Over the last several years as the LARPing world has grown in North America, we’ve begun to recognize the need for safety tools and community management in a manner many other spaces have been doing for ages. While not every LARP has an official community manager or safety officer, there is almost always someone doing this job behind the scenes. Be they jokingly called the ‘LARP Parents’ of the community, or with an official title, I offer this pledge to all the Community Managers and Safety Staff in the gaming world…
I Will Listen (Before I Decide to Fix)
While it might be our initial instinct to immediately reach out, patch up the problems, and fix what is wrong, we cannot do so without fully understanding the issue in the first place. Many times, players need a sounding board to get out their feelings and emotions. They just need to know that someone is hearing and understanding them. We cannot do that without remaining quiet, supportive, and completely listening to what is wrong before we decide to take action. Before intervening, make certain you have given your player the full space to talk out what they need. Ask them if they WANT action to be taken, or if they simply needed to talk through issues, then work with them on the best way to fix the problem.
No Problem is Too Small
I know you are overwhelmed. I know you are tired. I know you have a dozen to hundreds of players to manage. However, just because a problem seems inconsequential to you, doesn’t mean it is to that player. In fact, their frustrations are probably more fierce because people have ignored them before or their minds might be telling them ‘this is silly and you shouldn’t bother someone but it is bothering me.’ If a player has become a repeated issue or is showing attention seeking patterns through constantly demanding your space, speak with your fellow staff members about the most constructive way to help them going forward. A longer conversation about the player’s repeated issues with the game might be in order, or a space where the player can air their bigger problems which are surfacing. But even that player’s tiny issues are big to them, so do not ignore or dismiss a problem just because it seems minor.
I Am Not a Therapist
Community Managers and emotional safety staff occupy a strange place of trying to be an open ear, a safe place, and a fixer of problems without being actual counselors or therapists. Remember this in your dealings with the community and do not attempt to fix issues in players’ lives or their spaces outside of your community. Try to keep all conversations on the direct issues with the game and constructively fixing those. A good example would be someone being triggered at game — it is not your responsibility to talk them through the issues or reasons they were triggered. It is your responsibility to get them into a safe place, help them calm down in the moment, understand the exact trigger, and then figure out how to ensure it does not happen in the game again.
I Will Remember that Staff is a Part of the Community
While we often tend to focus strictly on our playerbase because gaming is a customer-oriented profession, you are there as support for the ENTIRE community. That includes your fellow staff members. Truthfully, it’s often staff we need to watch the closest and support the most. They are the ones at risk for the quickest burn out, player abuse, entitlement stress, and uncomfortable situations which they do not feel they can tap out from due to being staff. Make certain your staff know that you are a resource for them as well and don’t be scared to approach a fellow staffer who looks like they might be in a bad space where the community is concerned.
I Can’t Do It Alone
Our goal is to create safe spaces for everyone. That means taking a few other trusted people, who are also good at defusing situations and calming people, then adding them to your staff. Make certain your community knows they can come to ANYONE of these people, no matter the situation. You should include staff members of different genders and identifications because sometimes people simply aren’t comfortable bringing an issue to someone of a different gender identity. Also, there are times you may have to deal with situations that make YOU feel unsafe and having other people on your staff will mean you aren’t standing alone when you have to confront difficult situations. (Example: Removing a sexual predator from your community.)
Not Every Game is for Every Player
Remember that phrase. Commit it to heart. Do not be scared to use that when you see an unhealthy relationship between a game and a player. Remember there are other spaces out there that could support what stories a certain type of player wishes to tell better than our community can. We are not everything for everyone and that is alright.
Player Before Character; Community Before Game
This is probably the hardest tightrope to walk. We must always remember that players are more important than characters. If someone is having a difficult situation, please remind the players of their own mental and physical safety and help them out of that trouble. Remember your check-in mechanics and use them. Help players to remember their safety should come before their character’s story. However, we also must remember that our pledge is to the community at large, not the game. If a player is unhealthy for a game or for your community, do not be scared to tell them that this might not be the game for them. They money the game makes off of one player is not as important as it is to keep your community safe. If ever in doubt, talk to your other staff members and get more objective opinions before going forward with such decisions.
I Will Take Care of Myself
Self-care and self monitoring is extra important for community managers. The amount of emotional labor we do for others is above and beyond the call of duty. Please, monitor yourself for signs of burnout and get a replacement before it happens. Acknowledge situations which push your own boundaries and do not force yourself into unhealthy places just to support the community (this is where having other trusted safety staff members is vital). Trust your instincts and take care of yourself in whatever method helps you recover from the intense emotional labor you will often be performing. Do not do the job forever — no one can.
Do you have other ideas? Please add them in the comments and they will be included on this list with credit to the idea giver. I want to build a pledge the entire community can use for years in the future.
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One thought on “A Community Manager’s Pledge”
I wonder about suggested guidelines for including larp counselors, for games in which the community and staff support it. I think just mentioning the concept would be good. I learned at Living Games that two of the authors of this article are working on a guide for larp counselors that will not require a counseling or psychology degree:
I also wonder about the role of organizers in helping players to find debrief groups, or others to support them in alchemical work such as building a character around a personal aspiration. I don’t think organizers should feel obligated to run such a group themselves, but helping players to find each other to start one would be of great help to any community with a strong focus in immersion and playing for pathos.