Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Further News on Joe: Links

Joe says we can't share links in the national forums anymore. So I will be taking down all links to national from this blog.

He keeps thinking that the people who are commenting on this are not NERO players for some reason. Heroic.

PS: Don't worry local chapters! We're still going to link to your websites, because you understand how the internet works.


  1. Yeah, I think my favorite part is how larpohio and larpcast are considered to be somehow in competition with him and non-NERO related.

    So in the spirit of that announcement, I am very sorry to any NERO players who have listened to our podcast and thus been corrupted and led wildly astray from the core NERO value of... uh... not listening to podcasts about LARPing.

    Anyway, tonight Bill and I will be recording an episode about all of this as well and I'll post it up late tonight when I get home from a staff meeting. A bonus sidecast, but don't worry non-NERO people, we have a normal episode about Treasure already recorded and not all about NERO which should go up within a week or so.

    1. Thank you for the transparency on this. As someone working on starting up a new LARP in the midwest, I had been considering the benefit/drawbacks of a NERO chapter license. The drama involved with Mr.Valenti has put me very firmly in the non-NERO camp at this point. Accelerant all the way.

    2. You're very welcome. If you need any help getting in contact with Rob Ciccolini (Accelerant system owner) or with setting your game up as Accelerant, just let me know. :)

  2. Regarding "understanding how the internet works", it has been said that "the internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it". With that adage in mind, I find the most interesting thing to this NERO-outsider is the implicit arguments about transparency in rulemaking (and gamerunning in general), i.e. should or should not these policy documents be posted for discussion during their development or even after they are published and in-force.

    This is something that I've really grappled with in some of the other LARPs I'm involved in, and I'd be interested in seeing a complete defense of rulemaking in private (what most people would call "secret"), rather than in the open.

  3. @A

    Part of what the core of the rules committee has been trying to do is provide that transparency. While we may not always agree or accept input from players individually, we often miss small things and if everyone in the group thinks that a specific point is wrong, who are we to argue with the masses.

    The tough part is when individuals interpret transparency as crowd sourcing, and then get upset when their opinions are not adopted.

    This whole mess started because I wanted to feel out an idea that was not fully implemented to the crowd, but not on national forums (which are not usually a productive environment because people get angry). This blog is filled with a constructive community, because everyone here is interested in improving LARP experiences across the board. But I was branded a traitor for doing so by one of the people I thought I was trying to be part of the solution. And now we have this.

  4. NO LINKS? That's ridiculous. Let me know how I can help-- I've been watching this whole thing, but I'm a non-NERO player.

  5. This blog and others like it are a positive atmosphere that fosters learning and creativity.

    The national site I check maybe once a month, but A. I don't find anything that interests me usually or B. any real "discussions" turns to into an argument and is deleted.

    I can tell you though if they made their own forums instead of using pre-canned ones and added 1-3 google ads on the side and also had a good atmosphere they would easily make several thousand dollars a year for the game. Just something to think about.

  6. So links are why no one uses the National Forum? That's an odd concept for me.

    Before the board and website was updated to it's new form, my experiences with the national board were less that friendly. Questions would be ignored, posts would be hi-jacked, spam everywhere, and the slightest thing would set off a flame war of hate and arguments about the silliest of things. There seemed to be an elite group would patrol the boards 24/7 and make their opinion known about everything and alert everyone that there opinion was the best and everyone else is "doing it wrong.".

    All the while there was little to no "official" presence on the boards. So even if you did have a legit question answered, it was rarely by someone in charge.

    When that board was washed away and the new board started a year or so ago... I decided it was best to just not make a new log in. So that I would not be tempted to join in the endless flame wars that might ensue again. Hoping that if I wasn't part of the solution, at least I could say I was no longer part of the problem.

    Links to larps/twitters/blogs about larping? Never entered into the equation of why I would refuse to post on the National Board.


    And also let me state this. Going to other larps or other chapters can only make the current one you play better. I've gone to other larps/chapters/games/events... and every time I've learned something (be it a new idea or at least a "what not to do") and I brought it back to my own nero game and integrated it to help make my game better.

    Refusing to let us express ideas between games... or even between chapters... is only going to hasten nero's decline into obscurity.

    For example: I've never been to a chapter that uses the National Database. Nor have I been to a chapter that is under the Evendar flag. I recently was presented a chance to go to one that had both... however my money was refused unless I transferred to the National DB ahead of time. A blind decision, IMO.

    Had I gone, National staff could have had the chance to show off the Data base to me. As well as this "Evendar" thing they seem so proud of. And then I could have returned to my own chapter and related what I learned to others.

    Now... I can't/won't go. They don't get my money, I don't learn anything, and ill will between chapters and National grows.

    Information needs be spread for anyone to improve this thing.

  7. Am I missing something, or is the most recent post on the national boards August 7th?

  8. @Doug

    I think you may be looking at the old archive board. There have been posts as recent as today on the current national boards.

  9. @Stephen - Your points are excellent. Communication between chapters and games can really add a lot! New ideas, new people, and just a generally better atmosphere. That's the dream, anyway.

