LARP Debate: Entitlement and Instant Gratification

I was participating in a discussion a while back and a Pat Riley quote was tossed out in a reply by an individual who goes by the username of Elena. The quote read, “When a milestone is conquered, the subtle erosion called entitlement begins its consuming grind. The team regards its greatness as a trait and a right. Half hearted effort becomes habit and saps a champion.” As the person providing the quote didn’t note who said it I did a Google search to track down the original author. In the process of doing that search I stumbled upon an article written by an individual named Gerhard entitled From Feeling Honoured to Feeling Entitled that, while not gaming related, sparked some thoughts (particularly the first half of it).

Two of the biggest problems (as I noted in my article entitled LARP Debate: Evolution of LARP) I see within the LARP hobby today is a growing sense of entitlement and the need for instant gratification. Now this could be just my own neck of the woods, my own country or perhaps just some of the games I’ve participated in, however I don’t think I’m alone. I feel that this particular article and some others noted below have a few good points which I feel would do well for the LARPing community to hear, if nothing else to help keep such unhealthy levels of entitlement and instant gratification at bay. Why? I’ve seen both of these issues tear LARP groups apart, make them unwelcoming places to be (particularly for new members) and erode the quality of the game. In short they are game and LARP group killers.

Doctor Leon F. Seltzer, shared in his article Evolution of the Self, “Those ‘afflicted’ with a sense of entitlement demonstrate the attitude that whatever they want, they deserve–and automatically at that, simply because they are who they are. So anything they desire, whether material or relational, should be theirs. It’s inherently justified; there’s no need actually to earn it.”

It’s one thing to feel that you deserve something and to express a desire regarding that (just make sure that such expression does not enter the realms of childishness), it’s another to feel that you deserve something for the sake of deserving something because of who you are. Also, after you express your desire, give people time to react or not react as they see fit. Remember, you’re not the only human being on this planet, in a game or a LARP group.

Gerhard noted in his article that, “It is amazing how the initial feeling of being honoured can be replaced by the feeling of ‘I am entitled’ – often in a very short space of time. Saying ‘I feel honoured’ communicates the notion ‘I am in your hands’ and ‘I owe my best efforts to you’. ‘Entitlement’ elevates the individual in his own mind above others. The main challenges for a person with an attitude of entitlement are the challenge to secure his current position and the aspiration for a higher and more powerful position.”

But why is this such a danger? Gerhard further explained, “[T]he leader’s attitude of entitlement quickly become that of the team and ends up as a general culture… . We would hope that the person who says he feels honoured to lead a nation, an institution, a company, a congregation, a department, a project or a sports team would be fully aware of the fact that it is not the position [or membership] (for the sake of the position [or membership]) that is offered to him, but the responsibility and opportunity.”

Even thought his discussion is focused on leadership, the lessons it teaches can be easily applied to simple membership or association with a LARP group.

Instant Gratification
Jamie Friedlander shared in her article entitled Instant Gratification Generation, “Instant gratification. The need to want something right now, instead of waiting and seeing the benefits of either hard work or simply letting life run its course… . Patience is no longer a virtue in our society, but rather a waste of time. People want material objects, relationships, or even success as soon as possible and because they aren’t patient enough to wait for their desires, they lose their own happiness in the process.”

While it’s good to have a sense of achievement and forward movement, be patient with people. One of the bigger differences with a LARP versus other forms of gaming is that it often does take longer for plots and plans to move forward because that is the inherent nature of a LARP given that most of the machinations happen during game (and even between game stuff should not dominate your life). A LARP isn’t a MMORPG or a weekly table-top game, so your expectations should reflect the fact that it’s a different game medium with different expectations and have patience with both players and staff and the pace of the game.

A reply on very eloquently stated in response to the question Why is patience a virtue? “Patience is a virtue because it makes us better people. The definition of the word is to tolerate delay. This implies self control and forbearance as opposed to wanting what we want when we want it. How many times have we jumped the gun and found out it would have been better to tolerate delay or had self control? What did we miss out on? Did we hurt someone we love because of lack of patience? Having patience will heal the wounds and it will work itself out fine. Patience is not only a virtue but a necessity for a happy existence.”

