Influencers in LARP: Roles and Responsibilities

(Photo taken by Bret Lehne at Inside Hamlet. – insidehamlet.com)

Influencers and the LARP community have been a topic of heavy controversy as of late. After several companies coming under fire for using ‘Influencers’ that were deemed unhealthy for the community, there has been a large pushback against using them at all. Other companies have come out clearly with statements defending their use of Influencers and being clear about how those people are compensated. (See this statement by Felbis Productions.) I do not believe Influencers are going away where the LARP community is concerned.

I do believe that the roles, responsibilities, and use of Influencers needs to be better defined by each individual LARP company. Those definitions will be different depending on what their game needs of an Influencer. I suspect that strictly model/marketing Influencers who give little back to the game may be a role which is phased out entirely, but there are many other ways that a player can have influence on a game AND many other reasons a company will bring someone in as an Influencer. Even smaller budget campaign LARPs have players who act as Influencers among their game; often these players are the staff, paid writers, or owners of the game. Their PCs have a greater impact on the world (intentionally or not) and the people themselves are looked up to by the player base at large. By purely who they are in the community and financial power they have over a game, they are influential LARPers in their circle.

Full disclosure, and something I’m going to be examining a lot over my time working up to this game, I’ve been invited to be an Influencer for the 1878: Welcome to Salvation LARP that is taking place in Texas in November. I wasn’t invited to this game because I am an exceptionally pretty face or marketing dynamo. While there is no doubt I have a decent chunk of LARP audience, I’m not down with the social media kids of instagram, Twitter, or YouTube. All the work I do in the LARP sphere tends towards how to blend European and American narrative attitudes, game design teaching, and ways to do healthy interactive roleplay. There is no doubt I was also asked as an expert in the specific genre of frontier/Wild West, considering my extensive work with Dead Legends (which is much the same genre but with more supernatural elements than 1878.) Still, I had to ethically resolve the issue with myself of taking what is still being called an ‘Influencer’ contract, when such roles are being publicly decried by the greater world.

I think it’s important for LARPs and Influencers of all sorts to define what these roles are, and what a specific person’s role in a game will be. LARPs of all sorts need to acknowledge that Influencers exist in their communities, whether they are called by that name or not. Players who wish to step into these roles (as staff members with their own characters OR by formalized contract), need to acknowledge that there comes a weight of responsibility with that place in the community. Therefore, I’m putting down the rules I intend to follow as an Influencer, with hopes that other prominent players may take them as a good guidance or start of an Influencer code.

Roles and Responsibilities of a LARP Influencer

Public Disclosure of Influencer Role: Much of the controversy around Influencers has come from a lack of transparency on both the part of Influencers and the gaming companies using them. In most other fields, people doing marketing for that field need to be honest about being a paid spokesperson for that product. This would include receiving expensive LARP tickets in exchange for free advertising to a large audience. Conversely, many ‘Influencers’ are what would be considered LARP journalists. If they are attending a game specifically to cover what that game is doing, how they do it, and how it goes, they should disclose that journalistic relationship and the running company should have no influence or say over what the Influencer put out to the greater world. Thirdly, I think there is a class of Influencers that come in as a style of consultant — they are specifically there to make the game better. These are strong roleplayers, area experts, safety staff or the like who are brought in because of their expertise. This is a vital use of ‘Influencers’, but also should be disclosed to the public so the players of the game understand why this person is present and their duties. (Editor’s Note: I have been after the fact correct that many vloggers and Influencers do disclose and have been transparent on their YouTube channels. So, this comment certainly doesn’t apply to everyone. I encourage everyone reading to see Cheyenne’s comment below for another point of view about this blog.)

For my part at 1878, I feel I fall into the second and third categories. I don’t do a lot of LARP marketing, but I do a fair amount of LARP journalism discussing the various events I staff and attend with a critically thoughtful eye. However, there is no doubt I was asked to come down because of my expertise in genre and ability to steer roleplay for large groups of players. I intend to focus a lot of my energy on the third type of influence and much of this blog will discuss how to be that kind of Influencer for many types of LARP communities.

