Posted by: Jason Stevan Hill | Comments (15)
I am thrilled to announce that Choice of the Vampire is currently undergoing review by the App Store; barring unforeseen problems, it will be released in the next few days!
As many of you are aware, to date, Choice of Games has published a series of fantasy multiple-choice games. Being a relatively progressive lot, and unconstrained by market research or corporate interests, we’ve been free to be politically progressive (specifically with regards to gender and sexual orientation). Because these games have historical themes, they have had to be situated in fictional realities, realities in which, for example, women crew ships or same-sex couples can produce children.
Yet, when I started thinking about writing this game, the possibility of locating it in a fictional reality never crossed my mind. It is a fictionalized world–I do not believe that vampires exist–but it tries to hew as closely as possible to actual people, places and events. Having decided to make a historical game, then, I found myself confronted immediately with a variety of questions regarding our politics. Specifically, how do I address issues of race, gender and sexual orientation?
To some degree, vampires are an excellent vehicle for the exploration of these issues. Because they are not, in fact, human, and because they reproduce asexually, among themselves they can transcend mortal prejudices. Of course, such transcendence comes more often from an indifference to human mores, but could in theory come from an enlightened perspective. Unfortunately, the society of vampires is a small and fragile one, existing in the interstices of an exceedingly hostile environment that entertains those prejudices with great force. For example, what happens when a black vampire tries to enter a white man’s hotel in Jackson, MS in 1903? The butlers and bellhops and what-have-you will deny him entry. Race may not matter to the vampire, but it certainly does to the humans who only see him for the color of his skin. The vampire could tear the bellhops to shreds, but then the police would show up, there would be witnesses, and none of this would get the vampire any closer to renting a room for the day. Thus, even if vampires are outside of these prejudices, they are forced to conform and adapt to world that projects its prejudices onto them, a profoundly alien species trying desperately to blend in with its food supply.
Now, given a moment to reflect, it is worth asking how should the game have been written. Did I make the right choice, or ought I to have put the game in a fictional world, where I could have avoided these issues? Obviously, it would have produced a very different game, but would that game have been better? What would that game have even looked like?
To be honest, I don’t think that I could have told that story, for reasons reflected in the way I portray vampires. I’m not writing this story so we can imagine ourselves as fabulously beautiful, wealthy and emotionally tortured teenagers. Rather, I’m interested in what it means to be immortal, what it means to watch the world pass you by, and what are the compromises we make to get what we want in our lives. Just as you make choices in life, so too must you make choices in the game. Unfortunately, life’s choices are not as clear as those in the game. But what do you do, when you are denied entry to that hotel? How do you handle being rejected for your gender or your sexual orientation? Moreover, how do you deal with these things when they no longer mean anything to you? What to we gain and what do we lose when these markers of identity are no longer relevant?
I don’t think I could have written that story, because I don’t know how I could have grappled with those questions in a fictional world. Here, in our world, everyone can relate to the prejudices and conflicts that I see at the heart of the vampire myth; a myth that would have been lost or irredeemably distorted had I sought to transpose it to another world. If you have played Dragon, Broadsides and/or Romance, you can see how Vampire adopts a profoundly different approach to issues of identity and history. I made a choice: to hew to the historical die of things. Some of you will prefer it, some of you will hate it. Either way, I hope this gives you some idea as to why Vampire has been written this way, and I’m curious to hear your response to it.