After participating in “Ask Again Later” (AAL), I found that I most appreciated their stance on the treatment of bleed and conflict. Sarah Lynne Bowman describes the concern that, “Denying that participants can become personally impacted by game events erases the experience of many players and silences their ability to ask for help” (Bowman). The “Ask Again Later” team actively works to dispel this, by creating a communal norms on how to communicate bleed.
First, I am going to describe the role of some of the bleed strategies described by Bowman were used or not used in “Ask Again Later” and how they succeeded and how they were limited.
AAL relied largely on in – game signaling. Not only did AAL create a method to check in, but they also encouraged affirmative signaling to indicate that players felt comfortable before another player had to be concerned. During game play, I found this element to be particularly useful since I had not LARP’ed with any of the players before, and didn’t know many of them personally. This signalling led to an ability to not be concerned about the impact of my characters actions.
A strategy proposed by Bowman but not implemented largely by AAL was de-rolling. Bowman defines de-rolling as, “a method by which the player ritually casts aside the role and re-enters their former identity. Some strategies for de-roleing include: players removing an article of their characters’ clothing and placing it before them in the circle; participants stating what they want to take with them from the character and what they want to leave behind” (Bowman). AAL finished the experience as introducing ourselves with our real names and pronouns rather. However, there was little direct interaction between players structured like before the game. This led to the majority of my perceptions of the players remaining as their characters rather than re-identifying them as people. Additionally, since AAL was set in a world close to our own there was little distinction between the player and character appearance which led to an increase in bleed.
While acting and LARPing share the same emotional conflicts ‘bleed’ is discussed as a solely game related subject. Stanislavski describes moments where he feels completely one with character, which Bowman would describe as bleed, and the feelings lasting for days. However, he fails to create a language for communicating this impact or managing it.
This is especially evident in classroom settings, where actors are putting themselves in vulnerable positions and the natural response is to laugh. After such an interaction, his director states, “Maria is going through a most important moment in her artistic life. Try to learn when at laugh, and at what” (Stanislavski, 35). From this experience, we can see that there was limited structure to create a rehearsal space that dealt with the emotional burden of performance that exists in both theater and LARP.
As much as we ask LARP and games to take from the older practice of theater, perhaps we should look to games for deeper structures for emotional safety. Since games often assume a lower level of professional experience, and as a method of leisure and therefore requires higher safety mechanisms.