Earlier this year John wrote about metagaming and the ways it can creep into our games. Most participants at LARP see metagaming as an undesirable part of the way that we play, although sometimes it simply can’t be helped. You will almost always have more knowledge than your character and you, as a player, have to decide what your character would know and then act accordingly.
Since I started photographing at LARP I had the goal to leave as little disturbance on the game world as I could manage. Being in costume helps, as does keeping to the fringes of any action that is happening around you. Not shooting with wide-angle lenses, avoiding getting too close to players, and saying out of players eye-lines goes a long way to keeping the disturbances you make as just little ripples.
But John’s post made me consider a possibility that I hadn’t thought about before. If ‘hots and nots’ on Facebook can affect the way that players think about a character, then so can my photography.
It was the crew at Odyssey who planted the seed of these thoughts in my head. When I first started photographing Odyssey I was asked not to shoot inside the World Forge or the God audiences. Not because they didn’t look cool (trust me, the World Forge looks very cool) but because they were parts of the game that were not open to all players. If I am a character in game and I want to know what the World Forge looks like, I have to ask a player who knows. And then they can describe it in its towering and glittering monumentality. It’s a part of the game to be curious about these things – and photographs could break that part of the game for many players.
So at some point this year I made the decision not to photograph parts of games that are not ‘public access’. If most characters in the game couldn’t be in the place where I’m photographing then I (usually) decide not to photograph it. For instance the marketplace in Empire is fair game – even if your character was not there at the time they could have easily heard from another character what was going on when I took a picture. But private meetings (for example) are now something that I feel are quite off-limits for me. Photographing two characters in private that shouldn’t be seen together could give away secrets to other players and allow them to metagame the situation. And I’d prefer not to enable that kind of gaming.
I mean, imagine that I’m in the right place at the right time, and I photograph a PvP murder taking place. At the next event – if the perpetrator has not been caught – then I’ve given the game away to every player on the field. Suddenly everyone knows who they are looking for, and it’s hard to pretend that you never saw that photograph. Your interactions with that murderer will forever be coloured because I caught it with my camera – in the same way that sometimes people carry over baggage from peoples old characters to their new ones (or even from their characters into real life…).
As a photographer I try to remember that I’m a guest in these fantasy worlds. I try to be as low-impact as possible within the world. But the world doesn’t stop when you leave the site – the world lives on between games in peoples interactions. And we, as photographers, have a duty to the game to affect it as little as possible.