S.EXE: Vampire The Masquerade – Bloodlines Part 1

By Cara Ellison on June 20th, 2014 at 9:00 pm.

Snacking was never more dramatic

When you think of California, you probably think of sun, people wearing shades, the wide, flat pavements sunbleached and neat. But when the night falls in Santa Monica, CA, it gets mortuary cold. I’m staying there this month and I found myself thinking of Jeanette the other night. Something about a tumultuous relationship, smudged kohl, and Jeanette.

So I paid for another copy of Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines, and I went to visit video games’ most animated goth chick seductress. She lives above the Asylum club in a Santa Monica where the sun never comes up. For this week’s S.EXE I thought I’d write you the first part of my spiral into the dark, sexy overtones of one of the best-written western RPGs we’ve got, and my quest for someone there who gives a damn about me.

Videogames' most atmospheric club, sadly still.

But I guess first I have to download a huge patch to slap on the ass of my 2GB game from 2004. The new unofficial 9.0 patch is out and I couldn’t get the game to boot without it, as if this game deteriorates without love and attention. But perhaps that is just sentimentality. It was broken when it came out, I just look back on it with fondness.

Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines is a gutsy move. There are many ways in which you can try to underplay the sexuality of the vampire metaphor: Bram Stoker barely sidestepped it, and he’s perhaps the one we remember the most for making the monster. But if you are reading hard enough, Bram Stoker wrote about repressed sexuality more astutely than most of his peers. There are people out there who glance at the Twilight phenomenon, and shake their heads, and go, ‘Why can’t we go back to when vampires were scary monsters instead of these flimsy sexy sulkbros?’ And I say to you: is there a time at which vampires were not flimsy sexy sulkbros? Sex is the monster, my dears. The libido is the monster. It’s just who possesses it that’s under contention.

And – what could possibly be more terrifying than a flimsy sexy sulkbro? I’ve been to clubs where the kohl-lined eyes of broken, upset boys live and they couldn’t be more alluring, nor more terrifying to a vulnerable heterogirl, they’re like looking at your own emotional carcrash and it’s intoxicating and wrong and not very healthy for anyone.

Perhaps, I think, the people who complain about the departure from the Bram Stoker vampire are actually complaining about a recentring of the narrative. They are complaining that instead of Dracula’s brides and Mina Harker being objectified by the lens of the readership, that now the masculine monster itself has become the objectified body, and we are merely seeing male heterosexuality feel incredibly uncomfortable about the so-called ‘victim’ having agency. People can like the idea of an oversexualised man just as much as an oversexualised woman! Can you imagine. Marketing to teen girl libidos instead of the usual teen boy? How awful.

But as I say, VTMB is gutsy, in that it embraces the fang metaphor, the penetrative act – it wholeheartedly embraces an erotic overtone in a way that makes you aware that games tend to actively avoid such material. Sucking blood to raise your ‘humanity’ levels is described as an ecstasy, and my character (my chosen vampire race a ‘Toreador’ – artistic vampires who can seduce and mesmerise) couches all encounters with victims in curling, flirty sentences. The act of sucking someone’s blood is dramatic and seems personal as the light fades on everything but you and the victim, and their lifeblood bar goes down in rhythmic heartbeats.

What the game doesn’t do is make people who are attracted to men feel like they can indulge themselves. I feel like it’s even a bit freaked out by the idea of the player thinking men can be sexy; such is the arena of big budget games. So instead, we just get scantily dressed alternative chicks hanging out in Bloodlines’ bars with incredibly pneumatic-looking tits for you to stare at, whilst you can barely make out an ass on some of the male character models. I’m not against people being sexy – I mean, if some people are sexy, they are sexy, right? If it fits the character, yeah, right on. But it’s noticeably weighted towards teen boy fantasy in a way that is sort of cute. It seems a bit jarring considering Anne Rice’s bisexual vampires revived the pop culture vampire singlehandedly in the eighties. And Troika borrows some of her stuff wholeheartedly: the scoffing about garlic and other vampire superstitions, the gung ho rockstar attitudes of the vampires, the mixing in of pop music, the idea that vampires might have a duty to kill criminals, or possess a morality, a pained existentialism. All things that Buffy also cribbed.

However, what rescues VTMB from my sighs of ‘maybe we should have more diversity in the presentation of bodies here’ is the writing. This RPG’s dialogue is extremely strong: usually RPGs have sighworthy writing you press to skip as much as you can so you can get more upgrades, but VTMB’s dialogue consistently sparks and charms, making you loathe to miss anything. When characters describe other characters in this game there’s a real sense of conflict, like they might actually have real agendas, actual politics. You even try to second guess people. You are scared they might be lying in a way that makes you paranoid. And sometimes… they are lying. Sexy bastards. Sexy, terrifying bastards.

——–

I began my night like any other night, emerging from my house at about sundown having slept most of the day. A beautiful woman was walking around on the street and so I went up to talk to her. She said she doesn’t get many women clients, so she offered me a price of forty dollars and she’d go anywhere I liked.

I took her to a dark place, where I gave her the dark kiss, and was so overexcited about my first kill I held on too long, and she dropped to the ground, dead. I stare, shocked at her body, and start to panic. I sneak away into the shadows, my long limbs seeming unkempt and gangly, not the sort of gait you should get from a Toreador. I didn’t mean to kill her. I forgot. I forgot what it is, that you do to them. Why can’t I just stay around my own kind? I don’t deserve human contact. I’m a mess.

I have to find her.

Yeah, she sticks in the mind.

I get lost in Santa Monica, even though it is strangely small for a city that, really, is about driving. I stumble into a diner where everyone ignores me, and I bump into a woman who asks me rudely if I can’t see that she is eating. But everyone is sort of motionless, apart from a cashier who is ringing up bills. She is an old grey-haired lady, wearing a badge with ‘Doris’ on it and a terrible blue patterned dress that looks like she got it in a Bloomingdale’s sale. I say hello and that I’ve seen rats in the back.

She looks up in surprise and asks me if I’m a hygiene inspector. I am taken aback, until I remember that I am preternatural and I am always anything I want. My body persuades people. I am cunning. I say yes and she takes a fifty out of the till to bribe me to go away and not come back and I think, shit, that was easy.

I decide to try my luck getting back my friend Mercurio’s Astrolite, some liquid explosive that some thugs forcibly, sort of violently, removed from him (he is lying bloody on a couch). When I arrive at the beachside squat, I persuade the man who seems to be in charge of the hopeless ghosts that drift in and out of the house that we should be alone so I can work my tricks on him. But they are not the tricks he is thinking of. I bite him hard and steal his Astrolite. The other wankers open fire but I am long gone and I’m a fast runner. Part of me thinks that it is very cliche, almost racist, that the drug dealer kingpin is the only black man with dialogue I have encountered in this world in many hours of talking to Santa Monica’s inhabitants. Hm. But I move on, hopeful.

Finally, I get up the guts to go into the club and see if she’s there. A bratty auburn with a smirk is in my way, and I think, hey, I could use a snack.

But she’s here to welcome me.

Ah, I think. I will go through hell for you, before the sun comes up.

Yes, a special kind of hell.

——-

Bloodlines treats characters as much more complex than we have a right to expect from games, though I think there could be huge improvement in its treatment of women and sexuality, and its treatment of people of colour is very poor. It still manages to stand out from other games in the way it welcomes sexual themes, and doesn’t end up being hamfisted about the negotiations spurred on by them. The grimy, murky environmental art only serves to make the world somehow smokier, sexier too. The mood is an important reason you indulge the cartoonish character models. It’s hard to make NPCs into real, live people. It’s hard to make a player feel like they are a sexual being. Somehow Troika did it, by preserving a particular mood, by making characters bluster in with all their id and ego and a charming rapport. They made you understand that although the game wants you to fetishise others (namely goth chicks), that those goth chicks have agendas. And yes, the next time we visit, perhaps when my laptop is not so broken, we will talk more about Jeanette and her brash seduction techniques.

You can find the previous S.EXE columns here. Til next time, my friends.

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183 Comments »

  1. BarryAllen says:

    We’re actually allowed to comment again?

    • altum videtur says:

      Well, I never asked for this.

    • Premium User Badge

      Joshua says:

      I was actually rather suprised by the previous comment section shutting down. I can understand that comment sections sometimes get a bit nasty when provocative subjects get touched upon, and thus need to be shut down, but I did not expect measurements in an article about a text game about heterosexual romance which only references sex. It’s about the farthest you can get from, say, UTE, and that has a fully alive comment section.

      Did I miss anything?

  2. The Hairy Bear says:

    My main recollection of Vampire Masquerades was how horribly broken it was, sounds like it’s a bit like Alpha Protocal and the interesting elements make up for the rubbish bits.

    • Evilpigeon says:

      It really is. It’s a mess of a game, even with the patches, but it contains bits of the best RPG I’ve ever played.

    • steviebops says:

      Yeah, I remember there was one mission, which was utterly broken, and left you stranded. That said, I believe this was the first game released using Source(shortly before HL2 if Im not mistaken), and it paid a heavy price for it’s ambition.

      God I love it though. I don’t often replay RPG’s because I feel the differences tend not to be great, but this game made decisions count. Fantastic use of the clan idea.

