Author Topic: Unavowed & Trigger warnings  (Read 847 times)

Unavowed & Trigger warnings
« on: 07 Jan 2019, 23:55 »
Quote from: Moderator edit
This discussion has been split off from the Unavowed game announcement thread. –Snarky

I've been playing the game and I loved it so far, but when it came to the Bronx and the player gets a vision that shows
Spoiler: ShowHide
that the player had an affair with a guy while they were possessed by a demon and couldn't control their own body, and a picture taken of them together is used for a puzzle afterwards.
and I just felt terrible after seeing that. Am I the only one that feels that this scene was massively inappropriate for the game? I get that it's a way of showing how evil the demon is, but I can't help but feel like sexual abuse is an overused trope whenever people want to make a story dark and it feels unfair to have that sprung up on you without warning, especially since you are meant to create your own protagonist and identify with them.

And I wish to say that these sort of things can be extremely stressful to survivors with PTSD or people suffering from anxiety or depression, and I don't think this kind of subject should be included without a content warning.
For me personally, it took all the enjoyment out of the game and if I had known it was going to be a plot point I probably wouldn't have bought it.
« Last Edit: 12 Jan 2019, 09:50 by Snarky »

Mandle

  • NO PIXEL LEFT BEHIND!!!
    • Mandle worked on one or more games that won an AGS Award!
    •  
    • Mandle worked on one or more games that was nominated for an AGS Award!
Re: Unavowed & Trigger warnings
« Reply #1 on: 08 Jan 2019, 11:44 »
I've been playing the game and I loved it so far, but when it came to the Bronx and the player gets a vision that shows
Spoiler: ShowHide
that the player had an affair with a guy while they were possessed by a demon and couldn't control their own body, and a picture taken of them together is used for a puzzle afterwards.
and I just felt terrible after seeing that. Am I the only one that feels that this scene was massively inappropriate for the game? I get that it's a way of showing how evil the demon is, but I can't help but feel like sexual abuse is an overused trope whenever people want to make a story dark and it feels unfair to have that sprung up on you without warning, especially since you are meant to create your own protagonist and identify with them.

And I wish to say that these sort of things can be extremely stressful to survivors with PTSD or people suffering from anxiety or depression, and I don't think this kind of subject should be included without a content warning.
For me personally, it took all the enjoyment out of the game and if I had known it was going to be a plot point I probably wouldn't have bought it.

Spoiler: ShowHide

If you continue to play through the game after this point then you'll find out that your character not having had control over their body during this event isn't exactly what really happened.

Re: Unavowed & Trigger warnings
« Reply #2 on: 08 Jan 2019, 15:02 »
I've been playing the game and I loved it so far, but when it came to the Bronx and the player gets a vision that shows
Spoiler: ShowHide
that the player had an affair with a guy while they were possessed by a demon and couldn't control their own body, and a picture taken of them together is used for a puzzle afterwards.
and I just felt terrible after seeing that. Am I the only one that feels that this scene was massively inappropriate for the game? I get that it's a way of showing how evil the demon is, but I can't help but feel like sexual abuse is an overused trope whenever people want to make a story dark and it feels unfair to have that sprung up on you without warning, especially since you are meant to create your own protagonist and identify with them.

And I wish to say that these sort of things can be extremely stressful to survivors with PTSD or people suffering from anxiety or depression, and I don't think this kind of subject should be included without a content warning.
For me personally, it took all the enjoyment out of the game and if I had known it was going to be a plot point I probably wouldn't have bought it.

Spoiler: ShowHide

If you continue to play through the game after this point then you'll find out that your character not having had control over their body during this event isn't exactly what really happened.

Ok, I'm willing to give the game another chance if the rest of the story can explain it, but I still think it was in very poor taste to spring that on the player without warning.

