Sunday, 16 June 2013

Here's a question. How to do trigger warnings?

Some context. I grew up as a writer in a time of horrific (style and only sometimes level of competency) gaming, in which people got raped, we turned out to be Nazis and did terrible things with babies. I grew fighting those games with my light and fluffy things. They just weren't me. But they left an impression, which I'm still fighting today. And the impression they left with me is that running and playing these styles of games is a badge of honour - "I can go further to the extremes than you can and cope".

Now I write somewhat serious games, games about relationships and emotions and the darker side of the spectrum. Partially because of the impression I fought against as a young writer I try very hard to give the impression that "what you like is lovely and what I like is lovely". But I still get the impression that writers are putting badges of honour on their games, going to the extremes and now using 'trigger warnings' as a way of say "you have to be real hard to play my stuff".

According to Jezebel "For those unfamiliar with the term, trigger warnings exist to alert rape survivors, eating disorder sufferers, and others to language that might disturb them. And actually, "disturb" isn't really that accurate — the point isn't to help readers avoid offense or annoyance, it's to help them avoid relapse, self-harm, flashbacks, and other serious psychological and physical fallout."

I don't write games about sexual abuse. I don't write games about eating dissorders and I don't use language.

But... I know some people don't play my games cause they don't like what I do. Fair enough. What I encountered last con was one player pulled out of my game and another came and had a quick word with me to say that they were very uncomfortable with what was written. I explained I was more than happy for them to shift whatever they were uncomfortable with out and they were willing to play.

But... I don't want to put players in a position where they feel they are forced to encounter things they don't want to. It's supposed to be fun.

But... I don't want to slather trigger warnings all over my games and further the impression of you need to be 'hard enough' or 'willing to play with extremes' or something. I don't write the sorts of games which put me offside when I was younger.

But... I now have players pulling me aside unhappy with my work.

Basically... I don't know what would be uncomfortable with one player vs another, I don't have any right to find out, I don't want to make players uncomfortable (either with playing something that makes them unhappy or by being forced to play in a 'trigger warning' competition).

So, I'm vaguely thinking of putting something on the bottom of my blurbs "I like to run on the darker side of emotions & relationships. If this is where you get your game on, you might like it". Would something like that help? Or do I need to reclaim (at least in my own head) "trigger warnings"?


  1. Every game should have a trigger warning. Even a game called "Spot the Dog Plays With a Ball", designed for three-year olds (although possibly you'd address that warning to the parents). The point of triggers is that they're personal and unpredictable and that people may have bad reactions to stuff that you thought they could copy with. If you knew they weren't going to be able to cope with it you wouldn't have run it in the first place. The point of the warning is not to tell players that they're getting into some serious stuff here, but to tell them how to alert you if they do have a problem, to let them know you'll deal with that respectfully, and to make players feel safe because they know that the GM has thought about the material and that they won't be pressured into going somewhere they don't want to go.

  2. "This product may contain traces of wheat, milk, violence, incest, clowns or nuts."


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