Mental illness has long been a prominant features of the World of Darkness, and Vampire: the Masquerade specifically. There are a number of very obviusl conditions that many of the Vampires in the setting suffer from, and that’s before you even hit the Malkavians. Clan Malkavian are defined by mental illness, or “derangement”.
This article from Gamesindustry.biz addresses this pretty directly in regard to the Bloodlines 2 video game. Here’s a reminder of the who the Malkavians are from their clan reveal video:
I think that the Malkavians are not, in themselves, problematic, but I do think that the portrayals that some players make can be. Obviously I’m talking more about the tabletop game than the video game, but the interesting insights in this article apply just as much to the tabletop, particularly for storytellers, as they do for games in the digital medium.
The article is long, it’s reflective, and it’s both interesting and useful. Here’s a wee preview and there’s a link at the bottom to go read the whole thing:
Mental health institutions in games are environments of hostility filled with gibbering attackers. Indigo Prophecy’s asylum level was presented as if it were a horror setting. World of Warcraft’s villains are often motivated solely by ‘madness,’ or ‘insanity
Then there’s this notorious line of dialogue with spoken by a Malkavian player character to a stop sign in Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines: “You’ve made a powerful enemy today, sign!”
Bloodlines, released 15 years ago, made mental illness the butt of many jokes when playing as a character from the deranged Malkavian clan — the dialogue for which was infamously written in a very short span of time.
“I think more time could have been spent developing [these characters] at the time, but their presentation in the first game is due more to the strain of having to get them out quickly,” writer Brian Mitsoda tells us. “I think people still enjoy the unique experience of them, but I don’t think they’re a great examination of mental illness and shouldn’t be held up as one.Improving the depiction of mental illness in Vampire: The Masquerade @ Gamesindustry.biz
Now, this article was written in 2019 and, since then, Paradox have actually fired the developers of the video game and are seemingly looking for another company to carry things forward. That doesn’t bode so well for the ganme, but I do hope that whomever takes up the mantle on this project is as thoughtful and considerate as the previous crew.