Re: the role of plot/hobby vs. "employment"

jpariury

Duke
(Not quoting Toddo to pick on him in particular, mostly using it as a launching point for discussion.)

The perception that those who run this game are employees or are doing a job is one I find profoundly disrespectful.
So, in broad strokes, I disagree here. Yes, LARPing is, on some level, a hobby. And yes, as a form of employment, the pay sucks, but that's okay because the hours are long. But I generally think treating one's role on plot as enjoying the hobby (full-stop), and not as in some way a function of customer service (in the same way any employee or volunteer for a professional organization has some degree of responsibility in representing said group) is what tends to hinder the growth of individual chapters.

I can say without a doubt that there are a great number of players with whom we are friendly, though it would probably be stretching the definition to call them "friends". When I've run games, I impose on myself as much a duty to keep them entertained as I do the people I go to the movies/eat dinner/play board games with. Successfully running plot for people we're not buddy-buddy with is how we increase attendance, get new players, and have bigger, badder, cooler, more-heart-wrenching plots. Treating the game as something we're just running for our friends to have a good time, imo, is the much more disrespectful position to take. It suggests to me that the people who aren't our friends are in some way just window dressing to our friends' experience.

While there's definitely an element of "I hope my friends are having a good time", I think we do the game itself a disservice when the game runners (from GM to plot to Logistics to marshals) treat it as just a hobby. My experience is that treating it as a professional endeavor is what makes the game better in terms of quality and attendance. Holding our staff to professional standards, expecting more from our staff, and holding each other accountable is absolutely the most respectful position to take, afaict.
 

Toddo

Knight
HQ Staff
Marshal
Is it your contention that someone who does something as a hobby isn't adding as much value as someone being paid to do the job and views it as employment?

I consider it a hobby, and at the risk of sounding immodest I'm very skilled at writing for LARPs. Part of that, at least for me, is because I don't take it super seriously and come at it from the philosophy that I have a skill that enhances something I enjoy for those around me, which increases my enjoyment of the hobby and creates a win/win for everyone.

The problem with classifying staff positions as jobs (even though they share a bit of the definition of an occupation) is that if it is culturally accepted that I am an employee and the PCs are customers then you create a dynamic where players will assume that the staff is solely responsible for their enjoyment of the game and not take personal responsibility for making the game fun for everyone and making their own fun.

As a Head of Plot, Marshal or General Manager I have accepted certain responsibilities in regards to making sure the game runs in a fun, engaging way for everyone. I'm going to assume you weren't trying to be insulting when implying that I run games just for my friends. It's a big part of it, yes. But making sure my good buddies have a great time means that I have to make sure everyone from the first timer PC/NPC up to and including myself is having a great time as well.

I'm playing the same game as everyone else, I'm just interacting with it in a different way. I acknowledge that the roles I have chosen within the organization at times require more skill and effort than even my 9 to 5. But to classify me as an employee is to put me in a subservient position to those who have equal responsibility to make sure everyone around them is having fun, and I'm sure everyone who has been in a staff position has encountered players who presume upon that perception to speak to and treat them in ways they would never treat a person who is giving of their time and creativity for no better reason than they love it.

TLDR: Yes, they're "jobs," but the perception that staff is there entirely to serve the players and can be treated with disrespect if they don't perform to your specific standard is harmful.
 

Jovunn

Adept
Gettysburg Staff
Disclaimer: not a full time plot member of any chapter, just a contributor. But I feel this discussion is applicable to the function of chapter staff in general.

Toddo, I don't think JP was positing anyone deserves disrespect for how they approach their role as staff. What I understood was: he worries if we, as staff, only treat the game as a hobby, we might neglect that we, as the people who more or less represent a business/franchise, might forget the customer service/customer oriented aspects of being on staff. That's what I got from his statement, and I absolutely agree with him. I also don't think you, The Toddo, were implying you didn't approach the game from that same customer-oriented perspective - just that you looked at your staff positions through a different lens than some might.

