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  • Ryan Hart

Larp Risks: We Want Your Input

Bottom line, up front: help us improve your experience by participating in our Hazard ID & Improvement Survey.

Four larpers on the streets of New York playing Project Ascension.

First, an apology… when we posted People F*** Up, Part I: Why Your Larp Isn’t Safe, we missed an important part of risk management: marginalized larpers have different risks that have to be considered in a risk assessment. Specifically, we didn’t mention two intersections: race and accessibility to people with physical disabilities. Part of the problem with the lack of diversity in larp is that white larpers fear talking about race, and that silence is an omission that speaks volumes. Physical accessibility, while a different issue, also suffers from the silence of larp organizers. When white organizers without disabilites do talk about these topics, we often fail to include actionable plans, or worse, explain why we won’t address the problem. In order to proactively address these risks, we’re reviewing one  of the key steps in the process: hazard identification.

What Is Hazard Identification in Larp?

First, if you’re having trouble sleeping, here’s the Sinking Ship Creations Standard Risk Assessment. This is an internal document that we make available for the sake of transparency, but it’s a good example of risk management. We use this assessment for every larp we produce and then modify it with addenda when we have larps with risks it doesn’t account for. 

In it, you’ll see our general process:

  1. Hazard identification

  2. Risk analysis

  3. Develop controls

  4. Risk acceptance

  5. Implementation

  6. Review and manage

Of these six steps, hazard identification is the most difficult, because it drives the other five. During hazard identification, we try to figure out all the ways people could experience harm at an event and break it down into the conditions that have the potential to cause that harm. Once we’ve identified a hazard, we can quantify it as a risk in terms of probability and severity, and then develop controls to mitigate those risks. In this way, our risk management process is reductive: we’re seeking to eliminate and control hazards (as opposed to adding elements to improve the larp itself, as this is a different design process).

In other fields, we’d have lots of ways to identify risks. One of the best ways is through inspections, but as we primarily produce one-off events, it’s hard to develop an effective inspection schedule. Another way is through investigations of previous incidents, which we do when something bad happens, but is a reactive measure. Instead, we rely primarily on collection: talking to people about their concerns and recording them as potential hazards.

Collection and Diversity: Why We’re Reaching Out

Our current risk assessment relies on inputs from your life experiences to mitigate risks for larpers of different experiences. Here are some specific hazards we identified in the past, and where they came from:

  • Larpers with conditions that affect their mobility pointed out particular concerns with cold weather play that were not considered during the original run of Scapegoat.

  • Black larpers alerted us to the hazard of calling law enforcement before the first run of Project Ascension.

  • Likewise, Black larpers explained the problem of having any chase scenes in pervasive play spaces on the streets of New York prior to Project Ascension.

  • An accessibility consultant who made inquiries into our larps demonstrated the need for a policy on service animals (specifically in our accessibility review and informing other participants not to pet them). 

  • A number of misgendering incidents during the first run of Project Ascension led to its explicit inclusion in our risk assessment. 

All of these have been incorporated into our risk assessment thanks to inputs from our collaborators and participants. Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) is more than just inputs into our risk assessment; as our risk management process is inherently reductive, we need to include efforts like our Social Justice Policies and efforts to hire a diverse staff to support DEI. However, by soliciting outside feedback from a diverse group of larpers, we can identify a diverse range of hazards.

This Year’s Survey

As mentioned above, we’re opening a Hazard ID & Improvement Survey to support this collection effort. In addition, we’ve selected areas of improvement in our risk assessment that includes three groups of people:

  • Black larpers: As part of an extension of our Reparations policy, we want to make sure that we focus on the hazards identified by Black larpers.

  • Indigenous larpers: Similarly, as part of an extension of our Land Acknowledgement, we want to make sure we identify hazards that concern Indigenous larpers.

  • People requiring physical accessibility accommodations: We’ve identified this as a major concern for many of our participants and want to prioritize physical accessibility in 2024.

We especially appreciate input from people who hold multiple identities in these groups.

This isn’t to say that we don’t value the input of all participants, especially non-Black PoC and the LGBTQIA+ community. However, we want to be transparent about our current areas of focus. 

If you’ve read this far, please go ahead and take the survey. It should take less than ten minutes, and your responses will help us make improvements for all our participants.


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