Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Voices in the View

Interview with "Clove"

View Staff: Tell us a bit about yourself.  What is your background? How did you get into gaming/LARPing and specifically how did you end up being a part of Realms?

C: Let's start with gaming. My dad's been a huge videogame nerd ever since they came out. When I had nightmares as a toddler, I'd wander down the hall to his office and he'd put me on his lap and let me press the buttons.

The game? Diablo. Warcraft, later the frozen throne expansion.

As for larping, by college I had played dungeons and dragons, and I was always really frustrated with being inside on a nice day. I wanted to take those character sheets outside, but never found the proper outlet.

I did attend renaissance faires, though, and one hot summer day my friends were whisked into the LARPing tent.

Begrudgingly, I followed, and as the performers gave their spiel, it sounded interesting to me. The following May, I went, unaccompanied, to my first LARPing event in bumf*ck middle of nowhere, Connecticut. No cell reception, no wifi. My parents were obviously pleased.

And I got super into it and loved it.

A friend from that LARP asked for help casting at Evensong, where I met Mike (Swoop). He brought me to Black and White, and the rest was history.

V: Please tell us a little bit about the characters you play in Realms and we’d also be very interested to know if any aspects of your identity informed your character-making decisions.

C: Absolutely! I'd say Clove was a happy accident. I wasn't intending to hit more than one game as her, and I wasn't familiar with the rules, so her personality grew organically.

Clove's a Japanese maple tree dryad, who's recovering memories from when she was a member of Dirn's grove. She's chaotic- an infamous mushroom dealer, and is definitely a plant-species activist. She's gone through a lot, with her whole grove being burnt down in the That Which Escapes Us plot, which is a great segue to my alt, Muusha.

Muursha was formed very intentionally. Across D&D and LARPing, I don't love the concept of inherently evil or stupid races, ie, orcs. We all know it's a racist trope, so I created a character to create a more elaborate narrative and create space for others who want to identify with it.

Muursha is my strong, wise, warrior-achivist. Her culture is very torn between those who are older- honor in combat, strength as a way of choosing a leader, listening to elders- and the younger generation, which has seen elves and dwarves and has decided to mirror some cultural aspects. Younger folk value intellect, the ability to craft things, and creating a sustainable community. 

Her personality makes her a bridge between the groups, and she has gone out into the world to share the stories of her people, and collect stories to create a library back home. 

In playing her, I break the "dumb fighter / dumb orc" trope. I find her really rewarding to roleplay as, and have had some very powerful interactions with others.

V: Do you find that challenging tropes with your characters is difficult in Realms? Have you run into difficulties because of it?

C: Actually, the opposite. I'd say one of the strengths of the realms is the ability to have multiple storytellers, and the amount of mentorship here. When I started playing Muursha, I got a lot of positive feedback from others. Hygar in particular told me about an in-game land that hadn't been mentioned in a while, an orc homeland, so I could tie my backstory to something pre-existing.

The only way people could do more is by helping me create content.

But the accessibility and encouragement has been huge.

V: Are there any difficulties you’ve encountered in LARPing/gaming communities in regards to your ethnic background that you are okay with talking about?

C: Absolutely.

So, first off, we don't have enough people at Realms to feel what it's like to have tokenism, or bias based on race. There's currently 5 people in the entirety of Realms that are people of color.

So the story I'd like to start with is from a previous LARP, where we had enough diversity to have backlashes.

I entered , and it's pretty obvious to anyone looking that I'm a Latina woman. This character was also very back to my roots, a a proud citizen of  the latinx country in the game.

The plot writer is also puertorican, and when I spoke in spanish in character to him, he was really excited for more people like him in the game, and gave my character some plot almost immediately.

Others were pretty upset. I was new, and sometimes, people didn't get plot for a full year. They felt like he was playing favorites, whereas he was working to elevate voices of other latinx people in the game.

A woman on the cast side got so much harassment over it that she left. There were rumors that she was providing him with sexual favors for access to higher visibility plots, better roles, etc.

On the Realms side, my troubles have not been in character. But as a person of color at Realms, it's very isolating. Fantasy was not created for people like me. Most of our plots are Eurasian. I haven't seen any African, Indian, or South American stories, nor any people of those cultures.

And, by entering this space and wanting that, the owness is on me to do that emotional labor and create that content with little to no support.

Oh, also, plots about colonialism or slavery aren't cool. My ancestors were colonialized and I don't know a damned thing about them because it's been wiped out by history. There's so many other options, and those plots break immersion for me and others. Please get more creative.

I'd like to wrap up this thought by saying, I haven't experienced discrimination based on my race at Realms. I feel an overarching, "it'd be nice to have more people like you / people of color" from a lot of the population.

V: Thank you for sharing all of that. I think you already stated some important ideas but I’d like to ask more directly, what can Realms event holders do to be more inclusive?

C: Absolutely! And I'll mention here that when COVID-19 passes and we start having events, I will publish a guide on recruitment to make our game more open.

So, I'm a big fan of pulling stories from other cultures, and there are ways to do this right. Talk to people of color, ask larp forums for guidance. As an example, you could write, "hey! I want to write a mexican-themed werewolf plot that is respectful and intricate, is there a Mexican plot writer who would be willing to come in with me on this?" 

Give people of color the opportunities to tell their stories. Share your trade with them, mentor them, and support them. These stories deserve to be told, and I cannot tell you how happy I was when Seis Manos, an anime that takes place in Mexico, aired.

Event holders specifically. I'd like to see more support. Believing people. Making events safe. 

I think we have problems that we, as a community need to address in order for diversity initiatives to work. Personally, I don't feel comfortable inviting people to the Realms. It can be a really great community, but in some ways, it's incredibly unsafe too.

I've asked others, "what events do you feel comfortable inviting women / queer folk / people of color to, and the list isn't long.

That's a pretty high bar, but at the same time, I want our community to thrive and be healthy for everyone.

I'd love to see a proactive approach from event holders that isn't reactionary to concerns that players bring up.

V: Given the opportunity to address the Realms as a whole, is there anything you’d like to say? The floor is yours.

C: Thanks, View staff. 

Yeah. I'd like to say that, while we have our problems, Realms players value community, initiative, and inclusivity. I see that in how open it is to childcare, and how anyone can host an event.

This last comment is a shout out to the white men reading this:

I know you care about equality in the Realms. Being a straight white man gives you enormous insight and expertise into how the Realms works for other people like you. It is your duty, as a member of this community, and as leaders, to figure out what it's like for other people and make sure everyone has a positive experience.

V: Thank you very much for your time!

C: Thanks very much 🙂