      • Premium User Badge

        Okami says:

        My best buddy and me still marvel at the fact that at some point, someone thought that giving the most advanced (at the time) 3d shooter game engine on the market, that was also still in the middle of development, to a small studio that was renowned mainly for making super complex and bug ridden 2d turn based role playing games that never really sold well, in order to develop an RPG about Vampires, was a good idea.

        The game is a glorious train wreck and as evilpigeon said, between all the things that went horribly wrong, there lies hidden the greatest RPG ever made.

        We shall never see its likes again. That’s a little sad.

    • kwyjibo says:

      The only thing Vampire gets wrong is the bugginess.

      Alpha Protocol gets everything wrong, but isn’t buggy.

      • SkittleDiddler says:

        Shut yer trap, heretic.

      • geldonyetich says:

        Somebody’s got a pretty selective memory. Alpha Protocol was plenty buggy at release, and still has some outstanding bugs even several patches later.

        • BisonHero says:

          Yeah, in the final version of Alpha Protocol, if you die and have to restart from a checkpoint midlevel, none of the enemies spawn in that area of the game (that checkpoint to the next one, levels are pretty linear). You reload your checkpoint to a ghost town.
          Or at least, that was the case on some missions. I basically got good at either making hard saves back at HQ before I went on missions and reverting to those, or just not dying and not having to reload to a checkpoint in the first place.

  3. Crimsoneer says:

    I’m slightly ashamed to say that I’ve used some of Jeanette’s lines as dirty talk. Except it worked, so kind of smug.

  4. Yama1291 says:

    I still replay this every now and then.

    Pitty that CCP canceled the WOD MMO.. Was really looking forward to that. It’s not like we are getting any descent vampire games these days. I blame Twilight. That garbage makes it next to impossible for a vampire IP to get off the ground without being associated with “sparking” teen idols.. Nobody wants to get near it.

    • MiniMatt says:

      Interesting point raised in the article though – teen fantasy is regularly peddled to 30 something men. Grown men are treated like rampantly hormonal teenagers by advertisers, movie makers, game devs.

      Part of the dismissal (that I most certainly share) of all the Twilight nonsense might just be that the primary aim is to make teenage girls horny rather than teenage boys. The latter is something we’re all well used to – to the point that it’s accepted blindly as the norm.

      • steviebops says:

        Most music is sold to teenage girls, it’s a valuable market. Selling to teens isn’t inherently wrong, it’s how you do it, and the quality of the product that counts. And male or female, tit’s often just a cynical play on hormones.

        • MiniMatt says:

          Oh I concur – I don’t buy (showing my age here) Boyzone or S-Club or whatever, it doesn’t appeal, I’m not the target market, there are plenty of alternatives available to me that fit my tastes.

          But games, I like games. I just kinda wish so many of the games I like wouldn’t be hobbled by an attempt to crowbar in some appeal to teenage testosterone. I don’t even think I was that shallow and sex obsessed when I was a 14 year old boy. And I was *really* sex obsessed as a 14 year old boy. Hell, I’m pretty obsessed as a 30-something boy – but my personal peccadilloes are not so easily sated by adding inflatable chesticles and “boob-physics”.

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        Joshua says:

        Some of my friends who went to the twilight films have remarked that most of the audience turned out to be women in their 30s and 40s.
        I am still not sure what to make of this, but it must be mentioned that they went specifically to see what kind of people watch those films.

  5. Velorien says:

    I’m not quite sure what you’re doing differently, but this is the first time I’ve really enjoyed one of your S.EXE articles in terms of writing style. It seems somehow less flowery and more genuine.

    • WiggumEsquilax says:

      Introspection. By the sounds of it, I’m 99% sure she’s spent hours (and hours) thinking about this game over the years, which has allowed her to frame it perfectly.

    • toxic avenger says:

      Damn with faint praise, assent with civil leer,
      And without sneering, teach the rest to sneer;
      Willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike,
      Just hint a fault, and hesitate dislike.

      • PopeRatzo says:

        Well done.

        You don’t see a lot of A. Pope in the comments over at IGN.

      • LennyLeonardo says:

        Happy birthday to you.
        I went to the zoo,
        I saw a gorilla,
        and you smell like one too.

        Wait, is that… am I… hang on.

    • AngoraFish says:

      I concur

  6. Premium User Badge

    Wret says:

    There are things in Twilight that disturb me much more than the bishounen.

    I think it took 5 seconds after thinking the Arizona lady was cute, before realizing “Hey free reliable access to blood”. That’s probably the definition of objectification, and blood lust is a euphemism for lust lust so OH MY-

    Also, your special hell is my “This place is FANTASTIC. I want entire games that are just this.”

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      RedViv says:

      What disturbs in Twilight is the lack of freedom in the expression of sexuality, the lack of self, the lack of identity of the female protagonist who is then purely defined in relation to men of the type overbearing stalker or totally nice guy with the hots for her, or rather YOU, the woman reading it.
      Then again, I find definitely completely utterly heterosexual erotic narrative to be disconcerting anyway, which might be part my own preferences and part upbringing to expect (and provide) at least some freedom to move in anything.

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        Maka Albarn says:

        Agreed, Twilight’s just bad.
        Cara’s probably right, there’s probably a lot of hate for/dismissal of it that’s not coming from the right place, but it’s a terrible series and the teenage girl market deserves better.
        On the other hand, I dislike her strong implication that Dracula was, at heart, a “flimsy sexy sulkbro”. I can see what she’s saying, but she’s not quite getting there. She asks,

        “Is there a time at which vampires were not flimsy sexy sulkbros?”

        and then immediately says,

        “Sex is the monster, my dears. The libido is the monster. It’s just who possesses it that’s under contention.”

        Yes. And as for Dracula, he himself was the sex, the libido, the monster. Dear little Cullen is merely an inept handler of the monstrousness. When the narrative recenters onto the vampire, then yes, it is a sulkbro (and that is not necessarily bad), but until that recentering occurs, it is purely the monster.

        • aoanla says:

          Well, and also:

          Dracula (and the other vampires, post-turning, in Dracula the novel) is not a nice person. There’s no possibility of “romance” with him, because the state of “being a vampire” turns you into something non-human, with an apparently deep-seated predatory response to humanity. (Dracula’s actually rather unusual amongst the vampires in the novel in that he’s capable of long-term planning concerning his predatory actions.)
          If we’re going to play the “vampirism as a metaphor for sex” thing here, then Dracula is more of a smart STI than a romantic figure.

          It’s not so much the recentering of the narrative that annoys people with the Twilight brigade, so much as the alteration of the essential message of vampirism stories. (Buffy and Angel actually do this mostly right, until the later Spike stuff.) [Well, that, and the way in which Twilight is a deeply regressive heteronormative fantasy world where the metaphor has changed to "sex outside marriage"...]

          • pepperfez says:

            In re Twilight, I’ma just leave this here.

            I think the sexual reading of Dracula might actually get too much play – it’s not that he’s a sexual predator, it’s that he’s just a predator, the epitome of the old-line aristocracy. His goal isn’t to victimize women, it’s to victimize England (the country that represented the rise of the middle class in Europe), and he goes about it by way of contracts and a sharp lawyer. It’s no accident that the forces aligned against him are mostly members of the professional class, including his one-time employee.

            So in short: cranky leftist insists it really is all about class.

          • aoanla says:

            pepperfez: precisely (hence my “if we’re doing the vampires as sex thing”).
            While “The Vampyre” does Vampires as Sex (or really, Vampires as Lord Byron), and Carmilla does “Vampires as Lesbians”, Dracula is very much more about Vampires as Predators (and Dracula himself as an arch-predator, at least partly due to his history when alive).

  7. steviebops says:

    Bloody flowery Torries. Im a Malkavian for Haddock, couldn’t be more fridge.

    • altum videtur says:

      You’ve made a powerful enemy today, sign.

      • Premium User Badge

        Banyan says:

        The recent RPS article on the 9.0 patch prompted me to finally buy this game and try it out. After answering all the character creation questions, the game decided that I was a Nosferatu. I’m not sure what that says about me, but I certainly didn’t try to seduce my way through the Astrolite mission.

    • Wildeheart says:

      The fork is strong with this bun

  8. MiniMatt says:

    Genuine question: “people of colour

    I’m thinking this may be an English thing. But it’s a phrase that, to me, sounds oddly…. if not offensive then at least worthy of a raised eyebrow. I suspect it’s because “coloured” has been attached, in the UK’s past (and still, though I hope diminishing, in the present), to some particularly grim slurs.

    I still recall every other motorway bridge in the 80s being plastered with some crap about “the coloureds” and politely racist grandparents beginning every insane & inane world commentary beginning similarly.

    Is this an English thing? Did the US grow up with differently charged terminology or has language evolved and I’m too old (and too blond – both literally & figuratively) to have noticed that language has changed, been reclaimed and moved on?

    • steviebops says:

      PoC is fairly common in the internet now. I can see the problem with it though. Is it anyone non-white? what about East Asians?

    • FurryLippedSquid says:

      I used the phrase “coloured gentlemen” in a Eurogamer comments thread a few days ago and got blasted for it. Not really sure why, it’s not offensive, at least not to me but then I’m white. White’s also a colour, I guess.

      No idea where I’m going with this.

      • MiniMatt says:

        Yeah language is tricky.

        “Coloured gentleman” is precisely how my racist old grandmother would phrase her commentary. It’s that old-lady-sounding-terribly-polite whilst saying something unbelievably crass and grim vibe.

        And doubtless that experience has – for want of a better word – coloured my interpretation of subsequent usage.