Be Honest: While you have an obligation to disclose to the public what capacity you are working for with that LARP company, you also have an obligation to disclose to the company any pertinent history about yourself as a public figure. Have you been accused of harassment or are involved with someone who has? Were you previously ejected from any LARP communities? Is there anything that, were this a full time job that did a background check on you, they might think twice over before hiring you? No one has been perfect in their past and no one should be banned from doing this work for past mistakes, but companies should be able to make informed decisions about who they are bringing into their public sphere of influence. If you have made mistakes in the past, you should be honest about them and prepared to show where you have made strides towards being a different person. It’s better to be upfront and mature about past issues than have skeletons come out of the closet on the internet in attempts to publicly destroy you or the company you are working with.

Work with Staff: You should have at least one or two conversations with the designers of the event about what they need of you once the event is in action. Do they need you to help steer shy roleplayers, direct action on the ground, engage in specific plot events, or stand back and watch to make certain things are running smoothly? Where are the staffs greatest concerns about this event and how can you help them address those concerns on the ground? Is there any pre-game work you can do with them to help others get involved in certain things? A good example of this would be discussions I’ve had with Shoshana concerning Salvation. She was worried about the dance going over well and I mentioned that I had taught period group dances at both Armistice Arcane and Dead Legends, so I’d be happy to offer that service to this game again. It’s a minor thing for me, but a big relief off the game’s shoulders to know that shy dancers will now have a structured way to get involved in that part of the game.

Know Your Safety Rules: During the event, an Influencer the kind of player other players look up to when things go wrong. If someone is having a breakdown, triggering, lost, being shunned from play, or is in a bad situation, it is up to an influential player to know what tools that person can access to get to safety. Influencers should NOT be safety staff (unless they have been specifically and only hired for that job), but they should be acquainted with the safety staff, safety protocols, and the quickest way to get players help when they need it. Often the Influencer is the loudest and most recognizable face in the room, so vulnerable players will go to that person before another random player. Know how to help your fellow players when they are in need.

Know Your Genre: What is this game and why are we playing it? That’s one of the most important questions an influential player can ask the game staff. The goals and atmosphere of the game should be kept in mind during all of your play so you can further support their themes with your character’s actions, your internet coverage of it, the costumes you prepare, and the ties you make. Most Influencers do this naturally, but for ones new to the scene, it should be where you start most of your preparation work.

Lead by Example: Once at game, it is your job to be the best player you can possibly be. This means knowing all the rules, game setting, history, schedule, and mechanics the game designers have put on paper. When people are confused, you should be able to be confident in directing them be it towards plot, game style, or negotiation mechanics. If you are cast in a certain faction, you should be playing to the letter and spirit of that faction, not the special snowflake or black sheep. Eyes will be on you when it comes to all aspects of the game and you should be a prime example of what the game designers want to see for their project. This may involve another conversation with the design staff about the example they want you to set for their community, and why. However, if they are too busy to talk about it, just consider what you would want in the most upstanding, respected member of your LARP community, then be that person 110 percent.

Documentation: Record your experiences. Photos or video (if you are allowed by the game staff), written documentation, pre-blogging, post-blogging, character design, and play experiences. Documentation is vital to remembering what games have done well in the past and the things they can do better in the future. Creators spend hundreds of hours pouring work and love into these games for them to disappear within a single weekend. Players who cannot attend make decisions about which future events to spend their money on by the documentation they see of past events. As an Influencer, it is a part of your job to document your experience and share it with the world. ANY kind of Influencer should be doing some form of documentation, even if it is just to help them learn and grow as a LARPer for their future work.

Make Ties: I generally dislike the culture around pre-game play and preparation because it obligates people to be tied to their computers before a game has even started. However, if you are attending a game as an Influencer, it is a responsibility to make ties with other players (preferably across many factions) so you can help include as many people as possible in your influential play and sphere. People know Influencers, people are excited to meet them and tell stories with them. Just by virtue of who you are, you are going to get more play than your average LARPer. That means you have an obligation to spread that play out to other people. The best way to set yourself up for success in this manner is to make ties before the game, meet with those folks before game on, and really try to roll with some interest history with as many people as possible. No, it won’t always click with every player and some relationships develop organically during a game, but the more ties you make, the better a chance you will have of making an impact on a large group.

