|Shire Troubles and Learning to Let Go
We're having some real problems in my Shire. I know that every group seems to have its ups and downs, but morale amongst the natives recently hit an all time low. I guess it's the same at other parks where the numbers are small. There are little rivalries that turn into fights, straight-forward rules discussions that turn into personal attacks, and rumours that spread through the populace like wildfire once they get going. It can really take away from everyone's enjoyment of the game, and you know what makes it hard? Dealing with the problems means beginning to let go.
I've only got two years of Amt-experience behind me. I started to play in June of 2004, and played for barely a month before I left to deal with real life. I returned in the late spring of 2005, and received a crash-course in everything wonderful about this game through an inter-group event. I was hooked from then on. I struggled to learn the rules, to find my fighting style, and to decide how I wanted to start fitting in. And finally, when I wasn't expecting it, I had more friends in Amtgard then I did anywhere else. I was able to run for my first government position. Everything seemed idyllic.
It's probably at around that point that the stresses of a small group started to show. Members left to attend school elsewhere. Couples broke up. Once-frequent members chose a different path in life, and vanished into the background. It became the same 5 or 6 people every day for weeks. When we finally got new members in, some of the older members didn't take the time to learn names. I tried to learn as many names as I could handle, because no-one should have to be called “newb in green shirt” simply because the tournament-runner is too lazy to ask for a name. Once the newer members found their legs, they returned every week. Almost all of them are currently invaluable members of the Shire. But still, the older members, myself included, were terrified of change.
We were stubborn. Why change? If it worked before, it'll still work now, right? People didn't speak up, for fear of being ridiculed. Idiotic little personality clashes happened over nothing. People threatened that this meeting would be their last (myself included). Swords were broken, angry words were said, tears were cried. Going to Amtgard became a chore, instead of a joy. Yet, when we all sat down to try and fix it, the newer members didn't like to finger-point, and the older members refused to admit that they could be the problem.
When you think about it, the Amtgard experience is our baby. Every member has good and bad feelings about people, places, and events in this game. Everyone has those blurry little memories about their first days, long and glorious, and how they started with nothing but foam-on-a-stick and that certain sparkle in their eyes. But at some point, we realize how different we are from the bright-eyed newbie tripping over their own feet during a battle charge.
And it's at that moment of revelation that we're able to see the game in a different light. It's then that we should be able to admit that maybe, just maybe, it's time to step out of the spotlight and give someone else their first chance to shine, or maybe we should offer help where we'd stayed silent before. It's painful to let go, but it's the way this game has come to the point that it's at now, and the way it will continue to evolve. Like the saying goes: if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem. But we, the stubborn few who refuse to grow, are the problem. It's just that simple. We have to start looking new players in the eye, and saying "You are what makes Amtgard great". Who knows? Maybe if we look into those eyes long enough, we'll remember why we started to play in the first place.
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