Thoughts on content warnings?


#1

So my game is going to touch on some serious/mature topics like suicide and ritual cannibalism (as part of funerary rites) in certain paths. Now, I know that the first is something that can hurt people if not warned for, and the second is something that just seriously grosses people out in general, so I was wondering:

How would you address these concerns before a player got to them? I’m currently leaning toward a small warning in the game summary, but I’d like to hear other thoughts on it beforehand in case there’s a better idea I haven’t thought of.

(As a note, since my game is xenofiction I’m reluctant to add warnings directly to the writing; getting the player to sympathize with a very alien intelligence is hard enough without tripping the “MY IMMERSION” button.)


#2

Definitely make your content warnings clear before the beginning of the game. Your idea of a just a small warning in the summary is probably perfect–maybe put it on it’s own line to make sure it’s visible? I know I sometimes just skim summaries (but I also tend to pick up games from word of mouth) so just ensure that it’s easily seen and won’t be missed, but it doesn’t need to be overwhelmingly huge.

I would definitely advise against adding it directly in the story. I’d want warnings visible before I even got started–don’t wanna be halfway through and invested before something pops up telling me I can’t read any further.


#3

I think people’s objections to content warnings fall into at least one of three categories:

  1. They may be a form of censorship - if people are required to put content warnings on material that’s likely to trigger or otherwise upset people, they might choose to present “safe” stuff rather than put in the extra effort to add warnings (or so the argument goes). Since you’re willing to write about controversial material AND add content warnings, this concern doesn’t really apply to your situation.

  2. They spoil the events of a fictional work, removing some of the impact when the events occur in the narrative. Some people don’t mind spoilers at all (I tend like them and will often seek them out), some people hate them with the rage of a thousand suns. For this reason, I would put in an option to either view the content warnings or skip them entirely at the beginning of the game.

  3. It’s impossible to predict what exactly a reader will find objectionable (for instance, most people are not at all afraid of snow, but someone who was in a bad car wreck during a snowstorm might be triggered by it), which means that a truly comprehensive list of content warnings would cover every single element of the story. That would be really hard for you to write! So you’ll probably end up just writing warnings for what you think are the most objectionable elements - and some readers might feel like you’re not addressing their needs.

I feel that someone’s going to be unhappy no matter what you choose to do, so you should make your decisions based on your values, your vision for the game, and what you think will be most entertaining for the player.


#4

Content warnings are not something to laugh about they could save cog lot of money.
No really people thinks is not big deal not put warnings. And that lead to minors read stuff they shouldn’t or that someone who has been abused find suddenly some content that makes harm or suffering.

If you want to publish something and don’t be flagged or sued you HAVE TO put clear that your content is +18 due content could be considered morality wrong and attack people sensitivity.

In the thread put a +18 and cannibalism. Then people like me could run from it like from plague. And people who has that fetish could read it and enjoy the game. Also try to get teens out of that content.


#5

The app store, google play and steam all include their own rating systems visible on the store page. If a minor chooses to ignore those warnings, then whatever they are “exposed” to (which I’m sure they’ll already be familiar with anyways) is entirely on them. Covering everything in trigger warnings ruins the story for me. What if it’s a mystery game where the 18+ content is the big reveal? Do you want to spoil it for everyone just to placate a few people who need everything child-proofed for them?


#6

I am talking about the forum. And Yes I don’t want puke out my lever out because someone forgot about put the OBLIGATED WARNING. I certainly first thing if some cannnibalist pederasty game is not properly label is a flag b Denunce game to kick out of market.

The warning of +18 gore and sensitive trigger is not spoiler. Is just a easy thing to do and help people to don’t suffer stress or emotional pain and is OBLIGATORY


#7

What I was talking about is a more specific warning. If cannabalism is a major plot point in a game, and if the cannabilism is kept secret, then yes it is absolutely a spoiler to put a big warning at the start of the game. An 18+ warning should suffice. If you start adding specific warnings for everything that could potentially offend someone, it’s a slippery slope and who’s to say someone else won’t be offended by something you find perfectly innocent?

