A Message from Halden

If you ever had any love for and trust in this game or me, please believe that everything I’m going to tell you is true, honest, and transparent.

I’m stepping down from my position as Experience Design for Dystopia Rising: Georgia, and leaving the leadership team.

I wanted to take the time to write this so you all can have a little more insight into this decision, why it was made, and what that means for the game.

Reasons I’m NOT leaving:

  • 3.0

  • My working or personal relationship with any other member of the team

  • “National”

  • Because I hate or don’t believe in DR:GA, or DR as a whole

  • Because DR:GA is closing

  • Because I’ve been fired, forced out, or replaced

In reality, the reasons are super boring. I’ll detail the biggest ones for you here.

First, and most boring, some nice opportunities are opening up at my day job, which I love. I really, really like my day job (which is a first in my adult life). I want to support them, grow the business, and do an amazing job in everything I do for them, and that means going after new opportunities as they open up.

The rest of the reasons are all closely connected. One is that monthly games are a MASSIVE time commitment. In a given week, I answer dozens of emails, read through a thick pile of feedback, write, edit, and format a ridiculous amount of content, sort through digital files and physical objects, arrange a budget, plan shopping lists, buy stuff, make stuff, field work questions on my personal social media, read piles of messages and internal communication... the list goes on for a while.

And that’s not even taking into account the emotional labor portion. Thinking of the “little things” - the stuff that players frequently don’t notice but would ABSOLUTELY notice if it went missing, providing emotional support, guidance, and a shoulder to cry on for dozens of people... it’s all work I’m happy to do, but nonetheless work that takes time and energy.

All told, I frequently spend more hours on DR than I spend on my actual full time day job in a given week. And that’s not counting the time commitment of game itself. I live about 4 hours away from our sites, so that’s additional time to bank in.

In the course of all that time, I’ve missed out on a lot of stuff in my life. I’ve missed important times with my friends, in my relationship, and in my community. I’ve put my pets in the kennel more than is fair to them. I’ve had to turn down stuff I would have loved to do because game just takes up too much time.

I want some time back in my life for myself. Part of why I want that time back is because I’ve got a buncha’ burnout. All that work? You don’t notice it when you love every second. It doesn’t matter, because you’re happy to do it. But when burnout creeps in, those little things start to drag... and they only ever get heavier. I tried to find ways to address this burnout, but it’s a heavy beast, and in the end, it wasn’t a monster I could keep on fighting.

And because of all that burnout, I’m no longer the game runner that DR:GA needs. My choices narrowed down to:

  1. Keep pushing, ignore the burnout, keep making stuff and try REAL HARD to “just get over it” even if the content I was producing sucked because I couldn’t find it in me to care about it. Or...

  2. Admit that this wasn’t something I could do alone, gracefully wrap up my work and step down, handing off the role to people who could do an amazing job with it while freeing myself up for future creative projects, ensuring that I don’t hate LARP so much that I never make art with it again.

So this is me, picking option 2. DR:GA is a phenomenal place populated with excellent players and dedicated team members, and it deserves the best Experience Designer out there. And that person just wasn’t me anymore.

There’s no one big thing that happened to cause it. Sometimes folks just burn out, no matter how much they try to fight it.

Are there other reasons? Sure. Am I going to share them? Well... probably not. Not because anything I’ve said so far is a lie, a coverup, or anything less than accurate, and not because I hate your guts and want to exclude you, and not because anything I haven’t said is especially juicy. But because I’m a very private person. My life is far from perfect, but I’m the type of person who prefers to be very private about the not-so-excellent things that might go down. I share my troubles and vent my salt with a very small group of extremely close friends, regardless of what’s going on in my life. If you’re not one of six people (none of whom, funnily enough, play DR or live in Georgia), you simply won’t know about every time I stub my toe.

And if you think that you simply must know every minute detail of why I’ve chosen to leave, if you feel like there must surely be some giant dastardly secret I’m concealing, if you plan to ask around and gossip until you “figure it out,” or if you want to blow up my FB messages with false friendliness until I reveal all... do us both a favor and don’t. You don’t need to waste your own mental energy and time on it when there are three thousand other wonderful things you could be doing. There are so many dogs you could be petting instead of doing any of that, and petting dogs will make you, me, and the dogs way happier than anything else.

I fully understand that there may be a lot of feelings here. If you’re angry at me, angry in general, sad, happy to see me go... that’s ok. You’re entitled to feel your feelings. I’m so sorry if me leaving makes anyone feel personally hurt in any way. I’ve taken steps (and have more still to take!) to try to make this as smooth and painless as possible as we transition to a new Experience Designer. There will be bumps and hiccups, but if I can find ways to make it easier, I promise I’ll do that.

Right now, we don’t have an official replacement for me. Most likely, the composition of the team itself will change and shift, just like it did when I moved from Logistics to Story about a year ago. We’re working with some folks, doing some training, and having some conversations. I feel really excited about the future for DR:GA, and I promise you that regardless of who my replacement is, they will put just as much love and thought into the game as I did.

As for me, I probably won’t be returning to play DR:GA or any other monthly campaign game for a very, very long time. It’s been over a year and a half since I last entered as a player, and my PC’s story has long been over. I also would not ever want to undermine the rest of the team by even accidentally slipping into a leadership role in play at GA.

I do plan to continue LARPing, and I hope to see some of you at other games in the future. I also plan to have more creative projects, LARP and otherwise, that I’d like to work on someday. Maybe you’ll even play some of them. (There’s been a half-finished Twine sitting in my docs for five fucking months, y’all, the struggle is real.)

Here’s genuinely what I want to ask of everyone:

  • Understanding and respect for my privacy, both in being decent in your interactions with me, and in not spreading gossip, rumors, or guesses as to every nuance of my personal life. (Trust me: if you think you’ve got a direct line to the information, if you think you know The Secret, if you even think there IS a secret... I hope you’ve got screenshots from my brothers to back it up, because otherwise, you could not possibly know what you’re talking about.)

  • Nobody quitting the game out of a misplaced sense of “solidarity.” If YOU are unhappy personally, you can go and that’s ok, but please don’t say, “I’m quitting because Halden quit!” because I STG if I see that I’ll probably start guilt crying.

  • I really REALLY want DR:GA to keep going hard, kicking ass, and being the wonderful larp home of so many excellent people.

  • Please offer kindness and a welcome to new and incoming team members, as well as team members whose roles may be shifting. There’s no aux cord that lets me direct transfer everything in my brain to them, so they’ll need your help to get up to speed.

I will still be logged in to the DR:GA email inbox for the next ten days. If you’d like to say something to me personally, if you have questions about me leaving or the transition to a new Designer, anything like that, I’d be happy to answer for you in that space. After those ten days, I’ll be logging out and I won’t be logging back in.

Please avoid messaging me about DR on my personal social media, both during this time and after. I just wanna’ use that to post my political memes and bad selfies.

I have absolutely loved this job. I’ve learned more in the last year and a half than I probably absorbed in the entirety of my high school career. I have loved creating for you and with you, watching the world that you’ve built up around yourselves, and seeing both your characters and you as people come into your own. I’ve watched with pure delight to see relationships form, friendships begin, identities discovered, and selves explored in my time here. It was absolutely my honor and my pleasure to write and direct for you.

I can’t wait to see what you all think of next.

Lots of love,