For the last several months, Dragonspine proper has been experiencing a bit of a boom in population and enthusiasm. Camps and conflict have been a thing of the past here for much of the past four years anyway, but more than a few people have noted that the latest burst of participation at the park hasn't coincided with a similar increase in cliques forming. Basically, we're all on the same page. I'm telling you all this based almost entirely on hearsay and the three times I've actually been able to attend this reign. My lack of attendance amuses me greatly because my squire is the current king and I stopped coming out immediately upon him being crowned. It's not burnout or a drop-off in interest that's keeping me from the park - I've got a car to fix, which is fun because I don't know how to fix cars - but it did get me thinking: what if people assumed I was boycotting the reign?
That's the way it always works, isn't it? A formerly-active person stops showing up right after an election and a coronation, and everybody assumes there's a boycott afoot. Some of this is fair because that actually was the way it worked in many parts of Amtgard - and may still be in some dark corners of the world where they still practice human sacrifice and give people third belts for no damned reason at all. A lot of our misconceptions about how Amtgard works are rooted in previously-accurate conceptions. . . but my own unfortunate lack of foam-play made me think about how perceptions impact the game.
Add to this my current unicorn predicament. You see, as part of a joke - and I hate having to ruin things by explaining the joke, so I won't - I made a unicorn persona, and swore during the whimsical elections for Guildmaster of Color that I would play no other persona during the next reign if I won. That was all it took to prevail in the hotly-contested election, and also contributed to the election having greater participation than many elections for Prime Minister and at least one or two we've had for king. This is pertinent for two reasons. First of all, I promptly stopped showing up after winning the election, giving rise to dark rumors that I was ducking out on my responsibilities. Second, my initial assessment of the unicorn garb is that a white belt just didn't look as good against the silver and white fabric, so I borrowed my wife's old black belt and used that instead. One wonders if, while I was prancing about the field lancing people with a sword emblazoned with a unicorn's horn, there were people wondering what sort of knight shenanigans I was protesting against via my failure to wear a white belt.
And third - as I said, I won't explain the joke, so this is as far as it goes - I endured the remarkable experience of sitting around in my unicorn persona garb listening to stories about how roleplay isn't what it once was. This was followed up by a barbarian, upon saying he'd heard barbarians may get the heal spell back, telling me he was upset he didn't have to chew grass anymore if he wanted to heal. I told him he could chew whatever he wanted while casting heal and roleplay his heal in any way he wished, but I don't think he got it. Maybe a unicorn just lacks the credibility to give advice on roleplaying, but I get the idea he wanted to be forced to roleplay. . . but whatever, that's really not the point. Maybe he just felt uncomfortable roleplaying without guideposts. That's the point - giving him the benefit of the doubt.
There's a big bundle of perceptions and misperceptions here, and the key thing that I'm getting out of all this is how reality clashes with what we'd normally assume to be true. I'm not boycotting; I'm busy, and want to be at the park instead. I'm not angry at the knights; I'm angry at my color-coordination. And so it goes with me, which makes me wonder how often this is the case with others - and, in my own analysis, it makes me wonder how many other people analyze things from a negative perspective rather than from the perspective of giving people the benefit of the doubt. In my own case, my actions were driven via necessity, but it just as easily could have been stupidity. What if I locked my white belt in my car? There's an old saying that we should never attribute to malice what can be attributed to stupidity, and that seems to apply to Amtgard in spades.
So what's to be done? First and foremost, it's useful to keep in mind the various modes in which other people can be doing things we view with suspicion. These modes are 'Good Faith', 'Stupidity', and 'Malice' - and most people operate somewhere between the first and the second, or between the second and the third, or a strange combination of all three. Very few land firmly in the third category, and most who do believe they are acting in good faith anyway. It can be really useful to think through all the valid reasons a person might have for their behavior other than malice, and it can be just as useful to ask. This counts for double on the Internet, where we can't use our monkeysense to read faces.
Second, we can consider our own actions. This doesn't mean we should consider the propriety of an action. . . that's something that kinda gets my hackles up. I don't like the idea of refraining from doing something right because of what some idiot may misconstrue about it. No, what I mean here is that we should happily wear a black belt for legitimate reasons without worrying that someone might think we're boycotting a knighting, but should not refrain from wearing it as an actual boycott. See what I did there? By refusing to participate in the petty kabuki that often passes for Amtgard communication, we can deprive it of its power. If you never boycott Amtgard, you can never fall under legitimate suspicion of boycotting Amtgard. Pretty simple. And if others conduct themselves in the same way, we're off to the races.
That's about all I got for the debut article of the year. Hopefully, it'll be a busy year for e-Samurai; I've got grand plans for reinvigorating the main page to get us back to where we were in 2002, 2003 and 2004. I'll see y'all next article. . . until then, I, uh, have got other things to do that require me to be in Alamogordo, and perfectly reasonable reasons for not taking time to swing by the park there.
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