I also had Vicky in the party, whom made jokes about the found photo and cheerfully said "it won't hold up in court" without giving the player any satisfying way of telling her off. It felt especially inappropriate considering she's a former cop and real-life survivors have a hard time being taken seriously by the law, and it's frustrating you couldn't say that to her in the game.
« Last Edit: 08 Jan 2019, 15:49 by Blondbraid »

Mandle

  • NO PIXEL LEFT BEHIND!!!
    • Mandle worked on one or more games that won an AGS Award!
    •  
    • Mandle worked on one or more games that was nominated for an AGS Award!
Re: Unavowed & Trigger warnings
« Reply #3 on: 09 Jan 2019, 10:34 »
but I still think it was in very poor taste to spring that on the player without warning.

I see what you're saying to a degree but putting topics like sexual abuse out of bounds or having specific "Contains sexual abuse references" warnings for viewers, in the case of movies, or for players, in the case of games, or readers or whatever is getting a little too specific and also into too much spoiler territory I feel.

"Contains adult themes" should be enough, really, and then you know that you might be confronted with things that could make you uncomfortable without having the powerful moment of the particular scene spoiled for you ahead of time.

If a game, or movie, or whatever, had "Includes sexual abuse themes" in its description then it's going to rob that scene of some of it's impact when it happens.

Like I said, though, that's not exactly what happened in the story of this game, but let's say it was what happened for the sake of argument.

As long as the game is rated with an "Adult themes" warning then I have no problem with it. I don't want my warnings broken down into "Sexual themes", "Sexual abuse", "Drug use", "Tobacco use", "Violence", "Explicit Violence", "Swearing", etc. etc. as these labels could become spoilers and also way too annoying as they propagate down the screen.

"Contains adult themes" is enough and, if someone has an issue with any kind of specifics then they can google the game or movie for specific warnings somewhere I'm sure.

Ali

  • What will become of the baron?
    • Ali worked on one or more games that won an AGS Award!
    •  
    • Ali worked on one or more games that was nominated for an AGS Award!
Re: Unavowed & Trigger warnings
« Reply #4 on: 09 Jan 2019, 11:07 »
There seem to be two reasons people want warnings on products, one is so they can keep their kids away from certain subjects - in which case "adult themes" is sufficient. However, I believe that people with PTSD often suffer from specific triggers, and if they're going to avoid those triggers they need to be alerted. It's not about just not liking swearing, tobacco use etc.

That said - and this is a testament to how varied the game is - I have finished the game and I have no idea which bit you're talking about!

Spoiler: ShowHide
I don't remember finding a picture of the demon in a relationship. Does the demon being in a relationship with someone constitute abuse, or is there more implications?


(Also, congrats to Dave on the recent nomination / world domination.)
« Last Edit: 09 Jan 2019, 11:29 by Ali »

Re: Unavowed & Trigger warnings
« Reply #5 on: 09 Jan 2019, 12:41 »
For the sake of clarity, this scene is the scene I was referring to.
Spoiler: ShowHide
The player has a flashback that reveals that the demon had an affair with a man while possessing the players body. Even if there is another explanation at the end of the game, when this scene does show up, it still looks like the demon was making somebody have sex with the players body while they were possessed and couldn't tell what was going on, essentially on par with having sex with someone who's drugged and can't consent. The player even has to pick traumatized or disgusted comments around the event. Even if if there is an explanation of the events, it still looked like the player was raped when the scene appeared.

I played as a female cop, and the person in the walkthrough played as an actress, so just out of curiosity, what gender and profession did you play as, Ali?

Still, I wish to say that while I don't have PTSD, I have struggled greatly with anxiety and depression lately, and in some of my darker moments, have even harbored thoughts of hurting myself. It's gotten a little better lately and I have it mostly under control, and I haven't hurt myself, but I'm still suffering from overwhelming feelings of helplessness and not being in control of my own life, and one of the few refuges that have helped me manage that, even if only by a little bit, have been video games that let me feel like my choices mattered and escape my feelings of hopelessness for a while, and Unavowed for all intents and purposes was presented as a mystery adventure game where off-screen murders was going to be the only dark part of the game, but then the game pulled out the rug under me and forced me to essentially roleplay as a rape victim in order to proceed. I felt like sh*t afterwards and still feel like sh*t every time I think back at it and that scene wasn't good storytelling for me, because I didn't get angry at the demon, I got angry at Dave Gilbert for adding what then looked like random sexual abuse out of nowhere in the game for shock value and without warning, audience members with mental struggles be damned.