18+ warnings are fine but they are not necessary in game. They are already present on the store page.


#8

+18 is not sufficient because it could be because sex content I could be fine with and then suddenly being mental assaulted with a stressful scene I was not mentaly prepared.
+18 gore or conducts that harm sensitive person is not specified spoiler. I don’t saying author puts cannibalism warning but a gore and sensitive content is a must.

I have seen my grandma sister faint and almost suffering a heart attack because a Netflix add in a video is about a show where is a cannibal family and Drew eat a human heart like a hamburger and fingers like french fries. Well my familiar with 80 years had to go emergency because some moron don’t put a warning


#9

A forum game has no Store. and game info had to include a list of warnings. if there is not in the store should be clear in the tread title. and in game interface in a warning section that you could choose see or not.


#10

I second everything that @poison_mara said. 18+ isn’t sufficient for trigger warnings (although I won’t protest it in something like a thread title, as long as the reader can find a more descriptive list), and “slippery slope” is a poor excuse for disregarding the mental health of anyone’s readers. Obviously, trigger and content warnings are going to have varying degrees of importance to different people, and no one will ever be able to warn against every possible trigger that could ever exist. But nobody is asking for that. Content warnings don’t need to be specific, they just need to be able to let players who might need to avoid things for their health and well being avoid those things.

Should people look at seat belts and say “yeah, but not everybody is gonna wreck, so the people who did wreck should’ve just not been driving anyway”? It’s the same idea.


#11

If I am forewarned that a game has cannibalism in it, I will avoid it. (Although do zombie games have cannibalism warnings on them?)

I remember accidentally reading two books in my teens with cannibalism and they were horribly sickening. One was the whole ritual element to it. (I think that was Anne Rice’s Queen of the Damned) and the other was Exquisite Corpse by Poppy Z Brite.

Nowadays if I got to the cannibalism part I’d likely just stop reading. And if it was a game I’d purchased you can be guaranteed I’d be giving it a very vocal bad review if it had not warned me of the extreme content. (And no, I’ve never watched Silence of the Lambs or Hannibal no matter how good people might claim it is. UGH!!!)

As for suicide warnings. I think, yeah best to discuss if a game speaks of those matters, since it can be triggering. I think a warning should be there just as a courtesy. If it’s not there it could hurt people.


#12

One of the nice things about interactive fiction as a medium is that you can just present it as a choice whether to display warnings or not. That way someone who wants the warning can opt to see it, and if someone doesn’t want to know about the content matter ahead of time, they can easily opt to skip it. You could even track a “content warning” variable which will show content warnings at appropriate times if someone chooses to have those. This way you should be able to accommodate everybody. It’s what I plan to do :slight_smile:


#13

Getting slightly personal…I’ve attempted suicide, but suicide trigger warnings just…irk me for some reason???

People who have been or are suicidal are not fragile infants. I understand the need for trigger warnings, because suicide IS a sensitive subject and always will be, but…

Do we put a suicide warning on Hamlet? On movies with people who end up offing themselves? Why do so for a game?

With cannibalism, if it’s a twist to the story, like it is in Red Dragon (part of the Hannibal series) or wearing skin (part of Silence of the Lambs)…like just put 18+ gore, like your average video game.

These games should be rated just as you would expect a movie or tv show or video game or book to be rated. You give a vague “this is what will be involved” eg: nudity, gore, excessive violence, mental health, and leave it at that.

I hate when people stop being vague about their warnings, to the point of spoilers. I am an avid reader, being someone with severe mental health issues (I like to escape reality. A lot. It was books or drugs. I chose books), I don’t feel like I need the world hidden from me because I might have an episode. And I think we should treat people with more respect than that. They’ve been living with their mental health problems their entire lives, most likely. They can handle themselves.

Obviously, I don’t speak for everyone. I only speak for myself and those that think like me…but idk man. There’s no point in reading something that warns you about every little thing. Leave stuff to the imagination. Aura of mystery.


