Thursday, June 2, 2011

Stake of Woah

Note: This is a guest post by Mickey. If you've got something to say and would like to make a guest post, feel free to send it to

There is a real life lesson I have learned that I think is very helpful for a staff dealing with stress; that some people will never be pleased. There are players, fellow staff members, NPCs, campsite personnel, and so on that will never ever actually be happy with what you do. You know the type, always griping and complaining, always whining, always bringing you and your staff down. You’ve tried to engage them in different ways, listen to them, change based on feedback, and yet nothing works. You despair of a solution. But, odds are many people overlook the simplest solution of them all. Stop caring.

It sounds callous I know, after all the person might be a paying customer or a volunteer helping you out so you feel like you *have* to care about their complaints. But the truth is, the simple and fundamental truth is, that you don’t. Not really. As soon as you identify someone as someone who will never be pleased then every second you spend on trying is wasted time you could better spend elsewhere. Rather than throwing your time and effort down a useless rat-hole, spend it on all the other people who are not just energy sinks. The amount of net positive resulting from this is pretty amazing.

See, we all have those people in our lives and our games. We fret and worry and gnash our teeth about how to please people who, at core, prefer to complain than actually have fun. And while we do so we wind up neglecting all the other people who are genuinely interested in a positive experience. Focus on the latter, stop feeding the former, and your games will be healthier and happier. You might lose a player here or there, though odds are they’ll stick around so they can complain more, but you’ll be less stressed and anxious about them.

This is an outgrowth of the 80/20 principle. Put simply, it states that 80% of your outputs come from 20% of your inputs and it can apply in a lot of ways. In this case, 80% of your complaints are usually from 20% of people giving feedback. If you can refine it down and determine which of those 20% are just never going to stop you can probably eliminate 50% or more of your complaint headache at any given event or game. You just have to let it go and stop catering to the vampires of your goodwill. The second, and I mean the *second* you realize that your reactions cannot change the outcome it is time to stop worrying about it. Their complaints no longer have any deterrent value to your behavior if changing your behavior does not stop their complaints.

Anyway, I’m beating a dead horse here, but it’s worth it because LARP staff are often inherently people pleasers (why else spend so much time and effort staffing?) and it needs to be drummed into them that not all people are able to be pleased. Cut them loose and focus on the rest.


Editor's Note: Mickey didn't like his title, so I changed the name to match his reference to Goodwill Vampires. Also, he loves sparky vampires. That'll teach you to change my avatar on the national forums.


  1. Mickey has a picture of Edward in his bedroom. It's true - I've seen it!

  2. I left NERO because I was turning into one of the guys you describe. It SUCKED. When I realized I was getting so bad that I was running the risk of souring the experience for other folks, I decided to pack it in, and focus on other LARPs. Took me a while... Some of the sourness bled over into Exiles, but I kept it in check, and went to go NPC for a while. That seemed to work well, and when I was ready to PC again it was about gone.

    I think that all LARP participants who stick around long enough go through a sour phase. And when you're plot, learning to accept this without being hurt by it, and not letting it decide your actions, or a plot direction, is the best thing you can do. It happens. Sympathize, but don't let it drive your response. Some folks snap out of it, others don't, and in the end the game goes on.