Note: as a primer to this, I highly recommend reading Lizzie Stark's article on the LARP Organizer's Bill of Rights. This was so poignant to me I nearly wept the first time I read it.
For those of you who have been with Seed & Sword from the beginning, you know my background. For those of you who don't, here's the cliffnotes version: ten years of experience from fantasy to sci-fi and dystopian games as a writer, a game runner, an NPC wrangler, a rules marshal, and almost everything in between. I still write content for new games, but for the most part I have settled in as a Game Organizer. While I've done pieces of this job on and off over the years, it wasn't until the last six months or so that I dedicated myself to it fully.
Game Organizers already know this, but a lot of players might not -- it sucks. It's hard, and it's a lot of work that happens behind thick curtains where no light is shed, and it often feels like we might not crawl past those curtains to see the sun. A lot of us wouldn't change that -- we really believe in what we do and we love it -- but that doesn't change the fact that in my years of real corporate and professional work, this is one of the most stressful jobs I've had.
There's a bunch of reasons for that. I'm going to talk about them. It's not to whine (I have characters for that), but to try and pull back that curtain a little bit. I remember when I used to play games and have less of a hand in running them, I used to feel frustrated when something wasn't happening in a way I felt right, or I received a reaction that upset me, or a million other things that honestly drove me to a bad player.
Your Game Organizers love their game, their players, and their work, but it's important to talk about what they might be experiencing when you are interacting with them.
1. Our Work is Our Passion
Running a LARP isn't a desk or a corporate job for me. It isn't something I decided to do in High School, it isn't a degree my counselors or professors recommended to me. In fact, this is not a career path I would even suggest to anyone because 90% of the time it isn't sustaining, much less financially viable, and your parents will probably cry when you tell them you want to be a goblin for the rest of your life. This is my work because I love it -- and the one common denominator across the board is that people who are involved in LARP are here because they love it, whether as a hobby or a profession.
That's no different for me either. I probably started in the same place you did. I walked into the hobby and all it's wonders and I wanted to keep it forever, and make it so other people could experience the same things that I did (and still do). So when people talk to a Game Organizer about LARPing, you aren't talking to them about a hobby. You're talking to them about their work, about their love, and sometimes that makes the conversation pretty difficult.
When you turn your passion into your work, it eats a little part of you. Instead of having to engage with all the wonderful parts you do as a player, there's a lot more that you have to deal with and a lot of it isn't fun. Managing a business, managing the people within those business, making decisions that effect other people's real lives and your financial life. It's made me very careful about who I talk to about "work" and who I can talk to about the thing that is a hobby.
My advice? Be conscious of the effort your Game Organizer puts in. Be patient with them. You might not see the wealth of effort in the background that they're putting in in order for you to be able to only have to deal with the fun parts.
2. But Our Work Is Not Our Lives
The other thing that happens when you start running a game for a living is the elimination of your privacy. I love running games -- it's my favorite fucking thing to do, and something I plan on doing to some degree until I am physically no longer able to -- but it's not my whole life. I love reading and writing. I love drinking (...a lot) and hiking in the woods and going on wacky travel adventures with friends. I love playing video games.
No one is made whole by a single piece of their life -- it's a lot of things that make up the you that is you. As such, it probably isn't surprising that I have hobbies outside of LARP. When a hobby becomes your job, it's a lot harder to create boundaries for yourself. When you have a 9-5 job, at some point you can choose to stand up from your desk, leave, and work can resume the next morning. LARP work is a hell of a lot harder to create those boundaries.
Your Game Organizer wants to help you, to work with you, and to create and play with you -- but they can't be there at all hours to solve those problems and they should be able to engage in their own lives just as much as you. If your Game Organizer isn't responding to you quickly and you feel ignored, give them a little time and some space. They're probably having a delicious beer and they'll appreciate respecting those boundaries.
3. We Can't Solve Every Problem
Although (because this is our passion), we often try. We want everyone to be happy, we want everyone to have an amazing time in this hobby with us. Sometimes I can't make that happen. The absolute hardest thing I have had to learn as a Game Organizer is that there are times when I have to say "no" and I am in my complete rights to do that. I hate saying no. A lot of the people who I play with are still my friends, and nobody likes to have to take a step back and be anything less than a friend. When your friend is a Game Organizer, sometimes there isn't a choice.
And I feel an incredible, insane amount of guilt for that at times. When I can't make my friends happy, it kills me. This is where those boundaries from the last section come in, otherwise LARP work won't stay at LARP and then everything becomes that much more painful. I have lost friends and long-lasting relationships over my work. And that sucks.
Accepting that your Game Organizer might not be able to solve all of your problems goes a long way with that. If it's something you truly feel they've made a wrong call on, talk to them about it -- with civility and with kindness that you will receive in turn. Believe me, that stuff goes a long way and makes every email I open a ton easier.
4. And I'm Absolutely Serious: Give Me Your Feedback
The death knell of a game is the lack of feedback and no one knows that better than a Game Organizer. A lot of my close friends and partners will approach me after a game and ask me "how was your game? do you think it went well" and the answer almost every time is somewhere between "oh god please give me a beer" and "I don't know."
We run things in a vacuum. Most of the time I have a pretty good idea on what will work and what won't, but 90% of the time I have no idea if something has gone wrong or right unless my players tell me what's up. I have seen games die in flames because they had no idea that their new policy wasn't working, or that a plotline wasn't succeeding, or that players weren't having fun because of a lack of communication between players and Game Organizers.
Believe me: we want you to have fun.
If you're enjoying something? Tell us. We appreciate that. More importantly, there is nothing your Game Organizer wants more that constructive feedback about what's working and not working so we can continue to cater the game to a better place. And it's not just walking up to your Game Organizer and patting them on the back and telling them that they loved it -- we really want to hear it.
Help your Game Organizer help you. If there's a feedback form, use it. You will make your Game Organizer the happiest bee in beetown.