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Larp and other cultures

PostPosted: Wed Jan 25, 2012 7:43 pm
by morgue
[split off from this thread about the Kapcon 22 larp with respect to the Fragrant Harbour proposal]

Cat-Steph's proposal sounds amazing and full of excellent LARPy potential. But I have to fly a caution flag.

Asians in New Zealand have a fraught experience of life here, frequently encountering casual racism.
Demographically, Asian people are under-represented at Kapcon (as are all ethnicities aside from the majority Pakeha).
In this context, the mental image of this LARP... it does not make me comfortable.

I'm not saying No Don't Do It! I am saying, I would like to see some explicit discussion of the issues around this proposal.

(Steph-Cat is very sensible people - maybe before anyone else pitches in, we wait for a response from them? These conversations have potential to run a mile very fast.)

Re: Kapcon 22 Larp

PostPosted: Wed Jan 25, 2012 8:01 pm
by Stephanie
morgue wrote:Cat-Steph's proposal sounds amazing and full of excellent LARPy potential. But I have to fly a caution flag.

Asians in New Zealand have a fraught experience of life here, frequently encountering casual racism.
Demographically, Asian people are under-represented at Kapcon (as are all ethnicities aside from the majority Pakeha).
In this context, the mental image of this LARP... it does not make me comfortable.

I'm not saying No Don't Do It! I am saying, I would like to see some explicit discussion of the issues around this proposal.

(Steph-Cat is very sensible people - maybe before anyone else pitches in, we wait for a response from them? These conversations have potential to run a mile very fast.)

We're not intending to make anyone uncomfortable.

The main inspirational sources are going to be 'literary' versions of China, like Bridge of Birds, the Dream of the Red Chamber, Journey to the West and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, plus probably some historical detail around what was actually happening in Hong Kong around 1900. (Basically, Britain had an incredible amount of influence in Hong Kong as a port and was shipping luxury goods out of China, and fighting a war over being allowed to sell opium in - which was pissing off the Chinese authorities because they didn't like their peasants being off their heads all the time. And there were culture clashes coming through, with having stinking rich foreigners importing their own customs, stinking rich locals trying to keep to the old ways, and stinking rich nouveau riche kinda stuck in between.) Catherine, in particular, has spent a lot of time studying China and Japan, both for fun ("Yay! I like anime!", "Journey to the West is a cool story!") and studying language and culture at a formal level. We're not Chinese, but I don't think we'd be disrespectful about it.

I certainly don't expect anyone to be drawing epicanthic folds on their eyes, because I think that would be disrespectful, and I was planning on suggesting that we indicate ethnicity with symbols on people's name tags.

I think that Al Shir Ma was in a pretty similar position - I think that Middle Eastern people are also underrepresented at Kapcon, and working with Islamic religion is a specific sensitive point that's been around for over a decade now. Do people have any thoughts on what worked well (or badly) for it so that we can learn from it?

Morgue, do you have any issues that you feel aren't covered?

Re: Kapcon 22 Larp

PostPosted: Wed Jan 25, 2012 8:23 pm
by morgue
That's an excellent response, and it's obvious (and unsurprising to me) that you've already thought about this stuff.

I didn't have the same reaction to Al Shir Ma because... personal bias in what I see as potentially problematic? The fact that negative Far Eastern representations have a very strong history in NZ that negative Middle Eastern representations don't? I dunno.

My quick response (which is all this can be seeing as I've only just looked at this) is that I have two main concerns:

* expectations management - even if the writing is smart and careful, players might bring their own unexamined ideas to the game
* lack of representation behind-the-scenes - it would be very good to have at least one Asian New Zealander involved throughout development

There are other issues in there of course but if you tell me "working on it" for both of the above, I expect I would happily relax.

And, to reiterate: it's a very cool idea. It's just the real-world stuff around it that makes me edgy, and wanting this spelled out a bit.

Re: Kapcon 22 Larp

PostPosted: Wed Jan 25, 2012 8:24 pm
by Dale
I think that Al Shir Ma was in a pretty similar position - I think that Middle Eastern people are also underrepresented at Kapcon, and working with Islamic religion is a specific sensitive point that's been around for over a decade now. Do people have any thoughts on what worked well (or badly) for it so that we can learn from it?


Well, in writing Al Shir-Ma we did discuss some of these issues, and made a decision to explicitly remove any specific references to religion - making it a fantasy game, not a historical one. Rather, we looked at the 1001 Arabian Nights and the myriad of source material it has inspired, particularly games like Al-Qadim. In addition, almost all of the characters were indigenous to the setting (although some didn't know it at the beginning) with a single, heavily fantasy-driven, exception, which meant we tried to sidestep the notion of cultural sterotypes encountering one another, and other negative connotations of reflecting historical first-contact encounters and subsequent prejudice, discrimination and injustice.