        • FurryLippedSquid says:

          What’s the accepted term these days? Black? We’re called white, so why not? Or do we have to use the mouthful that is Afro-Caribbean? What’s our equivalent of that, Caucasian? I don’t even know what that means.

          • MiniMatt says:

            Reminded of the CNN presenter referring to Nelson Mandela – on the live broadcast of his release – as an African American.

          • Premium User Badge

            JamesTheNumberless says:

            Personally I’ve always preferred not giving a fuck, to saying Anglo-Irish-Indo-Caribbean (if it’s pink on the map I claim it for Britain!) I think there was a point where the political correctness of the time wanted us all to say something like that rather than black or brown. (Hey, genealogy isn’t that easy for some of us) But it’s been a long time since I’ve seen or heard of anyone white, black, or brown take offence at the sound of any of those colours and is as silly as being upset over being called according to the colour of your hair.

            Point out the colour of someone’s skin if you like, it’s a pretty noticable feature afterall, but don’t assign them to any particular faction of “the other” as a consequence of it.

          • toxic avenger says:

            I’ve never met a black guy here in the States that called themselves or wanted others to call them coloured. When asked, the few I was close enough looked at me funny and said “You’re overthinking it, it’s ‘black.’” Whatever that’s worth.

          • PsychoWedge says:

            It’s obviously African-Eurasian for black people in Europe!

      • SirMonkeyWrench says:

        Referring to a person on racial terms is terrible because it reduces a person to a unit in a vaguely defined mass of people. PoC is worse because it only distinguishes a person as being non-white. In attempting to be politically correct it ends up being a potent display of how the colonial mindset lives on in the shared cultural and linguistic subconscious of the west.

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        JamesTheNumberless says:

        It’s pretty awful to hear “coloured” used in a racial context because of the pejorative connotations it has in many English speaking cultures. There’s really no other word that more rings of segregation to a lot of people. In some parts of the world “coloured” was long used as a way to exclude people considered to be racially mixed (though perhaps not black) from White only areas.

        The traditional use of “coloured person” has an exclusive intent whereas the more neutral term “person of colour” is meant in a more inclusive way and really should be accessible to anybody who chooses to define themselves that way. It’s sort of semantically equivalent to saying “black people” rather than “blacks” even if that’s obviously a syntactically bad example.

        • Geebs says:

          It’s made acceptable by acknowledging personhood first; yes it’s a bit clunky but it gets the message across in a reasonably small number of phonemes.

          The correct answer to “what do you call someone” is always “whatever they want to be called”. I personally believe that if you are actually properly trying to address someone appropriately and they still get mad, the issue is likely that they’re the asshole; but I concede that most people don’t try hard enough in the first place.

        • socrate says:

          The fact that people here mostly mention black people show that the only concern is that they are always the people that react really badly to this and are usually the only people concerned in this “race” talk which is beyond stupid and show that its a problem in itself…personally black people ive met ive been the most racist people ever claiming false accusation of racism and such non sense or just making trouble to make trouble with that stupid race thing.

          People who think racism can be removed are just stupid as hell there was and always will be racism whether you admit it publicly(which is extremely rare these days) or whether you hide it(extremely common)…it was always a thing and always will be its like hatred its part of what make human,human.

          For my part i hate every race out there…its more fun that way personally

          Anyway returning to the game itself i still venerate vampire the masquerade redemption to this day…but bloodline..while it did some good thing it was just extremely overhyped and overall boring and bugged as hell and the sex thing to me is just a stupid thing even movie usually have pointless sex scene that could be skipped just look at the witcher game….its not like sex in that game really add to the story or gameplay itself its really more to draw people to it out of either curiosity or pure porn lust,,,sex sell it always did and will always do its sad but its like that its a way that people are like “ok the movie was horrible but at least i saw a naked whatever celebrity”…so yeah no need to get overdramatic over that really.

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            JamesTheNumberless says:

            No, not really, it’s just an example that most people are familiar with. You can’t judge how likely someone is to react to offensive language, or in what way they will react, based on their apparent “race”. The only thing you can count on is that they will feel disappointed by you. Moreover, the motivation for not not offending people has nothing to do with how convenient or inconvenient an offended person’s reaction may be for you.

          • Premium User Badge

            JamesTheNumberless says:

            So what if there will always be racism? There will always be war and famine. That really isn’t a good argument for apathy on any of those counts, you have to take an extremely nihilistic view of things indeed to stop trying to keep the peace or grow crops because of those inevitibilities. It’s a bit of a non-argument isn’t it? Or maybe somebody needs to tell the entire medical profession that they are “stupid as hell” for trying to prolong human life when we’re all doomed to die in the end anyway.

            I think what you mean is that you don’t think racism matters, at least not the kind where people other than you are the victims. You also seem to think the people who claim to be victims of it are actually the ones responsible for it and are “making trouble” wth it.

            So obviously there is a kind of racism which matters to you, the kind where you feel like you’re the victim. So what’s the correct response then? Embrace racism through segregation? Or just ban the discussion of race in the same way that the discussion of sexuality is banned in many parts of the world?

      • FurryLippedSquid says:

        Yeah, the sooner we get to describing ANY person by what they’re wearing or any distinguishing features (other than skin tone) they may have, the better. There’s really no need to bring race in to it on an individual level.

        • MiniMatt says:

          See, on an individual level, I’m not sure that’s problematic.

          As mentioned above – as a descriptor of personal characteristics skin colour should be an equally valid descriptor as height, hair colour, glasses etc.

          At a group level it perhaps can be troublesome. Particularly as SirMonkeyWrench notes, when it’s basically said to mean “not one of us”.

          But then there is a valid use (as in the above article) for saying exactly that – using a group descriptor of “not white” – to describe problematic portrayal wide populations.

        • Rindan says:

          People who fail to use race as a distinguishing feature when it is the most distinguishing feature are idiots. On more than one occasion I have had people try and describe someone with stuff like, “Well, he had curly black hair, a broad nose, had a red shirt on” and I am wracking my mind trying to recall who this might be from all the worthless little details… and then I realize that they are trying to describe the one black guy at the party. It’s okay to use race to describe people. If you are the only white dude in a room, you will be remembered as the white guy. When I was at a big old gay party with a friend of mine, I the straight guy. It is okay. They are not embarrassed to be black, so you don’t have pretend that their race is some sort of embarrassing STD.

          • Premium User Badge

            JamesTheNumberless says:

            Indeed, but often it’s a real concern. Because of the conflicting messages we’ve had down the years about what is and isn’t accepted or preferred, it is easy to understand where people’s inhibitions come from. Which brings us back to “coloured” vs “PoC”

        • Dawngreeter says:

          I recall a situation, some years back. I want to say ten. I’ll say ten. It was ten years ago (it probably wasn’t). I’m at my aunt’s house; the whole family is. After lunch, a bunch of us are staring at a TV screen, as is the social norm with the previous generation. A boxing match is on. Two people inflicting bodily harm to each other in a decent way that doesn’t get you arrested, you understand. The commentator starts narrating a certain bit of happenstance, identifying one boxer as “the one in light green trunks” and the other as “the one in bluish trunks”. The trunks are actually pretty similar, so some nuances are introduced to the description of which is one and which is the other. Stripes on the leggings are mentioned, stuff like that. So that we know which boxer he’s talking about.

          Here’s the funny bit – one of them is black, the other is white.

          I abhor racism, don’t get me wrong. I agree that we need to step outside of the racial boundaries, as a culture. I don’t like to hear that one person is identified as “black”, as if that’s the entirety of his persona. Because the rest of us sure as hell aren’t “white”. We’re “the guy with curly hair” and “the girl in the funny skirt” and so on. But sometimes, just sometimes… doing painful linguistic gymnastics in order to avoid stating that someone is black and someone else is white is simply comical. I’m not saying it’s wrong, mind you. I’m just saying it can be funny.

      • toxic avenger says:

        “I used the phrase “coloured gentlemen” in a Eurogamer comments thread a few days ago and got blasted for it. Not really sure why, it’s not offensive, at least not to me but then I’m white. White’s also a colour, I guess.”

        Yes, but nobody calls white people “coloured people.” When you make a distinction like that, it’s a small step away for many people to start comparing two terms, and then ultimately being derogatory. That’s my best guess, or rather, that’s what I believe, but there’s no way to test that so take it for what it’s worth.

      • Premium User Badge

        jrodman says:

        Your insistence that it’s not offensive when (a lot of) people told you that it is. That’s the problem.

        Yes the words and phrases are somewhat arbitrary and have shelf lives that are shorter than our lifespans so it’s kind of tedious to have to adjust our world maps. However refusing to do so when you get adequate input is just choosing to be offensive.

