Is it a good idea to put in warnings that may spoil the game?


#1

Is it ok to spoil a game by warning others of its content? I mean it is good to warn others what is inside so they know to avoid it or not, but sometimes it can spoil the game for others by exploiting its content…is that OK? What is your thoughts?
(Mods, feel free to close this if asking this question is not OK, or something like this already exists.)


Thoughts on content warnings?
#2

If you phrase your warnings in such a way that it gives spoilers for what’s going to happen in the game, you’re doing it wrong.

General warnings and a minimum age recommendations for games linked to on the forum are recommended, but as long as it’s still a Work in Progress and isn’t so graphic in nature that it deserves an 18+ label, and people haven’t filed a complaint about it, we (the mods) aren’t going to complain if you haven’t got those. You’ll probably need at least the warnings if you’re actually going to publish the game though.


#3

I’ve been wondering about this, too… it’s no secret that Guenevere will eventually have an instance of non-consensual sex between two of the NPCs (as a result of magic sex pollen). While the sex itself will absolutely not be described – in fact, the characters won’t remember the specifics, just that it happened – they’re still going to be traumatized afterward, so I worry that the scene where one of them tells the MC what happened could be triggering for some readers. I’ve been thinking I would include a content warning with a fast-forward option for that scene, but I also feel like putting the option at the beginning of the scene may spoil some of the emotional impact. Nonetheless, I will probably do it anyway, and just try as best I can to give away as little as possible in the warning (while making it clear that this involves NPCs and the MC is only hearing about it).


#4

I think content warnings don’t need to be spoiler-y. If you say “violence and drug use”, that tells the reader nothing about who, what or when something will happen. If there’s something more specific, you can always go with “potentially disturbing content”, so people with certain strong triggers can decide if it’s worth that risk.


#5

I’m a fan of warning. I’m a BIG fan of them. I like them. I love them. I want them. I USE them.

This reminds me of the first book of The Night Angel, which I liked a lot when I started it (four, five years ago?). There was this very relatable protagonist (at least to me) which I loved, well written action, suspense, tons of realism and at the same time fantasy, it dripped darkness and there was a raw feeling into the letters which, greatly inspired me.

I loved the book but at the same time some scenes didn’t sit very well with me (I was 13-14, so… yes, back then I was a bit sensitive over certain things), because I was for the action/mystery/fantasy stuff that the book cover/summary talked about, not the sex/rape scenes, which made me think: “WELL, THANK YOU, DAMMIT!” Also, I wasn’t aware that the book was for older people than poor, naive and impressionable 13/14 year old me (yes, back then I was easily disturbed by things like that. Look at me now! :scream_cat: ).

So yes, I would say that warnings are good, or if you are not going to use them, at least make it very clear in the summary that the story is not suited for certain audiences or that there’s going to be a lot of death/gore/unsavory activities/etc.

Yep. Like @Sashira said, a spoilery warning would be “John Smith will get a very violent death!”, whereas the useful (vague) ones would be “death” (because who’s going to die? A NPC? A RO? This unnamed enemy that unless I kill them, I’ll be the ony dying?) and “gore” (again, what kind of gore? A bit of blood? Someone getting stabbed? Broken bones sticking out of the skin? Smashed brains on the pavement?); this way the player can prepare themselves for it, or think, “nah, I don’t like these kind of games, I’m not playing it”.

@jeantown non-consensual content is something that makes a lot of people uncomfortable, and telling the readers beforehand seems like a good idea (at least I would totally appreciate it), also if it’s going to be graphic or not. If you don’t want to outright tell them that’s going to be a non-consensual sex scene, word it differently or rather vaguely: the next chapter will deal with some content that differs from the canon non descript violence/sex scenes and that may upset the reader greatly; do you want to proceed as always or block it? (By blocking I mean that reader will get a very diluted version of the scenes that deal with it).

So if the player wants to play as always, you can use a variable, like *set nobook3changes true (I don’t remember in which book that happens…) and they will get the heavy material, whereas if they don’t want it then it would keep the variable false and they would see the light version. Do I explain myself? Like;

Here is plenty of text. Arthur and Morgana are acting strange.
*if (nobook4changes)
  They talk about what the weird magic made them do, and how it affected them.
*if (nobook4changes = false)
  They talk about an evil magic that hurt them, but 0 details. They are clearly affected by it, though.
 The story continues here.

100% agreed. Like, these kind of warning are the type I have for my game, mostly because I’m aware that gore and dark themes aren’t by all. The 18+ warning can be for a lot of things, from erotic to violent content, and not everyone likes both, so it’s nice to know which one the story/game is about.


#6

In my opinion, warnings are no better than hand-holding. We need less, not more. We need to be surprised, offended, sickened, and angered. These emotions build character and to be deprived of them could very well stunt our development into functional humans able to adapt to and overcome our circumstances.

I remember reading an assigned book for advanced English about a teenager put in jail and on trial for the rape and murder of his sister after the two of them had been on the streets for some years following the death of their parents. He was not guilty, yet he suffered throughout the book (including being raped himself while in state custody) until he was finally exonerated by new evidence.

I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe real life could be that way. I couldn’t understand that an innocent person would find themselves in such miserable, undeserved circumstances.

And that was important. It’s still important. It will always be important.

If we don’t know these things happen – if we don’t believe these things happen – then we dismiss the people to whom these things happen. And that’s more sickening than facing the idea that they happen in the first place.

However, I completely agree with @Lycoris in this point:

That is more than enough to separate those whom would rather endure from those whom would rather withdraw.

Also:

Keep your warnings simple and to the point and you shouldn’t have to worry about spoiling your game with them. A single word is very likely plenty enough warning.

