Dark Themes, Controversy and Why Meaning Matters

Well, then I’m not sure what you mean. We both agree that CoG/HG has the right to determine their own guidelines, and that authors should respect and follow those guidelines.

Not at all. Feedback and critique are extremely important, but there’s a difference between saying “I don’t like it when games contain X,Y and Z,” or “I refuse to play games that contain X,Y and Z,” and saying, “Author’s shouldn’t write about X,Y and Z in their games, and if they’re going to write about stuff like that they should do it somewhere else.”

When somebody says that certain content is unsuitable for Hosted Games, even when the guidelines specifically state that the content is suitable, then they’re not respecting CoG’s right to publish what they deem is best for the company… Which is exactly what you said people shouldn’t do.


This is where we disagree. It is their responsibility to say exactly this. CoG/HG and the author can accept or reject that feedback, but without such feedback, there is a danger that both the author and the publisher are out-of-step with what their consumers want and/or need.

The Me Too Movement did not affect change by staying quiet and accepting the status quo. If CoG/HG receives enough feedback regarding a standard that no longer makes sense or is just plain wrong, then those guidelines might be changed or clarified.

On the contrary, I said they should, multiple times. What I said is:

The difference between what I want and what you want is granting the author the ability to circumvent the feedback process if the content in question meets the guidelines.

It is very important that:


You’re more than entitled to that opinion, and I’ve seen plenty of comments from other people who share that opinion, but I personally don’t agree. I feel that pretty much anything an author writes is acceptable, so long as it falls within the guidelines and has the appropriate trigger warnings. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having a villain discriminate against another character purely for the sake of demonstrating how evil the villain is. In fact, I think that this can often improve a story since, when you think about it, the vast majority of the evil in the world stems from discrimination. When you have a villain that doesn’t discriminate against anybody in any way, shape or form, how evil can they really be? (Unless they’re purely greed driven, but it’s pretty restricting to expect an author to have every villain in everyone of their stories be driven only by greed.)

Granted, this might put some people off reading a game. Players have absolutely every right to boycott a game if they find any of the subject matter disturbing or distasteful. Still, ultimately, the author has the right to decide whether or not they want to take that risk. (At the end of the day, the only person who might end up losing out is the author, since they could potentially drive off a large chunk of their potential audience, and as a result, lose sales and get lower ratings on their games.)


Well, that kind of contradicts what you said earlier.

“I wish authors/developers like @Avery_Moore would respect and acknowledge CoG’s right to publish what they deem is best for their company instead of insisting that they carry some sort of societal burden to publish whatever am author/developer deems they wish to write.”

Can very easily be flipped to:

“I wish users like @Eiwynn would respect and acknowledge CoG’s right to publish what they deem is best for their company instead of insisting that they carry some sort of societal burden to censor whatever a user deems they don’t wish to read.”


Well, CoG/HG also lose out in that scenario. Lowered sales on a title impact them just like they do the author, after all.


It does not -

is in direct reference to your belief that:

It is my belief that at times, even if a game meets guidelines and has trigger warnings that it may not be acceptable and at those times CoG should have the ability to decline publication.

You believe the ultimate decision should lay with the author - at least that is what I take from various statements like:

While I believe the ultimate decision lays with the publisher.

It can’t be flipped because I do wish that testers should respect and acknowledge CoG’s right to publish what they deem is best…

After listening to the feedback provided, if they chose to publish something disagreeable to the tester, then the tester has the responsibility to accept that decision or to move on. I’ve said this before…

Indeed, I reinforce this all the time in WiP threads where feedback at times is in danger of being circular in nature. Here is what I always say:

So in summary - the tester has the responsibility to leave feedback, even if that feedback critiques acceptable standards or guidelines set. Once the feedback has been given, the author can accept it or reject it. At that point, the tester has the responsibility of accepting the author’s decision or moving on.

During submition, an author has the responsibility to adhere to guidelines set by the publisher but if there are additional factors the publisher uses to deny publication, outside of those guidelines, the author has the responsibility of accepting those additional factors or moving on.

Until a contract is signed. Then each party has rights and responsibilities as laid out in that document.


And, if published for some reason, to attract a crowd that we do not want to be here. lbh.


That doesn’t sound very good. A “we don’t serve their kind here” mentality seems somewhat counter to the open nature of this place, and more like the sorts of backwards reasoning one would have found prevalent fifty years ago. But a somewhat similar point might be that a super controversial title could offend or even chase away some of the hardcore buyers who normally snap up just about everything the company puts out; folks like that are worth a lot more than someone that will just buy the controversial title and nothing else. Or even several such someones. Controversy can be profitable (though by no means is it assured), but it could also lead to a short-term gain, long-term loss scenario if it alienates the regulars.