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          jrodman says:

          If you’re still so unwililng to believe the term is generally considered offensive, observe the history of it:

          http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_yhQkHDTt6wA/S6rHD0IB_CI/AAAAAAAALIA/XpZU4gwcL1Q/s200/DSC04957.JPG

        • imsotiredicantsleep says:

          @jrodman No. You are the problem – people who think there are right and wrong answers. We are talking about labels that describe a disparate mass of people with nothing more than the colour of their skin in common. This is not a single, homogeneous, unanimous body of people. They fall into hundreds of different cultures, which by the way means more than different patterns of tribal dress. You’re talking about a descriptive term that covers people in a single-ethnic tribal group in rural Kenya and people in a mixed-race, integrated campus at a University in England alike. *Worldwide* the single most accepted, most understood and least offensive term is “black”. But you will find “African American” academics and activists who recoil at the term. You can’t pick one word and get by without offense. And the terms that one group will find offensive are the terms that others *prefer*. You reference the euphemism/dysphemism treadmill while naively falling into the trap of believing it moves at the same universal rate among all groups worldwide. If some country decides to move onto “darker than the average fellow” while the rest of the world is still using “black” it doesn’t make one more culturally sensitive or the other behind the times. There is every chance that some will be as offended by the new term as others are by the old one. At one time “coloured” was the politically correct term used by people trying to be sensitive. There are no right or wrong answers here, only best intentions. The best you can do is intend no offense – the rest is out of your hands. Someone somewhere is always going to be pissed off, but that’s their problem. And never call a Yupik “Inuit” because someone told you “Eskimo” was offensive.

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            jrodman says:

            This is entirely irrelevant.

            The point isn’t that there’s one right answer (something I didn’t state nor imply at all), the point is that some terms are really problematic and refusing to accept that is just choosing to be offensive.

            You go on and on that it’s about intentions but you neglect to even bother to figure out the context is someone who is displaying, very clearly, that they don’t really care about the reaction they get.

            Do you support this kind of thing, because your comment makes it looks like you do.

          • imsotiredicantsleep says:

            “the point is that some terms are really problematic and refusing to accept that is just choosing to be offensive” i.e. you are saying some terms are wrong. I say thinking some terms are “right” or some terms are “wrong” (as you have) betrays a belief in a singular concept of “black people” who have a single opinion on the matter. No such united community of black people exists. For a time some black and culturally considerate white people considered the terms “black” or “negro” offensive and the term “coloured” the *preferred* alternative. Just because someone else a few years later decides that “coloured” is offensive does not make it so to all black people. Surveys still find people (mostly older people) who *self-identify* as “coloured”, in preference to “black” or more specific localised terms (e.g. “African-American”). You seem to struggle with the idea that black people are individuals with differing views on their own identity rather than cookie-cutter clones with an Académie française-style governing body enforcing a shared vocabulary. The closest thing you are likely to get to this is any one of a large number of civil rights organisations, not all of which agree on all issues, and typically represent only a localised/regional/national view in any case. One such organisation is the NAACP. They have this to say: “the term ‘colored’ is not derogatory, [the NAACP] chose the word ‘colored’ because it was the most positive description commonly used [in 1909, when the association was founded]. It’s outdated and antiquated but not offensive.”

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            jrodman says:

            I already pointed out that you were putting words in my mouth and that you have done so twice in a row kind of makes you a clear troll here. I did not say that some terms are wrong. You are going to have to find someone else to discuss your straw men with, because you’ve got about 5 of them right in that string of nonsense.

            You have no basis of accusing me of stereotyping, none at all.

            Should I respond by saying that “you seem to have trouble not putting shit in your mouth” ? because that would follow more closely than anything you’re saying does from what has come before.

            Given that you’re willing to use the lowest forms failure to debate to defend casual insensitivity, while displaying it yourself, it is clear that you are either a sociopath, or a deliberate troll.

          • imsotiredicantsleep says:

            Putting words in your mouth? Let me summarise. You say it’s wrong to insist that something isn’t offensive after having been told that it is. I point out that not all people agree that the word is offensive and some *prefer* the terms that others find offensive. You accuse me of putting words in your mouth, saying you didn’t imply a “right answer” – “right and wrong answers” was clumsy phrasing, I apologise, but in any case it was meant to pick up on your implication of a “wrong answer” – i.e. “coloured”. That you missed this was a failure of communication and certainly not putting words in your mouth. The critical line in my first post was “And the terms that one group will find offensive are the terms that others *prefer*.”

            In my second post I quote your own words (“the point is that some terms are really problematic and refusing to accept that is just choosing to be offensive”) and then explain why I disagree with the view and that I find such an absolutist view has offensive implications, which I discuss. At no point do I put words in your mouth – I attack an implicit assumption that you do not appear to realise you have made.

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            jrodman says:

            Sorry troll, I can’t hear you!

            I’m tickled though, that you tried to call someone a stereotyping racist, because they pointed out that refusing to take input on what is offensive is callous.

            The absurdity is divine.

      • solidsquid says:

        “Coloured” is generally put in the questionable category because for a long time it didn’t just refer to black people, it referred to anyone who wasn’t caucasian and white. So if someone said “some coloured people moved in next door” it basically meant “people who look foreign”, without any consideration for their background. I think some people have started using it as an alternative to “African American” (which in itself is a very silly euphamism since it’s often used where it doesn’t apply), but in some areas it still has the echos of old racism so some people react badly to it

    • mr.black says:

      I live on the eastern verge of West, so I’m incredibly puzzled and a little annoyed by all the USA hailing Polit-Cor talk. Though I’m currently replaying GTA San Andreas and that makes me thing “my nigga” is maybe the best possible choice.

    • TheBretwalde says:

      It’s a US thing; it began as a term meant to illustrate a shared identity of being a racial minority, and is largely associated with the civil rights movement. The operative function is definitely “x of colour” (e.g., people, person, citizen), not using it in any sort of adjectival way. Wikipedia covers it pretty well: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Person_of_color

      Definitely an entirely different history to the phrasing in the UK, of course

    • derbefrier says:

      eh theres no reason to think about it too hard its pretty simple. in cases like this its important to focus on the intent behind the words or the context in which they are used rather than the words themselves Context is important and its usually easy enough to tell the persons intent behind the words. I could think of some pretty offensive ways to use that phrase if i were so inclined but its pretty obvious there’s no ill will here.

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      AngelTear says:

      In my experience, PoC is the accepted term in modern criticism, and it’s shorthand for “everyone except the white majority”, obviously in relation to western countries. In this environment, it’s not a racist term, it’s actually the most-used term to expose racism.

    • kwyjibo says:

      POC seems an American term, they’re always dancing about race.

      A lot of the time, when the phrase POC is used, it just means black. When used in relation to Vampire, with its East Asian characters, it actually does mean non-white. But it’d be a lot more straightforward if people just used the term non-white.

      Or maybe don’t group all non-whites into a homogeneous group.

      • pepperfez says:

        In media criticism (in the US), it actually makes sense to lump all non-white people together, because they’re basically all obscured in mass media. The reason “PoC” is chosen over “non-white” is that the latter causes us to still be talking about white people even when we’re talking about not talking about white people. Seems fair.
        Where I think “PoC” gets dicey is in addressing political and economic issues, where it’s often thoroughly counterproductive to talk about, say, South Asian and Latin American immigrants as a single group.

    • Jusiamere says:

      In ten years I’m betting it’ll be a euphemism that’s considered unacceptable and there’ll be a new term for “persons of color”

  9. Michael Fogg says:

    Played through this recently, enjoyed at first but all that enjoyement almost evaporated in the section near the end where I had to cut down 3674 ninjas. I wonder if the fanmade patch doest anything to improve that.

    • Lemming says:

      A little, but not much. I’m kind of surprised you haven’t played with the patch though, as I can’t imagine the rest of the game without it now.

      • Michael Fogg says:

        I wanted the historical experience. It’s not in fact terribly buggy in vanilla.

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        Ninja Dodo says:

        The fan patch has a “fixes only” version, which is the one I would recommend at this point. The complete patch changes a little too much for my taste, often ‘restoring’ content that was clearly removed for a reason.

        • Lemming says:

          Actually there’s no way of knowing if the content was removed ‘for a reason’ or just time-constraints.

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          Ninja Dodo says:

          Those are often the same thing, ie “Do we have time to make this not terrible? No? OK, then it’s out.”

          Other reasons may include: ruins pacing or tone (like a deleted scene, might be good in isolation but is wrong for this particular place in the game), it makes no sense, breaks the game in unpredictable ways, etc.

          All of these are good reasons to cut a feature. Editing stuff out is also a creative choice is what I’m saying.

          Again I don’t mean to discount the hard work that has gone into these patches and there’s a lot of historical value in seeing all the facets of what the game could have been, but near as anyone can tell the original release (plus bug fixes) is the closest we’re ever going to get to a definitive version of Troika’s vision.

  10. altum videtur says:

    I guess the point about non-sexualized men is true.
    But I remember the drunken pirate biker charm of Smiling Jack making me experience some rather… irregular feelings when I played the game as a teenage boy.

    • colw00t says:

      John DiMaggio could not have been a better choice.

      “I’m Jack, baby!”

  11. steviebops says:

    This all makes me even more angry at CCP.

  12. sinister agent says:

    They are complaining that instead of Dracula’s brides and Mina Harker being objectified by the lens of the readership, that now the masculine monster itself has become the objectified body, and we are merely seeing male heterosexuality feel incredibly uncomfortable about the so-called ‘victim’ having agency.

    Um… have you read twilight? People don’t hate it because the victims have agency. It’s pretty much a “how to be a battered housewife” instruction manual. Christ, even Lucy Westenra had more agency than the idiot in Twilight, and she might as well have been a drawing of a puppy for all the difference her decisions made.

    If you’re talking Angel or whatsisface from Interview with a Vampire though, well, okay, fair enough. Although Spike > Angel, by a factor of about 300 billion trillion.

    • Geebs says:

      The are some cultural artefacts which make me feel guilty about institutionalised misogyny, but Twilight is not one of them. People brought that shit upon themselves.

