For vampires, today is full of challenges and full of possibilities – depending on whether they keep up with the fast-paced world or not. And I’m not talking about (relatively) real-looking LED candles, Spotify, and live broadcasts of the MET.
In vampiric society, information is usually more valuable than money. Modern technology offers incredible possibilities to get hold of recordings of even secret conversations. You don’t have to buy spy equipment for that. Smartphones already record conversations in good quality.
But – of course, here comes a but – just because something is possible doesn’t mean it’s allowed. Because recording other people is strictly regulated by very real laws.
Everyone uses what they have – right?
Every Cainite who owns a smartphone can record conversations. The range of reasons is huge. Some want a reminder, others sometimes want to blackmail their counterpart.
One advantage of smartphones is that almost everyone has one nowadays. They are no longer an uncommon sight even among Cainites. The devices are simply available to everyone. For clandestine recordings, all you need is a voice recorder app. You already have everything you need for recordings in your trouser pocket or handbag. Of course, hardly any vampire will be happy to be recorded – but you have to get caught first, don’t you?
But – you guessed it – there’s a big catch: the laws that apply to us as performers.
(We are not lawyers and therefore cannot give legal advice. Nevertheless, it is clear that recordings without the consent of the person being recorded are prohibited).
Legal situation: right to one’s own image
In a nutshell: If you take pictures of another person without their consent and even share them, you are actually breaking the law. And you can be prosecuted for this.
For our characters, the laws of humans only apply as far as they are necessary to preserve the masquerade. Vampires can steal from each other, commit character assassination, or make assault the order of the day.
For us as performers, it’s a different story: We have to abide by laws, of course.
In our game world, the technical possibilities of the real world are available. But that does not mean that valid laws are suspended. In other words, by participating in the game, other players do not automatically agree to being secretly recorded. Not even if they know that theoretically the possibility exists.
(By the way, this applies not only to photos, but also to videos and sound recordings).
Making legally safe recordings
You would like to use the possibility of secretly making recordings of other characters? That is theoretically possible. But: The only legal way to make recordings of other characters is to get the consent of the respective person beforehand.
Furthermore, there is a difference between taking a picture and later using it. If a player has given consent to recordings, you are still not allowed to upload them online (e.g. upload it to a cloud storage) or show them to other people. The issue is complex and is, quite rightly, hard enforced.
As already mentioned at the beginning: We are not lawyers and cannot give legal advice. If you want to have a legally sound statement, you have to find an appropriate person in the field.
Things to consider apart from the law
Apart from the legal aspect, which prohibits secret recordings, there are three other important points that everyone should consider: Respect for your fellow players, the atmosphere of the game, and that the game is actually nicer without recordings.
Respect your fellow players
Many players don’t want anyone taking photos of them in their outfit as vampires without their knowledge. With increasingly better facial recognition, it is more and more likely to be spotted online in rather unflattering pictures. The concern that this will happen and result in professional disadvantages is justified: If you work in more conservative industries like banking, you’re unlikely to make friends on the board as a bloodsucking anarch with a chainsaw.
Even if you would never upload these photos anywhere: If you record your fellow players without their consent, you are making a decision for them over their heads. The mere idea that other people are photographing you and that you yourself no longer have any influence on what happens to that picture is nauseating.
It doesn’t matter how exaggerated these worries look for some. So that everyone can enjoy this hobby, we take such concerns into account.
Shots are not beautiful
Let’s face it: very few shots can really convey the mood of a scene. In the game, the raging Brujah makes everyone tremble with his terrifying outburst of rage. On the blurred picture on the smartphone display, the situation is no longer impressive.
Apart from the legal factor, such pictures very quickly ruin the cool atmosphere of a game. Instead, be happy about the memory of a really cool evening. That’s nicer than looking at a photo a few weeks later and asking what was so great about it. Because it doesn’t look as scary on the photo as it did in your memory.
A good game doesn’t need photos
Without question, photographs could be very useful in the game. They can be used as evidence and as leverage. If you have forgotten something, you can listen to it again in its original wording.
But that’s not really what our game is about. Neither for trading information nor for deep immersion do you need sound recordings. The experience of the last 20+ years has shown this clearly time and time again. Characters whose information was worth a lot didn’t become that big because of technical tools. What made them influential were active play, interaction with other characters, and building their own reputation.
At the same time, recordings don’t help you feel deeper into your character. They are much more likely to take away the magic and uncertainty of a situation. An example: An allied character tells me that they overheard a conversation of my enemies. This statement is much more exciting to me than just listening to the audio recording of it. In the first case, I can consider whether my ally understood everything correctly, how I check this and whether they are lying to me. In the second case, I only have to flick through evidence.
Sure, the second is more practical and convenient – but just not nicer.