I only have problems with depression and I've managed it for now, but imagine if someone in an even worse place than me had played the game, like a survivor of rape or a person that have a history of self-harm? Sudden and unexpected depictions of triggering topics can and will cause episodes for people with severe illnesses, and it isn't harmless, and a way to help people avoid it is to let people know which pieces of media are going to show these topics beforehand. And like Ali said, this isn't about things like swearing or alcohol or any random thing inappropriate for children, I'm specifically talking about subjects like rape, detailed suicide notes or descriptions of someone's thoughts leading up to suicide or graphic torture, which can be traumatizing even to adults and I think it's unfair to force everyone with any form of struggles to do detailed research on every single piece of media they want to consume beforehand (and even then, it's next to impossible to find reliable information just by a quick google search), or should everyone who isn't at their best place health-wise be forced to skip all movies and games that aren't rated for kids?

I also don't see how a mere warning of the fact that a story contains sexual abuse would be a massive spoiler, since I'm not asking for a detailed description of who gets abused and how or why, just knowing the fact that it does contain sexual abuse or something that looks just like sexual abuse. Let's imagine it this way: there is a chocolate bar that contains peanuts on the inside, but you can't tell because it's covered in chocolate, and for all the people trying the bar for the first time, the peanuts come as an exciting surprise. However, there are people with peanut allergy, and consuming peanuts would be harmful, or even downright lethal to them in the most severe cases, and I'm asking, would it be fair to not put a warning label on the chocolate bars, and risk the health of those who do have an allergy just for the sake of not spoiling the surprise for those who aren't? A warning label would mean that those who aren't troubled by it can still consume it as they please, but those who are troubled are given a fair chance to avoid it.

It was hard for me to write all this down and share it, but I hope you can all understand what I'm trying to say.

Ali

  • What will become of the baron?
    • Ali worked on one or more games that won an AGS Award!
    •  
    • Ali worked on one or more games that was nominated for an AGS Award!
Re: Unavowed & Trigger warnings
« Reply #6 on: 09 Jan 2019, 16:41 »
I do remember that scene now. I was a male bartender, and it played out the same, IIRC. At the time I interpreted it as a seduction - with a degree of demonic coercion that I can understand would make people feel uncomfortable. I didn't recognise the scene you were describing because I didn't think of it as depicting sexual abuse.

But I do think content warnings are a thoughtful idea. We worry too much about spoilers, in my opinion. You know everyone is going to die before you watch any Shakespearean tragedy, and it doesn't spoil it.

VampireWombat

  • Not a chupacabra
    • I can help with animation
    • I can help with backgrounds
    • I can help with characters
    • I can help with play testing
Re: Unavowed & Trigger warnings
« Reply #7 on: 09 Jan 2019, 20:37 »
I suppose I was desensitized enough to not be impacted by the scene when I saw it. But I never thought of the game as being a mystery adventure game. I recognized it from when I first saw images from it 2 years ago as being Urban Fantasy. Almost every urban fantasy series I can think of has something as bad or worse. Episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel have glossed over similar events. So I can see how it would be easy to not even think of the full implications of such things when demons, vampires, and other supernatural forces are involved. Not to say that warnings shouldn't be included, of course.

Re: Unavowed & Trigger warnings
« Reply #8 on: 10 Jan 2019, 22:24 »
Dave Gilbert's previous games, the Blackwell series, are very adult and very emotionally intense.  Unavowed is no different in that respect.  Not every adventure game is pretty and lightweight - most aren't.  People looking to play an adventure game should keep this in mind.

