Horrified--Games DO need warning labels.

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Horrified--Games DO need warning labels.

#1 Post by JBShields » Sun Sep 24, 2017 6:33 pm

This is a short rant about a VN (not posted on this board) that FAILED to properly label its genre.

I won't name the game--because it is immoral, I don't want people looking for it for curiosity's sake. The point of this post is the importance of game labels.

I thought I was going to be playing a dystopian worker simulation. I've played those before--like Papers Please. You do have to be prepared for the emotional shocks in such games. But I'm used to them and I have a personal rule--never to play one depressed. The thing with dystopian games is, you can make moral choices. There will be some bad side effects, but in the long run, you can do it and "help" others. So there's a good guy option aspect to it.

I heard about this particular VN game on a PC web magazine. Thought it'd be cool since they NEVER promote indie games all too much.

Hahaha. Boy was I fooled.

It was the F'ING MILGRAM EXPERIMENT. If y'all don't know what that is-- it was a psychology study to find out why people became obedient to the Nazis.

This game should have been labeled as "Psycological Horror". Because it was in its worst way--YOU were the bad guy (but didn't know it) and like the Milgram Experiment you are pressured to (eventually) kill.

The game is bad--because the player assumes that some of what they're ending may not be a "robot".

I was starting the second chapter in when I realized what was going on. I pulled out of the game. Big Nope factor x 10. It shook me--bad.

There are lines you cannot cross when making games. The creators needed to think of the players. I know, I know, it's just a game. But when you expect one thing and get something else, it's terrible. This game was actually labeled--"adventure". Horror was an option from the buy site. The creators didn't even tag it as such.

AND what made things increasingly worse when playing the game was that there was no save (implied time pressure by it), a "false sense of security" by games graphics and small screen size, tension-filled music, bad nicknames the game gives to the more human "robots" to make the player negatively suspicious of them (think a form of dehumanization), and a consent pressure by your boss. Oh! And when you really listen to one of the AI, it was the last guy with your job. Lovely.

If you played this game and think I'm overreacting--fine. Maybe I am. It has low graphics and games are for entertainment, right? And I even felt foolish after playing the first round because how strongly the game jarred me. But I fear someone taking the long route to this game--determined to find a good ending. What if there really is no GOOD ending?

Games NEED to be labeled if they're horror. ESPECIALLY psychological horror. There was no blood, but it was more traumatic than games I've played with gore.

F'ing Milgram Experiment. What were they thinking!? Unconscionable.
Last edited by JBShields on Sun Sep 24, 2017 7:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Horrified--Games DO need warning labels.

#2 Post by trooper6 » Sun Sep 24, 2017 7:05 pm

I would really appreciate you saying the name of the game because it sounds really interesting--I'm an academic who also deals with video games, and the game sounds really interesting.
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Re: Horrified--Games DO need warning labels.

#3 Post by Scribbles » Mon Sep 25, 2017 10:11 am

I'm sorry you became so upset by the game! ...but I am also curious because I love psychological horror so what was it? You could put it in a spoiler tag maybe? I think you've properly warned anyone who may look into it from here, plus I'd like to look into how they labeled it myself (as someone who writes horror I want to make sure I properly tag my work without going overboard.)
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Re: Horrified--Games DO need warning labels.

#4 Post by JBShields » Mon Sep 25, 2017 7:22 pm

I'm sorry Scribbles. I spoke with my psychology friends. No matter how harmless this game seems, they assured me, it's not a good idea to play such a game. Showed the sell page to a few other friends. They agreed. Bad idea.

I think I counted almost 20 points of emotional manipulation tools the game uses to convince the player to end all the AIs.

I looked it up on Youtube and skipped to the end of reviewers' videos (didn't want to re-experience the game).

100% of the Reviewers ERASED ALL THE AIs.

There was no "good" ending. The only good ending was by erasing all the drives in a certain order and end by erasing your Computer "helper/friend" which one was definitely a computer and not a person AI. The good "win" was only through complete obedience to the boss' directions.

