Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines 2 taking a firm political & progressive stance, standing for LGBT rights & mental illness representation

#1

#1

I thought this deserved it’s own thread:

While the demo of the early stages of the game I saw hinted at conflict and the politics of warring clans, Clooney says it’s central to Bloodlines 2 that the writers (who include Brian Mitsoda, narrative designer on the original game) are actively taking a political stance in this sequel, with its themes of art versus commerce and technological advances versus tradition.
“One of the reasons why that particular conflict attracted us so much was because it’s an inherently political conversation but it’s one of the few ones where it’s hard to… there are valid approaches. The world has to move forward, right?” says Clooney.

“It is a political game but I think it’s one of those few opportunities that gives us the chance to let people make their own political statement in a way that’s not cheap. I don’t believe you can look at both sides of a political argument without understanding both sides. It’s easy to say this is good and this is bad. But it’s definitely taking some political stances on what we think are right and wrong. In terms of the main conflict what is interesting is it’s one of those truly balanced issues.”

It’s not just politics where Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 takes a progressive approach. The character creator, which players get to use twice – once at the start to define your human aspects and then a second time later in the game to flesh out your vampire – goes way beyond basic male and female models. Body type, gender pronouns, employment history and fashion can all be toyed with for a very modular build.
“We’re interested in providing a very robust roleplaying experience for the player with something were they can really identify with their character by fine tuning and providing lots of options for them to do that,” says Rachel Leiker, UX/UI designer at Hardsuit Labs.
“In the first game you start out by picking the clan. With Bloodlines 2 because you’re starting as a ‘thin blood’ we give you some backgrounds to what your human self was before being embraced. They don’t so much have a direct influence on gameplay, there are a few minor influences like dialogue options, but we were really interested in following the progression and having the roleplay experience for the player to get a handle on that side of the game before they get a handle on the political clan-oriented side of it. The gamplay becomes very different later in the game [because you’ve chosen a clan]. You grow into it and consciously choose your clan after you’ve explored them. So it’s an informed decision.”

It’s still called the Masquerade, so if you eat someone in public or turn into a bat in front of a bar you’ll get in trouble not only with the police, but also some beefier supernatural watchdogs. The humanity system returns, so killing innocents brings you closer to the inner beast. It’s first person, but yeah, you can customise your character (including choosing pronouns separately from your body type) and this time you can choose a human background that might affect how you approach problems or talk to people. The two examples I was given were cop and coroner, but if you want a basic start, with no bonuses, you can be a barista, which Mitsoda described as the default class in Seattle.

The World of Darkness can be fraught at times. The original game traded in careless depictions of sex work and some tired writing about mental illnesses like disassociative identity disorder. You could play as a member of the mentally-addled but prophecy-gifted Malkavian clan, with altered dialogue that, while humorous, danced a fine line in terms of taste. There was even some racial stereotyping for good measure. Meanwhile, White Wolf’s management of the World of Darkness setting has not been without controversy. Last November, the Paradox subsidiary drew criticism for using the real-life persecution and murder of Chechnya’s LGBTQA population as a plot-point in the setting’s vampiric politicking. Paradox fully integrated White Wolf after this incident. When asked about their approach to the setting, the team outlined how they wanted to handle the World of Darkness in 2019.

“It was very of its time,” Ellison said of the first game. “It approached certain topics differently. How we look at stuff has matured since then.”
“It’s fifteen years later and things have changed,” Mitsoda said. “We have to be very sensitive about how we handle things like mental illness and that was a concern for us and for Paradox, in how we can make a mature story but if we do anything, we do our homework and make sure that we are punching up and not punching down.”
“We talk about these issues constantly,” Ellison added. “Because we care about including people, we want them to feel powerful and sexy, and we don’t want them to feel like it’s not for them.”

Sorry for all the quotes, but I wanted to represent everything they wanted to say on this.

I thought it might be worth bringing this all up, and curious what waypoint thinks of the developer’s stance on all of this.

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#2

I’ll be very interested to see their handling of mental illness, in particular. I don’t know how the Malkavians are handled in the latest versions of the WW source, but looking back on my older editions… hoo boy, it’s Something.

The simple solution is to not have Malkavian PCs, but if they could find a way to allow neuroatypical player characters without using the cheap “insanity” mechanics of the past I would love to see it.

#3

Tbh I would not normally consider myself interested in this but hearing this warms me up.
I am just so glad there’s a game coming that is not only aware that they’re taking a political stance but aims for progressiveness when a lot of the mainstream industry holds a centrist position at best.

#4

I really love how these devs are addressing the problematic past of both their video game and the tabletop game, and saying, “Yeah, we fucked up. We can do better.” It’s so refreshing to not hear dead silence about a problem of the past, UNLIKE A CERTAIN COMPANY IN POLAND.

And actually putting their money where their mouth is and including more inclusive choice within the game itself, instead of just saying, “We’ll think about it.”

It’s a LOT different than the approach Cyberpunk 2077 has taken, that’s for sure.

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#5

I forget who coined this, but I too am a person who loved playing Vampire, but hated that playing Vampire required hanging out with People That Play Vampire. So I’m mega hype for their approach to this new game.

I used to play a Malkavian often. But I liked the double edged sword to how they worked where everyone around them thinks they’re (90s edgy pop culture definition) insane, but it’s because they have some extra perception or knowledge that’s just beyond what a humanoid brain can work out easily. And their powers to drive people “crazy” was less that and more them pulling back the curtain on how stuff works on a large scale. So our games would always take that clan into more of a mad prophet kind of character which was detached enough from the realities of mental illness that I didn’t mind it.

In video game form though? I don’t know if it’s worth the resources to do a Malkavian PC justice, because abstracting stuff out for a game it’s going to be way too easy to fall into “insanity” gimmicks and stuff like that. I’m not going to like and act like being able to lose an argument with a lamppost in Bloodlines 1 didn’t make me laugh out loud, but the writing would have to be EXTREMELY on point to pull one off.

At the same time, one of my favorite things about Bloodlines 1 is how some of the clans, especially Nosferatu or Malkavian, were almost completely different games to take into account how those clans worked, and I respect when a game can pull that off where the playable characters are written so radically differently and progress so differently even though you’re going through the same story.