Sunday, July 19, 2015

Foul-Mouthed LARPing Advice

MIT Assassin's Guild dart-gun combat, March 2006
OK, dear readers, I'd like you to indulge me in one more trip down memory lane.  In cleaning my electronic life and the crud accumulated on my machine, I recently came once again across an ancient and delightful (to me at least) document.

You see, one of my primary indulgences back when I was an undergraduate was designing and playing live action roleplaying games (LARPs).  At MIT, this meant getting submerged into the very peculiar and "hard-core" culture of the MIT Assassin's Guild, where we would regularly play 10-day-long games with 60 people (as well as many shorter and smaller forms).  I quickly gravitated to the writing side, much more enjoying playing God and setting up the arena for others to contend within, rather than actually participating in the conflict myself (my personality is actually rather conflict-averse, although you wouldn't readily know it from my behavior as an arrogant young man). Even now, I still hold a record as one of the all-time most prolific authors in the 35-year history of the Guild, having written and run 25 different games, mostly over the period of 1998 through 2004, though I continued producing approximately one game per year all the way until 2013, when I moved to Iowa. Looking at the coincidence in timing between my decline of LARP output and my increase of scientific output, I suspect that actually it is no coincidence. Writing LARPs continued to be a very important both social and creative outlet for me, however, evolving with my life and circumstances and increasing interest in things outside the generic fantasy or science fiction boxes (the last game I co-authored was based on the Hindu legend of the churning of the ocean of milk).

All of this is preface and circumstance to explain the document that I intend to present to you.  It needs some explanation, because it's definitely got a Mature Content Advisory on it.  You see, back in 2000, right around the height of my youthful arrogance and joy in being transgressive, I wrote a long, flamey rant called the "Definitive Guide to Writing Guild Games for the Rest of Eternity," putting down my own extremely biased views about writing LARPs for the Assassin's Guild.  It was a foul-mouthed, irreverent, and joyful trip through my perspective of the time, and I circulated it privately amongst those who would likely not hold it against me too much, but it was never intended for wider dissemination.  Then, in 2005, my friend Joe Foley started putting together an attempt at a comprehensive guide to gamewriting, which he called the Mechanicomicon (transparently referring to H.P. Lovecraft), and he persuaded me to update and expand the document with my additional years of experience.  It didn't take much persuasion, and we decided to maintain the original tone of the document for publication, even if its content became a little more level-headed and we removed a couple of pieces of obvious and unnecessary slander.

And this, dear reader, is the document that I just rediscovered, still essentially in the same form as a decade ago (though it's had a few additional tweaks and bug-fixes since then).  I want to share it with you as a slice into another world, a world that I fondly remember the times I spent, and also a slice of my own mind.  LARPing prepared me for science in some surprising ways, especially in the challenges of organizing events and of managing large and complex projects across multi-year time-spans.  If you yourself are a gamer, you might find some interesting thoughts in there as well, though the Assassin's Guild is also a very peculiar culture of its own, and some of the references will be, I'm sure, completely and totally impenetrable.  All I ask, dear reader, is that you not judge me too harshly for things that were written long ago, and a side of me that was never intended for professional presentation.

In the continuing spirit of irreverence, however, I have tucked this document discretely at the very bottom of my professional webpage, formatted much like a scientific citation, and will delighted if I can get Google Scholar to pick it up, and even more delighted if it can pick up citations.  Just my little scientific prank, if not quite on the delightful scale of F.D.C. Willard.
Team Hufflepuff in a tense moment of planning during the Harry Potter 10-day game, January 2011.
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