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Big Changes At White Wolf Following Controversy

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Following an online backlash regarding the content of their recent publications, White Wolf Publishing has just announced some big changes, including the suspension of the Vampire 5th Edition Camarilla and Anarch books, and a restructuring of management.


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White Wolf's Shams Jorjani made the following announcement about an hour ago:

"Hello everyone,

My name is Shams Jorjani, VP of Business Development at Paradox Interactive and interim manager at White Wolf Publishing. I wanted to inform you of some changes that will be implemented at White Wolf, starting immediately.

Sales and printing of the V5 Camarilla and Anarch books will be temporarily suspended. The section on Chechnya will be removed in both the print and PDF versions of the Camarilla book. We anticipate that this will require about three weeks. This means shipping will be delayed; if you have pre-ordered a copy of Camarilla or Anarchs, further information will follow via e-mail.

In practical terms, White Wolf will no longer function as a separate entity. The White Wolf team will be restructured and integrated directly into Paradox Interactive, and I will be temporarily managing things during this process. We are recruiting new leadership to guide White Wolf both creatively and commercially into the future, a process that has been ongoing since September.

Going forward, White Wolf will focus on brand management. This means White Wolf will develop the guiding principles for its vision of the World of Darkness, and give licensees the tools they need to create new, excellent products in this story world. White Wolf will no longer develop and publish these products internally. This has always been the intended goal for White Wolf as a company, and it is now time to enact it.

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 apologize.

We ask for your patience while we implement these changes. In the meantime, let’s keep talking. I’m available for any and all thoughts, comments and feedback, on shams.jorjani@paradoxinteractive.com."


White Wolf is currently own by Paradox Interactive, who acquired the World of Darkness rights in 2015 from previous owner CCP (who you might know from Eve Online) whose plans for a WoD MMO failed to bear fruit.

The recent Camarilla and Anarch books have met widespread criticism. The former, Camarilla, includes a section which appears to trivialise current real-life events in Chechnya, where the LGBTQ community is being persecuted, tortured, and murdered and uses that current tragedy as a backdrop for the setting. This comes after the company was forced to deny links to neo-Nazi ideology. White Wolf recently announced that "White Wolf is currently undergoing some significant transitions up to and including a change in leadership. The team needs a short time to understand what this means, so we ask for your patience as we figure out our next steps" and this appears to be the result of that decision.
 
Russ Morrissey

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Jester David

Villager
I think we are using different ideas of peer review. Any one can critique art, no one should have the right to choose for another what should be allowed in art.
True.
However, there ARE standards for where said are can be placed and people have a right to not see art they do not want to. You have every right to make whatever art you want, but you cannot force someone to consume that art without their consent.

If people expect your art to be one thing, and you instead do something else, you cannot get upset when they protest and complain.

If I arrange to perform ballet in front of an audience in an elementary school, I can't do Naked Swan Lake and then defend that as "art" when the police get called for indecent exposure.
 

Hussar

Legend
If we look at the issue in a more general sense, I think it becomes clearer. It really boils down to this:

Are we or should we as customers/readers/viewers/gamers guaranteed some level of freedom from offense by the art we consume?

Sure, there are commercial considerations at playy here, and they have been a factor. But separate of that....separate of the business folk sitting in a conference room looking at spreadsheets...should art be banned/removed/restricted/altered based on its content?

If a work of art offends one person, is that enough for it to be removed? If not, then how many people must be offended?

And is there not some level of personal ownership that should be considered? If I find naughty language offensive, does that mean that films with naughty language should be banned? Or edited for content? Orshould it be on me to avoid films that I find offensive?

Should I be deciding this for myself or should others decide for me?
Well, this is where art runs into capitalism.

If a work offends only one person, well, unfortunately for that one person, not much is going to happen. If 1000 people buy the work and 1 person is offended, well, the market has spoken. It's never about "how many people need to be offended". It's a business decision based on negative reactions by a large enough group that it hurts the bottom line. If you can convince enough people to agree with you that films with naughty language should be banned, then, yup, you win. You get to force your will on others.

Welcome to capitalism.

