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During the last a couple of years harassment and equality issues in larpscene have been taken more seriously, and these days it’s impossible to “publicly” shame those who say they’ve been harassed. So of course lot of bad mouthing still happens, but it happens more privately, not in the after game sauna between all players of the larp. The most common phrase that I still have heard occasionally is how those SJWs/people who are just looking for reasons to get upset (ammattimielensäpahoittaja in Finnish) are taking out all the fun from larping. For me this is one of the most obscure statements.

So the fun has been taken out from the larps. Let’s see what has been done, and how that takes fun out from larping.

  1. There’s talk about harassment so that
    1. People would realize and accept that harassment also happens in larp scene.
    2. It would be easier for people to realize if others might see their behaviour harassing.
    3. It would be easier for people who feel uncomfortable in a situation to say no / stop the situation.
    4. It would be easier for other people spot harassment.
    5. It would be easier for other people to intervene if they see something that is or might be harassment.
  2. There’s talk about minorities in larp scene so that
    1. People would realize how large part of larpers is part of some minority, and how easy it is to accidentally forget them in game design.
    2. They would feel welcome also in larps.
    3. GMs would be able to design larps so that the minorities would either not need any special arrangements, or that those arrangements had been thought over already before.
  3. There’s talk about equality in casting so that
    1. People would realize that not everyone gets the same opportunities in larps.
    2. Everyone would get to play characters they’d love to. Not maybe always, but so that significant characters were not cast to same players time and time again, but everyone despite their looks, age, experience, gender, activity in the scene etc. could have the experiences they’re looking for.
  4. There’s talk about alcohol because
    1. Alcohol should not be excuse for bad behaving.
    2. People shouldn’t feel bad after larp weekend because they did something while drunk they would not want to do while sober.
    3. Having it in larp of after party should be a reasoned choice.

So yeah, I’m having hard time understanding what has been taken away. It’s easy to say that “now I don’t dare to approach a person without being accused of harassment”-kind of sentences but truly, this has never been about if you have a right to meet new people, just respect their wishes when they want to be let alone. If you can’t see difference there, maybe it would be better if you don’t approach new people, specially if they’re younger, shy and alone.

If you anyways have players who are lesbian/non-binary/deaf/something else, isn’t it just clever to think about it beforehand so that they would fit into your fiction world without making them some kind of special snowflake. For instance it’s not really a big thing to describe if homosexual relationships are as okay as heterosexual ones, they’re just quite rare, or what ever. That way you can offer all aspects of your larp to those players who don’t want to play heterosexual relationship instead of just leaving them without love life. Those conversations teach us how to enable the experience as majority is already having to everyone.

Yes, I understand that for those who are used to play the central characters, or characters whose decisions matter in the big picture, it might be strange to have a character that doesn’t seem to be able to influence big events. How ever I’ve noticed that those people who usually play princes and arch mages, are also very capable to create great play/scenes, what ever they play, so I don’t really think they would even have a bad larp, if they’d be just one of the crew instead of being captain. Being stuck to the role of crew member (or any other assistant kind of role) from larp to larp, it’s much harder to grow to be that versatile player. And though I admit that there are usually some characters on each larp that GM would not give to a complete stranger, there’re always those somewhat familiar faces, that would probably carry it out just well.

It’s okay to have a drink of two, if it makes you more comfortable to do those things you would like to do also sober but are too shy or undemonstrative. how ever it should not lead to situation where judgment is left on the cloakroom and next day you regret what you did. It’s not that alcohol is all bad and awful, but one should always think beforehand, how to communicate the alcohol policy, and what to do is someone behaves badly or takes advantage of other(s) being too intoxicated. Also thinking of this doesn’t seem to me about taking all fun out when you design so, that people would not do while drunk something they’d regret next day.

