The Town of Ludlow, Massachusetts(my hometown) is well known as being a soccer town. It is a town of mostly descendants of Western European countries, namely Portuguese, Italian, French, with some Polish and Ukrainian immigrants. What does this have to do with anything, you might ask? Well, let's just say that soccer was the #1 pastime in town, and if you were good at it, you were part of the "in" crowd. Being very coordinated and athletic, I made it onto a "Maple League" team, which was an advanced team for my age group, where we traveled to distant areas to play. I played soccer until around 6th grade.
During my illustrious soccer career, I had so many "friends" and I guess I could have been considered popular. I got invited to lots of birthday parties and over to friend's houses. As I grew older, however, I found that I had less and less in common with these girls. I had always enjoyed video games, action figures, Legos, and playing all sports, not just soccer. There came a turning point where I chose my friends not by the team I was playing on, but by our common interests. Eventually, I chose to be around people who were less dramatic and better individuals, in my opinion.
Needless to say, I rapidly dropped from popularity, but I was charismatic, so I always had lots of friends. But those kids that were formerly my friends created their cliques, mocking anyone who they deemed unfit to be graced by their presence. I stuck mostly with hanging out with boys, eventually becoming a regular at the comic shop in town.
I'm not looking for sympathy-- on the contrary, in fact-- I feel like I was lucky to have such amazing people in my life and I was so lucky to find them at such a vulnerable age for so many. I assume that a lot of the community has a similar story to mine. Maybe you were a "nerd" or "dork" and were placed into a social caste or high school hierarchy. Life may have been fine, or maybe it was torment. Either way, most of us are beyond High School now. Yet, have we moved beyond the prejudices that we once were the subjects of?
I've seen it in the Realms today. There are cliques formed, either by nation, organization, schools, or even location, which causes this prejudice and groupthink that plagues the game. I am, by no means, beyond that kind of thought, although I'd like to think I try very hard to judge people on their merits and shortcomings, and not by preconceived notions passed among my friends. There are "stick jocks", "paste eaters", and what-have-you. It's not so much different then high school, except that now we are all at least some kind of nerd, otherwise we would most likely not be LARPing at all.
I'm not passing judgement on anyone, merely pointing out what I have observed in over a decade of playing Realms. If people want to stay within their circles of similar play style people, that is your right and prerogative. When looking through your own windows, think about your perspective versus the rest of the game. Look critically at opinions of others and those of the people you choose to surround yourself with.
With the View awards upon us, I want you to really consider who you are voting for and why you are voting for them. When you make your decisions, is it based on just your friends, or are you looking at everything? This isn't High School, anymore. We aren't voting for Student Council President or Homecoming King and Queen. We are voting for the people who are putting their time and energy into a community that we all benefit from. Will you vote for your friends because they truly deserve it, or will you vote for them simply because they are your friend or nation member?
It is so easy to stay within your own comfort zones, never looking past your own perspective. I can see how it seems, year in and year out, a lot of the awards can look like a popularity contest. Maybe you are someone who looks critically at them, and perhaps your not. No one is going to know who you voted for unless you tell them. You can vote for whomever you want. But maybe, just maybe, we should give the awards to those who deserve it so they will keep contributing to our fun and enjoyment as a community-- although, that may be just as crazy of a fantasy as the lands of the Realms are themselves.