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Bad Becoming Normal
[05/09/2005] [Rewth]

I recently read an article in Discover Magazine about the work of a lady named Temple Grandin. She's a PhD of Animal Science. She also happens to be autistic, which gives her an interesting perspective on the world. Most of her work centers on animal psychology, specifically livestock animals and their lives from farm to slaughter. It was a rather interesting read, but what really struck a chord with me was her phrase "Bad Becoming Normal".

As I understood it, Bad Becoming Normal is basically the concept that when something bad happens within an environment, gradually but prolifically, it becomes "normal". Unless you approach the situation from a clean perspective, you don't notice it.

Dr. Grandin uses the concept when referring to living conditions of livestock. The conditions worsen slowly over time and no one notices the change. But, it got me wondering about its application to Amtgard. Have we ever so slowly degraded certain aspects of our game while not noticing it? More importantly, can those trends be reversed?

I recently spent a lot of time digging through photo archives of many different Foam Fighting LARPs. I noticed one major trend when comparing Amtgard to other games, and that brings me to at least one specific issue I have seen. Bear in mind, this is only one aspect of our game that I feel is a case of Bad Becoming Normal. There could be (and probably are) numerous other examples. This one just happens to be somewhat easy to show examples of and discuss.

Our outward appearance is pretty sloppy. I struggle to find quality pictures of mass combat in Amtgard that show a majority of folks wearing quality garb. In virtually every photo in Belegarth games I had to struggle to see blue jeans, baseball hats, sunglasses (a little easier), or even tennis shoes. Dig through Amtgard archives and these items are so prolific that they almost reach out and bitch slap you. In fact, when trying to find photos for the Iron Mountains website, I had a hard time finding quality shots of people wearing nice garb at all. The more recent the photos, the worse this trend is.

Has Amtgard, as a whole evolved (regressed?) from a fantasy game to a sport to such an extent that we no longer care what we look like? Take a look from an outsiders perspective and you'll see a bunch of dorks hitting each other with sticks. We may have magic and monsters in our game, but why is it that Belegarth seems to have more fantasy and more life?

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for stick jockery. I go out to the park for two reasons: social aspects, and to hit people with sticks. Flurby role playing is the last thing that draws my interest, but what happens when our image begins to suffer due to our lack of garb? It's hard to pass ourselves off as a fantasy reenactment society when there isn't much reenactment anymore.

We all love the game to death, but that can tint our perception of it. We view all things Amtgard though rose-colored glasses. As such, I doubt most of us have seen the steady decline of garb within our game. How many of us walk out on the field in t-shirts and jeans, or simply go for the minimum T tunic, a belt, and kneepads? Do you have garb or do you have a practice uniform? This is Bad Becoming Normal.

What can be done about it? I'm not entirely sure. I, for one, intend to ensure I wear my garb. All of it. It won't sit in my closet. It won't remain in my bag just because it's hot out. With any luck, this will inspire others to do the same.

Perhaps we should look at enforcing a minimum garb standard. It seems to work well for Belegarth. They will literally remove you from the field if your garb doesn't meet the minimums. Exceptions are made for newer players, but it is an expectation of all players to enhance the mood and setting of the game they are playing.

Hold garbing workshops. We need to get the serpent knights involved and let them demonstrate their arts. We should find a way to make Orders of the Garber something people strongly desire. We need to re-kindle the love for the fantasy worlds that brought so many of us together. Nothing says you have to speak with thee's and thou's while you smack someone upside the head with a chunk of noodle. But damn it, lets look good while we do it.


Yes, that was a bit of a rant on garb standards in the game. But let me say again, that is only one issue. Some folks won't necessarily agree. That is their prerogative. However, I would bet that if we all step back and take a look, we'll each find something about Amtgard that we think is a case of Bad Becoming Normal. I think we should each take the initiative and try to repair some of those things. Even if each of you want something different from the game, you should still strive to achieve those things.

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