Re: Unavowed & Trigger warnings
« Reply #9 on: 11 Jan 2019, 11:21 »
Dave Gilbert's previous games, the Blackwell series, are very adult and very emotionally intense.  Unavowed is no different in that respect.  Not every adventure game is pretty and lightweight - most aren't.  People looking to play an adventure game should keep this in mind.
Well, you can't rely on every single player having played the previous games, and it was even stated in the production thread that Unavowed was going to be a standalone game aimed also at those previously unfamiliar with the series. I haven't played the Blackwell games, but nothing from the reviews I've read suggested that they would deal with sexual abuse, or any other form of content warnings for that matter.

And to suggest most adventure games deal with these topics, well, I've played Technobabylon, Indiana Jones and the fate of Atlantis, Monkey Island 1 & 2, The Longest Journey, all three Syberia games, Paradise by the same creator, Sam and Max season 1, The Book of unwritten Tales, all three Secret Files games and the spinoff, Lost Horizon and Lost Horizon 2, The Dark eye: Chains of Satinav, Memoria and The Whispered world, and none of those games featured suggestions that the player character had been sexually abused and I would not consider it a naturally expected staple of adventure games .

As for games that do have dark themes, the game The Cat Lady say's right off the bat that “Contains occasional graphic violence & gore, some strong bad language and infrequent frontal nudity.” when you enter the Steam store page, and I've yet to see a single person complain that the content warning ruined their experience of playing the game, so I don't see why Unavowed too could have just a short warning that the game features scenes of something that looks like sexual abuse.

Mandle

  • NO PIXEL LEFT BEHIND!!!
    • Mandle worked on one or more games that won an AGS Award!
    •  
    • Mandle worked on one or more games that was nominated for an AGS Award!
Re: Unavowed & Trigger warnings
« Reply #10 on: 11 Jan 2019, 13:42 »
As for games that do have dark themes, the game The Cat Lady say's right off the bat that “Contains occasional graphic violence & gore, some strong bad language and infrequent frontal nudity.” when you enter the Steam store page, and I've yet to see a single person complain that the content warning ruined their experience of playing the game, so I don't see why Unavowed too could have just a short warning that the game features scenes of something that looks like sexual abuse.

The warning for The Cat Lady doesn't mention "Depictions of suicidal thoughts", which would be the one I would say should be most important if the warnings were in place to avoid triggering negative responses from people dealing with such issues.

I feel that the warnings are there more to cover the creator's ass for legal reasons of "decency laws" than to avoid showing a player something that may trigger a negative emotion for them.

While I sympathize greatly with anyone dealing with issue like strong phobic reactions or PTSD I also feel that it is not the responsibility of any form or art to cover every single possible variation of such in its list of warnings.

The TV news media doesn't come with specific warnings that the following story contains rape, child abuse, etc. themes, and neither do most movies, theatrical works, and so on.

It could be argued that games are only supposed to give us a respite from the horrors of the real world and should be able to be chosen via a filter that allows the player to pick the one that will contain nothing that might disturb them.

But if we were to impose that on the game creator then the list of everything they might have to mention in the warning list could be so long that it might go on for pages and pages. And also this kind of relegates games to a position of being taken less seriously than other forms of adult storytelling. If a movie doesn't have to mention in its warning list that a character makes mention of being sexually abused as a child (Eg; Forrest Gump) and doesn't have its rating adjusted because of that, then why should this happen with games? There was no graphic scene of the incident in Unavowed, it was only talked about (and also turned out to not be the case later on, but that's beside the point).

Maybe a one-stop website where games, or other media, that could be searched specifically for how many potential triggers it contains as flagged by the audience is a potential solution?

I don't know if anything like this already exists, and, if not, then feel free to go ahead with this idea if anyone is interested in doing so.

www. triggerwarnings. com or somesuch as the domain name perhaps?

(Yeah, such a thing probably already exists, but if not, and if anyone makes a fortune from this idea, just let me know and my lawyers will be in touch that would be enough satisfaction for me... hehe)

Ali

  • What will become of the baron?
    • Ali worked on one or more games that won an AGS Award!
    •  
    • Ali worked on one or more games that was nominated for an AGS Award!
Re: Unavowed & Trigger warnings
« Reply #11 on: 11 Jan 2019, 15:04 »
Apologies if this is getting off topic but - no one is saying that *only* games should provide content warnings. Movies do have content warnings already and (in the UK at least) TV news regularly warns people in advance if the content of a report is likely to be disturbing.