Be a Generous Player: This is probably the most important duty of an Influencer: You must be a generous player in every definition of that statement. It means never hoarding plot to yourself, but finding excuses to spread it out among as much of the community as possible. It means purposefully ‘cheating out’ even your secret conversations, so other players can overhear accidentally and get involved in play (cheating out means sitting with your body outwards towards the audience/room so people can better see or listen to what you are doing.) It means pulling other players into the action even if they might not be a part of your faction or friends circle. It means recognizing who the shy players are and trying to engage them no matter your characters feels. Being generous means never having the excuse ‘well, my character wouldn’t do that’ — as an Influencer, your duty is to find reasons for your character to involve as many people as possible, as often as possible. You may often get spotlight just because of who you are or how dynamic your roleplay is and it is your job to share that spotlight with as many people as possible. Use your charisma and contacts to make everyone else feel just as special as you often are among the greater community. Who knows, you might inspire them to be influential players in the future!

Steer from Behind: Get interested in other people’s storylines and then help them build that roleplay by making yourself a supporting character to their story. A big part of being a generous player is knowing when it’s time to not only share spotlight, but upstage yourself so someone else can have the full spotlight. This is often done by getting to know someone else’s character and their goals. Once you know what they want to be doing at the event, use your social power to help steer their roleplay, other roleplayers towards them, or situations around them to help them succeed. I generally try to take between 2-4 players each event I’m working (more if it’s a big, one shot blockbuster game) and focus hard on their story. I’ll manipulate social situations to put them in wonderful places where they can succeed (or fail epically, if they are playing to lose), and help bring them into spotlight of the specific style of story they are interested in telling. Any experienced roleplayer knows well how to steer a scene, but if you are being given the privilege of being an Influencer at a game, it is your JOB to steer to make the game more fun for everyone by highlighting other stories which are your own.

Advertisements

5 thoughts on “Influencers in LARP: Roles and Responsibilities

  1. Liam says:

    Beautifully written and making excellent points to help inform people how to truly be a LARP influencer. This was a great read and will be my first selection to show to anyone wanting to help the community.

    Like

  2. Tara M. Clapper says:

    Great tips. I’d add that in the US, the Federal Trade Commision mandates the disclosure of material interests, i.e. comped tickets, etc. It doesn’t matter if you’re just blogging for fun or you’re paid as a journalist, you have to disclose. It’s tough to do that on social media, but you can at least keep an updated portfolio and prominently link to it (where it says what you attended as guest), and then offer a specific disclosure in a video or blog.

    When I was comped to go to a blockbuster event last year, I didn’t consider my role as an influencer to involve any of those community building actions in or out of game. I did a very thorough write up and disclosed material connection; like many influencers, I wear a lot of hats, and I enjoyed the opportunity to play and not GM. I’m a decent player and facilitated connections, but received compliments and did a good job by showing up. As long as I’m doing my best, I don’t feel obligated to always be “on.” I’d rather just be me, and I hope that’s what people like about the things that I do in the community.

    Like

  3. Cheyenne Rain says:

    There are some good points here, but I have… MANY issues with this article.

    1. “It’s better to be upfront and mature about past issues than have skeletons come out of the closet on the internet in attempts to publicly destroy you or the company you are working with.”

    This is incredibly reductive of the situation you’re referencing. It wasn’t an “attempt to publicly destroy x and the company they are working with”- it was the only option that a community had left to them to deal with an abusive person who had become a Missing Stair. Because the company in question literally had no designated safety team, and multiple complaints were ignored or undermined and the victims in some cases were gaslit.

    2. “No one has been perfect in their past and no one should be banned from doing this work for past mistakes, but companies should be able to make informed decisions about who they are bringing into their public sphere of influence. If you have made mistakes in the past, you should be honest about them and prepared to show where you have made strides towards being a different person.”

    The “mistakes” are abuse, and in many cases sexual assault. People should absolutely be banned from doing this work if they are habitually abusive.

    3. “Much of the controversy around Influencers has come from a lack of transparency on both the part of Influencers and the gaming companies using them. In most other fields, people doing marketing for that field need to be honest about being a paid spokesperson for that product.”
    The larp youtubers have always said what they are being compensated for or with. The fact is that they just haven’t been compensated very much. Watch the videos, read the descriptions. The lack of transparency isn’t theirs.

