So I am.
What I'm reacting to is the idea of trigger warnings as badges of honour, and, more broadly, the idea that "serious games equals serious gamers". This is something I've both reacted against and internalised. I would be cross at an insistence that only deep, dark angsty games are "worthy." But at the same time I'm conscious that I really only write light and fluffy games, making me, in some depth of my subconscious, a bit of a lightweight.
I am a complicated person.
I tried to rebel against/succumb to this feeling, this Pheno just gone. I tried to write a dark and political game, exploring the psychology of evil characters making bad, selfish decisions in a time of environmental collapse. The result was FUD, a light farce with parodical characters making bad, selfish decisions in a time of environmental collapse. The game had more in common with my previous con games than I'd imagined it would.
The game was successful on its own terms. I've not heard anything in the first- and second-hand commentary to suggest otherwise. My normal marks of a successful con game (no complaints, at least one lot of effusive praise) were met. I got to play in the Paranoia setting, one of my first gaming loves. But it fell a long way short of what I was aiming for, and that rankles.
I mention this to people who who write the darker style of games, and say, "How do you do it?" and they say, "Ah, but I can't do the comedy games like you can," and I say, "Not the point!" before pausing to consider what they've just said, which is, essentially, "I do it by an instinct which I find difficult to explain; I can't do comedy games in the same way."
At least, that's close enough to my response to the reciprocal question. When I'm asked how I write comedy games, my gut-level response is "how can I not?"
So my questions remain:
What makes for a good dark game?
What do you put into it?
What's important in putting together the characters? What do they need?
How do you manage mood and expectation setting?
How dark is too dark? Are there places you won't go?