Paradox Interactive have announced that they’re fully integrating tabletop RPG developers White Wolf after they used the suffering of Chechnya’s LGBTQ+ population as set-dressing “in a crude and disrespectful way” in Vampire: The Masquerade. White Wolf will receive new leadership and continue to “develop the guiding principles for its vision of the World of Darkness,” but will “no longer develop and publish these products internally.”
The rest of this post contains discussion of violent homophobia and transphobia, both real and fictional.
Paradox Interactive’s statement comes from its VP of business development, Shams Jorjani, who’s currently also acting as the interim manager at White Wolf. He states that the changes are part of “a process that has been ongoing since September,” and have “always been the intended goal for White Wolf as a company,” but the immediacy of their effect is clearly down to paragraphs included in the upcoming V5 Camarilla handbook that reference the persecution of LGBTQ+ people in the Russian republic of Chechnya.
Reports, including graphic testimonies, say that Chechnya has arrested and tortured hundreds of LGBTQ+ people, and killed at least three. Chechen officials, on the other hand, claim that these international media reports are false, because “you cannot arrest or repress people who just don't exist in the republic.”
The Camarilla handbook, which has now been delayed by approximately three weeks so that these sections can be edited out, explained that Chechnya is run by vampires, and described the atrocities as “a clever media manipulation." It reads: "While homosexuals are indeed held in detention facilities for days, and humiliated, starved, tortured, and eventually fed upon and killed, this is not the point. The point is to distract from the truth of what Chechnya has become."
In other words, the real-world imprisonment, torture, and murder of LGBTQ+ people is presented as secondary to the political goals of fictional monsters, simultaneously downplaying the human tragedy and erasing much of its context.
Chechen officials also objected to the portrayal. According to Crime Russia, a spokesperson for Head of the Republic Ramzan Kadyrov said: "This is a continuation of the campaign to slander Russia and Chechnya. I am sure that the same organization that claimed about the persecution of sexual minorities stands behind it."
Several days ago, White Wolf apologised for these sections of the book on Facebook, admitting that they “can be viewed as crude and insensitive.” Jorjani’s post goes much further, saying:
“The World of Darkness has always been about horror, and horror is about exploring the darkest parts of our society, our culture, and ourselves. Horror should not be afraid to explore difficult or sensitive topics, but it should never do so without understanding who those topics are about and what it means to them. Real evil does exist in the world, and we can’t ever excuse its real perpetrators or cheapen the suffering of its real victims.
In the Chechnya chapter of the V5 Camarilla book, we lost sight of this. The result was a chapter that dealt with a real-world, ongoing tragedy in a crude and disrespectful way. We should have identified this either during the creative process or in editing. This did not happen, and for this we apologise.”
As well as creating these gamebooks for Vampire: The Masquerade, White Wolf have been working on bringing Werewolf: The Apocalypse to PC, and they also filed a mysterious trademark for “Vampire Bloodlines” a few years ago. How Paradox, who are also the publishers behind games like Cities: Skylines and Stellaris, will handle these projects moving forward is currently unknown.