Breathing the Same Shadow

We have received many questioning or critical emails and comments over the last few days about Vampire: The Masquerade – We Eat Blood. Some of these are in relation to game writer and artist Zak Sabbath, others are about the content of the game. We continue to read them all; we welcome all feedback, and value this ongoing dialogue.

First, we recognize that we need to clarify the wording of our blog post from last week. We realise now that it could be interpreted as a dismissal of people’s experiences, and that was never our intention. Nor did we intend to imply that we think anyone was being actively dishonest, and we are very sorry if that’s how it seemed. We understand how hurtful that could seem, and we regret it.

Naturally we are aware that Zak Sabbath is a controversial figure. Before deciding to work with Sarah Horrocks and Zak Sabbath on We Eat Blood, we read as deeply as we could about the historical conflicts around him. These issues seemed to be several years old, were debated exhaustively online, and were very complex.

Our reading and the conversations we had with people in the industry who have interacted with him in the past did not unearth any new or factual evidence in regards to the more serious allegations periodically made against him. It is however clear that Zak Sabbath is often abrasive, and sometimes his behavior has been perceived as hurtful or offensive. Going forward, we expect him not to engage in any such behaviors, and he has agreed.

The collaboration between Sarah Horrocks and Zak Sabbath brings a unique aesthetic to this work, and we felt Zak Sabbath’s participation would contribute more to the game than allegations about his past private behavior would detract from it.

This brings us to the second point of criticism. Both We Eat Blood and Karin Tidbeck’s Mage: The Ascension – Refuge feature personal experiences and social commentary as the authors explore themes of class, gender, and rising intolerance. Our choice to focus on these themes has led to some critical voices. This is criticism we are proud to receive. Relevant works in any medium are part of a global discourse and we welcome healthy and well-informed debate on these issues. We have said repeatedly that our games will examine contemporary issues through the lens of the World of Darkness, and we do not plan to shy away from this vision.

In addition to this blanket criticism of engagement with contemporary issues, there has been some concern about the inclusion of two transgender vampire characters in We Eat Blood. Given the history of transgender representation in popular culture, we are sensitive to these concerns. So is the game’s co-writer Sarah Horrocks, a noted comic artist and horror blogger, who is also a transgender woman. She writes about her views on her blog: http://mercurialblonde.tumblr.com/post/157431573538.

The criticized character, Avery, is perhaps the most helpful and kick-ass vampire in the game. She saves your ass and is (spoiler alert!) one of two main allies at the conclusion. Like Horrocks and Sabbath, we believe this character positively broadens the range of transgender portrayal in games. Naturally, she will not be the last transgender character in a White Wolf game, as we continue work with designers, writers and artists from a wide range of backgrounds.

White Wolf are dedicated to making games that feature mature, contemporary storytelling. We are already engaged with a network of partners from all over the world, of all genders and backgrounds, and we are working every day to increase that reach and diversity. We do that because we strongly believe that diversity results in the best stories, and that without representation across intersections those stories will not reflect the world we live in.

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