Are you enjoying the game(s) that you play? There are a lot of reasons for not liking a game, and sadly very few of those reasons are things that you, as a player, have much control over. Unless there’s only one LARP in town you have a choice, so choose the game that best fits style of play and meets your needs. Rather than dwell in a game some doesn’t entertain you, move on to something that does, because the game you’re unsatisfied with now is unlikely to improve.
It’s not your style
I notice that many players and storytellers delude themselves into thinking that every game should be for every person, but this is far from true. A responsible storyteller should try to create an identity for their game, so that their LARP offers something unique in their local LARP community. This identity needs to be public, because when players know what a game is supposed to be about they can make an informed choice as to whether that game is for them. A responsible player should stay away from a game that doesn’t meet their needs. If they do play they’ll either be disruptive because they find they dislike the game and leave it and any plot threads they were involved with behind or they will be disruptive because they try to make the game something that it isn’t supposed to be.
If you find yourself in a game that doesn’t suit your style try to walk away gracefully. Rather than be the square hole in a round peg game finish up your obligations to the story and get out. Don’t hesitate to bring it up with a storyteller, so that the two of you can write the character out in a satisfactory way and nothing is left dangling. Use your exit as an opportunity to engage the remaining players.
A bad culture
I see a lot of LARPs with bad culture, where players and storytellers or players and other players have adversarial relationships. Sometimes the bad culture comes out in the number of problem situations that occur, or in the level of trust that a storyteller is given. You can often pick these games out by how little socialization and camaraderie happens at them, as well as how often players take in character risks. Players keep to their cliques and only interact outside of them to ‘get’ someone and the need to win trumps the need to have fun.
It’s been my experience that nothing can trump the bad vibes coming off of these games – they’re just bad news. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the culture of a game turn itself around through the efforts of its players, I’ve only ever seen it happen because of a change of storyteller who inserted new values and expectations into the game. My advice in these circumstances is to let the storyteller know you won’t be back and find a game with a better vibe.
When it’s difficult to get access to the information you as a player need to succeed it can be frustrating. A lot of LARPs I’ve seen are fly by night operations where the only way to get something is to convince the storytellers to get it for you. Maybe the game routinely starts much later than it should, maybe your downtimes are returned moments before game and they are monosyllabic or maybe the rules change week to week at the storyteller’s whims. These kinds of game are run by the Tyranny of the Eloquent, where the squeakiest, most persuasive wheel or whomsoever has the most access to the storyteller gets the grease.
It’s hard to break a storyteller’s habits. A game that starts disorganized almost always ends disorganized. These kinds of problems drive me nuts, but I also realize that others have more tolerance for sloppiness than I do. There is no such thing as a perfectly organized game, so it comes down to whether or not you as a player are willing to accept the level of disorganization in that LARP. If you are, then please note that by making the decision to put up with it you are forfeiting your opportunity to complain about it. Staying is your choice. If you cannot deal with the disorganization I’ve found that trying to help fix the “problem” typically falls on deaf ears. Unless you are able to step up and join a storyteller’s staff (which presents frustrations of its own) the game is unlikely to ever improve. Create an exit strategy that helps the storyteller and leave gracefully.
Stretched too thin
Many games fail because they fail to scale properly. Some games may seem disorganized because the storyteller has allowed too many players into their game and now are incapable of keeping up with the demand. I think players and storytellers both carry the misconception that a game with more players is somehow more successful than a game with less, to the point where storytellers fail to cap their games and players, seeing more people involved, take that as a cue to flock to that game. Many storytellers may be very good at running a game, but don’t realize that it’s an entirely different skillset to run a larger game than it is a small. As a result the game changes to something they weren’t intending and usually they are less proficient at managing. The lesson for storytellers is to accept that limits are important for their games and for their collective sanity.
A game with too many players for their storyteller staff to manage can easily be salvaged, but it requires the help of passionate players (hopefully) like you to step up to the plate. I can speak from experience when I say that I have a hard time asking for help, even when I need it. However, when help is offered I’m far more willing to reflect and accept assistance. Even if the kind of help you offer is player registration and taking in door fees, or transcribing character sheets, or reminding players of important dates these can go a long way towards freeing up a storyteller’s time. If you know the rules offering to be a narrator for basic rules adjudication is very helpful. If you’re feeling particularly bold pitch a story to your storyteller that you think would be good and offer to run it for them as a “contract storyteller” (as my friend William is apt to calling this).
Take the time to look critically at the games you’re playing. Are you enjoying the LARPs you’re in right now? If not, is it because the game just isn’t your style, that the game just gives off a bad vibe or because the game just isn’t good enough? Remember, in LARPs your presence is currency for the storyteller’s product. If you don’t enjoy yourself, work to fix it (if you believe it’s worthwhile to try) or get out. That game isn’t going to get any better on its own.