    4. “Once at game, it is your job to be the best player you can possibly be. This means knowing all the rules, game setting, history, schedule, and mechanics the game designers have put on paper. When people are confused, you should be able to be confident in directing them be it towards plot, game style, or negotiation mechanics. If you are cast in a certain faction, you should be playing to the letter and spirit of that faction, not the special snowflake or black sheep.”
    This one has multiple responses. A- it is NOT their/our job to know every rule, mechanic and logistical detail of the game. Perhaps for the type of ‘influencing’ you do personally that’s true, but you should not be making blanket statements for all types of ‘influencers’ or content creators. Being the best player you can be? Yes. But what you’re describing is something that should only be -required- if you’re staff. Content creators are there to make art, get people excited about the game, and share their honest experience. It’s not the same thing.
    B- Some people have disabilities and literally cannot do what you’re saying is a requirement. I am one of those people.

    5. “If someone is having a breakdown, triggering, lost, being shunned from play, or is in a bad situation, it is up to an influential player to know what tools that person can access to get to safety. Influencers should NOT be safety staff (unless they have been specifically and only hired for that job), but they should be acquainted with the safety staff, safety protocols, and the quickest way to get players help when they need it.”
    – It’s a nice thought that an influential player will look out for you, and hopefully they will, but the fact is that It is incredibly dangerous to put responsibility for player safety on someone who isn’t designated staff. The most that should be expected (beyond knowing what they need to know in order to obey the rules themselves) if someone comes to them is knowing where that designated staff is.

    Overall this article seems to be missing the point of view of many of the people it attempts to create guidelines for.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ericka Skirpan says:

      Dear Cheyenne,

      First off, thank you so much for responding. I’ll FULLY ADMIT on the YouTubers/Vloggers side of things, I have very little experience. I was trying to put forward this article for my general experience and my own personal rules, that encompass a different side of gaming than straight up vlogging. So, I really appreciate the on the ground feedback. If you feel like guest blogging or doing a full on rebuttal for me to post publicly, I’d be happy to host that? If not, that’s totally fine too. I’m really happy for this comment and I’m leaving it as commentary/rebuttal instead of changing the above post, because I don’t want to erase things that I have said which might have been wrong. I’d rather keep the dialogue open.

      I fully agree serial, targeted abuse, harassment, and sexual assault should be straight up ban-able offenses. I should have outlined that better above and made it clear I wasn’t talking about those situations. But I’m glad it was said here. In our policy documents for Pertho, that’s the line we’ve outlined and it’s how I operate, I just didn’t make it clear. Thank you for calling me on it.

      As for the other areas, it’s more gray. Those are rules for ME, how I’ll operate on my blog/work/with my staff. Others could take them or leave them. I didn’t mean this as a manifesto that everyone has to follow, but a thing *I* am going to follow. I struggled with using the word ‘Influencer’ at all, because that’s not actually what I consider my work. I’m more of a consultant/expert/designer, so I focus far harder on that side of things. But the conversation and controversy seems to have come around the term Influencer and how such people exist in the LARP space. I couldn’t step into that space without disclosing and setting down rules for myself, so I did. As with anything I write, ‘Your Mileage May Vary’, so there is no way I think everyone will or should use this document.

      As for the transparency, I’m really, absolutely glad that the vloggers have been transparent. I never saw it, but then I always came at it from a designer/staff point of view and didn’t even understand people were getting free tickets to do this until several months ago. I’m really glad that HAS been happening. I’m going to add a note to the blog above for people to read below about this commentary, instead of changing my original words because we need to own mistakes.

      Thank you again. The platform is open if you’d like to add longer to this conversation at some point!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Anonymous by Choice says:

    What is missing from all these discussions about LARP Influencers is how the players, the paying players, feel about this issue. I for one, have now reached a breaking point and have many friends that have as well about LARP Influencers. We are getting sick of them and their whining and “poor me”, “it isn’t my fault”, “I am innocent”, “it’s someone else’s fault” attitudes. I now call them “Whiny LARP Influencers”.

    As a dedicated, paying player, who has attended a lot of blockbuster LARPs in the US in the past couple years I want to share all my reasons why I believe LARP Influencers time is coming to and end and it should. They are unnecessary for the LARP Industry and really more of a distraction. I know many won’t agree with me, but I have actually seen how distracting they are to both my experience at a LARP and now to the LARP community. I think their time as promoting LARPS has come to an end and is shifting / will shift to a different focus. For purposes of this opinion piece I will refer to them as LARPInfl for short. It doesn’t really matter what they are called it is their behavior that is at issue for many of us players.

