A manifesto for better larp feedback

This from Gail Poulton particularly resonates because I’ve just been part of the delivery team for a larp which had some level of positive public feedback, but which I know had flaws that I’d like to explore. This seems like a damned good way of doing that. Also, I have a terrible weakness for Things Described As Manifestos.

Facts proposed:
1. Larp is a medium of artistic expression;
2. Artistic expression grows in many ways, one of which is feedback and peer review;

3: (From 1 and 2) It is legitimate to seek to receive and give honest, constructive larp feedback.

4: Usually, larps are games run by our friends and peers, on an amateur basis;
5: Feedback and review, especially when given by people not used to giving it, can be painful.

6: (from 4 and 5) We choose not to give feedback at times.

7: (from 6 and 2) This leads to the medium being stunted in its development.

8: (from 6 and 4) Anything other than positive feedback is often only provided sub rosa, at best in private feedback;

9: (from 8, 1 and 3) The lack of, in public, anything other than effusive praise for what is effectively a medium of artistic expression can lead to the alienation of those who felt differently – that they were the only ones who felt differently, or did something wrong. It can lead to bitterness, and whispering about problems in games in private, so as to avoid public discussions.

The knowledge that these private conversations exist can lead to nervousness? Why, is a mismatch between private feedback and positive, public praise?

10: (From all above) There is a space for a structured, constructive Forum of larp feedback, taking both game runner and player out of the equation.

PROPOSAL:
An service to game runners, collecting feedback for their games either on factors that the game runners request, or in generic terms. That feedback could be anonymous but should come from players.

This feedback would then be processed by a third party, who would not submit feedback even if they were at the game. The third party would never process feedback for a game that they ran.

The feedback would be processed into a report, with all identifying data removed. They key points of feedback would be drawn out, to present a report that gave the strengths of the game, points for improvement, and any specifically noteworthy lines from feedback quoted (ensuring that identifying information was removed).

It would not be a “larp review” system – it would rather be like summarising the responses to a consultation. This is actually the model I would base this on – with lines such as “80% of respondents felt that the Widgets plot petered out unsatisfactorily”.

The original responses would be destroyed after the report was provided to the game runner, and published on the interlocutor’s website if appropriate (see Weakness 3, below)

WEAKNESSES IN PROPOSAL:
1. The amount of power in the interlocutor/Conflict of Interest concerns. The person would need to be trusted to be neutral and objective, and to process feedback fairly to give an accurate report.
2. Toxicity – This could end up being a “let off steam” valve for players. The interlocutor would need to discard any undue, unkind comments for presentation in the report.
3. Morale damage. Would this mean that medicore games (and there should be space for mediocre games) would get discouraged? This is mitigated somewhat by not publishing every report – and using discretion to choose to /not/ publish reports on games run by unestablished game runners.

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