set- decoration, props-making, and maybe even catering.
This has been done in the name of making a good time, not just for you, but for everyone.

I’m not saying you have to treat your Storytellers with slavish adoration, nor am I saying that you aren’t allowed to call them on their bullshit.  I am saying, do what you can to smooth their path and tell them when they are doing a great job.   No one wants to Gamemaster when it’s become a chore, or for people who are ungrateful.

Respect the Civilians
This really ought to go without saying. But unless you are threatened with violence, you should be respectful in your dealings with people who aren’t playing the game, that you might encounter while doing so.  This is especially true of law enforcement professionals.  If you are open and friendly, and willing to talk about your hobby, you’re liable to engender more respect for the hobby as a whole in the minds of people who have perhaps stumbled across it for the first time. Assume, YOU are making a first impression, not only for yourself but for the hobby as a whole. Be the ambassador. You know?
Who knows, you might even create a convert.
And be aware. If you’re in a hotel or in a residential area. People may be trying to sleep nearby. Keep an eye on your volume.  (I am especially bad about this, as an actor, I was trained to hit the back wall with my voice.I really have to watch it.)

Respect each other
It’s easy for this one to get lost in the shuffle sometimes.  We get wrapped up in IC gossip. We get wrapped up in OOC gossip. We have people who embody a full spectrum of neurodiversity and the simplest inter-actions can be seriously fraught, and sometimes even triggery if we’re not paying attention.
We have differences in opinion on religion and politics. Sex adds a whole additional dimension of tension, and there can be varying levels of racism, creedism, sexism, and discrimination against LGBTQI people of all sorts and at varying levels from micro-aggressions to great-big-fat-honking-aggressions. It’s a complicated world we live in. Almost more complicated than trying to follow the storylines in 8 separate X-men titles a month.

But here are two things you should always keep in mind.
1) We are more alike than we are different.  We all have hearts and minds, and blood that pumps. We all were born and all of us are going to die. and we all enjoy pretend-y fun time games…That alone binds us together in ways that other people may never even understand.
2) When you are weird, The first thing you need in your life is a place to go, where no one hassles you because you’re weird. A larp should, above all, be a safe place.

Remember kids, The one thing that you absolutely control in this life that can make the most difference in how you interact with the world is your attitude.