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Eddy Webb “Finding Horror in the Eighties”

Posted on May 4, 2009 by Flames

Eddy Webb, Alternative Publishing Developer at White Wolf Publishing, brings us a new design essay today. Eddy tells us how New Wave Requiem was developed, what some of the challenges were and how the project came together.

Finding Horror in the Eighties

New Wave Requiem started as a joke. A bunch of us were clowning around in the Vampire office (where both the developer and art director had their desks) and joked about all the vampire movies in the eighties. The idea stuck in my head long after the conversation ended, and it led to me spending hours doing research, watching movies and constantly rewriting an outline until I really felt that we could do a Vampire product on America in the 1980s and still have it be a horror game. The biggest barrier was trying to find the horror in a decade that has been recently smothered in nostalgia. But once I started looking, it actually wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be.

For my research, I pretended I didn’t live through the eighties and did a skim of historical events, taking note of ones that still had a strong resonance with events of today. I kept an eye out for core elements like terrorism, war, disease, technology and intolerance – things that strike a cord with us in any kind of horror, regardless of the decade. And once I started looking, it was easy to find threads: the Cold War, AIDS, the Satanic scare, fear of personal computers, crack cocaine. From there I moved to watching some select movies from the time, but I ignored supernatural and fantasy movies to focus on dramas, figuring those would focus on what resonates with people at that moment, in that time. From there I found the undercurrents of vice, greed and the speed of history that ended up shaping the core of NWR.

Once I had a ton of notes, I started pouring through the Vampire property, looking for connections. We already had an entire group of demonic vampires (Belial’s Brood), so mapping the Satanic scare to them was simple enough. Malkavia was a vampiric disease introduced in Lords Over the Damned that struck me as a good metaphor for AIDS, so I tied those together. There were lots of connections to be made, but one thing I tried to keep in mind as I pulled pieces together was to think of what scared people at that time, and figuring out how I could twist it to scare a vampire instead.

At some point, though, I had to put a stop to the outlining and get some other folks to do the heavy work. I had some amazing freelancers and an insanely gifted art director help me on this project, and they deserve the credit for taking my hodge-podge of ideas and putting them into the awesome product we have out now. I think part of what makes NWR so special is that everyone involved really had a passion to not only find what was horrific in the eighties, but also what was uniquely vampiric in the time period. They would constantly surprise me by taking ideas I sketched out in a few sentences and push the material to the next level.

I came away from the project having learned two important points about historical horror. First, don’t get caught up in the trappings – look for the fundamental elements first, and build up from there. It would have been easy to get lost in the Hammer pants and music videos, but by focusing on the basics and building up to the tropes of the time period instead of the other way around, a lot of connections practically suggested themselves. The other point is that horror is all about the fears or everyday people, and understanding those fears is far more important than deciding if you want to crowbar a werewolf or a mummy into a particular story. Once you know what people are scared of, you can build an engaging supernatural shell around that fear.

Eddy Webb – 2009

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3 Responses to “Eddy Webb “Finding Horror in the Eighties””

  1. Chuck says:

    I’ll tell you, it *is* easy to get lost in Hammer pants.

    October, 1987, I don’t even remember that month. I only remember the parachute pants. The plastic smell. The *sound*.

    — c.

  2. As one of the freelancers (not sure about the “amazing” part, but I did my best), what was important, to me, was taking it seriously.

    It’s easy to go camp with the 80s. In hindsight, a lot of 80s media was absurd and ridiculous. Taking the crazed, greedy priorities of Wall Street or American Psycho’s skewed reality, lighting it in neon under a veneer of chipped pastel paint and playing it straight is more than a little terrifying.

    Add to that the Cold War, the fear of GRIDS, the Millennial and Nuclear paranoia… The 80s were made for vampires.

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