Also this isn’t an anti-competition of who was the biggest jerk while they were 20, this is about how to make the scene more inclusive and FUN for everyone from now on. So if you have an insight how this all is taking fun out, please tell.🙂

I have finally found out why people who claim they do their larps “like a pro” seem to me quite often to be done very unprofessionally.
I guess in IT business (or some cultural productions) working professionally is that product is ready on time and everybody know what their know-hows and responsibilities are. Also I guess it’s somewhat impostant to concentrate on producing something that is different from everything else there is on a market, and advertising it well. Or something like that (I wouldn’t know).

In customer service if you check from my company’s manual I fail in every shift, usually multiple times. It will either take 1 minute longer than the target time to get the food to customer, or we ran out of coffee and it takes over a minute (!) to get more, or I mishear something while working at drive-in. Everybody makes mistakes. What does make me a professional is how those mistakes are handled. Hardly ever those customers leave the restaurant disappointed, never willing to eat there again.

Of course both ways of seeing professionalism share common elements. Like plan well, make timetable, talk to your supervisor and colleagues when needed, ask for help if needed.

What I count to be professional and what really isn’t obvious to everybody who seem to be doing larps “like a pro” is:

1. How mistakes are handled (as they will happen): Explain, apologize when needed, don’t make excuses, don’t attack the person who made a complaint, even if it’s a silly complaint. (I also believe in tone polishing in both work and volunteer work context.)
2. How people are handled. Probably neither working at a low-wage sector customer service or writing that particular larp is their all time dream job, so motivation must come from other stuff than the work itself. So remembering to say thank you, asking how they’re doing, letting people learn and try new things and show what they’ve learned, not just doing stuff they’ve done previously best. Avoiding micromanagement. If something goes wrong, letting them reflect it first and tell how they’d avoid the same to happen again. Only if needed telling your opinion as supervisor how it should be handled from now on.
3. How “reality” is handled. Something good or bad (usually bad) will happen. It is possible to be flexible, without being too soft.

I’m not really interested in comparing if being main organizing a larp is more comparable to a customer service work or IT production. Just saying out load that I at last understand why some people think their larps are very professionally done, while I seriously disagree.🙂

(Also I didn’t say IT projects are badly managed.)

TLRD: Expecting people to do the same in a volunteer project than in a well paid, desirable job isn’t professional.

What’s in it for me

Blogging is one of the best ways to avoid doing anything that’s needed to do, so here we go. Sami Koponen from Roolipelitiedotus, a Finnish roleplaying information sharing web page / blog challenged Finnish roleplayiing bloggers to blog with the themes Why do you roleplay? and What do you get from roleplaying? Last year he collected blog posts about state of Finnish roleplaying scene, and I participated also then, so here we go again.

For me roleplaying and larping both are hobbies that let me create stories together with friends, be part of fiction that gives me great experiences and chances to be someone else even for a day or two. I started with larping and of course there I was  fascinated about the overall experience one gets when really doing things that a character might do. Also Finnish culture of pre-written characters in larps made it easier for me to examine different kinds of worldviews and personality traits.

I’ve never been a good larp campaign player as I really suck in writing debriefs, that’s why the character development has never been something I have experienced a lot. Also due work issues, it has been hard to get weekends free, so to balance that I’ve started again playing table top roleplaying games.

I used to play also table top when I was in high school, but I saw those games were more about killing orcs than anything about character relations. When I moved to Turku ten years ago, I accidentally run into Jiituomas who I knew Ropeconwise, on local store, and after short conversation started playing in his table top campaigns. First we played Polaris, then Stalker. Then there was a break of a couple of years, but when we both had moved to Helsinki area, he game mastered one campaign of WoD, and next we’re going to start a Vihan Lapset campaign this fall. What works for me in table top roleplaying games is the development of characters in long campaigns and how it’s easier to have those on ones calendar, than larp campaigns that take whole weekend. What maybe doesn’t work that well is that as character’s character is usually developed by player herself, all characters tend to be more like me and also in longer campaigns I grow attached to character, so doing potentially deadly stuff for bigger drama is usually out of question.

