10 Steps to Manage Your Own Bleed

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Naturally this photograph was taken of in-game misery and not one where the player actually felt miserable.

Bleed is a LARP term defining emotional crossover between a player and their character.  Whenever you (as a player) feel an emotion due to the in-game reality or your character is impacted by your real world feelings, you are experiencing bleed.

Bleed includes the rush of excitement on finding an important gadget, the satisfaction of a job well-down and the sorrow of seeing a character die.  It also includes when your character refuses to go out on a mission because you (the player) are tired and need a nap.  In other words, it’s a natural part of the game and refers to the highs and lows that often inspire people to come along and get involved.  After all, you can feel sad when you see a character die on a movie or a play, why not in a LARP?

Though most instances of bleed really add to the game and a player’s experience, it is important to have healthy and effective strategies for managing those emotions so that they don’t spill over into our day-to-day lives.  Here are a few tips on how to help manage bleed within desirable limits:

  1. Accept that anyone can experience intense bleed. Even if you never have in the past, you may in the future.  This helps you look at healthy strategies of managing those emotions by accepting them as a natural outgrowth of the in-game experience rather than looking for out-of-game causes and blaming volunteers and other players.
  1. Always refer to the characters by their names when discussing a situation out-of-game. This differentiates between a player’s feelings / actions and a character’s feelings / actions.  This is especially important when you are talking about things you don’t like about the character as it can genuinely hurt a player’s feelings when they’re not sure if you find them annoying … or just their character.
  1. It’s a great idea to approach other players after an emotional scene and thanking them for their involvement. Reassuring them that you enjoyed their roleplay ensures they know, definitively, that you weren’t actually angry with them as a player.  You can always do this after the session if you don’t feel that it would be appropriate (due to the style of game or the timing) to approach them briefly during the session.
  1. Since it can be difficult to tell when visible distress is due to in-game acting or out-of-game feelings, we have a set of gestures which allow people to quickly check in with you during the game without having to drop out-of-game to ask. We call it the “Okay” check-in method where you flash an OK hand gesture at them (typically held over a flat hand like a tea cup) and they give either a Thumbs Up (I’m fine), Thumbs Down (I’m not all right) or a Maybe Hand Gesture (I’m mostly not all right).  This will give you the chance to react accordingly to help them through the situation.
  1. Use the “Time Out Gesture” if you’re finding a situation is far too intense and you need to take a break and/or switch to narrative description of events.
  1. Use the “Reduce Intensity” gesture when you’re becoming overwhelmed by the scene but are happy to continue it so long as, say, the character interacting with you lowers the intensity by, say, giving you more personal space or lowering their volume from a loud shout to a quieter yell. Continue using the gesture until the scene settles into a more comfortable situation.
  1. Use the “Lookdown” method (looking down and shading your eyes) when passing a situation that you are not emotionally or physically capable of participating in. You might use this because the scene appears too intense and disturbing for you at the moment or when you are feeling sick, tired, sore or really need food / water and are returning to the base.  You must pretend your character hasn’t noticed the scene and should not speak about it in-game.  Those players involved in that scene should pretend they were distracted and didn’t see you go by.
  1. Remember that consequences are still a part of the game. While you are always welcome to discuss with other players if a situation has ceased to be fun for you, if the consequences are due to your character’s actions (especially if they are PvP actions, i.e. where two player characters are working against each other) than you will need to be willing to compromise and offer concessions.  If those consequences are due to in-game cruelties or treachery, such a compromise might not be possible.  Be mindful of this when creating your character.
  1. It can help to use an individual player ritual that marks the start and end of each game (such as listening to thematic music while putting on your costume and unsuitable music when taking it off).
  1. Make a point to attend social events that can remind you that the players who surround you are different to their characters. If you only see someone when they’re being mean, it can be hard to know that is a character rather than a player trait.
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