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      Vandelay says:

      It has been a long time since I saw Interview with the Vampire (never read the book,) but isn’t the guy in it meant to be bisexual? In fact, the article even mentions Anne Rice’s vampires moving away from this. Even Angel is strongly hinted at having dabbled a little in the past (with Spike.)

      Of course, I would say that it wasn’t true with Dracula either. He wasn’t an embodiment of masculine heterosexuality, but rather an embodiment of sexuality. The heavy sexual overtones of the character are that of both male and female sexuality. Just think about the way he is meant to reproduce. The encounter Mina has with him also has overtones of a motherly figure, a sequence you might recall being reproduced more graphically and sexually when we see Angel being turned in Buffy.

      I’ve never read Twilight or seen the films, but the criticism I have always heard may not be as extreme as you say, but sounds as if Bella is just a complete damp squib. The impression I always got was that fans just really liked Edward (or that other one.) I don’t think I have ever heard anyone praise it for having a female character they could look up to, just that they find the male protagonist hot. Which I guess is fine, if that is what you want. There are other female alternatives for young teens to idolise (get them to watch Buffy, for example,) but it is a pity that those that do still stand out as unusual rather than being the expected.

    • SkittleDiddler says:

      I always figured Twilight for more of a “repressed Mormon sexual fantasy” kind of thing. If you’d ever met any of the more dedicated female adherents of that particularly kooky faith, I think you would agree it’s clearly a more fitting label than “battered housewife manual”.

      • solidsquid says:

        I remember reading an interview with Robert Pattinson where he mentioned Meyer got involved in directing certain scenes (particularly romantic scenes) to a degree he had started to feel a bit creeped out. I got the impression it was because she was less like a director on those scenes and more like someone describing their personal fantasies, except he would then have to act out those fantasies

  13. Lemming says:

    I’m guessing Cara is writing this stream-of-conciousness style as that’s the only explanation I can think of that she’d point out a lack of non-whites in the first area of the game when there is about 80% of the game still to go ,and plenty more non-whites characters turn up.

  14. Premium User Badge

    RedViv says:

    Nearing the 10th year of being unable to accurately phrase what exactly causes my being so absolutely mesmerised by Jeanette, and only able to point to somewhere between voice acting, her written so distinctly off, and a general type of look if not her overtly open attire.

  15. Drinking with Skeletons says:

    The game is somewhat slanted towards the straight end of the spectrum, but, as a gay man, I think this game is at least gay friendly. There are moments when the game offers you dialogue choices that allow your character to be explicitly gay. You can hit on the food critic, or seduce your way into the gang hideout (interestingly, the guy lets you through but finds the idea appalling; the game isn’t spreading the idea of being able to “convert” people, even via supernatural powers), and you can say your “dark secret” later in the game is being gay.

    They’re little touches, but so is the acquaintance you can run into. In my playthroughs–always a male character–she’s a woman, and in other games the implication would be that she’s your girlfriend. Not so in Bloodlines, which leaves the relationship vague; this was a big tip-off to me that someone writing the game was gay and didn’t see the need to add a heteronormative love interest as a de facto backstory. I looked it up, and I can’t remember the name, but sure enough, one of the writers for the game seems to be gay.

    As for not providing much fodder, well, honestly it’s hard to say, isn’t it? The game hasn’t aged well, but there’s no shortage of male eye candy walking around. LeCroix is handsome–if oily–and if you like skinny club scene dudes (disclosure: I do) there are plenty of them among the NPC extras. Then there’s the movie star you run into in a club, who just happens to have been converted to vampirism by an older, handsome man with whom he has a complicated relationship. Seriously, this game is a great one if you want something that’s very gay friendly without seeming to need to be screamingly campy.

    • steviebops says:

      I imagine one of the potential problems is that virtually all the vampire are, by nature , predatory. Any gender/sexuality you portray could be misconstrued as commentary from that. Although most of the characters, even Jeanette, have more depth, it takes a while.

      • PopeRatzo says:

        Yes. I’m a little surprised that we still see such love for the pop vampires. Assault is not sexy. Especially when the subtext is “But she really wanted it all along”.

        Even with all the talk of trigger words and #YesAllMen and neo-feminism, vampires still get a pass. Take away the blood-sucking and androgyny and cool clothes and you’ve got some fucked-up predatory stalkers.

        • steviebops says:

          From Stoker on – that’s pretty much what they are. It really is weird they still have a place when they’re often rapists.

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            jrodman says:

            Is it actually problematic if they’re monsters, antagonists? Often fiction uses dark things from the real world as ingredients.

            I suppose it gets a bit messy when they’re overtly celebrated, which seems more the modern trend.

          • LennyLeonardo says:

            They’ve gone from monsters to humans struggling with their animal nature. For the most part.
            Of course vampires are about sexual assault, but I don’t think their ubiquity speaks of the acceptance of sexual assault so much as the fear of it.

            Edit: fear of, and morbid fascination with, maybe.

          • The Random One says:

            Yeah, but I think it comes from the relationship of humanity to sex (or the parts of humanity that are creating the most reaching culture at the time – the one amassing the most culture points, if you will). During Victorian times sex was evil and secret – so vampires were evil and secret, and trying to steal away Britain’s superior morals by infecting their women with their foreign wiles. During the 60s through 80s, sex was the best thing in the world and a way to fight the existent power structures (or so it was perceived to be) so we started to have vampires as anarchist antiheroes. In the present day sex is omnipresent but there is a false expectation that everyone is supposed to be totally OK with it, so we get a lot of weird stuff like Twilight’s sulkbros.

            Then again, I think saying that all vampire stories are about rape is a bit reductionist, even if I wouldn’t say it’s a wrong conclusion. And it’s on top of missing the other vampire metaphor as class warfare, so we’re being reductionist twice over.

        • KhanIHelpYou says:

          Rape fantasies and the whole spectrum of submissive sexual fantasy are common among people. Particularly women. That might go some way to explaining why vampire stories are popular, again particularly with women. The difference is separating fantasy from reality.

          • Eight Rooks says:

            This was one reason I really liked, and wish I’d kept, Nancy Baker’s vampire novels – you’ve got a female protagonist who only asks to become a vampire as a last resort (it’s literally either that or she dies a horrible death) – a vampire who reacts with horror at the thought of turning her and flat out refuses until she lays out her argument, and also, fascinatingly, a very explicit takedown of rape fantasies, where the protagonist sees it happening to someone else and terrified, admits to herself “…yeah, that’s absolutely nothing like the way it plays out in my head”. (As in, then she’s basically in control, but seeing what it would be like if she really had no agency at all she’s practically begging to be spared.) Even as an over-sexed male teenager I found this utterly haunting/stomach-churning, and could still see it was kinda… out of the ordinary for the genre (though this was ages before Twilight). Baker never got that famous, IIRC – but I really must try and see if there’s anything on the net about how she viewed Meyer’s opus and its spawn.

    • AngoraFish says:

      This is the most worthwhile comment I have read in any thread on the internet this year.

  16. colw00t says:

    I adore this game even for all its brokeness. The thought and care that got piled onto the manifestly silly World Of Darkness is really something special.

    Heather is the part that always stays with me. You save her life (if you want to) but it destroys her. In the end you can’t save her no matter what you do. It ends up being a sad story of good intentions meaning nothing: even if you’re playing with the later fan-patches that allow her survival, the actual girl you saved is just gone, wiped away by the overpowering lust that your blood gives her. You save Heather, but you kill her in the process.

  17. forddent says:

    I finally picked this game up about a year or two ago, and it rapidly became one of my favorites, all the jankiness and broken bits aside. The writing is not perfect, and is indeed pretty problematic in spots, but man when it connects it connects so much better than almost anything else on the market.

  18. WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

    Assuming the fact that men are stereotypically sexually liberated and women sexually repressed by society (which this article implies), then I don’t understand why the obvious conclusion is that women should be brought up to the level of caddishness of the average man? Perhaps my rather puritanical world views betray me here, but I would have thought it much better for everyone, men and women, if men were expected to be less sexually profligate, and women were thus correspondingly NOT expected to be as sexually desirable. You can’t ban or even discourage sex, plainly, but I think it has been placed on an untenable pedestal by a commercial class that seeks chiefly to monetise it (I’m talking clothes, cologne, perfume, shoes, etc). I have never seen how it is in the interest of the common man or the common woman to indulge in this heavily commercialised sexualisation of all things in life, and I often wonder exactly how it can be considered to possibly be in the interests of feminism (or masculinism or whatever its opposite number is called) to propagate a sexual societal norm which is neither morally desirable nor (ultimately) socially sustainable.

    Not really commenting on the article here, just rambling. The tl;dr version is that I strongly agree with a more equal sexual playing field in both media and reality, but would prefer it if this was not realised as promiscuity, promiscuity and more promiscuity. You can’t curtail objectification without first knocking the sexual act (as opposed to the long term commitment) off its cynically erected (pun intended) pedestal

    • altum videtur says:

      Welcome back, Lord Protector.

      I don’t think the solution to the repression of one side in the sexual equation is to further repress the other side as well. Fixing shit ain’t about creating equilibrium, it’s about improving the actual situation of those suffering because of it, as well as the infinitely vague and thus infinitely meaningful (meaningfulness is a quantity, not a quality – everything is meaning when a mind is involved) complexities of spritual-symbolic-societal restructuring of how people at large think about and unconsciously react to whatever it is you want bettered.