The other ways don't work either though. Any time we've left it up to a body to determine "public good", that never works either. So, at the end of the day, it winds up being the best bad solution.

Wow. Yeah. I can see why folks would find that pretty darn offensive. It's flat out feeding into the whole "fake news" thing. I can see why people would be pretty offended by that.
 

Panda-s1

Villager
That piece didnt trivialised anything - it presented the full brutality of what was going on - and you have just created a strawman by making up non existant quotes.
Yep, I was attempting to make up a direct quote in that sentence there, you got me lmao.

Actually, looking at the passage from the book "recurring international controversy" just makes it sound like LGBT face generally bad persecution, WHICH THEY DO but this just makes it easier to brush off as the same ol' same ol' from a third world country (er, "country") instead of the actual genocide that started last year. Also the genocide being described as "a distraction" is just kinda gross.

Really though, if this is how people are learning about the genocide for the first time as you say then they should probably do a better job than this portrayal. There are people like me who knew about what was going on, and those who will take it seriously. But then there'll be people who will just write it off as typical third world behavior, then the people who write it off as fiction created for the world of V5 (and also the people who'll believe Chechnya is a fictional middle eastern country that the writers made up, but that's a slightly different issue there).

If we look at the issue in a more general sense, I think it becomes clearer. It really boils down to this:

Are we or should we as customers/readers/viewers/gamers guaranteed some level of freedom from offense by the art we consume?

Sure, there are commercial considerations at playy here, and they have been a factor. But separate of that....separate of the business folk sitting in a conference room looking at spreadsheets...should art be banned/removed/restricted/altered based on its content?

If a work of art offends one person, is that enough for it to be removed? If not, then how many people must be offended?

And is there not some level of personal ownership that should be considered? If I find naughty language offensive, does that mean that films with naughty language should be banned? Or edited for content? Orshould it be on me to avoid films that I find offensive?

Should I be deciding this for myself or should others decide for me?
Y'know, I'm tired of this "freedom from offense" nonsense. Or really just simplifying the argument to people "being offended". The people upset about this aren't just "offended" they're worried about the greater issue of what happens when you present an atrocity this way (see my reply to TrippyHippy for what I mean). So to answer your question, no someone simply being offended should not get art removed, but that's not at all what the issue is about.
 
A few thoughts on things in this thread.

In regards to sensitivity to real world events, one of the reasons that the 2017 Wonder Woman movie was set during WWI instead of the more traditional WWII setting was because of (spoilers) using the god Ares as the one behind the war and who was keeping the war going. If this had been done with WWII instead, it would have seriously trivialized what Hitler did during the war.

As for everything happening in Chechnya, and other parts of the world where this same stuff happens, like in Russia or China, etc, here in the US it is very rare to hear anything about it because for the past two years, all any of the new outlets want to talk about is Trump. Very little world news ever seems to make it into televised media here. Because I like to stay more informed than the average person, I do know some about things going on around the world, but I am sure that what was used in the Camarilla book was new to a good chunk of gamers. Now they know more about some of the real evil that exists in this world and hopefully learned that real evil should never be trivialized, overlooked, ignored or called fake. Sadly, those are still easy to do here in the US because we are so distant, even in this modern digital age, from the rest of the world.

Also, a lot of what was considered by most as not being offensive back in the 1980's or 90's would be mildly to strongly offensive today. There is so much stuff from TV and movies from then, that when watched now, feels creepy or downright wrong. This seems to be especially true with sitcoms, where what got laughs back then is just uncomfortable now. I am sure some of this, for me, is that I was much younger then and not as mature or sensitive to what was actually offensive and should have not been funny.

There is more that I could say, but I would probably wander too far off-topic, like others have already done.
 

D1Tremere

Villager
True.
However, there ARE standards for where said are can be placed and people have a right to not see art they do not want to. You have every right to make whatever art you want, but you cannot force someone to consume that art without their consent.

If people expect your art to be one thing, and you instead do something else, you cannot get upset when they protest and complain.

