What I want to avoid in Game Design
So, White Wolf has released two app games for their oWoD (cWoD) lines, and one of the authors is a somewhat controversial individual (further details can be found here). Interestingly I posted this information to a Facebook group in a neutral manner, and my post got deleted by the moderator, for (and I quote):
“ADMIN: Just as a quick note, we’re not going to be discussing the writers of these games here.”
This turn of events struck me as a bit strange, as the group has held weeks dedicated to female gamers expressing their views and has some strong voices who as far as I can tell are outside the WASP paradigm. Perhaps it’s because the controversial individual apparently has Google alerts set up and arrives like Beetlejuice if you mention his name often enough. Its one of the reasons I haven’t specifically mentioned him, as I’m not ready to test what happens when the zombie hordes of trolls target the site. Do I feel that it’s a bit of a cop out? Yes, I do. Hence the reason for this blog post.
What didn’t surprise me, though, was the subject matter. Vampire the Masquerade, and the old World of Darkness. I got back into roleplaying in the live action scene in the Camarilla Australia, now known as Beyond the Sunset. I never played Vampire in any long-term sense, and the more I learn about the people that did I consider this to be somewhat of a blessing. I’ve observed that the game rewards behaviours, and thereby attracts individuals with tendencies towards certain actions:
- They tend to (broad generalisations to follow) like ‘Edgy’ (TM) material that is often at risk of causing emotional distress.
- They tend to ignore the concept of ‘Bleed’, in that what happens in character must stay in character. There’s a lot of discourse in the Nordic and subsequent American scenes about bleed.
- They tend to commit a lot of time and effort into the game, which increases their investiture in the game and its outcomes. This investment can lead to the significant dramatisation of events and blowback into the real community.
All in all, these are people that I don’t want to spend too much of my precious time with or worse, adapting my personality to be accepted by these people. I think this feeling is what attracted me to John Wick’s Houses of the Blooded design principles, as I suspect he shares similar aversions to the culture that Vampire the Masquerade and its long-term campaign group implementations encourage.
The recent commercial decisions of White Wolf’s new owners have done nothing to dissuade me of the belief that they will continue to incentive and promote a culture which I want no part in.
What does this mean for my game development?
Games incentivise behaviour. Games reward certain actions and discourage others. This influence is a powerful thing when you think about it. What behaviours to I want to encourage more of in the world, and what behaviours do I think need to be discouraged or critically examined?
Games don’t create community, but they help reinforce a communities identity. The things that attract people to a game will be the things in common with any community based upon a game.
These are not insignificant functions. I need to take care and responsibility for the work I create and think carefully about what sort of community I want to be a part of.