March 18, 2013 in Mundane Business
Eldaraenth: State of the Game 2013
I look about this room, and I see several generations of players coming together once again in celebration of something they love. I see warriors. I see role players. I see friends. I see family. I see a community that has built something great, watched it collapse and built it again. I see a community that has bled, sweat, and cried for an idea of something more than just a game. I see a room filled with camaraderie and love, honor and respect.
In Spring of 2000, I attended my first official Eldaraenth event, Foreboding, at Busiek State Park. I had been around Eldaraenth players before, but I had never really attended an event. I wasn’t entirely sure what I was expecting, but I had a tingling sense of excitement bubbling inside me. I came down early on Friday, riding with my friend Justin, who many of you know as Mordekin. We followed my brother (Josh or Perrimen) with his carpool of Marcus (Chirs Keller) and the Seer (Quinton Remirez) down to the site. That night, around a roaring fire, as I was reaquainted with game founder Justin Zimmerman (who’s characters are too numerous to name) and Jason Burgemeister (mostly known as Nigel St. Hubbins, Gorneesh or simply, Burge), I learned what the game was truly, deeply about.
The next morning I met some of you in this room for the first time. I met a large man decked out in full garb despite it only being his second event and an eight year old boy that would grow up to hand me my butt too many times for me to hope to count. I met a knight that believed in the game and it’s world enough to be the most vocal proponent and most shining example of immersion I’ve ever seen in any LARP scenario. I met a tall, lanky archer with a fancy cloak. There were players that had been brought back into the fold from the days when Eldaraenth was just called “The Whalers” because it was a group of kids “whalin’ on each other with sticks out on Robert’s farm.” There were players there that, like me, had never done this before.
That day was the first day I experienced Eldaraenth. That is the event that I hold in my heart as the core of the game. Yes, there were less than twenty players at that event, but it was special because it was my first event. It has stuck with me all of these years.
What was special about that event wasn’t that we all had fancy garb. We didn’t. I was wearing a shirt made out of felt that my mom had modified from her Halloween costume into the semblance of a tunic. Marcus was wearing furry tiger pants. We had all made the effort to be as period as possible, but most of us were new or just returning. We simply didn’t have the kit to be fancy pantses.
But we made the effort.
Nor was that event special because we were all expert fighters. I had fought, I don’t know, maybe three times in my life before that event. Most of the other players there were more experienced, but none of us had really mastered the boffer arts in the way that some of us have come to.
But we fought and had fun doing it.
We weren’t particularly good role players, either. Our acting and accents were about as atrocious as they can possibly come. I was so self conscious about it, that I barely spoke through the entire event. This was 13 years ago, and at age 16, I was the second youngest player on the field. I didn’t really know what I was suppose to be role playing, but the more experienced players went out of their way to make sure I was involved.
So we role played through the entire event.
What I learned from that event was very, very simple, and though I carried it in my heart for years, it wasn’t until we started all of this up again with me officially taking the reigns three years ago that it was every articulated to me in words.
“Eldaraenth is not a game. Eldaraenth is a community where we come together to make each other not just better fighters or role-players, but better people. Chivalry has meaning. Don’t ever forget that. Make that spirit felt.”
That is a paraphrasing of the words of wisdom passed down to me by Justin Zimmerman when I asked him about his experiences leading the game. Though Zimm had his faults as a leader, he did his best to not only learn those lessons for himself, but pass them on to me. My own faults in leadership are probably a mountain beside his mole hill, and am doing my best to learn and grow with the help of this community, the way Zimm wanted for all of us.
Eldaraenth has been in my hands for three years now. It has been reborn from the ashes again and again. The game has grown, evolved and changed. It is bigger now than it has ever been before.
I look around this room, and I see several generations of players. I see faces with decades of experience and faces that still shine with the brightness of new players.
