Programme Session Details 2024

200-Year-Old Vampires: A Game of Undeath, Covens, and Reflections on Cinema History

Corresponding Author: Christopher Jeansonne

All authors:

Length: 90 minutes


In this workshop, participants will be introduced to and play a condensed version of the learning game ‘200-Year-Old Vampire’, designed for university or upper-level secondary students.

200-Year-Old Vampire revamps the motion picture history class through the mechanics of tabletop roleplaying games. Student-players create and then roleplay members of covens of young vampires who, at the end of the term, will plan a ‘festival of the motion picture’ reflecting on the first two hundred years of photographic and moving images. They initially imagine their character’s human life and initial transformation into a creature of the dark–which would have occurred in the early to mid-1800s, in the first years after the invention of the photographic image, at a place in the world of their choosing (which they must research and historically situate).

Across the semester, they trace their vampire’s observations about the world and its cinemas, covering two centuries of photographic images and motion pictures. Their observations are contextualized by historical readings, viewings, and creative exercises, so that they can better imagine how their vampire might have experienced both the events and the motion pictures that they might have encountered along the way.

As a pedagogy, in the class there are both solo and collaborative strategies at work. The students roleplay their individual characters but also come together as covens of 4-5 individual vampires, comparing and contrasting their historicized perspectives; this allows them to employ ‘media archeology’ methods of historical media studies, but in a much more playful and generative way than we find in most film history classes. Throughout the semester, students write in-character journals and create period-appropriate artifacts. Finally, all of the covens in the class come together to prepare their ‘Festival of the Undeath of Images and Motion Pictures’–an event to which non-vampires from the community are also invited (which they attend at their own risk).

In the workshop, I will both recount an alpha-test version of the game in a Fall 2023 class called ‘The Film Experience’ (a 6-week long alternative final project for the class in which 7 students participated), including student feedback on that process, and then playtest elements of the in-progress beta-test version which to be implemented as a full semester course in Fall 2024.

Note: This is a variant of Tim Hutchings’ Thousand-Year-Old Vampire, a well-known solo-RPG about memory and forgetting, and is also indebted to a version called Five Hundred-Year-Old Vampire, an art history game for classroom use designed by Jason Cox (soon to be published in the US as its own volume). The designers of those two games fully support this project, and their input has been invaluable in the initial stages of the design process.

References, web links and other resources:

Not at this time, though here are links for both the Thousand Year Old Vampire by Tim Hutchings, and for 500-Year-Old Vampire by Jason Cox…

Thousand Year Old Vampire [At Tim Hutchings website]:

500 Year Old Vampire [the Backerkit page for the game which is soon to be published Spring or Summer 2024]: