Safety, Consent, and Inclusion Policies
The Game Theatre produces a variety of events that involve person-to-person interaction, role-play, character development, and completion of objectives. The company’s rules focus heavily on safety (physical and emotional), consent and communication, inclusion, and varying levels of immersion. These principles are integral to participants having a safe and enjoyable experience at our events, and The Game Theatre team is supportive of these principles throughout the larger gaming, live action role-play (LARP) and interactive theater community.
Questions or concerns? Email: email@example.com
Every attendee has the right to feel physically safe at events run by The Game Theatre. That means they should find the setting free of:
- Harassment (including slurs and deliberate misgendering)
- Unwanted behavior
- Harmful real-world events and ideologies, unless they are directly part of the game’s subject matter, detailed before participants opt in.
Whether run by The Game Theatre production team or in conjunction with another business or convention, our in-person games follow all local laws and we require our participants to do so as well.
Emotional Safety and 'Bleed'
The Game Theatre places a priority on emotional safety, providing a framework for identifying and processing the emotional impact of immersive role play and confronting (or avoiding) potential triggers. We also provide guidance for managing bleed, or the transference of emotions from character to player and vice versa. We do this through work-shopping before and after the game, as well as though a set of non-immersion-breaking tools.
‘Bleed’ isn’t always negative. An example of positive bleed might be a real life friendship that blossoms after you work in a cooperative context in a role playing game. Whereas, an example of ‘negative Bleed’ could involve playing opposite another player in a competitive game. After the game is over, you may experience antagonistic or hateful emotions towards the other player, even though you are no longer in character.
The Game Theatre strives to make a welcoming environment for all participants, including trying at all times to select fully accessible venues. The company accepts and value participants and never discriminates based on race, gender, sexual orientation, or any similar attribute.
Consent & Communication
Consent and communication are important facets of safe role-play, and Game Theatre games have tools (see below) to carefully negotiate scenes and to communicate levels of comfort. LARP is an amazing tool to explore new and different facets of our true selves, and the company values the sensitivity and safety required for players to experience the growth they wish to pursue.
Though immersion (or feeling as though you truly embody the character) is not always the goal of role-play in general, immersion is most achievable when LARP players feel safe and included, in a setting that allows for clear communication and consent. At Game Theatre events immersion is not a rule (the team wants people to be comfortable pursuing what they wish, when they wish), but deeper immersion is there to pursue. With that in mind, the company encourages a safe, inclusive, and transparent community and consent culture – because it’s kind – but also to supports an environment conducive to immersion and quality interactive gaming.
In the introductory workshop, company Game Masters and staff will cover specific tools to help players, experienced or new, effectively communicate with each other and negotiate dramatic scenes when necessary. The more trust you can establish with other players, the more risks you can safely take, and then the more amazing storylines can be created (in a feel good setting).
This guide just covers the basics – the foundations necessary to have a physically and emotionally safe game that allows you to focus on self-care and, should you choose, immersive participation.
Safety Concerns: Reporting Procedure
Safety concerns at The Game Theatre events should go immediately to Chris and Evan, particularly in the case of environmental dangers, medical issues, harassment, and legal violations. Game Masters (GMs) are also available to assist you.
Organizers and GMs can (and will) prioritize player safety. In the event of harassment, we will not take action without consent of the reporter (and/or affected individual). The team will not make publicly available information that puts members of community in danger, or makes them uncomfortable. The team also understands that someone experiencing a powerful emotional, stressful, and/or hurtful situation may need time to process what they are experiencing.
Zero Tolerance Policy
The Game Theatre has a zero tolerance policy for illegal behavior, violence against other community members, stalking, harassment, and abuse.
Dragon Thrones and other events by The Game Theatre often include alcohol. We urge our participants to drink responsibly. Alcohol will only be served to persons of 21 years or older in the United States.
- Physical and emotional safety: creating and supporting a safe environment is paramount. Plus, it’s necessary to facilitate the second objective.
- Enjoyment: the company wants to present and maintain an environment full of rewarding and enjoyable experiences!
- Rules, mechanics, and in-game objectives: is players a safe and enjoying themselves then they can do amazing things within the social adventure designs of The Game Theatre!
Out Of Game / Off-game Sign
It’s important to be able to distinguish in game actions versus out of game actions, especially when it comes to safety and consent. As most events take place “in game” once the game begins, we have a simple way to designate an “out of game” function. You can establish off game speech by placing your fist to the top of your head and saying “off game.” Then say what you need to.
For example: “Off game: I’m not feeling very well, so I’m going to go sit down for a few minutes,” or “Off game: Please ask before you shout at my character like that. It really caught me off guard!"
For Dragon Thrones, The Game Theatre provides an out-of-game room that is comfortable, not within the game area, that can offer privacy, low stimuli, waters, refreshments, and snacks, for ay player who needs to step outside the experience at any time.
Use consent negotiation before proceeding with physical actions involving contact with another player, romantic play, or extremely intense emotional role-play. You can also use consent negotiations to coordinate staged fights and other scenes. Examples:
Person 1: “Offgame: Consent negotiation - I’d like to throw a (fake) punch at you. Does that sound okay?”
Person 2: “No thanks. I’d rather not play that scene.”
Person 1: “All right - is an argument okay instead? If not, I’ll disengage.”
Person 2: “That’s fine. I don’t mind if you shout at me.”
We use the OK check-in to inquire about another player’s health, safety, and well-being. To ask if another player is feeling alright, simply flash the ‘OK’ sign. Give the other player a moment to take stock.
If that player responds with a thumbs-up, they are safe and you may continue play as you were. If that player responds with an iffy gesture or a thumbs-down, you should go off-game and ask how you can support them.
Offer to discuss with them how to change the scene if they wish to continue playing, but also allow them to disengage if they want to.
Free for commercial use: https://pixabay.com/en/blue-background-okay-ok-hand-good-2648244/
This is a subtle sign - one you can use without disrupting game-play or immersion.
The respondent replies with one of three hand signals:
Thumb up: “Everything’s great, play on!”
An iffy, ‘so-so’ gesture: “I’m not really sure how I feel, or I’m not feeling wonderful.” (treat this as a thumb down)
Thumb down: “I am not okay.”
Note: The ‘so-so’ gesture is important. We recognize that while we are all responsible for our own personal safety and looking out for each other, real life socialization and systemic marginalizations can lead some participants to feel uncomfortable or guilty saying no.
The look-down, or placing your hand at the level of your eyebrows, allows you to exit a scene without a question or fuss. You can use the look-down for various reasons, but need not give an explanation. Reasons might include: panic attack, feeling uncomfortable - or something incredibly mundane, like you need a drink of water or have to use the bathroom.
If you see someone using the look-down, it means they don’t want to interrupt the scene for whatever reason. Please do not pursue them or ask about their reason for leaving.
Throughout the event, your GM or other team members may do a brief, out of game check in. Meals are great times for this.
For multi-day events, informal, out of game debriefings are encouraged. This can mean chatting about the events of the day after hours, during breaks, or over snacks.
At the end of the event, we’ll conduct a formal debriefing process. This short process will allow us to leave our characters behind (for the time being) and talk about bleed, emotions, and other experiences from the game in a structured format. This will allow us to process bleed and other strong feelings relating to the shared experience.
We use these tools because safety is the most important aspect of our events. Do not use safety tools to avoid an in-game conflict or penalty unless it is accompanied by serious, out of game distress.
How to Recognize ‘Bleed’
Bleed occurs when emotions spill over from the character to the player or vice versa. This is especially important in a competitive gaming environment like Dragon Thrones. We’re here to play safely, have fun, and follow the rules, but sometimes we get really involved and immersed.
Various types of emotions can spill over: anger, grief, romance and attraction, sadness, and rage. We encourage you to take a few moments out of game (alone, or with others) to work through any bleed you may experience. The organizers and GMs are happy to assist you with this as needed.
Bleed can begin and continue before, during, and after events, especially as we continue to build our community and culture and participate in online events.
After the Game: 'Larp Drop'
Being surrounded by old friends and new - it’s a great feeling. Especially during long events, you may find that you bond with your team fast. When it’s all over and you’re back at work or home by yourself, you might experience a great deal of sadness or emptiness. This is known as larp drop, and it’s totally normal. You can alleviate this by:
Talking about your feelings:
- Continuing informal debriefing
- Joining the official online communities run by The Game Theatre
- Making plans to hang out with your friends again, whether that involves a simple phone call or signing up for your next gaming adventure
These policies are applicable to multiple types of events by The Game Theatre, including those that occur online. This document was adapted and expanded upon from The Geek Initiative’s policies, and it’s written by Tara M. Clapper. This document is intended to under regular revision and rigorous review by our community. Would you like to help improve this document and our safety culture? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Special thanks to Marshall Bradshaw for initial feedback and review.
- The OK Check-in (Johanna Koljonen): https://participationsafety.wordpress.com/2016/09/09/toolkit-the-ok-check-in/
- Creating a Culture of Trust Through Safety Calibration and Larp Mechanics (Maury Brown): https://nordiclarp.org/2016/09/09/creating-culture-trust-safety-calibration-larp-mechanics/
- The OK Check-In (The Imagine Nation Collective): http://www.imaginenationcollective.com/okcheckin/
- Living Games Conference: Safety Staff Guidelines & Procedures (ohn Stavropoulos, with suggestions from Sarah Lynne Bowman, Jack Weeks and other members of the safety team): https://docs.google.com/document/d/1BiM-ssd6BHHl5Aoiw-8S-qwRdnOC0m7DKLTuwPd66CM/edit
- Safety Coordinators for Communities (Maury Brown): https://nordiclarp.org/2017/04/17/safety-coordinators-for-communities-why-what-and-how/
- Epoch Safer Community Policies: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1zFXHHk3gTjsBT9kAFu3wW2LIJqzla2CcU4kEMN8z0iw/edit