After writing that wrap up of the Hannigan’s costs, I thought we might talk about the elephant in this particular room. As I laid them out, the various costs for Hannigan’s ran to a total of £712.45.
But what none of these costs mention is the organiser time. So let’s make a token stab at that, shall we? Obviously, this is self-interested, and maybe even a little self-praising, but I really am tired of listening to people express scepticism of LARP prices that clearly don’t factor that in, like having the kind of fun that relies so heavily on other people’s labour being given away for free was a reasonable thing to expect. Sometimes, it’s couched as “I can’t afford more than that”, and I sympathise with that, but equally often it’s couched as “but what about the other costs of participation” as if the fact that the players want to spend extra money on costume and what have you, also obliges the organisers and crew to throw in their time for free.
(And sure, the organisers are probably having fun doing it too, but still: we pay writers and musicians and all other creative workers, even though they’re having fun, too. Badly, maybe, but we don’t actively resist the idea that they should be paid something for their time and effort, like we seem to in LARP.)
Still let’s try and keep our costs down. My day rate for tech work is higher than average (on grounds of experience), and honestly, I have no idea what my colleague in event running would charge out as an event organiser, but she’s bloody good and definitely deserves more than market rate. Still, for the purposes of this thought-experiment, we’ll assume UK average day rates (even though we live in London, and should charge out at London rates) for coding and event organising as our baseline.
So, coding day rate: £370. Event organising day rate is a bit harder to find, but I can find a few roles offering £250 per day which feels reasonable. Let’s factor those into our costs, shall we? What does that do to our costs?
Coding: the total time spent on the Badgers and Jam tech stack so far runs to about 20 days. Let’s allocate just 10% of that to this event, shall we? (Because it can and will be used for other events.) . So that’s another £740.
Event organising: This covers the production of any and all documents, venue wrangling, planning meetings, event runtime, post event admin etc etc. And again, let’s be generous here. This was a second run of the same event, so we’ll only factor down the time that was specifically for this event. Across two people, I would estimate there were 4 person-days of work here, in planning and writing and wrangling. (If you were to factor in the costs of planning and document production from the previous iteration, I would expect that to be about 8-9 days total, but since it was designed to be multi-run, I think it’s fair to skip them). So that’s 4 days, or another £1000.
That brings our running total for price to £1000+£740+£712.45=£2,452.45. 31 tickets makes that £79.12 a ticket to break even.
That all seems wildly expensive, though. 80 quid per ticket for a 6 hour game is a lot of money.
How about, then we try the experiment of paying the organisers just London Living Wage (£10.55 per hour at time of writing) for their time outside of the game, but we also add the same pay rate for the crew, and 6 hours each for the crew.
That mean the organiser time runs to: £506.40.
And crew time runs to: £316.50
For a total of: £822.90. Let’s be generous and round that up to £823.
So our with our initial £712.45, that’s a total event cost of £1535.45 at these lower rates, putting break-even on ticket price at just shy of £50 per ticket.
You know what? 6 hours of theatre in London would probably run you that. While I don’t think we could actually successfully charge that for a 6 hour game at the moment, I don’t think it’s a bad or unfair price to work slowly towards. (Secret Cinema, as a reasonably mass-market model roughly analogous to LARP charge significantly more, for a much less personal, and slightly shorter experience. Other live events companies I’ve worked with certainly charge in that ballpark per-hour.)
And for what it’s worth: for all LARP has other factors – it’s participatory, players have their own kit and props costs etc, I think that argument is offset by the fact that what I’ve outlined is at-cost (at-low-cost) numbers, not profit-making. It’s theoretically just enough to ensure that organisers and crew can live like normal humans while they facilitate the LARP happening.
It also occurs to me that there’s another imperfect-but-close analogy that might apply, too – the live music experience. The audience is a key part of that, and many people wouldn’t go if it wasn’t, because it’d be the 99% same as staying home and listening to the record at an uncomfortably loud volume. What we pay for in a live gig experience is unquestionably partly the crowd/communal feeling. No-one suggests that their gig tickets should be cheaper because the audience might have to factor in travel or accommodation, or buying merchandise, or because the gig wouldn’t be the same without the audience, do they?
Yes, this post is a bit self aggrandising. But at the same time: I love running LARP. I do an OK job of it, I think. I’d love to do more of it (and I’d love other event runners to be able to do more of it), so I could get better at it. But I literally cannot afford to do more than a certain amount, because I am obligated to do it for free, and I don’t imagine I’m alone in that. The only way I can see to change that is for LARPers to start having this conversation about how much our hobby really costs.