I started larping 1999, and table top roleplaying games later the same year, and first of Jiituomas’ tabletop campaigns started in 2006 or 2007,  so it occasionally amazes me still how much I get from the hobby. How cool it STILL is to run on a forest with your wand on one hand and treasure on the other, or how upset one might be after a table top session even though it was just your character that almost got killed, not really you.

When thinking about why I larp and play rolepalying games, I’ve also thought potential reasons why other people play that really don’t apply to me. One thing that came to my mind when (over)thinking about this, was that I found it notable that I don’t play spontaneous romances. Even though I’ve larped a lot in scene, where romance, attraction and sexual tension has been themes of larps, or just stuff that happens spontaneously there, I’ve never felt on a larp or on a table top game that I should somehow “fill” the lack of romance in my real life with fictional romances. Playing romances or romantic/sexual feelings that have have not been given beforehand from the game master just have felt wrong, even somewhat dirty in the bad way. Even though I want to try new things and experience things that are very strange for me, I’ve never seen fictional romances as something I’d go for. And yes, of course there’re other reasons also for playing spontaneous romances than personal need for such, but I figured that if I’d ever were to play that way, it might have been a logical time for it when I felt alone.

Also larping gives some kind of experience of success. Not only the times when you’re part of saving the world, but also on organizing side. We voluntarily put together without profit over 100 player larps or 4000 person conventions, rent hotels, do PR web pages, give interviews, book mansions, make food and design plans for large scale events. Those events have been great practice and even if I don’t know what I’ll do for living for the  rest of my life, I believe many of the skills that I have gotten in organizing those things will make it easier to work on different kinds of positions. Also the bad organizing memories, fights, losing friends, extra bills, almost-burnout and other neagtive stiff have thought something, and I’m happy I learned those lessons already at roleplaying event organizing, not at a future workplace. As now I feel that I can avoid some extra drama but also I have guts to talk about things if something bothers me.

Considering I’ve done customer service for 15 years and 12 of those as a manager, last 4 so that I’ve also been general manager over shift managers, the ability to change role quickly has been a skill that I’m really happy I have. I can be convincing, very friendly, energetic, uncompromising or what ever is needed in a couple of seconds. Probably I also perform better at work as I don’t really take stuff personally that’s said (or yelled) to most of my work roles.

So that’s my piece on this. Also my first answer that came into my mind was “Because it’s fun!”, but as I have a lot to say about having fun or heading just to having fun, I will probably make another post about it in a near future.

Also: Advertisement to my Finnish speaking audience: Pauli Hulkkonen is doing his thesis about organization needs of roleplayers and boardgamers. Please fill the survey if you have time!

 

It made me happy when people who wanted to ask Ropecon related non-urgent things from me during the last half a year did contact me via email.

When doing volunteer projects where the whole total working time is tens or hundreds of hours, one of the most important ways to keep oneself motivated and productive, is the possibility to be able to choose, when you work on your projects. I’ve decided not to do them (or paid work) in Facebook.

So I use Facebook for leisure, and for that I rather watch cow videos, read how my friends are doing and participate random discussion about feminism, larping and other interesting topics. (And play Tetris.) Answering or organizing on minor things concerning Ropecon that are not even really my field of expertise or responsibility, and that are no way urgent, don’t fill my definition of leisure. And when event came closer, I had like 20 private non-urgent private messages waiting for me when I get home from work.

I understand exactly how the communication channel misunderstanding grows. First when people start doing event planning and such they’re so excited that all that working just gives them more and more energy, and they’re okay talking about it anywhere and anyplace. When they’ve done that awhile, they realize it’s still cool and awesome, but it also takes energy (novelty is gone), and they again start to value their own time and realize that even though they use their spare time on those projects, working on those projects isn’t really a leisure. But communicating it to others is the hardest part. Making sure which ways of communication are preferred when dealing with volunteer work.