  10. @Bill: I'm beginning to unwind my confusion with the sides and the conflict, here; this seems to be a rather nuanced matter. It really is bizarre to watch the turf wars over what an official "forum" (both literally and generally) is to discuss the rules for a given game.

    I can certainly see the difference between transparent development of rules by an official body like a rules committee (a selected group, and therefor, an elite, making use a top-down style) and crowdsourcing (more of a populist strategy, so to speak).

    In a top-down, proprietary sort of organization, it is certainly in the interests of ownership (both the chapter franchisees and JV) and management (both the franchisees' designees and people in national positions, like yourself) to keep a handle on the process and control its evolution.

    I continue to find it interesting that so few games are collaborative and that the culture of ownership is so prevalent in LARPing, something that is essentially an exercise in creating a consensus reality. I suppose the history of dictated tabletop roleplaying games (with terms like game or dungeon "master") feeds into this organization pattern. I also wonder if the tendency for such games to be in settings where more tribal/feudal/patriarchal forms of government than are practiced in the great nations of today, and the affinity of players with such ideas (e.g., hereditary fantasy kingdoms, tribes of werewolves, etc) lends itself to these sorts of patterns of organizing the out of character aspects of games.

    I also wonder to what extent the model of creative expression in our culture applies here, e.g. authors and directors of plays dictating instruction to a cast, and is translated into LARPing structures. Creative control remains with a single person (or a select "plot" committee, somewhat similar to co-author situation).

    Clearly I've digressed quite a bit, but I think it follows, logically.

  11. @A

    You make some legitimate points. I personally think that the need to cling to control is an artifact stemming from the age of games like NERO. The NERO ownership and staff still live in the 90s, and have yet to fully adopt the free sharing of ideas that's fully prevalent in this decade.

    When you look at gaming systems that are newer, they tend to communicate with their players more, further pushing the idea that a LARP is a collaborative club. NERO, on the other hand, is still clinging onto the idea that they're going to make money, and as such have to create security around their gaming system.

    It really is unfortunate, because this whole thing is about how Joe is specifically against the whole reason I created this blog - for LARPs to act as one community together, rather than drawing lines in the sand that stagnate our hobby.

  12. This is a public relations disaster on so many levels. You're right, Bill, that this is a product of outdated business practices and a misunderstanding of the nature of the gaming community. If I were coming to this as someone from another LARP instead of as a NERO player, it would keep me from ever wanting to try NERO.

    By having plot teams made up of volunteers across chapters, NERO has fostered a sense of community involvement and (if you will) crowdsourcing. Once again, though, it's clear that people in ownership are clinging to the idea that the game belongs to them exclusively instead of being shared with all of the people who have collaborated on writing the stories.

    These games aren't just driven by game owners, chapter owners, NPCs, or plot teams. All of those would be useless without the catalyst of players coming in with ideas and goals, playing the game, and moving the story forward. At the end of the day, every LARP is a collaborative club whether it's acknowledged or not.

  13. @Bill - I think you're right about it being a product of not evolving with the times, and I think that manner of thinking just got ratcheted even tighter with the events that both preceded and followed the symposium a few years ago.

    Beyond that, it's also a product (in my opinion), of JV simply not understanding how to operate in the online community, much less really leverage it into benefits for the organization. This is just the latest in a long, long list of incidents.

  14. It isn't as though you were asking random people to make the decisions.

    I don't understand what the issue is in regards to asking for feedback. I've been running/an Owner of W.A.R. since 1996. I've sat on rules committees, campaign plot, regular/person. plot, etc...including sitting on the National Campaign Plot and National Rules Committee for about a year --and never once have I ever told someone to go and pound salt. Getting feedback and ideas is great if you are on one of these committees. Of course you don't have to use/incorporate all the ideas, but a lot of them are good. It also let's you get a feel for what the players want and how they view a particular issue (it is really valuable if they have a misconception about something).

    I'm actually totally astounded by the whole situation. Why wouldn't Joe/national want to use the blog for publicity? Even if sometimes you disagree with him on points, it has still made NERO accessible to a lot of larpers that hadn't heard of it before.

    To be honest, I find National's forums difficult to maneuver through. I spent 20 minutes trying to find the information/post on this topic, before realizing it was removed. I've also, I don't think, ever had a question actually answered. Usually someone responds with something snarky or totally incorrect, or it is just ignored.

    Finally, I just want to throw out there that National has committees and such, but the chapters are run by the owner of those chapters. Please don't let any of the negativeness prevent you from attending one of your local chapter's events -- it doesn't bleed over (at least in our chapter).


    Jenn Tobin

    Jennifer Tobin

  15. I'd like to second Jenn's comment that the individual owners I've met have all been fantastic people who are really interested in running an open, friendly game that is invariably a lot of fun. Joe Valenti is not representative of the typical NERO experience, which I think is why all of this is causing such drama in the first place. If it were par for the course throughout NERO I don't think it would warrant comment.

  16. I think the biggest issue is consistency. Sometimes things are rolled out for discussion, other times there's an edict from the top (either Joe, or the Rules Committee, or both) and it really rubs people the wrong way, particularly when it's a policy they don't agree with.

