My Unethical Existence: A Letter to Those Who Oppose Larp for Profit in the US

Pictured: Not a game designer in the US. We do not have $100 bills floating around :)

Dear Larpers Who Oppose Larp-for-Profit in the United States:

Since “larp in the US” varies greatly by region and individual larp, I can’t speak for what everyone does for profit or otherwise. Here’s how it went down for me:
I lost my job a year and a half ago. I have a background in publishing, but that’s been outsourced. I moved into content marketing, and that’s the job I lost. I’m an editor, but now most marketers rely on a program called Grammarly to do my job, so unless they need a complex content edit, being a line editor or proofreader as a full-time job is not as easy as it once was.

So that left me without job and rent to pay. Meanwhile, my super supportive larp community friends were like, ‘hey! We would like to give you money in exchange for running a larp!’ Sweet, that could solve the rent problem. But I had no location or money to rent one.

So I started running larps online and became the first person to monetize digital larps in a campaign format and in a continuity setting, which I have been running continuously since then.

Having chronic illnesses and no health insurance (because the US is crap), it also became harder for me to head to work in an office without medication/rationing medication. I barely make enough to get by, and to be honest, I’m shuffling bills so that sometimes I make a car payment and sometimes I make the insurance, and it’s rare I make both and rent. But this is the ‘gig economy,’ and I’m a ‘digital nomad’ (homeless but privileged enough to have friends to constantly take me in) now.

healthcare bullshit
“Healthcare and housing? I don’t think so. You look like one of those game designers. Or an immigrant. No wait. Definitely a game designer. We can’t have any of those having healthcare. PS: There are some Euro larpers who think you’re terrible for profiting on game design. Are you in pain? Yeah right. I don’t believe women when they say they’re in pain.” – Average US Doctor

I make different types of larp. Some of the participants have called them art. Participants have also made art (which is theirs) as a result of the larps.

I understand the offense to the term “Nordic-inspired,” so instead of using what was intended as an homage, I do not use it anymore because the impact causes pain.

I am also a one-woman marketing team. While I haven’t regularly used influencers, it means I need to rely on my community, and my own reputation, to sell tickets. If I don’t sell tickets, I don’t eat.

For the longest time, I tried getting a job in Canada. I also tried hitting the freelance visa income requirement and failed to meet it.

I’m college educated and have fifteen years of solid work experience and no student debt. I also have the privilege of white skin.

But right now this is the best I can do.

I offer accessibility tickets to my larps so that people like me, who can’t always physically run around in the woods or even go to a game in a hotel, can play my larps. These tickets are priced lower and the costs are subsidized by the standard tickets. My labor for creating digital larps is up to around $6/hour. I pay my assistant $15 because they deserve a living wage, even if I can’t make one. I make my larps as safe and accessible as possible, and some of them are empowerment larps designed to provide a space for marginalized individuals to play close to the heart with sensitive topics.

So. After all that. When I see some of the comments made about larp for profit and ethics, it makes me extremely angry. My country has removed my ability to survive and I made it work anyway, and now I am being told that it is unethical even though I am paying a fair wage more than double my own, ensuring accessibility to my larps, and designing for empowerment. I have made larp for profit as ethical as possible given the shitty circumstances I have.

Now my existence; my sole livelihood; is unethical.

You know what’s unethical? You know what’s trash? Not “American larp and its lack of ethics.” Having the audacity to put down indie designers in the US for running safer (than what was previously done) games and daring to earn a meager income. That’s trash.

women in larp
Fun fact: Other women have also talked to me about this serious concern. It’s kind of crap, on top of already having a tough time as a woman in game design. There are war stories.

I am not willing to have a complex negotiation about whether I should starve, and I’m not willing to let you make me feel bad for existing. I already get enough of that, and if you dislike capitalism just as I do, the reasons for my circumstance are obvious.

There aren’t a large portion of folks in the US making a living on this at all, let alone really rolling in the money. There are a few, but definitely not many.

If my larp is art, I can’t help it. My existence is political. I cannot change the nature of it unless I just give up on existing. I do this in the resistance of fascism as well.

Do you still think it is unethical for me to profit on larp?

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About Tara M. Clapper 275 Articles
Tara is a lifelong geek and the founder and publisher of The Geek Initiative. Her interests were forged in an early appreciation for "Star Trek: The Next Generation," "Jurassic Park," and many historical fiction and fantasy novels. Tara is a game designer, LARPer, and frequent convention attendee. The author of over 1,000 individual blogs, her content has been featured on HelloGiggles, nordiclarp.org, LARPing.org, and The Billfold. She holds a B.A. in English from McDaniel College and has attended many events as press (including New York Comic Con). Tara has a professional background in marketing and publishing. She lives in the Philadelphia area. A Marvel fan, her favorite superhero is undoubtedly Thor. View her portfolio at: tmc.pressfolios.com.

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