The Vampire Foucault: Erotic Horror Role-Playing Games as a Technologies of the Self
Keywords:transformation, emancipatory bleed, Foucault, erotic horror, Vampire: The Masquerade
In Technologies of the Self (1988), philosopher and sociologist Michel Foucault summarizes his life work as an analysis of how various truth games explore “the relationships between truth, power, and self” and in this series of lectures he investigates the “practices whereby individuals, by their own means or with the help of others, acted on their own bodies, souls, thoughts, conduct, and way of being in order to transform themselves to attain a certain state of perfection or happiness” (Foucault 1988, 15, 18). While Foucault provides a genealogy of religious and philosophical examples of these technologies of the self, those familiar with role-playing games (RPGs) recognize that their practice also meets these criteria. Even though most people play RPGs for entertainment and escapism, they are potentially transformative (Kemper 2020; Bowman and Hugaas 2021), especially erotic-horror RPGs, like Vampire: The Masquerade (VtM) (Davis et al. 1992).
This essay will explain how RPGs function as a type of truth game and how they can be understood as technologies of the self when played to achieve transformative bleed. It will also use Foucault’s thought to explain how some RPGs, like VtM, are better suited for transformative bleed because their technology of signs, i.e., the setting and rules that define meaning within the game, enable the development of more psychologically complex characters through game mechanics inspired by Jungian depth psychology (Bowman 2010; Beltrán 2012, 2013). Finally, my most recent character, Robin Alecto, Robin Alecto, will be used as a case study of how the game mechanics of VtM function as a technology of the self.
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