A discussion on what safety is, how it can be used and how it can counteract the original intentions. This article is not finished but might get follow ups.
- The intention for what larp safety was supposed to do from the people who initiated modern larp safety – one could argue that this is now mostly interesting from a historical background.
- The intention for what larp safety is perceived to be by a larp culture at large (there is more than one larp culture). A culture is a set of interconnected larp organizers, players, influencers and project groups.
- The intention for what larp safety is supposed to be, what role it is supposed to play at a specific larp.
I also made this pyramid with at what levels larp safety interacts with the larp communities. The lines I draw here is what I see in my head right now and these can be drawn differently by other people. I see how every level rests on the one below. But I also think the top level of the specific larp also influences how the larp culture the larp came from handles larp safety in the future. How different larp cultures interact with and interpret larp safety also influences the way the academics, influencers and international designer think and write about larp safety. Maybe I should add arrow that point up and down?
My original intent for larp safety was mainly getting rid of the largest dangers to health, life and safety. There were actual rapists larping in Sweden, committing rapes at the larps. Putting a foot down, catching them and then supporting organizers in blocking these players from coming to the games was the first priority. There was a lot of information trading and I do hope that the biggest offenders were actually caught and evicted.
Then there were the offenders who weren’t rapists, but used their out of game strength to hurt other players on purpose.
Now mostly this wasn’t people who had hurt others on accident, they might occasionally be contacted and told “don’t do that” and it helped. This was about people (mostly men) who methodically, on purpose and repeatedly victimized other larpers. And until then had gotten away with it because no one had the whole picture. These people when confronted would often blame others, or completely deny actions that had eye-witnesses. They might even blame addiction or mental illness, but not as something they worked on but as a fact that could not be helped.
I’m thinking that even though we are adverse to pitting different kind of suffering against each other I’m thinking it is possible to measure the severity of a threat against the players and organizers of a larp on a scale. Basic risk assessment. How high is the risk of this happening again? How bad are the consequences, and to how many.
I also think if many feel either stifled or overworked by an approach to larp safety where the intent is to cover and prevent as much pain or danger as possible before, during and after the larp event the paradigm will shift again. Larp safety will fall out of style if it does not become a useful area to assign work to. You need a return of investment.
Hopefully we can take what we learned about how to prevent some of the more severe dangers while also freeing up players and designers to take manageable risks and both play and design boldy while avoiding the most harmful pitfalls?
I have written about the largest risk factors that I have identified before but there is no reason to not add them here as well:
- The presence of unrepentant, unsupervised repeat offenders. There is a special class of offenders who individually are responsible for several instances of out of game violence against other players/volunteers/organizers. These have often normalized their behavior to themselves and others. “That’s just the way they are” is often said about them.
- The presence of alcohol. The repeat offenders use alcohol but alcohol also increases risks across the board. It increases sexual misconduct and the risks of out of game conflict escalation. It also makes driving from the event the next day more risque (and so does too little sleep).
- Food safety compromised. This can be anything from a food poisoning happening to allergic cross contamination. This can be really serious because it can affect so many of the players. While some allergic reactions are noticed by the organizers, a lot of the time players don’t really want to tell anyone about their diarrhea.
- Unsafe venues and structures. This mostly leads to physical injury like concussions, eye lesions, sprained ankles or broken bones. Players can also get lost and become dehydrated or get very cold. Very rarely they lead to death. To Unsafe Venues I also count when the toilet situation leads to fecal matter being handled in an improper way.
- A macho culture that celebrates volunteers and organizers working themself ragged and players going far beyond their physical, social and mental limits without the proper after care. This doesn’t only increase the risk for injury but also tempers run high and friendships can break for years to come.
- “Rock star behaviour” and “being dependant” When one or a few larpers have several that look up to them so much that they get away with behaviour that would get others booted long ago. Or the other side of the coin when some larpers are entirely dependant on being in one established larpers good grace. The second kind is often much less exhibitonist and instead of charming the group they will work on giving newcomers everything they need to participate. Watch out if the newcomers don’t seem to really form relationships with anyone else! A good mentor makes sure their newcomer meets a lot of good people, they don’t isolate them.