Re: Unavowed & Trigger warnings
« Reply #12 on: 11 Jan 2019, 15:12 »
You are right that the warnings on The Cat Lady are sadly lacking, but I wanted to make the point that content warnings in and on themselves doesn't lessen the people's experiences of media.

With news pretty much everyone are aware that reports of rape, suicide and child abuse will appear when such things happen, and in Sweden at least, they do come out with a quick warning that "the following may be disturbing to certain viewers" before going into detail or showing footage from warzones, injuries and so forth.

And I'm not asking for a super long and detailed list of anything that could possibly offend anyone, I'm specifically asking for a warning regarding the single most common cause of PTSD,
it's not an obscure phobia only affecting a handful.

And even if the scene in question didn't show anything explicit, it was still troubling because the game gave you a customizable blank slate character and strongly encouraged you to project yourself onto them, and then makes you specifically choose how your character would react to what looked like a traumatic event, and that makes it far more upsetting than merely having a character you don't play as mention sexual abuse without forcing you to give your input and role-play as them.

Once again, I'm not asking to censor anyone or preventing writers from depicting dark or adult subjects in games, but I think it's unfair that people already suffering from depression, PTSD or any other crippling mental disorder should be forced to do meticulous research before being allowed to find escapism to alleviate their conditions, and when it comes to basically anything that isn't media, the responsibility is on the creators to warn the customers about any eventual risks before using their products. All manners of equipment, chemicals and tools all comes with warnings on how to prevent injuries from using them wrong, and just because mental injuries aren't visible it doesn't mean that the pain isn't less real than cutting or burning oneself.

All I ask for is that specifically sexual abuse, graphic torture, child abuse and suicidal thoughts in characters you play as gets labeled with a quick content warning,
and I don't see why this would be an unreasonably difficult thing for content creators to do.

And while a site dedicated to listing PTSD triggers in media isn't a bad idea, the problem is that not everyone will know how to find the site, if they even know that the site exists at all, and it still places the burden on the people suffering. There is also the matter of how to moderate such a site in order to prevent trolls from willfully misrepresent content or spread false information. I'd like to have a reliable site for this purpose, but that cannot be a full substitute for also having content warnings on store pages.

There is also still the social stigma against mental illness in society, where people still claim that it isn't real or that those who have it should just "tough it out" and learn to deal with reality, and in some way the knee-jerk reaction many have against content warnings is a continuation of that stigma. I ask that you try and imagine that, whenever there was something like child abuse on screen, it would feel like a knife inside your brain. You can't ignore it and you can't choose it away, it's the sharp carving feeling of a knife in your brain and that feeling lingers a long time even after you stop watching, and you have no reliable way of telling which games, movies or other media could cause this beforehand, wouldn't you too want a reliable way of content warnings too?

Apologies if this is getting off topic but - no one is saying that *only* games should provide content warnings. Movies do have content warnings already and (in the UK at least) TV news regularly warns people in advance if the content of a report is likely to be disturbing.
I couldn't agree more and I have had a problem with books too with detailed descriptions of rape or murder, and I think that all media should have content warnings if they portray things that warrant it.
« Last Edit: 11 Jan 2019, 15:14 by Blondbraid »

Galen

  • Ancient Greek Physician™
Re: Unavowed & Trigger warnings
« Reply #13 on: 12 Jan 2019, 22:58 »
I see what you're saying to a degree but putting topics like sexual abuse out of bounds or having specific "Contains sexual abuse references" warnings for viewers, in the case of movies, or for players, in the case of games, or readers or whatever is getting a little too specific and also into too much spoiler territory I feel.

"Contains adult themes" should be enough, really, and then you know that you might be confronted with things that could make you uncomfortable without having the powerful moment of the particular scene spoiled for you ahead of time.