If you don't mind me providing my perspective: I approach my job as AGB custserv/person-who-does-a-lot-of-GMy-things as exactly that: a job. I approach the chapter as a business. I absolutely view our staff as servants of the players and strongly emphasize customer service because, after all, the customers are paying to be in our world. This has not, in my experience, created the situation you describe: players relying on us as their sole source of enjoyment. I see plenty of folks doing their own thing - totally separate from plot - and having a blast. What this approach has created is a customer-oriented attitude: dispersion of plot to different players and groups based on their individual wants, accommodation of on-the-fly everything, and a constant search for feedback both at game and beyond to make it better for everyone. I can't recall anyone being treated as subservient - if nothing else, I'd argue this approach has built trust and comfort between people who aren't always friends OOG.

I don't think that was too tangential?
 

jpariury

Duke
Is it your contention that someone who does something as a hobby isn't adding as much value as someone being paid to do the job and views it as employment?
It'll sound harsh, but in general terms and spread out across a large enough populace, yes. People that treat their staff positions as solely part of their hobby and not as a professional endeavor probably aren't putting forth the same level of effort. At it's simplest terms, my experience of larping is that "This is a hobby" most often yields hockey-mask goblins where "This is a professional endeavor" most often yields professional-grade airbrush makeup and latex. "You guys do pretty good as hobbyists" isn't the same level of performance as "You guys do pretty good as professionals".

I'm going to assume you weren't trying to be insulting
Totes wasn't.


to classify me as an employee is to put me in a subservient position
I think this is where we see things differently. Someone being an employee doesn't make them a servant. Being accountable and duty-bound is not the same as being beholden. There's definitely a fine difference, but it's difference of importance.
 

Toddo

Knight
HQ Staff
Marshal
I'm totally willing to admit that I have bias based on personal experience here, and I'm honestly happy that it seems you guys have never encountered some of the glorious jerkfaces I have. I've straight up had a player yell at me and use the "I'm a paying customer" line after approaching them about NPCs complaining about hitting too hard. Now I wouldn't put up from such shenanigans from the corporate entity that employs me, so I think it's reasonable to expect I wouldn't encounter that where I go to volunteer and have fun.

I think this is where we see things differently. Someone being an employee doesn't make them a servant. Being accountable and duty-bound is not the same as being beholden. There's definitely a fine difference, but it's difference of importance.
Absolutely agree.

I suppose a lot comes down to your definition of "hobby." LARP doesn't pay my bills, feed me or buy romantic dinners with the wife for me. My job does. There are people with hobbies that require a lot more skill/effort than their jobs do, and they do it for fun. Someone who organizes a youth hockey program in their spare time deals with almost the exact same types of things a LARP owner does (securing venue, managing insurance, attracting members, providing certain essential equipment, finding referees, managing people to keep the process running smoothly), and this involves many things that are valid job responsibilities and skills. We do these things as a matter of course because we enjoy helping other like-minded people or enjoy the process itself, not because our ability to maintain food and shelter depends on it. Heck, I'd leave my job in a second if a better offer came down the pike, not so much for my hobby.

I set a high standard for myself because I truly enjoy doing it, not for the pay. That's really where I draw the line between Hobby and Occupation.

Good discussion. :)
 

Toddo

Knight
HQ Staff
Marshal
Disclaimer: not a full time plot member of any chapter, just a contributor. But I feel this discussion is applicable to the function of chapter staff in general.
I don't think the intent here is for only plot staff to have a voice on this topic. I appreciate what you've brought to the discussion and I hope more non-staffers feel free to comment and share experiences. :)
 

Jovunn

Adept
Gettysburg Staff
Yeah, wasn't certain. I mean, I am staff, just not a plot gal. But I would love to see non-staff perspectives - could be insightful. :)
 

MaxIrons

Knight
Marshal
The coin is a lie.

On one side you have hobby-ism and on the other profession-ism. The best results are when they're both present. I'm not paid for my work and time, I'm compensated, but not paid. If it was only a profession, I'd be hitting the bricks to find other employment. If it were only a hobby I wouldn't treat it with the work ethic I do. It's about reaching the balance between helping your hobby grow and doing so in a professional manner.