If I arrange to perform ballet in front of an audience in an elementary school, I can't do Naked Swan Lake and then defend that as "art" when the police get called for indecent exposure.
I tend to agree with you in general, but there are a few specifics I would argue.
Most art throughout history, including those considered classical national treasures today, were the result of commissions. That makes your definition for the line between art and commercialism fall differently then those generally accepted, but I still agree with you that art and product have differences, yet they can also be the same thing. In the end there is no real way to separate them because this relies on two things we can never know, the true intentions of the creator and the true impressions of the consumer. I don't think it really matters however, because I think freedom of expression is worth defending in both cases.
Which brings us to consequences. I don't think critics should be restrained any more than artists or creators. The problem isn't the freedom to criticize, it is the power that modern technology affords critics to impact the creative process. A library can certainly curate what it has on hand, but a person buying a book consents to some degree to consume it. It is fair to say that they deserve to be informed about what they are getting, perhaps that is a role filled by critiques, but then what we are talking about is not criticism impacting sells, but complaints restricting content. The head of the company has the right to change their direction and fire anyone he chooses, but that isn't necessarily a move we should be condoning. much less encouraging. It leads to a world where companies and individual creators are much less likely to take chances or be creative. Some would argue it already has. The term slippery slope is no longer sufficient if we are already sliding.
Lastly, I don't know where this statement started from WW that vampires aren't responsible for any real world issues, but they have officially been included as responsible for the crusades, the sacking of Carthage, and a number of other major events in past products. Maybe they should have changed the name of the country to avoid controversy, but isn't this the sort of thing we would expect inhumane monsters to be responsible for?
 

TrippyHippy

Villager
Yep, I was attempting to make up a direct quote in that sentence there, you got me lmao.

Actually, looking at the passage from the book "recurring international controversy" just makes it sound like LGBT face generally bad persecution, WHICH THEY DO but this just makes it easier to brush off as the same ol' same ol' from a third world country (er, "country") instead of the actual genocide that started last year. Also the genocide being described as "a distraction" is just kinda gross.

Really though, if this is how people are learning about the genocide for the first time as you say then they should probably do a better job than this portrayal. There are people like me who knew about what was going on, and those who will take it seriously. But then there'll be people who will just write it off as typical third world behavior, then the people who write it off as fiction created for the world of V5 (and also the people who'll believe Chechnya is a fictional middle eastern country that the writers made up, but that's a slightly different issue there).
You can certainly argue from your own critical point of view about how well the piece was written or thought through. The writers themselves are not responsible for what is happening in Chechnya or even presenting themselves as some sort of news service, though. They were just writing about world events, within a fictional framework, because it was what they were passionate about - in the same way we are discussing about these events on this gaming site too. It's passionate and sometimes clumsy and contentious - but nobody here is actually justifying or trying to downplay the awful situation being faced by LGBT in that region.

Of course the difference between what was written in the Camarilla book and what is being discussed here is that it was a professional publication. As such, business decisions will always be made to make sure they maintain a profitable and uncontentious relationship with their fanbase. That is what has happened in this case, although how successful they will be remains to be seen. Again, though, I stress none of these business actions to remove writing will actually do anything directly to help people in Chechnya who are suffering - and the Chechnyan and Russian leadership will still engage in propaganda regardless. The books censorship is an attempt to assuade those potential customers who were offended by reading it, and that is all.

Y'know, I'm tired of this "freedom from offense" nonsense.
Well, it's an important principle to be defended, because it's fundamental to living in a liberal democracy - which is something they don't have in places like Chechnya.
 
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Eltab

Villager
One of the reasons that the 2017 Wonder Woman movie was set during WWI instead of the more traditional WWII setting was because of (spoilers) using the god Ares as the one behind the war and who was keeping the war going.
Ahh, that does help explain an apparently suboptimal choice: WW1 is the best example of 'war as statistics' and the least-likely forum for a Superhero to be able to affect the bigger picture.

Tastes do change: air some current-day sitcom material in the 1990s, and you would not have made it to the air. Murphy Brown as a single mother was controversial.

+1 to your post.
 

