Mark Rein-Hagen On Georgia in the Gaming World


‘Tamar leads Georgia’ - intoned the narrator, and the Georgians rejoiced.

When a celebrated figure from your history becomes a character in one of the most celebrated video games in the world, it's worth celebrating, I say. Apart from matters of national pride, it has pragmatic benefits as well: people are going to learn about Georgia, and, based on empirical evidence, those who do, want to come here; from invaders in ancient times all the way to the ever-swelling numbers of tourists our country seems to attract nowadays. And who better to talk to about Georgia's "game world" future than Mark Rein-Hagen? A role-playing, card, video and board game designer best known as the creator of Vampire: The Masquerade and its associated World of Darkness games, along with Jonathan Tweet, he is also one of the original two designers of Ars Magica. His work on World of Darkness influenced the movie series Underworld, TV series True Blood, and other kin sub-cultures such as Real Life Vampires and Real Life Werewolves. Mark was kind enough to both host us and give us his insights as soon as the news about Civ VI's new expansion broke.

Aside from your fame as creator of one of the most popular game settings, you are quite an adept at playing Civilization, too.

When the last edition of Civilization came out, I’d had some surgery done and wasn’t allowed to move my back at all. So, for two months straight, I played Civilization, getting the world’s highest scores in certain categories. It was one of my proudest moments, really. My favorite game at a high difficulty setting.

What’s your take on Tamar’s inclusion in the game?

I’m really happy. It’s about time Georgia got included! I’m a huge proponent of bringing tourists to Georgia. It helps the economy, we have full employment, wages go up. It’s great! This game is played by millions of people worldwide and is one of the best-known computer games ever made. So, having Georgia in it means that people will know Georgia; they will learn the history, ‘cause when you play Civilization, you don’t just play a game, you learn about world history. And now Georgia’s history is a part of the game. This is nothing but good news. People who play it will want to come and visit, trust me.

When the news broke, there were some Americans and Europeans coming out with the opinion that Georgia should not have been included because it had not contributed much of note to world civilization. What would be your response?

A lot of Europeans and Americans don’t realize how big and important Georgia once was. They don’t understand how crushed Georgia got by the Mongol invasion. It would be completely different if they hadn’t been swept under. Because they haven’t heard it in history books, they don’t know about it. That’s why it’s so great that Georgia was included. I keep writing about Georgia on social media. This is a very special place: it’s much older than Europe, and is the cradle of tradition of wine, not France. Civilization will help people come to see it themselves.

Some on the Georgian side were surprised at Tamar’s having dark skin. Some were offended.

Well, I must admit that after all the invasions, you know, the DNA of the country changed a little bit. Color can change. She is definitely darker than many would expect. But then we all have different colors. People love to imagine medieval England all being white, and they forget that there were black people then. The whole world has been mixing for a long time. I personally think [the designers] got it wrong, but it’s no big deal.

What aspects of Georgian history or literature could be best represented in the medium of video games to yield good results? Let's assume we are talking about AAA production, large-scale, epic stuff. Would Knight in Panther’s Skin make a good video game?

Sure, it would make a great game. Or one about Georgians during the crusade, when the Georgian cross became the symbol of the crusades. The idea of Georgians going on crusade, taking part in it, or fighting the Mongols. Struggling alone against the mighty army: that’s a great story!

No matter how amazing the history might be, no matter how colorful Knight in Panther’s Skin might be, there’s little chance a foreign studio will pick up on it. The impetus should come from Georgia.

This is a great industry for Georgia to be involved in because you don’t need natural resources to do it: you just need people. Georgia has always been good at math. It’s practically a tradition in Georgia. And creativity. Remember, ten years ago, Poland was where Georgia is today. There was almost no game industry, no companies. Now they have a company which has several hundred employees. It creates enormous wealth in Poland. Now people know about Poland as a country because they play The Witcher for hundreds of hours. We need something like this about medieval times in Georgia. Because we have this amazing scenery here, very unlike what there is in Europe, like Game of Thrones: it’s unique. So, people see this in the video game and are excited because they’ve never seen it before.

Apart from tactical war games, what other genres would work? RPG?

Sure. You play a crusader, say, from Britain, who befriends a Georgian noble in Jerusalem and you come back with him to Georgia after the first crusade and you see this kingdom: together you have an adventure like a magical version of medieval times.

There was also The Rise of Argonauts. It was quite a successful title. The myth is perfect for a game with a fantasy setting.

Absolutely, the whole Medea myth is just waiting to be told. Not the Greek version: the Georgian version. Greeks "borrowed" a lot of things. Prometheus on the mountain? It’s a Georgian myth. People argue whether it is Greek or Georgian. Well, Georgia is a much older country than Greece. When Georgia was a country, Greece was still a tribe. Georgia has been a land for 20,000 years or more. This is an ancient country. Much more ancient than any country in Europe, and it has all rights it needs to tell the world its version of this myth.


15 January 2018 19:05