And the reviewers themselves--when it was revealed that only one drive had an error (it was the friendly AI one--a computer), the reviewers still spoke and convinced themselves on camera that the "human" AIs (2 of the 4 AIs I think people) were instead viruses.

Just a point of reference-- the Milgram experiment-- 65% of subjects killed their person. 65%. No matter the demographic. That was a generation which was taught critical thinking as children.

The only moral option of such a game is to simply not play it. No, this is a problem of ethics. Someone should never post an "adventure" game and entrap someone into a game like this.
Last edited by JBShields on Tue Sep 26, 2017 1:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Horrified--Games DO need warning labels.

#5 Post by Scribbles » Mon Sep 25, 2017 8:02 pm

-_- I poked around the internet and found it. Probably not going to play it b/c it's not my type of game after all, it does seem a lot like Papers Please and I'm not interested in those types of games. The page does give off a fairly strong horror vibe- but I didn't see any warnings or anything.
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Re: Horrified--Games DO need warning labels.

#6 Post by Imperf3kt » Mon Sep 25, 2017 8:24 pm

JBShields wrote:
Mon Sep 25, 2017 7:22 pm
I'm sorry Scribbles. I spoke with my psychology friends. No matter how harmless this game seems, they assured me, it's not a good idea to play such a game. Showed the sell page to a few other friends. They agreed. Bad idea.

I think I counted almost 20 points of emotional manipulation tools the game uses to convince the player to end all the AIs.

I looked it up on Youtube and skipped to the end of reviewers' videos (didn't want to re-experience the game).

100% of the Reviewers ERASED ALL THE AIs.

There was no "good" ending. The only good ending was by erasing all the drives in a certain order and end by erasing your Computer "helper/friend" which one was definitely a computer and not a person AI. The good "win" was only through complete obedience to the boss' directions.

And the reviewers themselves--when it was revealed that only one drive had an error (it was the friendly AI one--a computer), the reviewers still spoke and convinced themselves on camera that the "human" AIs (2 of the 4 AIs were people) were instead viruses.

Just a point of reference-- the Milgram experiment-- 65% of subjects killed their person. 65%. No matter the demographic. That was a generation which was taught critical thinking as children.

The only moral option of such a game is to simply not play it. No, this is a problem of ethics. Someone should never post an "adventure" game and entrap someone into a game like this.
Before I begin, I'd like to warn you that the following opinion may be insulting.

Your inability to stomach the game doesn't mean nobody can.
I'm a big boy, I can make my own decisions. Please donvm't insult my intelligence.

Its a game, the consequences affect nobody, so there is no pressure from it that can 'make' me do anything.

Its my decision whether I play it or not and its my decision whether I can handle fiction or not without becoming a suicidal mess.

So far, all you've done is draw more attention to the game in question.
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Re: Horrified--Games DO need warning labels.

#7 Post by Caveat Lector » Mon Sep 25, 2017 9:48 pm

...Would it happen to be this game by any chance? And why exactly are these reviewers so terrible for playing this game's premise straight, even if it's an amoral one? At worst, it suggests they might not be imaginative enough to think of other ways to play it, and play with the aim to "win" instead of thinking outside the box, but that they're mindlessly terrible and this is backed up by the Milgram Experiment (which, btw, is controversial because its statistics were fiddled with, and there were multiple variables to the experiment NOT taken into account, etc.)? I disagree with people who choose to harvest the Little Sisters in Bioshock but I'm not going to insinuate they're evil for it.

Also, frankly...controversy sells. The more one emphasizes how terrible and evil something is, the more popular you'll end up making that thing. Now, part of me is curious to play this game myself! Most "controversial" games I hear of just sound kind of boring outside their intended shock value, but this game actually sounds interesting.
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Re: Horrified--Games DO need warning labels.

