Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Manifesto '15: Problematic Content in LARP

I wrote this back in July of 2015, following the events within a certain section of the UK LARP scene that shall be referred to as #drowgate. It remains, more or less, my general philosophy of LARP.

We who subscribe to this manifesto hold the following to be true:

1.1. That LRP is a cultural phenomenon which can be analysed as a form of art.
1.2. All forms of art are in a position to act as a forum for the discussion and exploration of social, political and cultural issues.
1.3. That the way in which issues of contention are framed plays an important role in the discussion that can be had around them - in short, the medium and the message are intertwined.
1.4. That forms of destructive prejudice within our society (including but not limited to racism, sexism, heteronormativity, cisnormativity, ageism, ableism and the like) are worthy of being explored through art. We shall label such issues as "problematic", for reasons of brevity.
1.5. That the refusal to engage in discussion and critical analysis of problematic elements within a form of art is tantamount to the passive approval of such elements.
1.6. That the intent of the creator is not the final authority in the way in which a work of art should be interpreted.

Therefore, we accept that:

2.1. LRP can be a vehicle for exploring contentious issues.
2.2. That where LRPs engage with such content, the way in which such content is framed is important; but that the intent of the designer is not the sole predictor of the nature of the dialogue that shall emerge from the LRP.
2.3. That all participants in LRP are co-creators, acknowledged or not; it is the system designers who frame the discussion, but the players are the ones who determine the direction in which that discussion plays out.
2.4. Should a LRP contain elements which are problematic, it is the responsibility of both the players and the designers to engage critically with that content; and failure to do so is to offer tacit approval of such things.

Therefore, as designers and co-creators we do strive to act upon these principles by:

3.1. Being aware and mindful of content within our LRPs that might be considered problematic.
3.2. Questioning the purpose behind the inclusion of the same.
3.3. Not including material that uncritically reinforces problematic cultural stereotypes or tropes.
3.4. Where appropriate, seeking and accepting the opinions of members of disenfranchised and minority groups on problematic content.
3.5. Being willing to give and take criticism on such in a constructive manner.

We reject the concept that LRP exists in isolation from culture, or can be considered to be "just a game". Equally, we reject all forms of group-think, dogmatism, and the assertion that there is a single "right" or "wrong" way to approach any issue. Rather, we welcome the multiplicity of opinions, and the chance to engage in a deeper dialogue around such issues

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