It's not a matter of sides in my opinion. It's a matter of pocketing that coin and keeping it with you, both sides intact.
 

Draven

Count
As the New Player Representative for Seattle, I absolutely approach my position as a job, for a company I choose to work for. It means that I let my "bosses" tell me when to do something or when not to do something, even if I disagree with them. It means I provide a level of customer service that I would personally want to be served with. It means I obligate myself to certain standards that, honestly, I wouldn't do with a hobby. More importantly, I can set my hobby down at any time. Being a professional employee, if I choose to quit, I won't create confusion or disarray by simply walking away, I'll give adequate notice and fulfill my duty until my given date is up.

That creates trust, respect, and a stable working atmosphere that is more effective when you want to build your client base. I don't think that necessarily differs whether you're Plot, Logistics, or any other staff position.
 

Poalo

Newbie
I share Toddo's sentiment.

There are a lot of sayings that get thrown around in writing and running the game. I would like to throw the following into the mix:

"Just because I serve, does not make me a servant." <Bonus points if anyone knows who/what I quoted>

I consider myself and many others who write and help run this game to serve in the interest of running a game that is engaging on top of a positive social and emotional atmosphere. Often in my time working in my game, or supporting others, I often see the benefit of holding a certain level of professionalism in mind to ensure a certain standard of quality in the games I volunteer for.

Having a professional attitude and working passionately does not require you to have it be your job.

My concern is not when things are going right, but when things go wrong and someone uses the pretext of "This is your job" to say some pretty vile things about someone, when the circumstances involved may be out of their control.

Tl;dr: I feel Toddo's sentiment does not impede on the passion and professionalism of those who write and serve for love of the game, but it does remove the liability of being verbally or digitally dragged through the mud under a faulty pretext.

Cheers,
Mike Duetzmann
 

norman b

Squire
As Head of Logistics, I feel I have a duty to my players to do my Job of logistics in a positive and friendly manner. I also feel I have a duty to do that job or else I will be replaced. Does that mean I have to be fun? No but it is much more enjoyable that way. Do I do it for the enjoyment of logistics? Sure, I like to do that sort of thing. Do I do it for the players who rely on me to make sure their characters are up to date and correct so they can get the most out of their game? Absolutely, much more than I do it for myself. I know that the players don't get to vote me out of my position, but that does not mean that I should enjoy doing logistics more than players going through logistics. I have found that when players enjoy the process of logistics, my job is easier and much more enjoyable. I have a responsibility to players and I feel that is my job.

I agree that staff shouldn't get verbally, physically, or any other way harassed or dragged through the mud. That's not cool. But I do expect players to step up and voice their concerns if they find they aren't having fun or find mistakes or are not enjoying a part of any portion of the game. If that means letting our plot team know they aren't having fun or find something too difficult, I expect them to let the plot team or player representative know. If they think I suck and am not efficient as logistics, I want the players to tell me or someone. We can't improve someone's game/experience as professionals if we don't know. This also starts the lines of communication between the players and staff. This may let us explain to them how things work and may help the players find a way to enjoy themselves.

These are the reason's I'm glad we have player representatives and event feedback forms. They let staff know how they are doing. They help us gauge if we are making this an enjoyable experience for everyone. We want people to come back and play our game. Plus, sometimes others have some great insight on how we can improve processes or improve the game in ways staff may not have realized, and I am always up for improvement.
 

Toddo

Knight
HQ Staff
Marshal
I agree with you Norman, I'm somewhat confused though in that you seem to be under the impression that I don't have these measures in place as well for gauging engagement.
 

norman b

Squire
I have never said you don't. I assume all chapters have means of feedback. I assume they all have Player Representatives too, even if they are just the GM or Plot. When I say we, I mean Alliance not the West Coast, or Oregon for that matter. If that was misinterpreted, I'm sorry.
 
I wonder how much of this is tied into any regional differences in connotation of the ideas of "professional".

Maybe a more useful term would be "craftsman".
 

