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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.

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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!

 

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In Sweden some women are considering to organize a larp convention where to play games written only by women. So if I’ve understood correctly, even though all organizers and game wrights would be women, also men would be welcome to participate the event and play on those games.

As a Finn I first thought about this to be “nice idea, but definitely not something Finnish larp scene needs, as about 2/3 of us are women”. After thinking about it the whole day, I realized that even though I wouldn’t organize such event myself, nor would I ditch the men I usually work with to accomplish some kind of equalityish goal, I can easily understand why event like that would be needed anywhere.

I make simple example with our national roleplaying, larping, card gaming, board gaming and miniature gaming convention Ropecon. Ropecon has been held every summer for last 20 years. I counted the organizers from the webpages or program booklets for last 4 events, so all information is more or less public and I’m not using inside info here. I counted each year separately, so yes, for instance I was counted more than once as I’ve participated in organizing the 3 times in four years. About 35 % of the organizers (N=140) were female, so about every third. Yes, that’s smaller numbers than estimates of how many larpers are female, but there’re the card and board game organizers and other reasons why it really is understandable why there’re more men there. From the 13 main organizers of those 4 years, only one was female. That’s 8%. Yes, next year is the first time that more than half of the main organizers are female, as three of four main organizers are, so after this year the number of last five years will be 23%.

But that makes a point that even though we have plenty of skillful women and men, still men more often try reach to the top on the organizing level. I tried to quickly go through Finnish larp calender to make some kind of statistics from there, but really couldn’t come up with any easy numbers of how many of the organizers are men and how many are women as I didn’t know who to count, all who write characters, or also those who do only webpages or food etc, besides not all games state all organizers publicly. Still I have a feeling that in games that have teams of 3-10 game masters, men more often are main organizers than they “statistically” should be. Same with the language of mathematics: Y/(X+Y) of main organizers > than Y/(X+Y) on all game masters. Y is male, X is female.

And that’s what we should change. That all roleplayers, also female, would trust on their own skills to run the show. May the “show” be a larp, a larp campaign, a convention, a roleplaying game book, or what ever. And making a convention (or a book!) around games written by women, (woman defined one way or another,) would make a great example that also women can do every single bit that it takes to make a convention.

Solmukohta 2004 and 2008 AWiFs included were both done by 33 % of organizers being female, when Solmukohta 2012 was organized, 78 % of organizers were female. (Couldn’t come up with any facts about 2000, except main organizers.) Each team containing 9 to 12 organizers, 2000 and 2012 have been organized with female main organizer(s), 2004 and 2008 as male, so I guess I can easily blame that SK is more gender balanced and that on those circles people let their gender affect less on what they could achieve. At least I got only once during my organizing year dealt inappropriately because of my gender, so it’s easy to assume, that that one person is just a moron.

During the last 15 years I’ve done enough different kinds of projects in Finnish larp scene. So at least these days I get enough space to do stuff I want as it is, but I believe not all women do. That’s why even though I still prefer to do larps with people I enjoy working with, both women and men, I give my full support on organizing events by only female larp wrights and producers also as statement needed.

We organize run of Mad about the Boy in ten days. Game has 28 female characters and one man. But I wouldn’t call that larp really a feminist one, as the game is quite much about missing the important men characters had in their lives, nor is the game chauvinistic, as women are still able to survive without men. I consider the game more to be something that raises peoples understanding and awareness of the gender issues. As we only have guts to one run, we decided to go with a mixed gender game. As this is first touch to many of the players to the Nordic Larp, I really much like to keep it inclusive for all interested players, regardless of their gender. Also it’s not organized by women. The core team includes me and two guys, who I enjoy working with. There’re also some more persons helping: one or two guys with Black Box light and sound, and one with food, also a couple of other women helped us design the signing up form, and one other helped us to do the casting. Also we have two or three persons who have played on previous runs, to run the workshops, They’re all great people and I can honestly say they’re all part of the team because of their skills and interest, and they’re not doing less than they could, because of their gender. Larpwise I’m in a really great position right now.

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Sorry about the title, but always when I see an iceberg, I think about Titanic. Not even really the ferry, but the movie.

But anyway. A popular iceberg metaphor illustrates “hidden culture”. Most of the iceberg is not visible and the world of assumptions, habits, beliefs that may not be consciously articulated or taught can’t be learned when looking for the part that’s above water. Some of the deepest things people never even realize to be part of the iceberg. I know many of you have heard about it time and time again. As it’s not really an essential part of educational sciences research tradition, I crossed this first time last week at an university course about teaching home economics to multicultural groups. I usually try to put everything on the context where I’m more familiar with, as it makes stuff easier to remember.

