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Labor Wars Reflection - Kate Nineteen [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Kate Nineteen

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Labor Wars Reflection [Jun. 21st, 2010|11:24 am]
Kate Nineteen
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[Current Mood |thoughtfulthoughtful]

This past weekend I played in Labor Wars. I don't usually play weekend-long LARPs, partially because they are tiring, but mostly because I have a hard time emotionally separating myself from my character afterwards. Labor Wars was not an exception to this. I had a good time, and am very glad I played, but I woke up this morning with echoes of the game battering the inside of my head.


I was playing Phoebe, the teenage daughter of the senator who was hosting the talks, a character who bears a striking resemblance to my mother. Both of them were the youngest child of five in a wealthy and traditional Texas family, and both had lesbian and socialist tendencies. My character was madly in love with a young labor leader who appeared male, but was in fact a woman in disguise to get ahead. She fully expected her parents to disapprove of this romance, even without knowing about the whole woman-in-disguise bit, though that turned out to be unwarranted, but I was nonetheless reminded of my mother being disowned by her parents when she came out as gay.

The other main character trait my character had was a fierce empathy for the struggles of labor. I could have played the character with a hefty dose of speaking truth to power, and I'm not quite sure why I didn't. Now there weren't as many opportunities for loud proclamations of principles as there might have been since the labor leaders basically managed to get what they wanted early in the game. However, I think I also fell into the diagetic expectation that as a young woman, and not part of the talks, I should be look pretty and not talk to much. And perhaps, I also fell into my own tendency to shut up around people I perceive as having more power than me. I wonder if being more outspoken could have created greater drama.

I was raised in a household that really saw the labor leaders of the early 1900's (and escaped slave, and revolutionaries) as heroes, and role models that I could never live up to. I went into this game hoping for some catharsis about that, and I really didn't get it. I hoped to get to fight the good fight and see that being on the "right" side didn't make my character a good person. I think I could have played Phoebe that way. Instead, I found myself in an interpretation of character that felt as powerless as the parents who created that household. I wish I hadn't interpreted my character that way.

Or perhaps relief from feeling like fighting social injustice all the time is only way to be a good person is too much to ask for from a game.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: usernamenumber
2010-06-21 06:45 pm (UTC)
No response, just appreciation of a really interesting insight into where you were coming from and how you interacted with your character. Thanks for sharing that.
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[User Picture]From: ultimatepsi
2010-06-21 08:54 pm (UTC)
Thanks for reading!
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[User Picture]From: natbudin
2010-06-21 07:40 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the thoughtful post, Kate!

It's possible that one major factor that would have changed things for you is Martha being present for more of the game - I kind of expected the two of you to be the Wonder Twins, and I suspect that neither of the characters really works as well without the other one present. OTOH, both Phoebe and Martha have good reasons to hold back, both in terms of their personalities and in terms of getting what they want accomplished.

In this particular game, I think there was probably only one character (Joseph Blair) that would have really been as vociferous as would have satisfied your desire for catharsis. The "moral" of The Labor Wars, in that respect, is that extremism is irrational, and persisting with ideology tends to get you killed. In fact, the most ideological characters are also the biggest assholes in the game.

In the end, the labor groups that game out the best in the end were the ones that were most willing to compromise with management. One could have easily predicted that outcome before the game ran, I think.

So... yeah. Politics suck. I personally hate the sausage-making of the policy decision process in real life, and I imagine many LARPers feel the same way (hence their willingness to compromise rather than continue to fight for their goals).

Seen from this perspective, the real heroes of the labor movement aren't the Mother Joneses and Joe Hills, but the people who actually sat for hours hammering out the compromises of those contracts under which people actually worked.
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[User Picture]From: ultimatepsi
2010-06-21 08:49 pm (UTC)
I honestly like the "moral" as you put it, and the way things turned out was rather satisfying in the sense that the situation was resolved without my (character's) direct help.

Mostly, I just wasn't expecting the game to strike me the way it did, and that is totally not the responsibility of the GMs. You folks did an awesome job.
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