Poalo

Newbie
@Dan:

I feel that a majority of this conversation is a confusion in language. We are all people who have a passion for the game, and we in our minds use different words to describe what is ultimately the same passion.

"Craftsman" is an appropriate analogy for what we all are in connection of the game because while we all go by different methods, we are eventually performing the same task of creating that engaging story with a positive social and emotional environment.
 

Muir

Fighter
TLDR: Yes, they're "jobs," but the perception that staff is there entirely to serve the players and can be treated with disrespect if they don't perform to your specific standard is harmful.
I very much agreee the disconnect between our views is this bit right there. I used to be a professional cook, spent better than a decade in the service industry. There is a great distance between 'employee' and 'valid target for abuse', as anyone who works in the industry will tell you. In particular, as far as LARP goes, people who treat staff and NPCs like that can and should be told to clean up their act or find somewhere else to play, because these games are not run for profit and no amount of that person's money will counteract the damage they do to the atmosphere and game.

That said, as a paying customer of a game, I don't feel it is out of line for a player to openly and honestly expect that they should be able to play the game, and to bring concerns that are effecting their fun to the attention of the staff. The biggest situation I've seen this come up in is the one that makes the worst impression, that of new players at an established chapter. The staff, in their efforts to entertain the greater percentage of much higher APL characters. has seemingly forgotten that low-level characters exist, and left them with nothing scaled for their abilities to do.

Now the options for the player are either to come have a word with the staff and hope, or (as I've seen happen too often), simply to decide the game sucks and not come back. That sort of thing is an honest customer service issue, and one that has to be addressed from a professional perspective. Coming at it from the angle of 'well, this is a hobby and we're doing our best to entertain most of the players, good enough' is not going to provide a positive outcome.
 

Yames

Newbie
Honestly as a player who has done some time on logistics in the past I agree with Toddo on this one more so than anyone else so far. I have never once considered myself to be a paying customer and i actually really dislike the idea of people referring to PC's as paying customers on either side of the coin because it greatly diminishes the expectation of player responsibility for making the game fun for everyone. I'm paying for the opportunity to come have fun with playing a game in a well run system, not for the guarantee that the people running the system will bow to my every need. Yes the staff of the chapter essentially functions as employees, especially logistics, Owners, GM's, Heads of Rules and Player reps but their impact on the game really only extends to the periods in between games. From roughly 9:00 PM friday night to 12:00 Noon sunday we are all players and we are all responsible for making the game fun for everyone. NPC camp is just a different set of Players who have a different goal than the group of Players who are being PC's for the weekend. In my experience, the influential PC's have just as much influence, if not more influence, on my fun during a weekend as any plot member or NPC could ever have.

Edit: This is coming from a seattle/oregon player. just fyi
 

Toddo

Knight
HQ Staff
Marshal
You've summarized my point better than I've been able to Yames. Thanks. :)
 
I have been part of staff in a way, but I am not anymore at this time.

As part of staff, I have done NPC cook, running monster camp, and keeping gear up to snuff. I spent many an hour off site doing various things of this nature along with shaking hands at cons and getting the word out more.
As staff, I expected myself to be giving the jobs I am doing a fairly high level of professionalism. Yes, what I did is a hobby but only because I do not get paid cash money for what I do. I consider myself somewhat of a craftsperson when I comes to doing the things that needed to be done, but not on par of a professional (I am not all that great a makeup application, woodworking, prop making, etc) level.

I have met many a staff person in the last 4-5 years that approaches their jobs at LARPing with a high level of professionalism. But it is a hobby. When the weekend is done, we are going back to a paying job, or school, or family.

PS: If someone comes spouting I am a paying customer after a discussion on over enthusiasm in combat, that is the time you talk to the Plot and/or player representative.
 

Toddo

Knight
HQ Staff
Marshal
Heh, I was head of plot at the time. I handled it, but was a bit annoyed that it happened. If that had been the only incident of such things I knew about I'd dismiss it. Thankfully I haven't had to deal with that stuff in a few years. :)
 
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