      Aside from that, the simple truth is that a vast majority of people wanna fuck, make love, bump… I can’t remember how that one goes, and just have sexual relations and interactions in general. Telling them “no you can’t do this stop” is, I would think, not the appropriate thing to do.

      Not unless you’re willing to shed some blood in any case. Opinions are empty and only actions are of significance. Sufficient action might well prove you right because at least the defeated is always the aggressor and therefore wrong.
      And thus we’re back to me comparing you (no, not your ideas, those cannot be insulted) to… Cromwell.
      Ah. Shoulda just gone with Hitler. That one is more straightforward.
      I’m not good at this.

      • WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

        Lots of people want a lot of things they can’t all have, friend, and which may not be beneficial once got. Most people want to have a lot of money, a big house, a powerful car and a lot of sexual partners. Everyone can’t have all these things, however, and even if they could, perhaps there is more to life than having.

        You must see my point that there is a fundamental hypocrisy in starting out with the very commendable point that “we should stop objectifying women”, and then continuing on with “however, sex is an objectively great thing, and we should have as much of it as we can while we can still walk!” The latter mindset is precisely what leads to the former. Provide people with something constructive to do other than a.) fucking, b.) spending or c.) earning money in order to perpetuate a and b, and we might just have a more equal society.

        • JFS says:

          Amen, brother.

          Really, I do wonder when RPS will start publishing articles on why Africa is a hellhole and everyone’s escaping over the Mediterranean, or on what the heck is going on in the Middle East (and the shockwaves it sends throughout the world), because I really believe that impacts our society much more than the question of what significance modern vampire myths have for the role of the heterosexual male and female in the West.

          I believe Africa and the Middle East are even featured in videogames as well, so why not concern ourselves with that?

          • Grygus says:

            One can only discuss the most important matters at hand, then, or one is somehow remiss?

            Fair enough. Can you provide me a list of permissible subjects, that I may raise my level of discourse?

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            Hypocee says:

            By mildly amusing coincidence I had this particular one of the many many replies to this suppression gambit open in another tab.

          • Josh W says:

            The snag of having pre-prepared answers is that you can miss the subject of what someone is actually saying to jump in to what you think they are talking about. Here’s an answer that I hope actually addresses it:

            RPS is obviously obviously focusing on the social expression of gender and it’s relationship to games at the moment. Among the many things going on in the world, that is one thing that they are particularly focusing on.

            Not revolutions or unequal treatment of outsourced game studios, or personal data mining, or privacy in in game chat or skype.

            The reason for that is that the games industry is going through a massive internal transition about how it recognises and deals with sexuality and diversity. It’s an issue of representation and appearance and the development of games as a more central channel through which our culture expresses itself.

            Games happen to be the medium coming of age at the middle of a new push towards reworking how we think about sexuality, and so the two are getting quite closely entwined.

            Now this has good and bad bits; by being a conversation about representation and appearance, this can easily get very superficial, and it can seem like games are expanding beyond themselves more than they actually are; it’s another form of talking about how we talk, about the self referential “media world” that can easily fall into an obsession with tropes and theories, of pattern matching and looking for repetition over immediate experience of what is actually going on.

            Games sit in that sphere, without a doubt. They also puncture it by their interactivity, where you can try to create a mixed and complex experience that is not simply about triggering people’s memories, but about having them wrestle with something you also wrestle with. The gulf between a subtly designed two player sex game and a well balanced representation of gender diversity among characters is huge: The second one talks about how potential people could be complicated, the first one lets you get involved with people who are.

        • P.Funk says:

          I don’t think that there’s any data to suggest that a bountiful and prosperous sexuality leads inherently to objectification. Some people will inherently be promiscuous in a liberated atmosphere (or in a repressed one for that matter) but its important to separate promiscuity from shame relating to gender roles and “expectations” outside of whats civilized, such as not being some crazy promiscuous asshole who gets all kinds of diseases and gives them to other people.

          The threat of a promiscuous liberated culture isn’t in the promiscuity itself, its in it being an immature culture that’s doing it. If promiscuity is centred around a “I am the centre of the world” culture then it could be a component of a regrettable cultural climate. There are fundamentally good ways to treat people, with respect and dignity. Its a pretty standard aspect of being young that you run around, probably sleep with more than a few people and many of at that stage do a few shameful no call backs. There should be some underlying ethic which guides you towards not being an asshole and recognizing that you do in fact owe something to the person you’re sleeping with, even if all it is is the most basic level of respect for them.

          Why is it that you think you can’t have lots of sex and still have respect for the people you’re humping? Because we’ve been taught that sex and promiscuity is sin for so long? Thousands of years of dogma can be wrong, even if its hard to shake the residual feeling it leaves us with.

          • PopeRatzo says:

            I don’t think that there’s any data to suggest that a bountiful and prosperous sexuality leads inherently to objectification.

            The rape fantasy that is built into every vampire story is hardly “prosperous sexuality”. The very purpose of vampire stories is sexual objectification and victimization. Even the very best ones. The only exception I can come up with is the Charlie Huston “Already Dead” series of novels.

          • LennyLeonardo says:

            I am Legend.

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          AngelTear says:

          I’m partially repeating P.Funk here, but there’s a slight difference between objectification and sexualization, and I first learned it in a clear form here: http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1020520/Fewer-Tifas-or-More-Sephiroths

          In short, sexualization is seeing a person as sexual, charging him/her with sexual overtones, whereas objectification is seeing a person as nothing but a means to your pleasure, and literally no value outside of it. Now, it depends on your personal morality, but in general the former isn’t inherently bad (although it’s bad that in our culture almost only women are sexualized), but the latter always is. And Cara remarks how, despite many characters being sexualized, you can tell they have lives of their own, interests of their own, even agendas of their own, if you try to treat them purely as tools for your pleasure you’re going to get burned, and that’s an important part of what makes them well-written characters.

          • WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

            That’s a very well written and neutrally worded reply, thank you very much!

            I appreciate the difference between a sexual object and a sexual agent, what worries me is the fostering of either (or both) for strictly commercial reasons. I don’t believe anyone here (certainly not me) believes that modern times invented sex (hell, I’ve read enough restoration-era smut to know that’s not true). What’s worrying is the vast commercial infrastructure that is entirely dependent on its remaining a growth industry, as it were.

          • Josh W says:

            I’ve been thinking about this lately, and I don’t think agency is the only part.

            Ok, there was this old philosopher who distinguished between things you use automatically, and things that appear as broken and surprising (ready to hand/present at hand).

            Both were descriptions of objects, the first were things that just went along with your uses for them, the others were things that resisted your usage by being more complicated than you expected. To put it another way, you get the “will go along with being sexy as you like it because they just happen to like doing things that way”, and the “sexy but dangerous; you’ve got to realise that they’ve got their own agenda that might cause you trouble if you don’t treat them with respect”.

            The first is a sex object, the second is a challenging sex object.

            So we’ve made progress, but not that far, still it’s assumed that they will be a well rounded human being and be sexy.

            To put it another way, more characters should be modern women with an accomplished and demanding career, good relationships, something to say, probably children, and should also be flawlessly sexy.

            Or to put it another way, sex or sensuality is a costless topping that goes with everything, to be applied wherever and whenever you feel like it, and sort of disappointing if it’s not there.

            Now I’ve been reading this column more than most for the past few weeks, I like sex and am interested in it, but I often feel that sex is too default. I get bored of the sheer amount of sexualisation of women, and in fact the effort many in turn seem to go in real life to show off their sexiness in order to…. Well, for no reason really, just to do their duty in terms of sexiness, show they can, even if they really don’t want anyone “checking them out”. It seems to be about the possibility of being seen as “not-sexy”, rather than the possibility of someone seeing you as sexy. And when other people or public figures fail on the sexiness standards? Supposedly shocking.

            The last thing I want is for that to be extended to men!

            Now in games, this is probably just going to be a matter of taste, I get bored when everything has a veneer of sexualisation, and there’s probably some point where there’s just the right amount of sexyness for me, and it will depend on how central I think sex should be to the game. Like I’ve never really felt that side scrolling fighters were particularly sexy forms of gameplay, and the way that characters tend to be sexualised in those games is something I’ve always found unnecessary, the pacing’s all wrong for it. Maybe one character is the sexy one, or a few? Why not. Better that than having “the non-sexy one”.

            Ideally, even in games that really suit sexualisation, like this kind of slower paced or more contemplative rpg, I’d like characters to have a mix of sexualised and unsexualised depictions, and a lot of that would come down to model changes, which can be expensive, and I’d like even games with a strongly sexual tone to have moments or characters that are not particularly sexy, just to break things up and develop things, maybe. It probably depends on how deep a world they are depicting in other aspects.

            Anyway, in a mass media context it’s always going to be about markets and tradeoffs and stuff but there’s a group of people out there (how big are we? not a clue) who are not particularly keen on the levels of casual sexualisation in media, and I wouldn’t mind if more men were being sexualised if the overall ratios went down, and it was done with more thought and care etc.