#14

In this case the cannibalism is not a major focal point of the story as a whole and is not described in gory detail, but it IS a major part of a scene because it’s… explicitly the MC being invited to the funeral of a very respected person (meaning that it is avoidable if you decline), and this is set in a society that treats the eating of the dead as a way to keep a part of them with the living. Think the Hyena funeral in Digger, but less raw liver. I tried to hit a balance between not shying away from very different aspects of a culture and not making people ill, but I know that it’s something that people would want a warning about when I finally get to that point.

Honestly I was going to add warnings regardless of thread input because I’m personally familiar with how unwarned for stuff can affect someone’s health, I was mostly interested in potential alternatives to my initial plans. I’m not exactly one of those people who thinks that content warnings are ~~for babies~~ or whatever, and I’d rather someone avoid content they’re uncomfortable with than the alternative. Even if it means a loss for me, or I end up with overgrown children whining about SJWs and censorship in my inbox (<= thing that has happened to several people because how dare they give a shit about the mental health of their audience or something??? I don’t understand those people).


#15

That’s a fair perspective to have, but I have a close family member who’s incapable of watching any medium in which a character attempts or commits suicide because of us his own experiences with it, so suicide content warnings are very important to me. I understand that not every medium comes with specific content warnings, but I don’t think that’s an excuse to leave them off of other places. Say what you will, I don’t think there’s any shame in needing to avoid something that triggers a mental illness, and I think that need should come before the personal preference of a consumer to whom it ultimately doesn’t matter


#16

I think a short warning, at least, is a must. Perhaps since it’s a CoG you can put a short trigger warning (for example say it’s 18+ for gore and violent themes) and let the player choose to read the warnings in more detail if they want?


#17

I am a suicide survivor. I consider having a warning for such things common courtesy. Having the warning isn’t a neon “DON’T GO HERE” sign, it’s a polite heads-up so you can brace yourself beforehand, same for other shocking content. Ideally I would have a spoiler bar of some sort that a reader could click to see, but I don’t think the site supports that by default.


#18

I’ve attempted suicide.

It’s a thread that’s woven itself throughout my life.

I am extremely fragile. Sometimes I’m okay. Other times I will be an absolute wreck at the mention of suicide. I find it extremely triggering and will spiral into an anxiety attack. I will remember the pain and suffering and loss and the depths of despair and I will be an absolute wreck.

Trigger warnings help me avoid that. They inform me so I can choose whether or not to consume specific media if I’m feeling particularly vulnerable.


#19

I hope you weren’t offended by my wording. I didn’t intend to imply that people who prefer more specific content warnings are “babies”, just that people with mental health problems are stronger than people give them credit for. It sometimes feels like we get treated like porcelain dolls who can’t handle anything, which is…hurtful.

Anyway, I’m sorry you’ve experienced that.
@homingpidgeon
I specifically mentioned “mental illness” as a TW. I think going into specifics is a bit much, personally, and I genuinely think it is insulting to the strength of people who have been through if. If we dont need the TW for movies or books, why suddenly for COG? Seems pedantic and a bit too much, imo.

I’m sorry your family member has such trauma regarding suicide, and I genuinely hope that it gets better.

And @ClyncyeRudje, since you’ve commented again since I started responding, I’ll just continue here:
I wont comment on my thoughts of the term “suicide survivor” as they would likely be considered rude.

I don’t think you’re understanding where I’m coming from at all, which is unfortunate. Nowhere did I say trigger warnings are unnecessary or sjw or whatever else. You’re putting words into my mouth, based purely on emotions and assumptions. Please be respectful to me, as I was with you. We can disagree and still not get defensive or bristly.

All I said was that I, personally do not like specific trigger warnings. I think vague trigger warnings get the message across fine. Nowhere did I make fun of triggers, imply that mental health was unimportant, or lessen others’ experiences. In fact, I specifically stated that I do not speak for everyone.


#20

Isn’t this where you could just have a choice at the beginning?

  • View content warning
  • Go on to story

That way if someone is worried about spoilers and wishes to just handle the material themselves, as @ashestoashes018 is expressing, they never have to see the warning. But it will be there for people who do feel concerned and who could really use it.

Wouldn’t that be the best of both worlds?