The first step to be able to deal with disappointment in larp is recognising that you are experiencing these emotions. However, this is not always easy during a larp. It is important to remember that whenever you feel like you are having a hard time during a larp, it is okay to step out of it and deal with your emotions instead of persistently staying in character, which can eventually result in a worse overall experience. Here are a few helpful questions for general reflection, and especially for recognising disappointment:
- Are you showing behaviour towards a certain player (group) that seems more aimed towards the player than towards the character?
- Are you feeling anger, frustration or similar feelings that are difficult to place? Are they about the situation in the larp?
- Do you feel a helplessness that not only your character feels, but you as well?
- Do you feel stuck in your character’s story or relationships? Do you feel out of character, or unable to change this situation or direction?
- Did you have big plans that didn’t turn out as expected?
Even in an intense larp, it’s useful to give yourself regular moments of reflection. Especially when you are starting to feel emotions that are hard to place, it is beneficial to step out of the game (mentally or physically) for some reflection. If this makes you realise that you are indeed experiencing feelings of disappointment, it is important to recognise them so you can deal with them and prepare yourself to head back into the game and still make a positive experience out of it.
How to deal with disappointment during your larp and still have a great game
Once you have recognised and accepted that you are feeling disappointment about the larp you are playing, you can start to deal with it.
Disappointment is a valid emotion, and this article isn’t about suppressing it. It is about acknowledging it, dealing with it and moving from there. This means that no matter the cause of the disappointment, you should also find a way to get these emotions out of your system. In case of anger, you can resort to running, hitting something, screaming in your pillow, etc. If you’re sad, cry if you feel like it. You can always ask for a hug from your emotional safety person. For any type of emotion, it is important that you think about what works for you. And most importantly: take your time to deal with these emotions. Don’t rush to get back into the game. You might play in a way that you afterwards regret if you are still playing with feelings based on your disappointment. It can reflect towards other players, or towards yourself. Like with any emotional low, take your time to re-energise and get rid of any negative emotions before returning to the game.
After having gotten rid of your negative emotions, reflect on what caused these feelings of disappointment:
- If the disappointment was caused by another player or group of players or organisation, there’s not a lot that you could’ve done to influence this. Recognise and accept your circle of influence.
- If the disappointment stems from your own actions, accept that this happened, maybe think about the reasons why and promise yourself to reflect on this more after the game if you would still need it, and accept that you can make mistakes too.
In both instances, however, it is clear that the main course of action after dealing with your feeling of disappointment, is letting go. Often disappointment is caused by having focused too much on one aspect of your event (one relationship, one plot, etc.), which causes tunnel vision. If you let go of that one aspect, your view can broaden, and you can start noticing other aspects of the larp that your character can run with. Allow yourself to change your mindset and your focus.
Some actions that may help here are:
- Breathing exercises;
- Take a quick nap;
- Talk to your gamemaster about other possible paths for your character;
- Calibrate with other players about the rest of the game, ask them to pull you back in if needed;
- Play to flow: if you open up for day to day play, being your character instead of looking for scenes, it all might naturally happen in directions you didn’t expect.
When you let go of the negative things that happened, it opens a whole new array of possibilities. Accept that your previous expectations will no longer be met, and embrace that new things can come your way. Now, you are ready to step back into the larp.
How to minimise disappointment in your future larps
While overcoming your feelings of disappointment in a larp can be an empowering experience of turning a negative into a positive, it is also worthwhile to minimise the feelings of disappointment in your future larps by preparing for them.
After a larp in which you faced disappointment, reflect on what you could have done differently, and what effect this might have had on the situation that got you feeling disappointed. Learn from this for next time.
The important thing is to manage your expectations. This does not mean you cannot dream, challenge yourself or try to do Big Things. It means that you should keep your expectations realistic: realise that things can go wrong, people can say no, the story can take unexpected turns, or you can just be too tired or lose inspiration. If you start out with a more open mindset instead of a fixed idea of where you want to go, your game holds more potential. There is less to be disappointed in because you are less dependent on the success of the stories you have in mind. If you do set out with some fixed ideas, learn when to let go of them, should they fail. Consider beforehand how your character would react to failure and integrate this in your game. Accept your circle of influence and your own limitations before stepping into any event, and see where it goes from there.
Dealing with and continuing from a feeling of disappointment in larp is first and foremost allowing yourself to recognise the feeling by stepping out of the game and asking yourself the right questions. When you acknowledge these feelings of disappointment, you need to take the time to first deal with your emotions and get them out of your system. Next, you can move on to recognising where your disappointment stems from, before you can allow yourself to let go of it. There are several actions you can take to help you with this, so that you can also step into the larp again with a more open mindset, and still embrace what comes next and have a great game. Lastly, you can also manage your expectations in a way that leaves room for failure and unexpected events, by accepting your own limitations as well as your circle of influence. If you allow yourself a realistic and open view of the larps you attend, you will also find that you become less disappointed and more enthralled by what a larp and the other players can give to you.