So once more, respect your fellow voluntary workers; larp organizers, convention organizer and such, and check what are the official communication channels they want to use. They’re usually written on the projects’ web page. Then use them. May it be email, phone, WhatsApp, letter, Facebook, IRC and/or what ever, use that/them, don’t come up with the one YOU feel most comfortable!

And as I’ve been talking about minor and non-urgent things this whole message I do realize that sometimes there’re urgent stuff that needs to be taken care of right now. Usually the phone is fastest with urgent matters, but be sure you contact the right person, not the one from the organizers who you know best.

(I’ve dealt with the same communication problem at work before. First I was too eager to deal work stuff also at home, then it took half a year of training and now they know not to contact me except if something is wrong and they really need either my help or permission. And even then, they usually start the phone call by words “I’m sorry I contacted you on your day off, but …”).

So okay, 2014 is coming to end, and I feel like summarizing it a bit.

Great year it has been, also larpwise. What makes me most happy is the new larp calendar Laura S made. It somewhat also works in English (the descriptions of games are in Finnish, but if you have a game and want to have Finnish players, you can add it there), so feel free to check it out: http://kalenteri.larp.fi. Also it makes my burden almost zero, to be able to have other admins on board.

What also makes me happy was that we got the last Ysaria larp organized. Previous ones were 2008 and 2010, and as both me and Laura T used our free time with Solmukohta in 2012 it was really nice to finally get the campaign to end.

The congress center for Ropecon, Dipoli is going to have a big repair, and Ropecon is looking for new place after next year. I’m happy to be chosen as main organizer of the last Dipoli year, and I’m also happy that there will still be Ropecon after Dipoli.

Also what has made me happy are the last conversations with Finnish larpers in a FB group. Many people have been belittling possibility of a meaningful internet conversation, but really it’s easiest way to make people think their own prejudices and maybe sooner or later change them. First conversation was about harassment in larps, that got maybe 600 comments total, where people not only shared their experiences, but also thought how to prevent that happening again and how could everyone act to prevent it. Now the second conversation is still continuing, but conversation about hlbtq-people and their chances to have meaningful larp experiences without belittling might also lead to more good games for those minorities, and also respecting each others character wishes, but letting people to explore their boundaries without being defined as a minority if one wants to try something like that in larp. We’ll see.

What I’m waiting from 2015 larpwise at least:
* Knudepunkt in February. Denmark has a great history of organizing great KPs.
* The Harry Potter larp in Poland in April.
* Ropecon in May.
* Depending on work and education things, maybe some small project to organize at the end of 2015. We’ll see that then.

And oh, during 2015 I most likely change my last name to Säynevirta. It’s kinda scary even though it has nothing to do with larp.

It bugs me that there’re plenty of people who claim to do larp related events with professional attitude, but on the same time they complain, call names and blame others on their Facebook. And if anyone points that out, they hide behind “it’s my private Facebook-page, I can write there what I want”. Of course one can write there almost anything one wants, but if third of the participants of that roleplaying event (larp or convention), are your Facebook friends, it’s stupid to think that it’s whole separate what you say on your private profile and how you put it out on the event’s profile.

I try to do better. What ever events I organize, (next ones being Ysaria III this week and Ropecon 2015 next year) I will stick up to following goals/rules until I find better ones or realize they suck.

 

1. Official information will be published first on the event web pages, not on my private profile.

2. I will not write about private matters that should be between organizers on social media.

3. When disagreeing, I will keep that conversation on its original place, not spread my one sided argument on my own feed.

4. I don’t mock other organizers in my status updates.

5. I won’t do the previous ones neither on the cryptic updates that only few close friends (and some others) will understand.

6.  I will not invite all my friends or all my roleplaying related friends to like pages or participate events I don’t know if they’re interested. I will go through them and only invite the ones I guess would be interested.