It is my job, as the leader of this game to set the tone and direction for the game and community. I’m afraid I haven’t done a very good job of that in the past. I’ve spent too much time standing in the way of much more qualified game officers to let myself focus on what really needs to be focused on. I shouldn’t focus on story. We have Bri and her team for that. I shouldn’t worry about combat, we have Vic and his Combat Marshals for that. Rules belong in the hands of Josh, as anyone who read my attempt to create a rule book can tell you. I’ll let Lori handle our money and let Canaan handle our disorganization. My job is to handle our direction.
In Eldaraenth, we come together as a community to create a world where the ideals of honor, chivalry and knighthood are upheld. We come together as a group to help each other grow as warriors and people. In this room are men and women that I admire, respect, and love with the full devotion of my heart. Sometimes, it is easy to see the path and growth of other games and think we should be like them. We should do what they are doing because they are obviously successful. They field thousands of combatants, have hundreds of chapters, and dozens of events.
We are not those other games. Eldaraenth is different from any other LARP out there for one reason above all others.
WE ARE A FAMILY.
Those of you gathered in this room, and those not present, are my brothers, sisters, and cousins. Some of you have played the role of father or mother, daughter and son. Some of you are as close to me as my real blood, and some of you are that cousin you don’t see for years and have funny feelings about that you try to ignore.
I’m looking at you, Joey.
This community is bonded together with a passionate love of something bigger than “just a game.” We are bound together as a community. Eldaraenth is not a LARP, Eldaraenth is a culture of it’s own. It is one we get to create together, collectively.
When I started this game, I was sixteen. I was a child. Some of you might say that a teenager isn’t a child, but I definitely was. I was spoiled, selfish, emotional and arrogant. Over the years, I like to believe that I have grown a little. I like to think that I am less spoiled and less selfish. I like to believe that I have a little better control over my own emotions. I’m obviously still arrogant, but I would like to believe I am arrogant about real achievements that have meaning to those beyond myself.
I don’t believe I have grown just because I’ve aged. I believe that I have grown because I had this community and the players in it to help guide me. I’m still growing and learning. I still need the players here in my life to help me become more than just a man, but a Knight.
Daniel, for years you have been the father to our unruly group of boys. Some of us here have been blessed to have positive male role models of our own, but I know that some of us would also have been denied that without this game, and without you. Over the years, you have stood beside me, a punk kid with no sense of gratitude, and shown me time and time again what it means to be a man of honor and dignity. Thank you. I’ll say it again, Thank you. There aren’t enough times it can be said, Thank you.
Now, if you’ll pardon me for a moment I’m going to prematurely age you a bit as I address the generation of players my own age.
It’s our turn. It’s time for us to become the parents, so to speak, for a new generation of kids in this world. It’s time for us to be the adults, the Lords and Ladies, the Chivalry, the authority. We, collectively, need to take on the responsibility of leading this game back to where it should have always been. We need to ensure that our community is a safe, positive community. We need to ensure that our events are safe, comfortable places for young men and women to come, learn and grow. We need to be ears that listen, eyes that see, and mouths that speak with wisdom and compassion.
We need to embrace the lessons that have been taught to us and that we’ve learned the hard way.
Eldaraenth is growing.
We are a game made up of families of many ages. We are a game with children and parents. Light willing it’ll be a while before any of us are grandparents, but that possibility is looming on the horizon.
This year, Eldaraenth turns 21. This game, this community, is literally old enough to be considered an adult by law. It’s time for it to start acting that way.
I’m 29-years-old. I’ve been playing this game for 13 years. I’ve gone through my awkward teenage years, my drunken twenties, and am now fast approaching thirty. It’s time for me to say, I am an adult.
That is the direction I intend to lead Eldaraenth. I intend to do my best to rebuild and remember the spirit that this game was founded on. I intend to do my absolute best to ensure that this game is a community that helps each other grow as people. I intend to do my best to be an example of a Knight. I intend to go out of my way to make sure everyone that comes to an event feels safe and welcome.
I once told Zimm that I would do whatever it takes to keep this game alive. That to me, that was everything. I was wrong. To Hell with the Game. I’m going to do whatever it takes to keep this family alive.
All of you mean too much to me for to allow anything else to happen.
In the name of the founders.
In the name of the players.
In the name of Eldaraenth.
-Matthew A Brotherton