148. Road Trip larp, Part Twelve: Safety and risks

/This is the twelfth part of the series on the Road Trip larp project. If you want to start from the first post, it is #116.

We drove 4,000 km over the course of a week. That alone would make some people comment on driver exhaustion as a safety risk. But apart from the obvious, there were some parts of Road Trip that were not exactly “safe”.

We did our best to be completely transparent with our participants about the safety aspects, and tried to neither sugarcoat nor patronize. We did our best to be realistic about this being a larp that wasn’t as safe as most larps are, but also not make people unduly afraid.

Rest assured – everyone who was part of this project knew reasonably well what they were getting into, even though none of us could be said to truly know what we were getting into. And with that important duality stated, and since this series follows a Ten Lessons format, I’d like to share Ten Lessons Learned About Safety And Risks From The Road Trip Larp

  1. The real world isn’t as safe as our pretend ones. We’re pretty adept at creating small bubbles of safer space. They’re by no means perfect, but on average they’re quite nice compared to most parts of the so-called “normal” world.
  2. This is even more true when you’re on unfamiliar turf. We would be hitting places none of us had been to before, interacting with strangers in bars, on streets and in (sometimes shady) hotels. And to make it worse, we were adopting larger-than-life personalities.
  3. Our characters were more reckless than we were. Claus would never approach a biker gang asking for a photo with them. Rick Stevenson, my body double, not only would, but did. This led to amazing experiences, but didn’t exactly make for improved safety. We all tackled this differently, of course, but overall, we were wilder ingame than offgame.
  4. We were always at risk of being exposed. The chances were minimal, but there. We don’t know how people would react if they found out we were faking it, but it’s undeniable that some might have gotten pissed off. That never happened, but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t a possibility we were all aware of.
  5. Real safety is different from perceived safety. According to statistics, Moscow is much safer than Paris. I still have no qualms going to Paris, but am a bit afraid of Moscow. Some have accused us of being crazily irresponsible for doing Road Trip, while others find it no more risky than a normal trip down Route 66.
  6. Behaviour guidelines were a big hit. Before the larp, we told the participants what sort of actions were not a good idea in public, and they were very good at sticking to that. There were few shouting matches, no violent behaviour, etc. Quite unlike most larps, which tend to get a bit crazy!
  7. The players themselves worried us a bit. Due to the nature of the larp, there would be close proximity to strangers for a week, with little chance to get away. Sure, we had an offgame van, but it was still a gamble that everyone would get along. Luckily, our participants were rockstars in this respect. No issues with them at all. Heroes!
  8. Things often seem more scary at a distance. I’ve now interviewed a guy with a gun sticking out of his pocket. I’ve dealt with shady characters in New Mexico. I’ve gone to a diner at midnight where one of our participants was legitimately worried about knife fights. When you’re close to things, they’re often less scary.
  9. The flexible nature of the larp helped a lot. Let’s say we’d had an engine break down, and had gotten stuck on the road. Disaster for a real band. Here, it would have been just another cool scene with potential for lots of drama. Going on a road trip where there’s no way things can “go wrong” (because wrong can be good) was inspirational.
  10. We were most afraid of boredom. Not of getting shot or cheated or robbed or stuck somewhere by the roadside. What we’d worried about above all else was “Will the players be bored?”. It turned out that they weren’t, but I think it’s worth pointing out that fact. I’ve done plenty of projects where we worried about safety a lot. This wasn’t one.

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If you want to get into contact, I can be reached at claus.raasted@gmail.com.

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