    I find that in my business, where 90% of my employees are commissioned sales people, often times, we, as owners miss some detail in a new policy if we don't bring it up to at least a few "veterans." Frequently, what we do is hash out a new policy or idea, and try and poke as many holes in it as possible (usually mostly my domain) and see if it still holds up. If it gets past that, then it's talked about with a few sales people. Whatever comments or suggestions they have are used to fine tune and tweak, then it gets rolled out to everyone. And it is ALWAYS put in place with the disclaimer: "This is a work in process. We're going to do it this way for the time being. If it doesn't work for BOTH sides (salespeople and the company) then we'll change or discontinue it.

    Very rarely do we actually change or discontinue a policy once in place, because it's almost always for the better, even if it puts checks on people that were getting out of line. There's a lot of grumbling in the short term, but everyone realizes it's not that bad. I think it also helps that they KNOW that there's a chance to change it if it really doesn't work well.

    National, and particularly Valenti, rarely put something out there on a trial basis. Often times it's an edict. I applaud Bill and Mickey (and Cincy) for bringing this topic to light so that there can be some vetting. Unfortunately, in the end, Joe can pretty much do whatever he wants. His management style only takes into account "what works for Joe" instead of "what works for Joe AND what works for the players." If he doesn't own 100%, other owners should be speaking up, because he's ruining the business, and the game. And if you're reading this Joe, honestly, some of your points are good and I could support them, but you have a serious problem with the concept of "It's not WHAT you say, but HOW you say it." More often than not, your good ideas get swallowed by your overwhelming desire to put your foot in your mouth and piss people off. I don't know if you're just a control freak or what, but it's not working.

  17. I would also like to point out that Joe's post about "not allowing" anyone to post links under their names or direct people to non-nero sites is extremely interesting ---especially considering that under his name he has a link that takes you to a site that doesn't deal entirely with NERO, but with fantasy Larps. Huh.


  18. LARPers (note I didn't say NERO players) are industrious, creative people as a general rule. If you push too many people the wrong direction, NERO is going to burn just like Rome did. You already have Alliance that spun off, leagally or not, you lost players, and income, and it cost you a ton of money in a legal dispute. The tighter you try to squease, the more are going to slip out and go elsewhere or just quit and play WOW or something. I'm not trying to be threatning here, it's just the truth. Take a look at how many people under 5 years playing and how many over 5 years playing. That should tell you something. Even more, take a look at the 5+ year veterans, and see how many took at least a year or more off because they got tired of the BS or angry at some policy or another. I've played for going on 15 years now, but I've taken two one plus year breaks. Only reason I came back both times is because a lot of my college friends play, and it's the only time I get to see them. We're a month/two monthy Dave & Busters outing away from never playing NERO again. The last little vestiges of desire to play are the only thing that keeps us coming back. As we have spouses and kids and more of "life" in the way, that desire is waning. Throw aggressive, antagonistic edicts from upon high at us, and it's that much closer to done.

    The game has to have rules. They have to be consistent. I get that. The best thing that ever happened is the push to standardize the game so that cross-chapter players can expect a very similar game when they travel. Great move! But you HAVE to really listen and accomodate as much from your chapter owners, and their players as possible, or you'll wake up every few days with another chapter that's gone rogue or closed. I'm not telling you how to run your business, but if you listen and really critically think, you'll realise that there's things that could be done better.

  19. @Doug - To be honest, in a lot of cases JV takes what he thinks is the case and treats it as absolute fact without doing the research to back it up. It's happened time and time again, and pretty much never for the best.

    1. @Ed - I know. I'm just hoping that if enough people call him on it, he'll eventually listen. A (crack?)pipe dream I know, but I'll soldier on anyway.

  20. I remember when I first created an IG posting board for a NERO chapter and was yelled at for at least a year that it wasn't official because I was not part of plot or the people in charge of the game. That's ok, after 10 years, its the official IG message board because people just keep on using it :)

    Each night I go to bed I hope to wake up back in 1998 so I can stop certain people from making certain mistakes which got us where we are now. Oh how I miss you good 'ol days!


  21. A - "This is something that I've really grappled with in some of the other LARPs I'm involved in, and I'd be interested in seeing a complete defense of rulemaking in private (what most people would call "secret"), rather than in the open."

    At some point I will probably take you up on that. Or record an episode about it or something. Though I suppose it's not that I advocate total secrecy, it's that I would want to discuss when things go public and how input is used and what I consider to be the rational way of making rules/policy decisions at the one chapter game level and the multichapter/naitonal level.

  22. Speaking only for myself, the reason I've never used the National Forums is because, in the decade or so they've been around, I've never been allowed to join them.

    19 years since I've first played NERO Chicago, longtime member of Chicago / Midwest / Wisconsin / Back to Chicago, and the 5 times I asked to be cleared for the National boards, only 3 weeks ago was I finally added in.

    And then to see that the commentary was more robust, and more open, here (as well as my home chapter boards) ? Guess I'm not missing a lot on the National Boards...