    1. If they expect the LARP designers and creators to run their LARP as a business then the LARPInfl should run theirs too. Stop whining about not making enough money to cover your videos. If you can’t make money then cut your costs, cut your production value, spend less time on the videos. It isn’t anyone’s fault but your own that you lose money on your videos. That is your problem not the LARP companies and definitely not mine as a LARPer.

    2. We the LARP community shouldn’t have to see an increase in price for a LARP to cover the LARPInfl cost of attendance, cost to produce a video, etc. But in all their complaining and videos, they not once, NOT ONCE, mentioned that it is us, the LARPers that would pay the price. We would end up paying for them to go. As such, I have seen absolutely ZERO gratitude by the LARPInfl for all us LARPers that have paid for your expenses to attend LARPs. So I say, don’t budget for them to go. Not until there is a significant attitude adjustment. I would prefer them not to be at my LARP events.

    3. LARPInfl distract from the LARP experience. I would rather not have a LARPInfl at a LARP I attend. They expect to be treated differently, they expect to be able to bring all their camera equipment and they definitely distract from my experience. They make the LARP more about them then they do about the LARPers attending the event. I have watched them “hold court” after the LARP and act as if they are the focus of the event when there are many LARPers that are actually much more skilled and talented that should be getting the attention along with new players who are building this industry. The focus should be on the players and content creators not the LARPInfl. So I would prefer to know if a LARPInfl will be at my LARP so I can decide to attend or not. I would like to know before I the marketing campaign to sign up begins if anyone will be a LARPInfl at the event, who they are, and what role / position / function they will be playing. This is full disclosure. Both the LARPInfl and the LARP creator should be disclosing all the facts.

    4. LARPInfl aren’t needed if the LARP designers create really good promotional materials and videos. I don’t need someone that has never been to the LARP to tell me how great it is going to be when I know they are getting a free ticket to say so. I would rather let the company tell me how great it is and show me with their materials, their videos and their explanation. After all, they are the one putting on the LARP.

    5. LARPInfl are mostly young white females that aren’t even representative of the LARP community. They are entitled to share their experiences if they attend but I wouldn’t pay them to attend and probably not even give them a free ticket or pay their travel. If they want to come, let them pay, let them make their videos after and review it if they want. That is their choice just as I have posted/written LARP reviews to share my opinions. If they want followers let them find their own way to get them by making good and entertaining videos not at the expense of my pocketbook.

    6. LARPs are not “events” like a Con, they are live, interactive, immersive experiences whether they are small independent LARPs or large corporate LARPs. I attend not because of one particular LARPInfl being there, I attend because of the contect of the LARP, the way the front end is run, the promotional website and follow-up and the design documents. I attend because I want to go to something interesting and explore my creativity apart from my every day life. The last think I want is for my event to be judged by someone that has never been, that thinks they speak for me about what I want in a LARP, and that expects to be paid to go.

    7. I think all LARPs moving forward should restrict LARPInfl from attending unless they attend as the rest of the players attend. They can prepare their videos after the event or in their rooms (if not immersive rooms). They can write reviews before or after. When I pay to go to a LARP I want it to be about me and those I attend, not about them.

    8. The big difference between LARPs and other events is that the LARPer is the experience. If I go to a play, I watch the performance, if I go to a sporting event I watch the game, if I go to a concert I listen to the music, if I go to a Con I listen to panels and walk the floor. At a LARP I am not passive in my experience, I am active. I attend and expect to be treated the same as all the other players. We are all one. Yes, some may pay more for special perks, that is fine with me. But they aren’t getting paid more at my pocket book expense it is their own. So the need for a promoter is not the same as the other business models.

    I actually prefer not to attend a LARP again when they are present. I know lots and lots of other LARPers that agree with me. So that is why I thought I would speak up. Creativity and creative content will always have those that review the work but they don’t need to be at the event doing it in my face. So stop the whining LARPInfl and figure out your business for yourself not at my expense. If you can’t make money doing what you supposedly love doing they don’t do it. Don’t blame the companies or me. Blame yourself. I look forward to seeing more promotional videos and content from the companies. They could make much better use of their money doing this than paying for a LARPInfl to go to their event and distract from my experience.

    So now here is voice from a PAYING LARPer, someone paying for LARPInfl to distract from my experience. I hope not to have them at any LARPs I attend in the future. Or if they do, they should pay and play just like I am.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s