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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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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 …”).

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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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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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Lessons I’ve learned during the last a couple of years.

I know math isn’t usually larpers’ favorite subject. If it would be, we’d be stuck in Runemaster, D&D and other tabletop roleplaying games with huge piles of tables instead of this going out and immersing and having fun while suffering. But let’s make some kind of calculation.

Many of us study and work, of have a hobby other than roleplaying we passionately spend time. Please calculate the amount of studying points you do this autumn. Multiply it with hours one studying point theoretically is. We know it isn’t usually that much, but it’s a good approximation as occasionally school makes us so tired we won’t be able to do anything but watch telly after school. Then count your work. How much hours you do on average week, does your work need some kind of planning that’s done at home. Count that too. Then your hobbies, the ones you do every week. Tantra, Aerobic, Kendo, Cooking that’s more of a exploring food cultures than to fill your stomach. If you have kids, make some kind of random guess, how much time they take each normal week. I have no model for that. Then divide the amount of school with weeks your autumn semester last, and sum it with your weekly work hours and work planning hours, kid hours and hobby hours. Then divide the number by seven. I for instance work every day, weekends included, for about 11 hours a day. Try to remember that, when you start planning your next larp, campaign or con. As volunteer working is fun as hell, if one has time for it. But doing it on the edge of burnout isn’t honestly good for anyone. Yes, sad but true, you’re replaceable. Don’t take more stuff than you can handle and still have fun on the same time. and if you do, don’t make the same mistake next year again.

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Ropecon is over and I’m still healthy, as I were after Solmukohta too. I know it won’t work like that always, but I happen to get these days myself ill much less often than before. As I still get out of breath in stairs, so it can’t be because I’m in such a good shape or anything.

I will now describe what I do.

Medicine
Two to three weeks before the event I start more actively to remember to take my vitamins daily. And remember to do so during and after convention too. If I get any, even a small flue, I will go to doctor to check it, and if needed, take antibiotics to remove the cause, so there’s smaller chance that any unwanted bacteria would be left on by body. Usually I exaggerate the length of my “sickness” a bit, so they will check the lungs, ears and cheaks (maxillary sinus) to see everything is fine.

I also take my daily lactic acid yogurt to keep my stomach more stable. During these events and weeks before one usually drinks way more often than normally and sometimes catch less sleep. Not maybe to get drunk, but drink one or two at least. And those you can feel the next day, so taking care of stomach makes at least me feel much less stressed.

Attitude
But more important part than chemicals, is one’s own attitude. I’ve done my best to take it easy. These conventions should be fun and even though it’s nice to feel irreplaceable, it’s also the attitude that leads to the stress. Half of the organizers I know are the type that run in circles, sleep under info desk and go on by caffeine. And it’s okay, if you enjoy it, during and after convention, but it’s not really needed. You can always find a replacement for yourself for half of the convention, usually you can just make your own timetables so that you’re free half of the event. Nobody needs you if you’re not there.

Before Solmukohta I had my SK-working hours, when I answered emails, wrote visa invitation letters, updated the home pages and so on. When the event was closer, I did it of course daily, but I always had time off so I could go to gym or movies, read a book, have dinner or what ever so that I didn’t feel need to think or talk about Solmukohta. I also at parties a couple of times asked if we could talk about something else, which worked perfectly, so my life didn’t circle too much around SK.

Participant of organizer, during the event just sleep as long as you can. You might miss 4 morning hours of convention and breakfast, maybe one great program item and those sandwiches that they still talk after three years, but you will get so much more from the rest of the convention. If you have to do something at 12, you can go afterwards somewhere to take a nap.

If you’re a program organizer, but not very experienced one, ask your program items to be at the beginning of the convention, then you don’t have to stress about it whole convention.

Learn to admit your mistakes. Okay, something went wrong, instead of finding publicly or privately the one to blame, just say you’re sorry and will do your best not to see it happen again. They won’t think you’re an idiot for that, but you don’t have to gather so much negative energy. Shit happens, so what?

Of course the whole taking it easy -thing is hard to learn, but I would point out that I get more our from the conventions this way and I doubt that the over performing doesn’t make it any better.

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