Well, you know what kind of crowd I’m talking about. And lbr: we DO NOT want them here.

I don’t, honestly. I didn’t play MMM. I loved that Sam took chances and wrote about eclectic things, but this one felt like a hard pass to me from the word go.

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have you heard of… gmr-gat* (i’m not writing this out lest they find us)

It’s bad enough to have those d*ckwads whine about evul sjws ruining gaming in so many CoG reviews on steam. we don’t need to attract them by having games containing stuff they consider marks of ‘real games’

but back on topic now


I think you can say GamerGate. They’re misogynists, not Beetlejuice.


Fair enough, but if HG still deems that a game is suitable for publication, then apparently they’re prepared to take that risk aswell.

I have to disagree with you here. Having a villain be discriminatory just to show “how evil they are” is lazy writing.

People aren’t evil for the sake of being evil. People’s actions are evil because their objectives and values are different from yours. Other than a few notable exceptions (eg Roger Stone), people don’t see themselves as evil or the villain. They’re either narcissistic, psychopathic, or tribalist.

If they’re narcissistic, they may be discriminatory, but their discrimination isn’t core to who they are. Who they are is a narcissist (eg Trump). The discrimination may be a tool, but it’s a tool like any other tool. In this instance, do you as an author need to use this tool to achieve the effect of demonstrating the character’s narcissism? Does the discrimination serve a purpose that can’t be fulfilled by another tool? Does the use of discrimination outweigh the potential psychic damage that could be caused to a reader who suffers from that sort of discrimination in real life? Dollars-to-donuts, you could find another tool to demonstrate the narcissist’s narcissism. (If anything, discrimination by a narcissist should be used to show how hollow and value-less the narcissist is, because he believes in nothing. Not to show that he is evil.)

As for psychopaths, psychopaths aren’t discriminatory. They would have to value their own tribe enough to devalue another tribe. Psychopaths being discriminatory is simply bad characterization.

Tribalists can be actively discriminatory—believing that their tribe is better than others—but they don’t see themselves as evil. If anything, they see themselves as good and/or righteous. Such an individual may be discriminatory towards another tribe, but that discrimination happens within a tribalist worldview that should be explored. If not, then that’s not a character, but a caricature.

More importantly, though, what purpose does the discrimination serve in the context of the story? I return to the claim that using discrimination to demonstrate that a character is evil is lazy writing. If you want a character to be compelling, then you need to understand what their motivation is and then explore that motivation. Gesturing towards the nebulous concept of “evil” by using discrimination doesn’t explore that motivation, it just makes the author look amateurish. And, to be frank, I prefer for the games that we publish to be more sophisticated than that.


IIRC neither the CoG staff, nor any of the staffs at the publishing platforms goes through the entire game to see if it is suitable.
That task is up to testers.

You have several games up yourself. You know that ‘all’ you do is mark how much violence/swearing etc is in a game.
That’s what IIRC CoG and the platforms go by. (unless you have a game about the russian revolution, then google russia will check it and mark it as nc-17)


This is incorrect. After a game is submitted, we (@RETowers ) or someone outside the company reviews the game to make sure that it doesn’t violate our standards.

However, we do not have time to play games (such as MMM) that are in development. We only review them AFTER they are submitted. This does mean that things get linked to from the forums that are inappropriate, but c’est la vie.


Ah, thanks for the clarification. Wasn’t aware as such, might have mixed things up

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14 posts were split to a new topic: Being Better Internet Citizens

I’ve read the HG publishing information, but it didn’t list specific information about market projections, so feel free to ignore this if I’m wrong, but it seems to me that it COG reviews a submitted HG game and determine that controversial themes (which do not violate the guidelines) negatively affect market projections to such an extent that releasing the game would be a monetary drain, then it would make sense to reject the game without updating guidelines.

I also think it’s worth pointing out that we’ve already been having a discussion on what exactly the guidelines means (what is glorification?), and COG’s interpretation of their own guidelines might differ from mine or yours, and ultimately we have to accept their interpretation since they are the ones publishing the game.


Just to be clear - my position is that guidelines are non-specific rules or principles that provides direction to get published under the HG brand.

These are rules of thumb, rather than strict rules because the actual publishing of a game depends on the review and approval of HG staff As @RETowers indicates in post 8 a specific purpose is necessary when including material in a game such as rape and discrimination, even when they do fall within guidelines.

Or as Jason indicates, the following question should be answered in a satisfactory manner before a game is accepted for publication:

Exactly my thoughts.

Edit - Because this is becoming a circular argument, I am taking a break from this discussion and I think that this topic has run its course for now. Unless there is anything new, I’ll be declining further comment.