'Adult themes' is super vague and can cover everything from drug abuse to mass murder. While there's not necessarily a place for it, you could always have an option to display a larger more spoilery content warning for users that actually care which kinds of content is being warned.

Or even take a note out of games of yore that had no swearing/violence/blood options, and have an option in game to simply remove (or rework) such scenes entirely.

Ali

  • What will become of the baron?
    • Ali worked on one or more games that won an AGS Award!
    •  
    • Ali worked on one or more games that was nominated for an AGS Award!
Re: Unavowed & Trigger warnings
« Reply #14 on: 13 Jan 2019, 10:55 »
I agree that the info should be available for the people that want it. This reminds me of people objecting to games having easy modes, or story modes, which is particularly selfish when you remember that plenty of people have disabilities which mean that they can't just git gud at some things. Why shouldn't people be allowed to enjoy (or not enjoy) a game any way they want?

I don't think creators should be obliged to alter or censor their games when it comes to adult content. But I think it's thoughtful for devs to consider the different ways people want to approach a game.
« Last Edit: 13 Jan 2019, 10:57 by Ali »

Re: Unavowed & Trigger warnings
« Reply #15 on: 13 Jan 2019, 11:31 »
I agree that the info should be available for the people that want it. This reminds me of people objecting to games having easy modes, or story modes, which is particularly selfish when you remember that plenty of people have disabilities which mean that they can't just git gud at some things. Why shouldn't people be allowed to enjoy (or not enjoy) a game any way they want?

I don't think creators should be obliged to alter or censor their games when it comes to adult content. But I think it's thoughtful for devs to consider the different ways people want to approach a game.
That's a great analogy, because having an easy difficulty setting doesn't mean that the harder option isn't still available for those who still want a challenge, and similarly, content warnings doesn't mean that creators have to change or cut content from their works, just that people who have anxiety, depression or other disorders can know ahead of time, just as many movies and games already have warnings of blinking lights or flashing images for the sake of people with epilepsy.

Mandle

  • NO PIXEL LEFT BEHIND!!!
    • Mandle worked on one or more games that won an AGS Award!
    •  
    • Mandle worked on one or more games that was nominated for an AGS Award!
Re: Unavowed & Trigger warnings
« Reply #16 on: 22 Jan 2019, 13:40 »
Blondbraid, now that you have finished the game I think you can see what I was talking about when I said that the

Spoiler: ShowHide
involuntary sex theme that disturbed you was not really what had happened. I can still see your point where that is what seemed to have been the case at the time for the player and that this may warrant a warning, but I'm glad you got through to the point of finding out that the instigator of the sexual encounter and participant in it was actually the original owner of the body in question. His reasons were diabolical and actually it could be said that the other participant was the non-consenting victim. I'm curious if the other participant's involuntary (or semi-involuntary) position disturbed you as much as it did when you thought that it was you, the player character , that was being victimized.
I'm not having a dig here by the way. I'm honestly interested to hear about this as a comment on how we potentially relate to the player-character stronger as being "ourself" than we do to an NPC or a character in a movie or other non-interactive media. Cheers!

Re: Unavowed & Trigger warnings
« Reply #17 on: 22 Jan 2019, 14:00 »
Indeed, and I do see the scene differently now once I've seen the full story and understand the true context.

It still disturbed me at the time though due to it looking like the player character was abused at the time, and you're right that it happening to the player character affected me more than
if it would have happened to an npc or movie character, and the fact that you had to choose the answers for your character yourself made it all the more gut-wrenching, and it's similar to how
horror games, at least to me, is much more frightening when you have to avoid getting the player character killed yourself compared to just watching them get threatened in a horror movie,
and this is why I think these sort of warnings are especially important in video games.

And the effect is stronger the more you identify with the character, it's usually why so many horror games have a first-person perspective, and similarly, I find it easier to accept the protagonist in
a game getting involved in dark situations or doing immoral things if the character is a pre-written character with a set name and identity rather than a blank slate you give an identity yourself.