    • altum videtur says:

      If I pretend to adapt some form of honesty (nothing is more alien) I very simply must admit that the suffering of the impoverished millions does not move me in the least. I prosper on the back of a system that is directly responsible for their shameful treatment by humanity at large and I feel no sympathy for them. I cannot without having some sort of familiarity with the actual experience, and I recognise that’s pretty fucking heartless. Of course, I say and think it’s horrible and oh-look-at-those-poors when in a social situation. It’s expected and appropriately perfunctory. It’s made to appease a conscience that exists only to justify its holder. Other than that my rather underdeveloped sense of justice (vengeance, really) dictates that I am enraged by being aware of the inequity and that I wish to murder those responsible. So then what, wage war on disembodied concepts and societal norms and economical systems? Yeah you go guy. 13 billion years of existence and here you are without a coherent thought or care about contributing to an ideal of worldwide betterment of peoples’ actual physical situation.
      So that’s me being a sociopath.
      But I am rather quite familiar with some of the reasons movements like feminism wish to bring about widespread discussion of gender roles and expectations. I have seen it for quite a while and continue to do so and I have formed opinions and connections and ideas beyond the “kill offender on sight” response of the philistine chucklefuck pleb. Thus, this I care about.

      In short: fuck all y’all wot want to stop GenderWarface™ by stating the obvious fact that there are other types of suffering and that, Since Those Injustices Are Obviously More Important, these must be summarily ignored. You are incorrect.

      • PopeRatzo says:

        Yeah you go guy. 13 billion years of existence and here you are without a coherent thought or care about contributing to an ideal of worldwide betterment of peoples’ actual physical situation.

        He doesn’t look a day over 11 billion.

      • WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

        @altum videtur As a reactionary myself, I’m used to this particular boot being on the on the other foot, but…that’s genuinely a horrible thing to say. I get your point about not suppressing debate, but just because you PERSONALLY know more about the gender debate than the human condition, I don’t think you can really say that human suffering doesn’t interest you, or that (God forbid) the abject suffering of billions of measurably poverty-stricken individuals is less important than the glass ceiling, or whatever. Maybe you’re going for grand effect and all, and I agree with the principle that, for example, lots of western charitable enterprises are largely built on self-aggrandisement and trying to keep poor people poor by pricing out local competition (for food growers, for instance). But to say their suffering doesn’t matter is really quite heartless. I rarely agree with the modus operandi of the feminist movement, but that’s not because, to paraphrase, “the suffering of women means nothing to me”.

      • SkittleDiddler says:

        I’m going to say this with all seriousness: you need to see a therapist.

    • steviebops says:

      Jesus, this particular string has some of the most pretentious waffle I’ve ever read.

      Seriously, you can discuss whatever you want,but has it not occurred to you, both sides, that you have the exact same conversation, over and over again? What does it achieve?

      It’s become a self-sustaining circle jerk, with nothing you say here having even the slightest effect on society at large, despite what you may think.

      • Aedrill says:

        What effect did you make with this comment, ah?

        It’s a comment section, people are here to discuss stuff. You want them to start a political movement, revolution? What actions do you find worthy? Make a list, so we can cross – reference.

        • steviebops says:

          How about no?

          • The Random One says:

            You don’t want to make a list? Has it not occurred to you, steviebops, that you have the exact same conversation, over and over again? What does it achieve?

            It’s become a self-sustaining circle jerk, with nothing you say here having even the slightest effect on society at large, despite what you may think.

      • WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

        This is fundamentally a political/moral article. Posting a reply in kind is hardly a derailment. You might as well criticise the site for hosting the article, not go after individual posters for having a surprisingly polite and venom-free discussion about a particular aspect of said article.

        Otherwise, your Nick Clegg c. 2010 contribution of “look at these two old parties bickering!” is even more useless than the very discussion you bemoan as useless. Trust me, were I not commenting here, I would not be preventing world hunger.

        • steviebops says:

          It’s not useless if it breaks things up. Also I find you allusion to Clegg bland and flavourless ;)

      • Josh W says:

        string – section of thread

        Nice!

  19. Premium User Badge

    heretic says:

    Thanks Cara, I love reading about this game. One of the few RPGs to really leave a mark on me. I can’t believe I was tricked by that Asian Vampire Lady, somehow I got totally suckered in and when the ending came, bam!

    Looking forward to part 2!

    • kwyjibo says:

      Wow, your are a race traitor. You missed slicing off crazy Asian lady’s tentacle limbs.

      All the endings were a bit guff though, I went with the Vampire illuminati, and the ending is pretty much Troika saying, “Sorry guys, we ran out of money.”

    • Premium User Badge

      Ninja Dodo says:

      @heretic: Despite the ample hints I couldn’t help being curious about their side of the story so I tried out that ending once but [SPOILERS]: Nope! We were using you the whole time! Have fun at the bottom of the sea![/SPOILERS]

      @kwyjibo way to describe the rivalry between two fictional groups in a videogame in the most insensitive/offensive way possible

  20. Diatribe says:

    This is a gem of an RPG that was hobbled by a horrible sewer level and (late in the game) degenerated into throwing piles of enemies at you, such that if you choose a purely social character you couldn’t finish the game.

    So, it’s absolutely worth a play, and I consider it one of it not the best written RPG I’ve ever played. That said, be warned if you’re playing it for the first time, you’re going to want to drop a couple points into killing things by the time you reach Downtown or you’ll end up really frustrated.

    It kind of does what Deus Ex: HR does, and throws some boss battles and other things at you where stealth and social skills are unhelpful, even though it totally breaks the freedom they laid out in Santa Monica.

    • altum videtur says:

      Playing Masquerade without cheating heavily felt like I was failing some secret test of character.
      That’s probably just my craziness though.

    • steviebops says:

      Yeah that sewre level was an irritating maze. contrasted with the tzimice encounter, which was truly unsettling.

    • Jason Moyer says:

      I can’t imagine why anyone would go into an Action RPG and not specialize in 1 combat skill.

      • Premium User Badge

        Devenger says:

        V:tMB is an odd one, though. The game’s tutorial does teach you a little about combat, but you can get through the first area of the game (Santa Monica) with very low combat skills, since the only mandatory combats are against single targets. Assuming you accrue enough single-use items, you can get through these fights with combat skills as low as 3 dots total (where the maximum you can have is 10, and the first few dots are free or cost very few experience points). Based on this, I was quite contentedly plodding along with all my skill points put into unlocking people and talking to doors. Then the game progresses and reveals long mandatory combat sections against more enemies than you can have shotgun ammo for… well, needless to say, I learned that lesson the hard way.

        Still a fantastic game though. It’s possible to get through the whole game with only a middling rating in one of either Melee or Firearms, particularly if your bloodline gives you Celerity or something else ridiculous. And you really don’t want to miss out on hacking every computer in the game – lots of excellent writing hidden just off the beaten path.

    • imsotiredicantsleep says:

      I don’t share the hate for the sewer level. I loved DnD and “choose you own adventure” books as a kid and making beautiful, annotated hand-drawn maps was one of the joys of those games. I resent modern games slightly for removing the need to do that and the gameplay rewards that come from doing a good job.
      VtM:B is a rich and deep game full of hidden details, and one them is lurking in those sewers. All those little decorative number plates on the walls? Not decorative. Each is unique, and spotting that was one of the many rewarding moments this game offered. Besides rewarding the player with easier navigation for paying attention it also makes the whole level feel more real. Too many games try to make “worlds” by just stretching the edges of the level map to the size of a city – VtM:B did it by hinting, just hinting, at all those stories it didn’t have the resources to tell. Someone built those tunnels, maintained them, checked those section numbers off against a list on their clipboard. It’s just one of hundreds of little details that makes the world feel lived in. A detail I, as a Toreador with an artists eye for detail, spotted while all the Brujahs stormed through getting themselves lost.
      One of the most immersive, moody games I ever played. Once, I had left Tool’s Lateralus in the cd drive and accidentally hit the play button on my laptop without realising. The sensation that went through me as the intro to The Grudge slowly built up while playing VtM:B had me momentarily scared for my life.

  21. Premium User Badge

    Gap Gen says:

    On an older S.EXE related note, I saw a talk by the person who made Ute this week (Lea Schönfelder). I don’t think I learned much more about the game from it, but was interested to learn about a Russian-language game where you play a chain-smoking homeless child, or a Kinect dance-based game where you play a woman with various life goals.

  22. Eschatos says:

    It’s a damn shame that Troika disintegrated. VTMB is my favorite western RPG. It may not be quite as “deep” or polished as Planescape Torment or a Bioware RPG, but it actually had fun combat and a good sense of humor.

  23. 2helix4u says:

    Ooh, if you haven’t do a s.exe on DMC. That game has the most sexualised male protagonist of a recent AAA that I can think of. They really pull off the “women want him, men want to be him” teen edition thing and yet folks seem bemused when you point this out. It also fratures a sex scene with a hideous demon woman that although its played for grossout both parties are enjoying themselves.
    Old me would be furious at dante for his black hair but i also know i would have loved this if i’d played it first as a kid.

    I thought Witcher 2 other shit aside had an enjoyably mature approach to sex and relationships in its scenes with Triss and Geralt. Including a whole dramatic scene where the core conflict is the future of your relationship, no dude killing or nothing! This column does make me ruminate on sex in games, and relationships especially.

    P.s. Vampire is the goddamn greatest. My AAA playing friend has always seemed interested in games’ shitty storys and gets disappointed, when I asked why he said he’d played some great game about vampires where you could really change the story and never forgot it.