Shasarak

Villager
In regards to sensitivity to real world events, one of the reasons that the 2017 Wonder Woman movie was set during WWI instead of the more traditional WWII setting was because of (spoilers) using the god Ares as the one behind the war and who was keeping the war going. If this had been done with WWII instead, it would have seriously trivialized what Hitler did during the war.
I always wondered how they got Nazis into WW1, it was all Ares fault!
 

hawkeyefan

Explorer
[MENTION=37579]Jester David[/MENTION]
That was a long an thoughtful post. I won’t quote it due to lebgth, but I’ll try and address the main points.

In my opinion, yes, commissioned works are art. Works produced with the intention of making money are art. I don’t mean this as a statement of quality...there can be impressive art and there can be uminpressive art. But that’s subjective.

And roleplayong games are also works of art, I would say. Especially for the purposes of how they are considered and critiqued.

As for your points about the target audience, yes of course work intended for children will have different standards than those intended solely for adults. I disagree with you that RPGs in general have some shared expectation of their target audience. I think that’s no more true than just about any other media. And I would say that Vampire: The Masquerade is firmly in the adult area.

I don’t think that the content in question was against some kind of rule or expectation on the part of the reader. I don’t find it all that outrageous given the way that White Wolf has presented the world in the past. Yes, they’ve avoided some sensitive topics. But they’ve also used all manner of real world atrocity as fodder for fiction. Now, I can understand why folks would find it to be in poor taste. I cannot blame anyone for finding offense, or at least insensitivity, in how this material was presented.

I just don’t think that means that it shouldn’t exist.

As I’ve already said, commercially I understand the decision of the company to edit the works and to change how they operate going forward. I realize what’s happened and why.

I’m just questioning if that’s the way it should be.
 

Elfcrusher

Explorer
"Freedom from offense" is a problem, in my opinion. There are lots of ideas that we should be discussing, but those who want to are silenced by those who are afraid of having those things discussed.

And the fact that it's a problem gets used as a defense by people who should not be given a platform from which to spout their truly offensive opinions.

Both things can be true simultaneously.
 

hawkeyefan

Explorer
Well, this is where art runs into capitalism.

If a work offends only one person, well, unfortunately for that one person, not much is going to happen. If 1000 people buy the work and 1 person is offended, well, the market has spoken. It's never about "how many people need to be offended". It's a business decision based on negative reactions by a large enough group that it hurts the bottom line. If you can convince enough people to agree with you that films with naughty language should be banned, then, yup, you win. You get to force your will on others.

Welcome to capitalism.
Right, I get that, and I’ve acknowledged it already in this thread. That’s why I asked the question separate of the business concerns.

Do you think that someone, or many someones, who finds a work offensive should have the ability to see that work removed or altered? Or should they simply avoid that work and similar ones that fon’t suit their taste?
 

Rygar

Villager
Could you please put a large warning when linking to RPG.net? Given the very political nature of that site and its participants, and the actions they've taken over the past few weeks, some of us would prefer to avoid giving them any traffic or revenue.
 

Jester David

Villager
In my opinion, yes, commissioned works are art. Works produced with the intention of making money are art. I don’t mean this as a statement of quality...there can be impressive art and there can be uminpressive art. But that’s subjective.

And roleplayong games are also works of art, I would say. Especially for the purposes of how they are considered and critiqued.
Fair enough.
Do you think this particular passage of this particular book for this particular game was an artistic expression?

(But for the sake of argument... if a roleplaying game is a work of art, would a game of football be art too? How about chess? Poker? Or is it just their rulebooks?)

As for your points about the target audience, yes of course work intended for children will have different standards than those intended solely for adults. I disagree with you that RPGs in general have some shared expectation of their target audience. I think that’s no more true than just about any other media. And I would say that Vampire: The Masquerade is firmly in the adult area.
Agreed. Vampire the Masquerade is very firmly "adult". While D&D is much more PG.
But that doesn't mean anything goes in VtM.

That doesn't mean they can present anything and everything in the book and not have to worry about upsetting people.

Earlier I questioned what the reaction would be if White Wolf postulated that the Sandy Hook Massacre was the result of a fledgling vampire who lost control of the Beast and the shooting was a cover. Because that would work as a plot hook. Plus the murder of a couple dozen people and a cover-up is well within the scope of what you see in VtM.
And the idea of thematically equating vampirism with gun violence has some very interesting connotations. You could tell a very interesting and multi-layered narrative with that hook.
But that doesn't mean it wouldn't be upsetting or offensive or cross a line.

