Darkness in WoD/RPGs/V5

*This started as a Facebook post and I realized it was too long for that.

Hey, I appreciate folks that put well-reasoned opinions out there on the V5 preview, White Wolf in general, and the direction that Vampire is headed. I know that there are concerns, frustrations, and conflicting interpretations of the actions of the company. I know that I’m listening to your critiques and trying to find ways to internalize them and help my future work. When I craft dark narratives I want to ensure I’m thread a needle of darkness with respect to the people whose lives I impact. I admit I might never do so perfectly, but I’m trying and I know that others are trying.

I also don’t agree with the interpretation of all the criticism I’m seeing. I think some of it is valid critique, but there is hyperbole and personal attacks that frustrate me that go alongside the valid and helpful critique. We should remember that there are people on the other side of the screen, and that nearly all of them want to see OUR world be better. They want to see a healthy, whole, strong world. They want to see a world where people can be who they are and not be harmed for that element of their identity. There are legitimate questions around platforming and the psychological impact of playing evil, I’m more curious to address those in relation to this new edition.

What we are seeing is difficult work. Crafting stories in a World of Darkness is hard because many see the world around them as being as dark, if not darker than the WoD itself. When we see and hear things that keep us up at night in our games we react viscerally to them. I respect people that are saying, “I can’t play these games any longer. They exist in a space which doesn’t help me fight the darkness any longer.”

I’ve always seen the WoD as a wakeup call. This universe could be ours, if we aren’t careful. We have to learn how to stand against the darkness by understanding where it comes from, why it creeps into people’s hearts, and to see that such darkness is an insidious system that is difficult to dismantle. In the WoD systemic problems are nearly impossible to deconstruct, in our world they are hard, perhaps nearly improbable to deconstruct. That’s a big gulf, if we can stand up, protest, find ways to connect with our communities and unite for common purpose, we can change the world.

For my part, I’m not asking people to get on the bandwagon for this game if it doesn’t resonate with them. I’m not supportive of saying, “Get out if you don’t like it,” either. I think it is valid to critique, evaluate, and seek better of ourselves and the games we create and play. Try and remember that there are real people struggling with these same topics on the other side of the screen. They are trying to find a way to address the horrors of our world in a way that helps us fight them. That fight may not be the same for each of us. There are new tools to help modulate those in this game. For me, that’s where a lot of my focus is. I want tools that help me craft a narrative that I’m engaged by, that nourishes my skills, my toolbox for change.

The Feminist critique is valid. It is valid in context of this game because the creators have strived, and occasionally failed, to utilize this critique to poke at the darkness, to pull it apart and to be progressive. Failure should not be the end of the question, it should be the start of a new level of critique and consideration. We have to be able to identify the enemy, the Beast, if you will. That is the Beast that all humanity has within. By seeing how those fall to the Beast, by watching their descent, removed a hand through a game, we can spot warning signs in others. We can see the failures and reach down and grab them, haul them up and say, “You’re acting like a Brujah that’s a Pepe-meme sharing neckbeard.”

We shouldn’t only be playing World of Darkness games, or games that focus in on evil and the impending personal destruction and social collapse of society. We should play these games alongside Star Trek, Monsterhearts, Pugmire, and others that teach us different skills, that play to different needs in our lives. We should learn to be hopeful and learn how to resist. Those are two skills that speak to the needs we have as humans. We should be willing to communicate our needs to one another, to listen, to offer feedback, and to get what we need from the activities we place before ourselves.

I don’t have all the answers; I don’t want you to think I do. I’m meandering through trying to find the best ways to collaborate, lift other voices, and put my money where my mouth is in creating a better world and create a better gaming community. That’s the mission of HLG Con. That is why we’ve chosen to work with the creators we are working with. That is why we’ve focused on highlighting the guests we are highlighting. From there, we’ll see where and how things develop. I’m always listening, reading, and learning. If you have a critique of my work, of the world of others, or ideas on how to make those things better I pay attention because I care.

I care enough to take this Facebook post that was way too long and make a blog post about it. I care because games help change people, and I feel like we have opportunities before us to create change. Let’s treat one another well, and gain by doing so.

This article was written by Joshua Heath and represents his opinions and only his opinion and may not reflect the opinion of any other contributors of this blog. He prefers he, him, and his pronouns. You can also find his work over at www.highlevelgames.ca