    • altum videtur says:

      Oh. I thought you meant DMC 4, a game more concerned about finding over-the-top ways to let Dante strike sexy poses than any form of actual plot. The original Dante at that, the one that wears tight leather pants and gives off the definite vibes of somebody who can appreciate a Friday night spent at the local gay bar. The one that never ever even jokingly makes sexual innuendo except when it’s aimed at men, oftentimes at Nero (other main playable character), and then it’s not really a joke just kind of earnestly understated. Except when it’s aimed at demons, in which case it’s crazy offensive… he’s a bit of a weird one, Old Dante.
      The new one I couldn’t stand.

      • tobecooper says:

        There’s also the barely-clothed religious lady who later turns out to have a full-body costume.
        DMC4 is strange in a good way.

        • dE says:

          And the Opera Scene. And the Lucifer Scene. And… yeah it’s a weird one. I definitely like it.

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      Yeah, Dante is like emo Ferris Bueller. I mean that in a good way.

  24. Premium User Badge

    AngelTear says:

    Thank you as always for your articles Cara, they’re wonderful <3

  25. Iskhiaro says:

    Bloodlines is my absolute favourite game of all time. Great article!

  26. Kefren says:

    Remember that Dracula wasn’t the first sexualised vampire story. That was “The Vampyre” by Lord Byron’s embittered doctor, Polidori, drafted at the same time in Geneva as the genesis of Frankenstein. The vampire as an outcast seducer not suitable for polite society, very much based on Byron; Bram Stoker expanded on it but was not the first. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Vampyre

  27. unit 3000-21 says:

    I must be the only person who thinks the sexiest thing in Bloodlines is that Massive Attack aping bass line in the menu.

    • Premium User Badge

      AngelTear says:

      I’ve always thought a certain kind of Trip-Hop, like that Massive Attack song, is extremely sexual and sensual.

    • Geebs says:

      Made your lights move faster and brighter, eh?

    • altum videtur says:

      I always equated the game with the Hollywood theme (plays in the third neighborhood you visit)

      It’s like Tristram’s quirkier but not-quite-as-dark buddy. Or something.
      I am bad at analogy.

    • Premium User Badge

      Ninja Dodo says:

      Don’t know about sexiest but it was pretty sexy. As was the rest of the soundtrack. I-SO-LA-TED. Not normally the music I go for at all but it really fit the atmosphere perfectly.

  28. kwyjibo says:

    Vampire was bloody awesome, but I think we’ve been over the Malkavian hotness enough already.

    How about that weird demonic snuff porn in Hollywood? Not nearly enough words have been dedicated to it. Another fucking awesome level in a game full of invention.

  29. Sunjammer says:

    This is a superb RPG that completely falls apart near the end. To the point where after Hollywood I just end the game and start another character.

    Hey, awesome modding community, how about you mod in a bit that fixes the part where the game turns into junk? ;(

  30. joedpa82 says:

    I’m a straight guy, but damn i get a boner every time i feed leisurely.

  31. davemaster says:

    Save the gender politics and sexism against men for your tumblr blog. We don’t give a crap. You give female gamer journalists a bad name.

    “I think there could be huge improvement in its treatment of women and sexuality”, yeah because the mass murder of almost EXCLUSIVELY MALES in computer games is like so totally sexist against women (not to mention Lara Crofts “crotch targetting” on male opponents).

    If men create a thing, and explore their own fantasies within a world THEY have built.. why on earth do you think a womans input is relevant? The entitlement of feminists is not just pathetic, it’s laughable. Gaming and production of games was a male culture, not as an “exclusion of women”, but because men and boys put the work in and got to decide the outcome. If you can’t handle that, guess what, we have created a fair system in which women are free to create their own games their own way. It has never been easier. In fact, companies like SOE provide sexist FEMALE ONLY scholarships. Go on. Go BE the difference you want to see in the world instead of criticising male sexuality and claiming its “wrong” because you’re a sexist idiot.

    • jalf says:

      We don’t give a crap

      Speak for yourself?

      You give female gamer journalists a bad name.

      And this is why discussions of gender politics and sexism are sorely needed.

      Really, the actions and words of Cara reflect on *all* “female gamer journalists”? How, exactly? Because they’re all the same, I assume? Not being real people (or real journalists, or real gamers), and all.

    • sinister agent says:

      Oh, do go away, you tiresome drone.

    • solidsquid says:

      We don’t give a crap

      Interesting use of “we”. As is often pointed out in these discussions, there are a lot of readers here (both male and female) who are interested in hearing Cara’s perspective on these matters

      If men create a thing, and explore their own fantasies within a world THEY have built.. why on earth do you think a womans input is relevant?

      Firstly you’re assuming the entire development team was men, which these days often isn’t the case. Secondly women are a fairly large segment of the population and a huge potential market for the companies, so having someone detail issues like Cara has (especially the ones which would just involve slight tweaks and virtually no additional expense to the development) is great if they want to tap that market.

      Gaming and production of games was a male culture, not as an “exclusion of women”, but because men and boys put the work in and got to decide the outcome.

      There are some pretty strong societal pressures which push women away from careers like programming. In addition, those women who *do* push through that and go into the industry often end up in situations where their gender is used to judge their worth rather than the work they have done.

      In fact, companies like SOE provide sexist FEMALE ONLY scholarships.

      Actually SOE’s GIRL scholarship program is available to men as well (it stands for Gamers In Real Life). If you read the summary, it explains that the goal of it is to do exactly what I mentioned above, gain traction within the female demographic. It’s a business decision, and mentions nothing about applicant gender in the rules

      Go BE the difference you want to see in the world instead of criticising male sexuality and claiming its “wrong” because you’re a sexist idiot.

      So how exactly are we supposed to be made aware of problems when nobody who recognises them actually discusses it? Articles like these raise awareness of issues so that people can help fix it, while at the same time providing morale support for those who currently are trying to. Also she isn’t criticising male sexuality, she’s criticising the denigration of women’s sexuality. Or do you really think that all of male sexuality is built around objectifying women and disregarding any who don’t show a bit of T&A?

  32. waltC says:

    “Part of me thinks that it is very cliche, almost racist, that the drug dealer kingpin is the only black man with dialogue I have encountered in this world in many hours of talking to Santa Monica’s inhabitants.”

    Lately I have been having trouble finding a good patch mirror for the game. “Scrolls” is like 32k/s and I have a 50Mb/s connection, Lol…;) What’s up with that site’s servers?

    Anyway, why is it that whenever a “bad guy” is portrayed as black some people think or suspect that is “racist,” but when the same character is portrayed as white, no similar suspicions ever arise…? I also wasn’t aware that fictional books and games and movies were under some sort of warped affirmative action mandate wherein all of the fictional characters had to conform to some sort of sliding color scale–”You can’t make that character white because you’ve exceeded your quota of Caucasians for this game.” Ridiculous. That sort of sentiment is what is racist. Why does it matter what color a bad guy is in the first place? Is the game also to be knocked for being “racist” because most of the vampires (rarely what you might call “good people”) are themselves white?

    Hello? Knock-knock. I would call what the author has “white suburban guilt” which is about as real as a three-dollar bill…;) Sad, really–because the actual racism lies in the sentiment itself. The author feels a twinge of artificial guilt because a drug dealer is black, but seems wholly oblivious to the fact that most of the “blood suckers” in the game are white? That’s what is racist, imo. There’s no such thing as benevolent racism.

    • sinister agent says:

      Sigh. I see they’re all out today.

    • HadToLogin says:

      Problem with that quote is that Cara sees that as a bad thing, instead of seeing that from that whole sea of white generic thugs black one was badass enough to become someone with name :)

      More serious, Cara forget (or didn’t met) doctor Malcolm from Santa Monica, black doctor with dialogue. But then he was cliche too – doctor who flirts around.

      In the end I’d blame lack of black-people on lack of human-power and/or troubles with engine than racism.

  33. Lionmaruu says:

    While I haven’t played this game I do acknowledge its quality, and I would love to play more games or even see movies based on the Storyteller system, World of Darkness setting.

    Too bad White-Wolf seems to not be exactly super successful right now witch is a shame since they rpgs are pretty good I blame the third edition and their apocalyptic bullshit for this turn of events. Good thing they are doing again good books with the reboot, I hope they will license games again soon.

  34. Jusiamere says:

    I like seeing an article about VtM:B but lines like this are just completely absurd
    “They are complaining that instead of Dracula’s brides and Mina Harker being objectified by the lens of the readership, that now the masculine monster itself has become the objectified body, and we are merely seeing male heterosexuality feel incredibly uncomfortable about the so-called ‘victim’ having agency”
    I guess that’s the point of sites like this though, to attract attention by saying inane things.

  35. Chummers says:

    It’s interesting to approach this game from the point of view of sexuality, as vampires in the World of Darkness don’t have any interest in and don’t derive any pleasure from sex. Of course the act of feeding is meant to provide the sort of ecstatic pleasure that one associates with sex, and flirtation and seduction are used to capture victims, but the act of feeding has never felt sexual to me (female vampires will wrap their legs around their victim, but the game tends toward childishness when portraying most females visually.)

    Re: people of color, there is definitely more representation later (the leader of the good guy faction is Latino,) but then there’s Fat Larry, which is.. hard to defend even if he’s kind of great: http://www.gry-online.pl/Galeria/Html/Poradniki/326/31816375.jpg

  36. etopp says:

    I find most video games boring but I **LOVE** this one. Because I knew the backstory from the Jyhad/VTES CCG, I really got into it. The only game I ever completed and likely to stay that way unless another company makes a sequel.