A Change in Culture
I feel the expression of these two traits in dangerous levels is just a part of a problem plaguing US culture as a whole: unhealthy growth of entitlement and instant gratification. The fact that our world has taught us and given us the expectation that we should have everything we want right now, no questions asked and no reason need be given because we inherently deserve it. The sad part of this is that it can be so subtle that you often don’t know it’s there until its far too late. And yet there are warning signs you can look and keep a watch out for, if a person is willing to be diligent enough to do so. Entitlement and instant gratification becomes a danger when:

  • Players forget about the good of the game and the other players, and instead focuses solely on what they want including being the sole focus of attention.
  • Players feels above the rules of the game and therefore no longer feels that they apply to them.
  • Players feels they are continually owed something for their work and effort in-game or out-of-game.
  • Players expect instant results, benefits or rewards without having to earn them.
  • Other players exist only to help an individual get what they want.
Elena, the same individual mentioned at the start, shared in one of her responses to the initial posting that “[Y]ou are, in the end, responsible for your own satisfaction. A GOOD LARP will also reward those who work hard, and seek to improve itself, but there is only so much that can be given, before the feeling of ‘entitlement’ sets in. Its a powerful force, I’ve found, all people suffer from it in some way.”

After the development of such harmful habits has occurred within a game or LARP group the group can work to chip away at these dangerous habits. How, you ask? Once the signs of this infection are found in our LARP group and games, the active participation of all will be needed to combat the unwanted effects. The biggest fix is being aware and creating new, better habits that are not corroding the group or game and remove the bad habits that foster such entitlement and instant gratification problems. Granted, a single or small group of individuals can’t fix the world or US culture as a whole, but we each do have the power to change ourselves and as a group the habits within the LARP groups and games we are each a part of. Much of these habit changes is a change in mindset. Doctor Beverly Smallwood shared in her article The Dangers of a Sense of Entitlement three things that can help “to inoculate us all from that poisonous ‘you owe me’ disease.” I’d like to quote a significant part of her list:

  • Life’s not fair; get used to it – Things don’t always happen the way you planned. People don’t always treat you the way you think you should be treated. Someone else may have more than you, though you believe you tried harder. Don’t go to pity parties or get bitter every time you don’t get what you think you deserve. That’s a recipe for misery. Stay out of the endless pursuit of “justice”. Don’t destroy yourself by an obsession with evening the score. Instead, determine to keep playing fairly with others and doing the right thing, no matter what others choose to do.
  • Get out of the victim role – “Chronic victims” are a pain to others and themselves. I’m not talking about people who have been legitimately victimized, yet they work hard to deal with it and move on. Chronic victims are chronic blamers and complainers. When you hear yourself bemoaning your life, habitually blaming others for your troubles, it’s time to do a “response-ability” check. In what ways do YOU have the ability to improve the situation by responding differently?
  • The world doesn’t owe you; you owe the world – The world owes me” is a false premise. We have so many life-giving, life-enhancing resources and opportunities at our disposal. These are gifts. They deserve our gratitude, not our indifference. What better way to show our gratitude than to give back? I believe that we are each called and personally equipped to make a difference in this world. Rather than complaining, let’s live the words of Mahatma Gandhi: “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.”
Beyond Dr. Smallwood’s list I’d like to end with these last two ideas that will help keep such issues far at bay.
The first is a small saying that I’ve shared with many LARPing friends when we get to talking on this subject: The only thing any member of a game has a right to is the opportunity to have fun. It’s not the responsibility of other players to ensure you have fun or to provide you with fun. You need to do everything in your power to work yourself into the ongoing plot and work with other players to create fun for each other.

The second is patience. Yes, I know I discussed patience earlier, however I also feel it’s that important. Have patience with yourself and have patience with others. Friedlander expressed, and I agree with, that “our ultimate goal–or at least mine–in life is to be happy. To have healthy relationships, to be passionate and to ultimately appreciate simply being alive. These desires take patience and work to get, and although the waiting may not be perfect, the result will be. So all I can say is be patient, because in the end, you will be happy.”

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