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The Wizard's Desk

The Wizard's desk is a blog space where our staff and creative leads offer their insight and experience on engaging with DrachenFest US! We're excited to share what we can, so pull up a seat!

Overview of DF-US Safety Culture

This year, as part of our global safety concept (a comprehensive examination of our safety rules, training, and practices), we’re introducing a series of blog posts which will include the following topics:

  • This Overview

  • Archery rules and gameplay 

  • Large Monster rules and gameplay

  • Game design of “cycling back to the front line” and its relationship to exhaustion

  • How each camp’s General manages combat culture at the camp level

  • Hazard Awareness

To create a safe atmosphere for us to play together, DrachenFest’s Referees proactively enforce our safety policies. However, they can’t catch everything – they are a backstop for a “player safety culture”, a shared mindset that sincerely cares about mutually safe play. This culture includes practices, communication norms, self awareness, and receptivity to feedback. This culture cannot be created from above through game rules and referee intervention. It is something that blooms when players and staff work together towards responsible festival play. To that end, we request your personal buy-in to the “Safety Mindset”.

The Safety Mindset…

  • Make safety your highest priority. Pay attention during safety reminders and briefings, even if you’ve heard it before. 

  • Try your best to be self-aware. Recognize the effects of adrenaline & fatigue. In battle, when we are most immersed, we can do the most harm.

  • Be an active calibrator. Don’t be shy about using “Oh, Mother!” to let people know to cool off, even if you are not the target of their attack. Use “Oh, Mother!” to let Referees know where the danger is.

  • Be kind when talking about safety, giving feedback, or calibrating. Shame is the big killer of safety communication.

  • Be receptive to feedback & calibration. Don’t debate it or take it personally–if anything, be grateful people care enough to engage you and help you. When someone gives you safety feedback, simply receive it and adjust. Giving and receiving feedback to each other should be normal and welcome.

  • Become an ambassador of this culture! Coach each other. Make safety a comfortable topic. Give people space to learn from their mistakes. Recognize growth.

  • Newcomers to DrachenFest may come with different norms and expectations. Their journey to acclimation includes others helping them out.

Knowledge is key

Safety is a spectrum. Think of it as a sliding scale, ranging from ‘Extremely unsafe’ on the very left (visualize Mad Max, with real guns and dehydration, fire shooting out of guitars), to ‘Extremely safe’ on the right (visualize a player in a glass box, not allowed to leave a fortress, medical staff staring at them in case anything goes wrong). Both ends are extremes, and ultimately unrealistic.

Where we, as participants, end up on this scale is affected by a host of factors called ‘hazards’ and how we choose to engage with them. 

Our awareness of hazards and how we choose to engage with them determines the chance of them negatively affecting us. In safety language, this is called risk. We can reduce our risk by exercising awareness and making good choices. 

The overwhelming majority of unsafe play comes from participants not being consciously aware of hazards. For example, a high level of adrenaline, coupled with exhaustion on the battlefield, might make a player whack harder than they normally would. That player isn’t making a conscious decision to hurt other players. 

To address this situation, we need not just knowledge of hazards and how they affect us, but also the principles of safety communication. 

Safety communication begins and ends with kindness

Firstly, there are no ‘safe’ or ‘unsafe’ players. Instead, the way we all interact with hazards defines our collective risk. When communicating about safety, our common goal is to increase our own and fellow participant’s awareness about hazards and reduce risk. 

When we see unsafe play, our instinct is to identify the source of danger, which might be another player. The thought of ‘change hearts, not minds’ fully applies here. Remember, in the majority of cases, humans aren’t conscious about the hazards affecting them, or the risk to others. Screaming, ‘You’re an idiot! Don’t stand on a ladder that isn’t supported by someone on the ground!’ might get their attention, and would probably make them aware of the hazard. But no one likes being screamed at, and serving information in a condescending, rude, or judgmental way comes with a side order of shame. This makes it far more challenging for anyone to engage with safety, and creates a scenario where we only engage in safety ‘just not to be screamed at’, just like unsafe workplaces where protective equipment is only used when the supervisor is around. 

When we talk about a culture of safety, our goal is for each participant to want to engage with safety. This is why kindness in safety communication is key.Take the person aside and use kind words to speak directly to the safety issue. If it would interrupt gameplay, use the oh-mother mechanic. Remember: Shame is the mind-killer of safety communication

Especially amongst peers, shame can very quickly become a power struggle, and it’s important to make sure that you approach others with a collaborative mindset. You’re not competing–you’re working together to create a safer DrachenFest. It’s hard to hear that you’ve impacted someone negatively, and being told that you’re acting unsafely can cause shame, even when delivered neutrally. We see these flashpoints as opportunities for improvement. We ask you about your experience at the end of the event- and not all of it is kind, or easy to hear, but we do our best to hear your concerns, and address them with an open mind. We ask that you join us in taking responsibility for event safety. When receiving feedback, don’t be defensive, be gracious and accept it. When giving feedback, offer your fellow participants compassion, so that we can build a better, safer, festival; together. Afterall, the principle of play-to-lift extends to safety communication too!

If ever in doubt, talk to a Ref!

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