#8 Post by JBShields » Mon Sep 25, 2017 10:07 pm

I'll PM, Caveat.

oh, I don't think the reviewers are evil... they were just playing to find a win--what you said. But nobody stopped playing after the first game...

My problem was the game was NOT marketed correctly. Not knowing what you are getting into is jarring.

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Re: Horrified--Games DO need warning labels.

#9 Post by Imperf3kt » Mon Sep 25, 2017 10:20 pm

Indeed, labelling your game correctly is very important in my opinion. But thats the risks you take when playing indie games, you must be prepared for the potential that they are miscategorised.
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Re: Horrified--Games DO need warning labels.

#10 Post by PyTom » Mon Sep 25, 2017 10:52 pm

I'd argue there's a reasonable place for surprise when it comes to media. I thought that was effectively used in the movie Brave, where the movie was intentionally very different than its marketing materials. I don't think surprise is something that should be overused, and there should be a good reason for it. But at the end of the day, it's something that should remain in the arsenal of creators.

(Of course, I'd think it would be perfectly fine for a reviewer to spoil that surprise if they think it's being abused.)
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Re: Horrified--Games DO need warning labels.

#11 Post by sake-bento » Tue Sep 26, 2017 12:38 am

A VN I wrote a while ago had a "twist" ending that relied pretty heavily on surprise. Tagging the genre and content up front would have made the ending immediately obvious, and the fun of trying to figure out a mystery would have been lost. That being said, I didn't want to misrepresent the game entirely, so I listed it as "psychological" so that people would have an idea of what they were getting into. A lot of players still managed to guess the end, and counted that as a strike against the game. However, the surprise landed pretty well for the majority of players, and that was cool.

Unfortunately, the game did make its way across the internet without the genre tags, and I found at least one person who was disgusted by it because they assumed the genre was meant to be romance, and they were furious that something that terrible would be romanticized. Without proper context ahead of time, they missed the message of the game and wound up not enjoying it.

Ever since then, I've been trying to figure out a way to tag a game properly so that people know what they're getting into without giving away the entire ending, and thus ruining the experience. The best I've managed to come up with is general tags, and then spoiler tags, but I haven't been able to figure out how to implement it. I'm still not sure, but this seems like a good place to drop my musings so other people can see it.

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Re: Horrified--Games DO need warning labels.

#12 Post by trooper6 » Tue Sep 26, 2017 1:42 am

I read a reviewer for the game who didn't kill the AIs. So not everyone did. Also some people don't think of AIs as people so they won't be disturbed at all. There are different ways to approach this whole subject, and I think that might be part of the point of the art.

Also, I agree with PyTom that sometimes the surprise is part of the political/genre/emotional/etc work the creator wants to do. Some works of art are meant to disturb the viewer.

Anyhow, now I'm really, really interested in this game...and streaming it live on Twitch with my regular viewers who are all really thoughtful and critical. So thanks for letting me know about it! Won't be able to play it until after we finish Gods Will Be Watching, though.
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Re: Horrified--Games DO need warning labels.

#13 Post by TheJerminator15 » Tue Sep 26, 2017 5:41 am

Using the marketing to create very false expectations is something that has happened a number of times in games. It can be used well to completely subvert expectations for narrative purposes. Hell, I've seen at least one game do it on this forum and it was executed to a degree that I enjoyed it. It's something that should always be kept as an option for creators to use.

"There are lines you cannot cross when making games." Completely false. There are no lines and there never should be. Where the boundaries are remains entirely up to the creator of the work. You may be disgusted by it, but that doesn't mean others are. I would also prefer if my intelligence wasn't belittled by your personal outrage and would like to know the name of the game so I can actually derive an opinion on it for myself rather than you simply going "no, no, I didn't like it and was outraged so you may not try it out for yourself". If the game is LocalHost as caveat suggested, I really do think you're massively overreacting.

