Last year I wrote the following post on my personal Facebook wall:
So… this weekend saw a roleplaying effect drop that involved everyone who had been to the Black Plateau for military service basically having the option to roleplay that they had severe PTSD.
I think it was done well. I have kept a copy of the roleplaying effect slip that was in packs because I thought it was worded so excellently. Kudos to anyone on my friends list who was involved in this plot.
That doesn’t mean I was comfortable with the site wide PTSD roleplaying plot that was handed out, and I rather half-heartedly joined in (luckily our group is reasonably roleplay-lite when it’s just us, and only joining in if you want to is totally a thing).
I have had PTSD from my car accident. It was a painful experience. I still wake up in the night with cold sweats now, after more than five years. I have nightmares about almost killing a family. I sometimes find having intrusive thoughts when doing mundane tasks, or watching TV, or… writing exams. Still. After all these years.
More to the point, I used to date a beautiful man who was a Royal Marine in the first Gulf War. He was the first man I met who cried openly and regularly. At night when I used to sleep beside him, he would have nightmares. In his nightmares the walls would drip with blood and he would have to try and climb their slippery surface to escape the pit of bodies that he was drowning in. He attacked me more than once in the night and couldn’t have anything within arms reach while he slept, lest he hurt the person he loved. During the most mundane of daily tasks he would see the faces of the children, and other people, who he had killed. He was broken and sick. Very sick. But twenty years of counselling hadn’t helped.
It sounds like a great LARP plot. An enjoyable character to inhabit for a weekend. A fantastic background to email in to PD for your character. But it wasn’t. His name was Mal, and he was a real person who really suffered. And I imagine still suffers to this day, wherever he is (we lost touch a few years ago shamefully).
The people I interacted with roleplayed this effect well over the weekend. I suspect this is something to do with being in Highguard and our nation being relatively restrained in the brief. I don’t think I could have coped with this being roleplayed in a highly emotional way. And I’ve not even been to war and suffered that particular kind of PTSD.
It caused me to ponder if we would give out other mental health conditions as widespread roleplay effects at a fest LARP. Would we give out a roleplaying effect of body dysmorphic disorder? Obsessive-compulsive disorder? Premenstrual dysphoric disorder? Postnatal depression? Borderline personality disorder? Antisocial personality disorder?
I don’t think we’d give any of these things out as mass roleplay effects at a fest LARP in case we negatively affect the mental health of those who suffer. So why PTSD?
Is the PTSD of soldiers not taken as seriously as something like body dysmorphic disorder? Or do we just think that soldiers (and their support network) can just suck it up and get on with it?
I’m not saying we shouldn’t do these things at all. And I just want to remind again that I think it was done excellently and handled well by the games team. But it makes me wonder why we would give out one mental health condition as a mass effect but not another. It’s not particularly Empire specific in that respect, it’s more a reflection on how society treats/sees various mental health conditions in relation to others.
It’s too early for this shit. Someone bring me another coffee.