I was contacted by TriCoast to do a review on a documentary being distributed by it’s off-shoot, DarkCoast. Now, normally, I would be hesitant to say yes to this type of review, but the film was a documentary on White Wolf Publishing’s World of Darkness series. It has inspired a known cultural phenomenon, including influencing many in the cosplay community.
World of Darkness: The Documentary
Honestly, I’m starting off with stating I thoroughly loved watching this documentary. I took a stupid amount of notes I’ll try to condense, but I do enjoy role-playing games. I dallied in Vampire: The Masquerade years ago, and am a fan of the supernatural anyway. I loved seeing the costumes created by live-action role-players (LARPers) and the stories they intertwine. All of this is covered beautifully in World of Darkness and literally dives right on into it from the get-go.
There is immediate discussion of the role-playing games available in the 70s and 80s and how the main genre that was popular was fantasy. Interviewees discussed the ridicule faced by discussing their involvement in the games and why they tended to keep to strict social circles (sound familiar, cosplayers?). There wasn’t a lot of information out there with new content, so that was basically how White Wolf Publishing was born… Creating magazines to spread out amongst other players.
The founders discuss how GenCon, the world’s oldest tabletop role-playing convention, was how they took off. Their magazines became popular and they eventually ended up merging with Lion Rampart because of it. They then go into how the economical changes of the time that caused urban decay seen around the founders are what inspired the creation of Vampire: The Masquerade, where you would play a vampire and thusly, an anti-hero. This brought in all types of people, including more women, who were interested in a change-up in role-playing games at the time.
The game also brought together all the major vampire mythology, both modern and ancient, at the time. It introduced the idea of less rules and more storylines, turned classes into clans, and all-around made it easy to create a very expanded and evolving character. Fanclubs were born, then LARPers received their own version of the game, with the RPG turning into a huge expansive world. Thus… World of Darkness was truly born.
The artwork was done by Tim Bradstreet (I remembered his name because well, THAT ART) and it was heavily influenced by the goth punk fashion and club scenes of the 90s. All of it was based off of actual models and poses, which made the art feel more alive and real. This was another reason LARPers and regular role-players grew to love the game as well.
Speaking of the LARPers, they interviewed several throughout the film. Each one discussed their love for the game, as you watch them get into their costumes. It’s really enjoyable to listen to their stories and see their transformations throughout the film. All of them are from different clans, and each has a different story, but it’s cool to see how the game brought together such a different variety of people first-hand.
Still from World of Darkness: The Documentary, photo by Curious Josh
The World of Darkness quite literally became a cultural phenomenon, facing both the good and bad of such a title. From murderers and bad television series, White Wolf Publishing faced a lot of backlash in the late 90s. The digital age was upon them and sales took a hit to the point the original Vampire creator was laid off, but vampires and the supernatural exploded on-screen.
The Blade movies, Underworld, and many other works were clearly influenced as well, listed and examples given throughout the documentary, and it was all quite fascinating to learn about what occurred with each. However, the World of Darkness continued onwards, until the big blow hit when the fanclub and publishing company went to court over the use of the “Camarilla” name. The publishing company won, but it started outcasting the people they relied on for business.
To garner interest back into the series, the founders decided to restart the series under Vampire the Requiem, but due to many things explained in the film, the fans were still not getting into it. The PC game, Bloodlines, was launched afterwards and did decent enough, so White Wolf Publishing wanted to pursue more in the digital age.
Attempting to pursue making a MMORPG, like Eve Online and World of Warcraft for example, they hired fashion designers in their merger with gaming company CCP. However, the budget far exceeded what money existed and the idea was eventually scrapped with a lot of people losing their jobs along the way.
The documentary ended with an update as of 2015 concerning White Wolf Publishing and their next venture. But, to find out more on that, you’ll have to watch it yourself.
World of Darkness: The Documentary, artwork by Tim Bradstreet
Overall, I found this film fun and fascinating, with good visuals and music compositions. The interviews and older footage of the founders and creators made everything a lot less stale for what you’d expect of a documentary. The cosplayer in me loved the costumes and clothing introduced by the LARPers and digital fashion designers. It’s all around a pretty fun film and I definitely recommend checking it out!
DarkCoast will bring White Wolf’s World of Darkness: The Documentary to the USA on September 18th, 2018 for its online digital release streaming on various VOD platforms (Amazon, InDemand, iTunes, Fandango, Dish, FlixFling, Vimeo on Demand, Google Play, Sling).