In regards to your hysteria regarding the Millgram experiment, critical evaluation of his studies have shown that the conditions of his experiment means the results could only likely be recreated in military conditions, and even then it's quiet an if. Not to mention it's widely known his study sample was quite biased, and Smith & Bond (1998) even points out that the self-selected samples were only picked from industrialised Western cultures and to claim from this that it is a universal trait of social behaviour is quite unfounded. If I remember correctly a large number of the people studied also refused to continue when continuously pushed to continue with the shocks by the authority figure, which has led to people claiming the results were skewed.

All in all, I understand why you may have disliked a game that used manipulated marketing to then reinforce a message or a plot twist within the games narrative. However, I refuse to agree with the notion that such methods be banned or that an all encompassing line be drawn in the sand for creators to abide by when creating their games for fear that some may not like the content within the game.
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Re: Horrified--Games DO need warning labels.

#14 Post by Aviala » Tue Sep 26, 2017 2:28 pm

Like many here, I think you underestimate others by not linking the game. We can't judge it for ourselves, so we just need to rely on what you say. I'd like to at least look at the game's page so I could properly discuss this subject.

That said, I think game creators DO have a responsibility to warn about material that may be shocking. For example, there are a lot of youtube videos that seem kid-friendly - they start off all cute, starring beloved cartton characters, but end up with gore, so kids are tricked into watching them. It's not exactly same, but if a video game shows no hints that it might include material that may be shocking for some, I find it very irresposible. There are people with actual traumas, and they obviously want to avoid anything that will remind them of those traumas. We need to give them the tools to judge what content they can view.

I'm not saying that everything needs to have a detailed list of trigger warnings, but there should at least be some way to tell the tone of a piece. Maybe mention that it's a game for mature audiences, or add approppriate tags. Twists can be fun, but if I went into a game expecting an evening filled with cute characters and relaxing atmosphere, I would be really angry if there suddely was a jump scare and the cute characters started dying or whatever. There is a limit to the fun-factor of twists - if I think "Oh, I should have guessed it!" it's a good twist, but if I think "WHAT IS HAPPENING; PLEASE STOP", then the twist has failed, in my opinion.

Of course if the purpose of the game is to traumatize or shock people, then I understand why you'd leave out content warnings (like the game "Can your pet") but honestly, making a game with the purpose of hurting other people isn't very ethical imho.

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Re: Horrified--Games DO need warning labels.

#15 Post by Caveat Lector » Tue Sep 26, 2017 5:25 pm

What people are objecting to more is the idea of dismissing something for having an amoral speculative premise and not having an easy "good guy" route, because of misleading advertising (that one's probably not entirely the dev's fault, and could be the fault of the individual reviewer or marketing, because I've seen the page for the work in question, and I think it's pretty clear from the tone of the description and the screencaps that it's going to be a dark game, so it's not like they advertised a sci-fi dystopian game as a light-hearted romantic comedy). I don't think "this game need Trigger Warnings" is the stated issue at hand so much as it is "this game was mismarketed to me and I was shocked".

Which, to be fair, I can see how that'd be an issue (this kind of thing is an issue with advertising in general). What I (and others) disagree with is the notion that games need to follow a straight and narrow moral line, or that you should never play a game that doesn't have clearcut right-and-wrong answers. I also highly doubt this game was made to "hurt other people", so much as it was to place players in a position of authority and question that place in their authority (amongst other things; at the very least, it seems to be designed to make you think, but what you think about, seems to be what different people take away from it). Some people prefer not to play games with this kind of moral relativism, which is fine, but it's better to trust people to exercise their own moral judgment in playing it and forming their own opinions.

Besides which, if we're going to cite player statistics here...in many TellTale Games titles (such as The Wolf Among Us or The Walking Dead), the endgame statistics almost always have a consistent pattern: The vast majority of players will go with the compassionate option instead of the pragmatic one, and it takes a truly difficult moral dilemma to get more divisive results. And even then, people are a bit more complicated than that, and can have different motivations for making a certain decision. Games like that can be really effective in getting you to think why you made a certain decision and how you'd go back and do things differently.
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