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Monday, July 11, 2011

The Socioethics of communitive gaming

Or. How not to act like a spoiled child in game.

For those that don't know I am a live action role player also known as a LARPer ( yes I am well aware how much of a dork I am playing LARP but it's less boffer LotR and more political intrigue and noir with vampires), I play Vampire the Masquerade . It's super complex and sometimes to understand. I've been playing "Columbus in Darkness" (the name of our game) for almost a year. For an autist, playing a very heavy social game like LARP and one that is very very political in nature. Is severely tasking and I've been known to meltdown after game. It can be hell for some, but I actually love it. LARPing has been teaching me to better read facial expressions, make better eye contact and dare I say it? Learn to lie more effectively.

But I am not hear telling people how useful drama classes are or more political games like VtM for learning better passing skills. This is a caveat to players especially autists who come into a new game unprepared and very ignorant of how the game works.

And make total asses of themselves.

Enter "Karen", she is my age and probably on the spectrum (according to her) she definitely has a quirks and some social impairments. I know her actually from the Gender Variant and Queer support group that I go to once a month. She is trans like myself and I can empathize with transitioning being very very exhausting. Never the less, Karen entered the game and I was totally excited to have my characters meet hers. I play two characters, a Gangrel named Spyke.. I also play Larkin, a Toreador .

I was excited to see Karen's character concept. Was she gonna play a Malkavian, the mentally unstable, but mentally complex clan of vampires? Maybe a one of mage-clan vampires the Tremere. There was just so many paths to choose and I was excited for her. So I was kinda confused when she chose a caitiff or a clanless vampire. Now, for those that don't quiet catch it. Playing a clanless vampire in our game (we play the Camarilla sect) is pretty risky for brand new players. They are hard to play because Kindred (vampire) society looks down on them. They are considered garbage, trash, unworthy of the blood. They are hard for new players because of a sizable stigma on them and screwing up because you're still new to the game could get your character killed.

More or less, playing a caitiff is for more experience players who know the genre and the game well (despite everyone telling her, this was a bad idea and she needs to know what she is doing)

So Karen was playing a caitiff, well I kinda laughed at first thinking she was obviously pretty versed with genre, and has done this before. I also thought she had a big plan with this character. Gee was I wrong.

She was obviously PAINFULLY new to the genre of Vampire the Masquerade. She made a lot of newbie mistakes which was fine because you're totally allowed to fuck up as you go. I did that with Spyke a lot (now my excuse that Spyke was a feral vampire that came to Columbus after her mentor was brutally killed), however unlike Karen, I learned my mistakes, I learned the game. It was hard, tasking and overwhelming at points. Generally first time characters survive for about three months. I was surprised when Spyke lasted triple that time. So I knew "Theresa" was not going to last long in game. I don't think Karen understood that.

Anyway, it was apparent that Karen as a player had poor manners, and didn't understand why she was bugging people. She interrupted conversations (in and out of character), she wore blazers, but didn't cross her legs or keep them closed which was kinda gross for someone in a short skirt. She didn't try to make friends out of character, so everyone saw her as a stranger. Her own character screwed up A LOT, everything from insulting characters and getting crap knocked out of her (in game of course) and having bad manners all around (claiming to be professional and then walk around with a two liter bottle of cows blood doesn't really work, also telling folks you drink cows blood is like telling vegetarians you love eating meat and you don't understand why you guys would just eat plants. It's rude). The top it all off, if Theresa was new to Kindred society people wouldn't have been hard on her. The deal was, Karen made her already a member of the sect that we played (Camarilla) so her character should know all the rules of society and have proper manner for interacting. Making her screw ups FAR more grievous than if she was recently embraced (turned into a vampire). More or less Theresa was going to be killed for screwing up too much, and we thought that it would be lesson learned and Karen would make a character more appropriate for a new player and continue to play. Shit happens right?

I was again wrong.

Last night as I came in, I found Karen by the sign in table. She looked stiff (she always does) and seemed to be waiting for something. So greeted her:
Me: Hey Karen, did you sign in? :D
Karen: No I am leaving the LARP for good :| I am just here to tell that to STs (Storytellers they are kinda like the moderators of the game)
Me: D: aww, I am sorry, well good luck then

And instead of just leaving she hung around waiting for my boyfriend to show up so she can give him her contact info (he didn't until much later but she left leaving me her info). I didn't know why she couldn't email the STs or something. I didn't bother to ask why she was leaving. Though I had a sneaking suspicion.