Seeing larp culture as one kind of culture, gave me a strong Eureka moment. I and many people I know have went to larp abroad. And afterwards some of us (me included) have been disappointed on what we got, as we knew something about local larp culture, and expected the rest to be like back home. Which of course won’t work, as if game is 6 times longer than typical Finnish game, the character probably won’t have 6 times more to accomplish, so the playing style also might differ and goals for the game etc.

And there’re plenty of examples of people expecting something more like at home and then disappointing. Some Latvians were surprised about how Finns immerse into character, not into the scene, a certain Finnish girl was very surprised when and art exhibition in an Irish Vampire game was done with papers stating here’s a sculpture, here’s a painting. And how some US players told afterwards how strongly they felt about certain provocation attempts in the US run of Mad about the Boy, but didn’t show it at all during the game.

I tried to scratch some kind of model of the hidden larp culture, that we know so well in our own culture that we forget to tell about it to foreigners and also expect to stuff to work same way in other parts of world too.

Here’s a link to original picture of Iceberg model of Culture and here’s how I see it. Some of the tems are stuck to my head from the Mixing desk of Larp, so some credit to the organizers of Larp Summer School 2012 organizers. Also some ideas are from Suvi and Santeri who I’ve talked about this.

This doesn’t really give any great answers, expect maybe some ideas what to communicate to your players if they all, or some of them are unfamiliar with your larp culture.

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During last 12 months, I’ve participated two larps and five roleplaying conventions (Mittelpunkt, Knutepunkt, Arpacon, Ropecon and European Larp Convention). It’s sad that the number of cons rise above the number of games. It usually states that you’re coming old and rather hang out with your friends than really do larp. I admit. And I should get back on track, but anyway.

In my case it’s of course about timing as well. Working three to four weekends in month it really doesn’t give you opportunities to go and test if some randon game might be good. It has to be, if I spoil my only free weekend on it.

First game this year was Talvi-iltain Tarinoita, (Winter Evening), probably the most replayed game in Finnish scene,  first played in 1998. Orginally made for Lahti youth and culture office by E. Vesala and P. Munter and now replayed as annual celebration game of SuoLi. Game was based on the novels written by Z. Topelius and the ingame world was a little manson in 1830’s Finnish village.

I don’t know what did I or the other players expect, but as the name of the game has become a classic, it of course made us wait for a good game. Charachters were nicely written, but there were not much to do during the whole game. I don’t know if we’d need a better gamestyle guide to make the game fit to this millenium, but most of the game was just hanging in the manson and as that was not what most of the players expected, it ended up being slightly boring to many. As most of the players had no idea, how to make their character enjoy their winter evening, they just sit passively on different sides of the manson waiting for something to happen. At the end something did happen, as all the secrets were relieved but as most of the game was just hanging, I understand that many players were left disappointed. I was slightly fed up, but as for me the evening wasn’t just about the ingame part, I didn’t take it that seriously.

Still we have a plenty of those historical games without that much to do, but I guess it’s just about expections and preparation. It’s not that hard to learn to play bridge or what ever fits for just that hanging around-game.

Also it also underlines the classic idea that anyone can make their larp a classic just by talking about it in a way if it were one. At some point nobody will question what made it so special from the other games. 😉

Speaking of replayable games, it seems that as I’ve larped twice during a year and both of them have been replays, one could say I do only replays. Another one was Siege Mentality, a two hour zombie-survivor minilarp by J.Tuomas Harviainen and Roger Gamman. The idea was simple, everyone got a half a page character with a couple of random abilities and then got locked with the others on an apartment, as all the other humans outside this apartment seemed to have turned into Zombies. All the characters were of course annoying, one way or another. Played in a two room apartment with more than 10 players, the feeling was intensive and at some point while we had action inside the flat, I really kicked one of the players on leg and almost got hit by a door. Panic is great base for a game, it’s much easier to get and stay in character when you have something to fear every moment. And game was short enough not to become boring as another two hours in that apartment with my fellow non-zombie-dickheads might have end up either boring staring and glaring or an situation where every half-hour the most annoying participant would be thrown out to staircase to zombies to feast. I probably wouldn’t be the first to throw out from the recidence, but probably I’d ended eaten soon as well.

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