A Statement on Bullying

We’ve had a number of complaints recently about bullying behaviour on the LARP PRo Tips group. Some people are angry because some of the posts are only marginally more sensitive to race issues than Nathan Bedford Forrest. Some are angry because people on there are posting misogynist slut-shaming shit and making jokes about violence against women. Some are angry because of the hundreds of posts on there mocking LRPers with bad costume.

So let’s just get straight to the point here. Punching down is a shit thing to do. It’s shit thing to do if you’re making jokes about black people - that makes you a racist. It’s a shit thing to do if you’re making jokes about women - that makes you a misogynist. And it’s a shit thing to do if you’re making jokes about people whose kit doesn’t meet your personal high standards. That makes you a sneering elitist snob.

Racism and misogyny are against our conduct rules for obvious reason - but we also ban criticism of costume online. Even done with the best of intent, it is almost impossible to engage in a critical conversation about someone’s kit without making it feel personal. With the worst intentions it it just outright bullying.

https://www.profounddecisions.co.uk/empire-wiki/Costume…

But what we’re not going to do is extend our conduct guidelines to include the behaviour of people in that space. There have to be limits on Profound Decisions remit for setting rules for behaviour. Those rules extend to our forums and facebook groups - and to people’s behaviour at events. Our demand is that people be civil - and meet our standards of conduct when they’re at our events and in our online spaces. If you can do that - you’re welcome to attend our events.

We’re not associated with LARP Pro Tips group in any way - nor do want want to be. A group that chooses to promote itself with a picture of a classic LRP drow as the masthead is not something we want anything to do with. Pictures of drow are the LRP equivalent of statues of slavers - they need to come down. Maybe put them in a museum if you’re that worried that we’re all gonna forget what LRP was like in the 80s. Suffice to say it is not something we want any part of. Frankly I’d rather imbibe my own sick then hang out there.

People have said to me that they think the group is exposing the dark underbelly of the hobby, but I’m afraid that I disagree. I think the group is exposing the dark underbelly of humanity. I love people - I am a philanthrope - but I am not so naive as to imagine that people are perfect. We are by turns racist, sexist, homophobic and a million other things. Not LRPers - people - people are all of these things. It should not be a surprise to anyone that LRPers can be condescending, bitchy and smug - as well as racist and sexist - because LRPers are people and people are all of those things on occasion.

And the internet exposes that if you go looking for it. LARP Pro Tips is just our hobby’s version of 8chan or Parler. What the existence of a group like LARP Pro Tips does is remind all of us that LRPers are just human beings (duh?). The best way to deal with this kind of misanthropic bile is to note our disapproval and strive to be better than that.

Matthew Pennington,
On Behalf of the PD Game Team.

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Just a quick update from Matt on the orginal FB post

I’ve made a lot of posts last night in various responses below where I’ve tried to lay out that we do have various processes for dealing with much of the things you’ve outlined above. But the process isn’t well defined and it isn’t well documented on the wiki in the same way the conduct process is.

What I was trying to say with the original post - and failing - is that the current conduct rules explicitly disallow us from treating the posts on a facebook group that is nothing to do with PD as a standard conduct process - and thus I’m posting here to try and get this addressed and get the bullying to stop. I didn’t mean to imply that we simply don’t do anything about stuff unless it’s at a PD event or in our facebook group - though I realize that that is what I’ve conveyed.

That’s not how we work things - but the rules for stuff outside PD spaces are less well developed. This incident has clearly identified that that needs to be addressed next - and we’re going to do that. We are not going to operate a system where anything that you say any time anywhere is the same as if it were at a PD event - and I get the impression that’s not what people are asking for - but we do have a system where we provide support and action where things that breach our community guidelines are happening. That system needs to be made more robust, we need to document it, and then publish it on our wiki so that it can complement the current conduct system and be on the same level as that.

We’re going to work to do that - and we’re going to update the conduct pages as soon as that process is finished. We want to take the time to get it right - because we think it’s better to get it as good as we can make it rather than as quick as we can make it but I expect it to happen before the next event we run no matter when that is.

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Some more words from Matt on this subject.

Our last post about bullying and harassment generated a lot of feedback. We received a lot of positive support for calling out bullying in the online community - but many people felt equally unhappy that we were not taking clear steps to deal with instances of racism and misogyny by members of the LRP community. It’s clear that our previous update hurt and disappointed people - and gave the impression that we are simply not interested in opposing discrimination or prejudice when it takes place outside a PD space.

We’ve had loads of engagement since our last post from people urging us to take a more effective stance and providing ideas and suggestions on how we can do that. It’s clear that the current guidelines can be improved on, that we can develop better ways to deal with these problems and aim to provide better support for people who are being victimised online. These are complex issues to deal with and we are a small organization with limited resources - we make mistakes. But we can do more than we managed on this occasion - I am sorry we didn’t - and I apologise to everyone we let down by not seeing that earlier.

We have now put together a working group to review our conduct rules. The group includes PD crew members as well as external voices and is going to work together to create a better set of rules. This is the same process we used over a decade ago when we produced the first conduct guidelines. We’ve used those guidelines to create a better event in the years since - but now we need to change our approach again to enable us to respond more effectively and provide better support and a safer event for players and crew in the future. We don’t know how long that process will take, and we think it’s more important to get it right than deliver it quickly, but we hope to update our procedures before we run another event.

We try to provide the best event we can in terms of protecting the safety of participants. We want to provide an event everyone can enjoy free from harassment and discrimination. But it’s true that most of the improvements we have implemented over the years have come in responses to mistakes we’ve made and failures we have identified.

We have operated a system of trying to defend the borders of our game for many years and built our rules around that ideal. We expelled people from our games for abuse or for discriminatory statements at our events, or in our online spaces. But we’d grown too comfortable in that approach, and stopped trying to do better. The fact that the subject of the main complaint of hateful and violent speech was not an Empire player and never has been only contributed to our sense that there was little effective action we could take. We publicly called out a non-PD facebook group because we didn’t have the imagination to find a better approach. We want to change that, and do better going forwards.

Thank you to everyone who sent in feedback and took the time to speak with us on these issues. That dialogue is essential for us to find ways to try and do better in the future. If you have any more feedback, our door is always open: matt@profounddecisions.co.uk.

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