Before game day, Bonnie's character Ryan wrote a scathing letter to Theresa for her misbehavior during very very important event. Now I must remind my readers, this is all RP this isn't really Bonnie has no issues with Karen, however her character hates Theresa. What I found out later that night, is that is why Karen left the game. She didn't know about the letter until that night. She decided, instead of handing the situation with grace, to throw a fit like a child. She insulted the players, the game and generally made a stink of it. And then flounced off.

Here is the tally for those that are keeping score
-She is playing a very DIFFICULT character not one for new players
-She is new to game and doesn't know all the rules and doesn't ask for help
-Her character continue to make the same mistakes over and over wearing everyone's patience down.
-She decides people suck and she acts like a child when she realizes that this isn't her cup of tea.

Conclusion: I have absolutely no sympathy for her and I hope the doesn't come back until she matures as person an as a player.

Folks this isn't about RP. This long TL;DR example is what it means to have personal responsibility. You do not go into something without knowing the consequences. You learn from your mistakes and be accountable for your actions. We tried to help Karen, we gave her advice, we told her how to access the STs for help get on the IC and OOC email lists. We wanted Karen to be a cool and valued player, but she never took a step back and said:
"This really isn't my cup of tea, I don't think I like LARPing...I am gonna quit sorry and good luck to folks"
"I am having trouble with this, I think it's best if I retired Theresa and play a more flexible character."
"I am taking a break for a few weeks, just to clear my head."

Instead once she realized she couldn't cut it. She blamed everyone else and acted liked it was our fault that her character was getting her ass kicked. Dude....you signed up for this. We even threw you a lifesaver. This is immature, willful and pretty damn typical.

Especially for autists.

I've seen this behavior in AFF and several blogs. So the question is raised. When is it justified to hold the actions of NTs, and the government accountable to misfortunes, personal or public, and when it is appropriate to take accountability for oneself and be change that you would like to see? The problem is that I see lot of autists blame NT parents, teachers, spouses, their disability the government. I don't see a lot of autists taking a step back an realize that they could improve things themselves but be responsible and changing their own behavior. Understanding ones flaws is a sign of maturity. Realizing that some behaviors can't have the "autism card" pulled on when being called on (IE: I know an AFF member who harassed his female co-workers, he used his autism and them being NT and not "understand" as a excuse" ). Realizing some shit isn't cool an working to change it is important. It's not being "submissive" to NTs (as one autist accused me off), it's about realizing that being an asshole isn't an autistic symptom.

A good autists realizes that sexually harassing co-workers, making racists comments, crying wolf when "trolls" are really people that disagree with you, is inappropriate and seeks to correct behaviors without blaming people or one's autism.

A good LARPer would realize playing very difficult character is a bad idea with inexperience and will play something easier to learn the game

A superb RPer would turn the caitiff into a Ventrue that doesn't know she is clanless, make her in charge of several Non-profits be a totally HBIC, give her some awesome influences and abilities and finds out that she is clanless and totally freaks the fuck out!

What that's what I would do if I played Theresa.....


  1. I don't really have a response to the overall post, but:

    I used to do the VLARP too, in the latter half of the 90s. Not so much since, but much fun.

    Vampire: The Masquerade used to be one of my major interests. It actually still kind of is (in that it was legitimately depressing when I found out I missed the window for pre-ordering the 20th Anniversary edition of V:tM).

  2. :) VLARP is one the best social adaptation tools I ever had. I've had better eye contact because of it (useful if you don't have auspex and you're catching someone in a lie)

  3. It didn't help my eye contact much, or I lost what it helped with (I'm not sure which) but it was an interesting semi-controlled social environment in which it was possible to pick up some social tools.

    Unfortunately, it was also overloading and led to shutdowns (not so often meltdowns) and I eventually burned out on the whole thing.

    But I do kind of miss it.

  4. I have shutdowns after game myself, but that's why I try to take breaks and give warning cues to players that know me, that I am on the edge.

    It's a balancing act :)