Wednesday, March 01, 2017

So There's This Trailer For A World Of Darkness Documentary...



I will admit that I didn't play World of Darkness stuff until fairly recently. I could have been playing it in the 90s, and 90s me was certainly a part of the target demographic, but many of the people who were local to me at the time and who were playing the game just weren't people that I wanted to game with. So, I went off and read my Poppy Brite and Caitlin Kiernan novels in peace and played a lot of Call of Cthluhu and nowhere near as much KULT as I would have liked to have played.

Mostly I'm saying this to set the tone for the rest of this post.

I get that this is a prelude (see what I did there?) to a marketing piece that is supposed to reestablish the coolness of the World of Darkness and the eventual relaunch of games like Vampire and Werewolf. However, if we have learned anything over the last forty some years of tabletop role-playing games, it is that we can market our games without being a dick to people who like other games and styles of play. That lesson seems to have been lost on the people making this "documentary."

Also what seems to have been lost is an actual grasp of the history of role-playing games. Perhaps they could have fixed this by seeking out some outside voices, people who could speak authoritatively on the history of gaming, and its culture. If only there were people who regularly write about tabletop RPGs, and do so in a a way that demonstrates that they have tried to look at the bigger picture of things.

I am committing what I consider to be the biggest Cardinal Sin when it comes to reviewing: "DON'T BASE YOUR REVIEW OFF OF THE TRAILER." I think that if more people lived by that rule, the internet would be a much happier place. Plus if we got rid of the racist, misogynistic homophobes things would be happier too, but that has little to nothing to do with White Wolf and the World of Darkness. The reason why I'm willing to suspend this rule, in this case, has to do with the history of the people who are now in control of the White Wolf intellectual property. These people seem to be overly enthused about a grim and gritty, dark and edgy culture of the 90s that, while popular amongst a particular demographic (I know, because 90s me was all about a lot of this stuff, and I have the autographed print from James O'Barr to prove it), it was a culture that was, in many, many case, predicated on being shitty to other people. And honestly, being shitty to other people is something that geeks can stand to do less of.

There has been a number of weird decisions being made by the current regime at White Wolf, the recent mobile games fiasco being part of that.

It looks like the people running the show at White Wolf is getting the ball rolling to alienate more than a sizable chunk of their audience. I don't know, maybe they'll pull something out of their asses and it will all suddenly make sense and everyone around the world will join hands to sing a Goth Kumbaya set to a back beat of a guy beating on an old, rusty oil drum with a working circular saw. Or maybe not.

The thing is that this really isn't the way to do things in the 21st century. We can make our games, and promote our games, without belittling our fellow gamers. We can sell our games without willfully ignoring the history of tabletop RPGs. We don't have to be dicks, or talk shit about other games to make the games we love look better. We just have to love them. You know what is infectious? Love. You know what turns people off? Being a dick.

Yes, White Wolf turned a cultural corner in tabletop role-playing games with Vampire: The Masquerade. But, not because the mechanical part of the game was revolutionary. We already had dice pool mechanics (any D6-powered game, Champions and Shadowrun). We already had games that handled horror. We already had games that handled relationships (Pendragon or Ars Magica). We had so many different things.

It isn't the 90s any longer. The industry part of the tabletop role-playing industry isn't the same as it was then. The retail landscape isn't the same as it was then, either. And it is more than just the fact that businesses work differently now from then, but it is the fact that the culture of those who play tabletop role-playing games has (for the most part) shifted. Gaming is a lot more diverse. With diversity comes a wider variety of viewpoints. With a wider variety of viewpoints comes the idea that people look for different things to be "adult" and "mature."

It seems like the people who made that trailer have some outmoded sensibilities. I mean, who knows, maybe they're right. There's always going to be a market for angsty, holier-than-thou asshole types. Maybe there is this huge, untapped market of people who want to dust off their NON vinyl and go watch Mark Pauline do a show. I would be incredibly surprised to discover that is true, even though I would personally love a Survival Research Laboratories revival to happen.

I just wouldn't mind seeing gaming grow up more and decide that treating each other like shit wasn't the way to go.



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