7. I will tell people that private messaging my Facebook is not (usually) priority way to get information about the event and it will make me tired not to be able to decide how and when to communicate about project. And if appropriate I either ask them to contact right address/person, or mention that reading answer from the web pages might be a good solution.

8. As an organizer I don’t have to win every debate on social media concerning my event, I just have to make sure all facts are there and readers can themselves decide what’s true.

9. I will not complain in social media how doing volunteer work is such a burden, I do it only because nobody else does, and/or  I should get paid from it.

10. If angry, I’ll wait till I calm down before updating or answering.

There has been a lot of talk at my Facebook News Feed about date rape culture and feeling safe lately. First as people were defining safety and how to feel safe at roleplay-conventions, and lately as ferry company Tallink’s head of personnel and development implied that it was women’s fault if they get drunk and are raped.

Of course most of the conversations over both subjects have been clever and thought-provoking. Defining safety is always needed on social environment, where there’re a lot different-aged people present, may there be booze or not. Doesn’t imply just for our dear hobby, but on many other situations as well. (After working almost 12 years at fast food restaurant that’s open until 5 am and also next to Finlands most popular night club for straight singles 30+, I have unfortunately a very sober view of the stuff what happens after the bar closes.)

There’re some opinions on these conversations, that I’m a bit worried. Most common that I don’t share is that best way to prevent rapes is for *women* to drink less. I’m not really into that victim blaming thing. What I’m how ever more concerned is that some of my acquaintances are very angry about these cases, where woman has been willing to have sex on the evening, but calls it rape next morning after sobering up. I know those are horrible situations for both parts, and that’s why I would hope people would recognize their responsibility to think behalf of both (and also occasionally behalf of others on same parties), if the other one is too drunk to know what’s happening. No is no, and if sober no changes to very drunken yes, it’s probably not because they have secretly fancied you all time, and just needed booze to be able to admit it.

That’s for my personal viewpoints, now the roleplay-related problem. I organize larps that have usually after game parties just after the game at the game location. Usually those parties include drinking. Most people drink a sauna beer or two, but of course usually there’re some people that are more drunk. And I’m not really feeling comfortable with having people there, who don’t share my personal views of this safety issue.

Technically I have three options: I can either ban the booze, or the people in question, or do nothing. This do-nothing-thing would be logical as nothing that way bad has ever happened at larps organized by me. How ever that do-nothing has never worked quite well with me, as I regret more stuff I’ve not done, that stuff I’ve done. Okay, as some of those persons are good larpers in the sense that their larping performance had been praised and I’ve also enjoyed playing with them, it would make sense to just ban the after game booze to make a game better. On the other hand, I don’t really see why I should tolerate idiots on my spare time. When we choose players to larps, we anyway choose them by many criteria. Do we believe they could enjoy the game, make believable performance, do they have a history of cancelling at the last minute or do they always forgot to pay the gaming fee, are they our close friends, do they nag about everything and so on. Why couldn’t general douchbaggery be one of the criteria.

Speaking of general douchbaggery, I feel that the circles where I have larped during the last 15 years forget and forgive too easy to people who do something stupid. During the last 15 years, there have been cases of “sexually approaching” (I don’t really know better english word) a sleeping person, some jealous persons breaking into their exes email or FB accounts, some people have went into larps (to get) blind drunk, some have hit for real “as they were so immersed” etc. And they’re tolerated. Because standing up against that kind of behavior might end up you not getting into their cool games, and it besides was kinda was your own fault. And could you be less girly and concern on real problems. And besides they didn’t mean anything mean, they’re just little socially awkward but they don’t mean anything bad. Yeah right.

After a long talks with a couple of persons who I regularly co-organize larp-related things, I guess I could make the stand that in my larps there’s not space for douchebags: There’s no space for people who I know to have done something REALLY stupid either repeatedly, or without showing regret. Or who have expressed viewpoints on certain issues that are STRONGLY against what I believe, and that might affect either my or other’s experience.

Be that change you wanna see in other people and so on.

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