I don’t think that the content in question was against some kind of rule or expectation on the part of the reader. I don’t find it all that outrageous given the way that White Wolf has presented the world in the past. Yes, they’ve avoided some sensitive topics. But they’ve also used all manner of real world atrocity as fodder for fiction. Now, I can understand why folks would find it to be in poor taste. I cannot blame anyone for finding offense, or at least insensitivity, in how this material was presented.

I just don’t think that means that it shouldn’t exist.
It's not a question of whether or not it should exist. It's a question of whether or not it should be in an official book. And whether or not the writing of that material should have been paid for and supported by White Wolf?

If the author in question really loved the idea of the Chechnya campaign seed, where you have to liberate or combat a country controlled by vampires... why couldn't that be a PDF product? That's literally what the Storyteller's Vault is for. Or they could do it on their blog and get funds through Patreon. No one is saying that idea should not exist in any form.

Or, alternatively... why does it need to be a real country and use the name of the real head of state while referring to the real murder of human beings? Comic books regularly have real-ish sounding countries. Sokovia. Markovia. Bialya.
Heck, they could even use a former country and say "Czechoslovakia".
That fills the same narrative role without potentially being seen as making light or taking advantage of the suffering of others.

As I’ve already said, commercially I understand the decision of the company to edit the works and to change how they operate going forward. I realize what’s happened and why.

I’m just questioning if that’s the way it should be.
What's the alternative?
The writers publish whatever they want? The publisher has no say in the product they're funding?
 

Hussar

Legend
Right, I get that, and I’ve acknowledged it already in this thread. That’s why I asked the question separate of the business concerns.

Do you think that someone, or many someones, who finds a work offensive should have the ability to see that work removed or altered? Or should they simply avoid that work and similar ones that fon’t suit their taste?
Does it matter? The reality is that if enough someones (and that number is never fixed) see something as offensive, then the work gets removed or altered. Democracy in action. That's how society works. Society judges that certain things are offensive (and that decision itself is not fixed - it changes over time) and exercises that judgement through economic means. Questions over whether or not someone should be able to do so are the wrong questions to ask since there is no real functioning alternative.

Telling someone to just change the channel is no different really than them telling you not to spread an offensive idea. And since we have a history of letting offensive ideas fester in small groups until it spills over and someone decides to run over several innocent women and children on the streets of Toronto (just to give an example) then it's much better, IMO, to categorically denounce these things very publicly. No, this or that is not acceptable and it's society's responsibility to make that judgement known.
 

Hussar

Legend
Forcing your will on others is not capitalism.

All most all of the other -isms do a better job of that.
Sure it is. There's all sorts of ways to force your will on others through capitalism. Monopolies for example. As well as boycotting. Both of these are very effective ways of forcing your will on others.
 

Shasarak

Villager
Sure it is. There's all sorts of ways to force your will on others through capitalism. Monopolies for example. As well as boycotting. Both of these are very effective ways of forcing your will on others.
I guess if you can drive other competitors from the market by being more efficient or providing a better product then yes capitalism can cause a monopoly. Which in this case would mean that someone has refined their RPG to such an extent that they have produced a product so awesome that no other RPG can compete with it.

And boycotting is kind of a hard way to force your will on someone. Not impossible but just really hard. Certainly hard enough that I would struggle to call it an effective tactic.
 

Hussar

Legend
I guess if you can drive other competitors from the market by being more efficient or providing a better product then yes capitalism can cause a monopoly. Which in this case would mean that someone has refined their RPG to such an extent that they have produced a product so awesome that no other RPG can compete with it.

And boycotting is kind of a hard way to force your will on someone. Not impossible but just really hard. Certainly hard enough that I would struggle to call it an effective tactic.
Really? Worked in this case didn't it?

And that's really, really not how monopolies work. There's a reason we have laws against them. Granted those laws are socialist in nature, but, hey, there's still pretty darn good reasons why monopolies are illegal in our countries.
 
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