That said, the biggest variable we couldn't control is what the players would do with the material - and I suspect this is perhaps what Mogue is driving at - by having a discusission we make it clear that responsibility for the game is in the hands of all the participants, not just the writers. I'm not saying we got it perfect, but as someone who was (at the time) studying public perceptions of the most extreme and controversial aspects of middle-eastern culture and Islamic beliefs, I was concious of this while co-writing the game.

Re: Kapcon 22 Larp

PostPosted: Thu Jan 26, 2012 12:16 am
by housemonkey
How about a slavery LARP with everyone in blackface? Can't see any issues there.

Re: Kapcon 22 Larp

PostPosted: Thu Jan 26, 2012 12:57 am
by morgue
housemonkey wrote:How about a slavery LARP with everyone in blackface? Can't see any issues there.


Somewhere on YouTube there's a bleakly hilarious clip of a black guy talking about a school trip he did, where to learn about local history they went to a former slave plantation and picked cotton. He described his dad going ballistic when he got home.

EDIT: I forgot the best bit - they didn't get to keep the cotton they picked

Re: Kapcon 22 Larp

PostPosted: Thu Jan 26, 2012 1:06 am
by housemonkey
morgue wrote:
Somewhere on YouTube there's a bleakly hilarious clip of a black guy talking about a school trip he did, where to learn about local history they went to a former slave plantation and picked cotton. He described his dad going ballistic when he got home.

EDIT: I forgot the best bit - they didn't get to keep the cotton they picked


I'll bet the comments on that were a treat too.

Re: Kapcon 22 Larp

PostPosted: Thu Jan 26, 2012 1:21 am
by Thimble
morgue wrote:Cat-Steph's proposal sounds amazing and full of excellent LARPy potential. But I have to fly a caution flag.

Asians in New Zealand have a fraught experience of life here, frequently encountering casual racism.
Demographically, Asian people are under-represented at Kapcon (as are all ethnicities aside from the majority Pakeha).
In this context, the mental image of this LARP... it does not make me comfortable.

I'm not saying No Don't Do It! I am saying, I would like to see some explicit discussion of the issues around this proposal.

(Steph-Cat is very sensible people - maybe before anyone else pitches in, we wait for a response from them? These conversations have potential to run a mile very fast.)


Hi Morgue,

Could you maybe clarify what is making you uncomfortable? I'm pretty sure you're not trying to say "Larps that don't come from a European cultural tradition are racist and wrong-headed." But, I'm not sure what you are anxious about.

Keeping participants happy and comfortable and respecting the source material are high priorities for Steph and me, so more elucidation of your concerns would be useful.

Cheers,

Cat

Re: Kapcon 22 Larp

PostPosted: Thu Jan 26, 2012 1:42 am
by morgue
Thanks Cat - I will put something together and chuck it into a separate thread. This one has been derailed enough!

Everybody, please carry on with normal business, including celebrating/discussing Steph & Cat's proposal. More nunlarp jokes! We can take the issues I have to a new thread soon.

Re: Kapcon 22 Larp

PostPosted: Thu Feb 02, 2012 10:34 pm
by Joker
Stephanie wrote:I certainly don't expect anyone to be drawing epicanthic folds on their eyes, because I think that would be disrespectful, and I was planning on suggesting that we indicate ethnicity with symbols on people's name tags.

Um, I kind of understand the issue here.

But I regard LARP as a roleplaying, costuming and makeup challenge. If I were to be cast as an Asian in a LARP, I would be dressing and doing makeup to support that. Including appropriate eye and skin makeup.

I see this as no different from darkening my skin a bit to play an Arabian in Al Shir Ma, or whitening my beard to play Zeus, or shaving arms, face and chest, and wearing a wig and makeup to play a woman in Sanctuary.

Having said that, I actually might think twice about "blacking up" to play a black person. But if I could do it in such a way that it wasn't being flippant or stereotypical, then why not. I'm playing a character in a LARP. I'm trying to do justice to THAT character. If I am to play a character, I need to respect them at some level as a human being. Or maybe some other entity... :-)

Its all about context and content. The potential offensiveness of any scenario depends on how it's handled by everyone. Which I think is Morgues original point. So long as it's handled respectfully then all good.

And a large dash of fantasy can help as well!