The post @Sashira made above says it better (and more genial) than I could ever hope.


#7

If it’s not even getting described, only mentioned, I don’t see why a warning is necessary… Do these people also get triggered by watching the news everyday?


#8

Generally warnings are meant for the people who have experienced these things in real life and do not want to be reminded of them. It’s not just about content being disturbing, it’s about allowing people to manage trauma.


#9

That is a fair point, but what you’re referring to is avoidance behavior or avoidance coping, and it is a symptom of trauma, not a productive means of dealing with it. Avoidance behavior is a short-term solution that has proven to have a serious detrimental effect on a person’s long-term recovery.

Avoidance behavior is arguably the most studied and treated ramifications of trauma. The treatment I received for it was to translate my avoidance of the subject itself to an avoidance of circumstances which could lead to the trauma reoccurring. This means I could read, speak, or hear about the trauma (eventually) by shifting my defensive focus to preventing another occurrence by any means within my control.

Anyway, that’s a personal anecdote and should not count as an argument against your own viewpoint. I had only wanted to express my perspective on this subject as well.


#10

From the description, it sounded like they would be discussing the event in detail. And yes, people with certain triggers may avoid watching the news. I generally do; it’s not good for my anger issues to be reminded of all of the injustice and despair that happens every day.

@dashingdon For people with strong triggers, never being triggered would be akin to living in a world with padded walls. Avoiding conversations, books, maybe even staying inside so they’re never confronted by them. It’s a limiting way to live, certainly.

But if someone isn’t sufficiently prepared to deal with them, triggers hurt. There’s nothing noble or healthy about ripping off a bandage when the wound is still bleeding. This is why we have controlled processes like exposure therapy, rather than a lot of well-meaning vigilantes waving disturbing stuff in people’s faces and saying “HEY LOOK AT THIS!”

Content warnings are a way for people with healing wounds to make an informed decision about whether they’re prepared to face that particular trigger. Otherwise, reading any book or playing any game would be like trying to make a meal, knowing that any can you open COULD contain a vicious snake.


#11

Read through my post again and a lot of it was just off-topic; little rambling and some irrelevant personal opinion. So, to be brief, I agree wholly with @Sashira in the posts above as to this topic. :relaxed:


#12

I think it’s a great idea to put in content warnings, but I would try to avoid making them spoilers, or using them within the text itself (breaking the 4th wall). Would it be possible to have an option at the beginning of the game to opt out of certain scenes, then use ChoiceScript to check the variable and serve a different scene if selected? Something like “This game contains depictions of drug use (or whatever), do you want us to skip that for you when the time comes?”

Or if it’s unavoidable due to story needs (and that’s totally ok!) just let people know what’s present so they can decide if they can handle it.

Also, you can’t really forsee everything that could be a trigger. I have a family member who was treated for PTSD and her triggers were totally innocuous things like a certain type of car, a person’s name, or a specific movie. Just do your best to warn for what you know may bother people.

Also, I’ve been in therapy for years and I still refuse to see or read certain things if I’m not in the right frame of mind. If I could get everyone to warn for whether they are about to glorify suicide, that would be fantastic.


#13

Well I was responding to @jeantown who specifically said it would not be described, and that it wouldn’t even involve the player character. I’ve never actually came across any choicescript games that have described sexual acts, so I think it’s safe to assume there wouldn’t be a description (If it was described, would the game even be published? I get the feeling that COG want their games to be child-friendly). I don’t see the point in adding a warning just for the mention of a word, especially if it’s something like rape which you should expect to encounter in everyday life anyway. If anything it just serves to disrupt my immersion in the story. If you must put a warning, put a simple one at the start of the game, but don’t bombard people with constant interruptions throughout the story for anything that could potentially be offensive.


#14

A few more thoughts on trigger and content warnings.

They seem to be more prevalent in WIPs; by the time games are put up for sale somewhere there are detailed descriptions, reviews, and sometimes ratings that give people more clues about what’s in a game. When content warnings are used on a finished product, they tend to be mandatory for the platform (all of this year’s IFComp games had them) or a sort of advertising (violence! Drugs! Sex!) It would be great if they could be shown or hidden on demand, so people who hate forewarning could just skip them.

People with triggers might be MORE likely to read a disturbing work if it’s tagged with warnings. If I have certain triggers and the game is disturbing for different reasons, I know I can relax and enjoy it. And if it does deal with a strong trigger, I’m forewarned. I’ve read books dealing with things that happened to me, that are still traumatic; at times I asked for recommendations for specifically those. There’s a difference between studying a snake, and coming across an unexpected snake.

@tw1stedmind I have quite a bit of sexual stuff in certain paths of my WIP, so I gave a content warning in the first post, as well as some advice for how to play it and avoid the heavier stuff. I do agree that mid-game content warnings seem immersion-spoiling - @bobsmyuncle has an interesting idea about setting a content flag early on that would show/hide certain scenes or details, like some games do with an “R-rated” and “All ages” version.


#15

I think the very vague (violence, drug use, sex, so on) warnings are a good idea. Personally I’m not opposed to any of those things in a story/game, but I’m not always in the mood for them. Seeing a warning like that might stop me from having a bad impression of the game just because I was looking for something lighter at the time.

On the other hand…

If I am in the mood for something a little darker seeing a warning like that is almost an advertisement.

As for more specific triggers. Why not give the reader the option? A choice before the story starts.

This game contains scenes that some readers might find particularly disturbing would you like to know more about them before reading.

Yes
No

Or something like that. You could even have levels of warnings.

Yes(Vague)
Yes(Specific)
No

That kind of thing.