Triggers and Accessibility

The other day I was talking about Difficulty and Accessibility and since people liked to hear some thoughts on that topic… and since I couldn’t think of much else to post about today… and also since I didn’t have enough time for a review… I wanted to talk about yet another way of making games more accessible: Triggers. There are countless triggers that people have to deal with from flashing lights that can trigger seizures to topics or elements of stories that can trigger flashbacks, panic attacks, and other effects of trauma and fears. Hence, I was wondering if there are good ways of dealing with this and if games can be accessible to everyone without losing the thrill of certain elements.

Mild Spoiler Warning for one scene in GTA V, one scene in Gods Will Be Watching, one scene in DARK and one scene in The Last Of Us II. I just say that something happens in those scenes. I don’t say when the scenes occur or what the circumstances are and I don’t go into too much detail… mostly since it’s been a while… but you know… It’s there.

Obviously, you can prevent people from buying a game in the first place by adding a trigger/content warning on the store page… But games hardly ever do that. GTA V is notorious for having a torture scene that apparently cannot be skipped really where you pull out someone’s teeth. To progress the storyline, you have to do that. It’s very graphic and brutal and if you planned on playing the story but can’t do that, you’ll need to either “man up” or you just don’t play it. It’s as easy as that. In that case, the game could have given an actual content warning (maybe with spoiler tags) about “Torture”… but it doesn’t. The Steam page says that has “general mature content” which could be anything from sex to alcohol to violence to drugs. “Torture” is certainly mature content but I wouldn’t think of it when I bought a game labelled as “General Mature Content”. On top of that, the content description says that GTA V **MAY** contain content not appropriate for all ages. It’s not even clear. 

Little Misfortune is a great game but it contains topics like drug abuse, alcohol, suicide, and other things that aren’t appropriate for all ages. Still, it has the 18+ tag on Steam. No actual content warning anywhere else though and the description, etc. don’t even allude to anything like that to keep the illusion alive… which is an issue. You may buy this game thinking it’s cute but then you notice that the humour is quite dark and morbid while the game’s premise itself is grotesque. Little Misfortune is great, don’t get me wrong, but a content warning would be appropriate here. While other games like Satisfactory and Grounded have an “Arachnophobia Mode” option to make their games accessible to people with severe Arachnophobia, Little Misfortune can’t introduce something like that either, though, since it would remove everything from the game. The game strives from little jokes and references and the most morbid situations… you can’t just turn those off…

And even with Grounded, I like the game but the arachnophobia mode isn’t helping me out too much actually. I wanted to refund it once I encountered spiders and once I got terrified by them… but since I’ve been past the 2-hour mark already, my request got denied. Boohoo. It’s my bad, I guess,… I should’ve known that the spiders would be terrifying even with Arachnophobia Mode… Oh well.

The other issue with topics like assault, torture, violence and other stuff that can trigger trauma, fears and anxieties is… that games hardly ever let you skip them. I think GTA V’s torture scene was unskippable. Gods Will Be Watching has a torture scene that cannot be skipped either. The Last Of Us II has this scene where you have to slowly inject a knife into someone’s throat. You cannot skip it. It’s gameplay after all and not a cutscene. I hated seeing that scene. Instead of letting the player skip that scene or maybe introducing an option in the settings that warns you before those scenes that you may want to skip them… there is simply nothing there. Again, it would be a potential spoiler but if I turn on that setting myself, I can’t complain about spoilers. If I have the option to skip knife injection into someone’s eye or throat or whatever… I’d do it without complaining about “ruining the story”.

While Gods Will Be Watching has a pixel art style, the torture scene is still gruesome for me… Meanwhile, TLOU2 has this somewhat realistic art style, so it’s even worse for me… and I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the game as much if stuff like that was frequent (I’ve only seen that scene btw). The game frankly wouldn’t be that accessible to me…

Now, games don’t have to be accessible for everyone but it’d be lovely to get a warning on stuff like this BEFORE making a purchase of 60 bucks or something like that. It’s bad practice, in my opinion, and it may even be intentional. If people don’t know about it, they may buy it and play it… and then they encounter it but it’s too late for the refund. When you front-load the fun and leave the disgusting or terrifying encounters, scenes, etc. in the later parts of a game… then… you can’t complain about it. Feels like a dick move to me if it is intentional. Games don’t need to be to everyone’s liking but I don’t think that we need stuff like that. I’ve been told that GTA V’s torture scene doesn’t add anything to the gameplay or the story really… That assault scene in Netflix’ DARK doesn’t add anything to the plot really apart from giving one character a little bit of depth… at the end of the show… before you wouldn’t see them much anymore… It’s bad. It’s for the quota. It’s there to shock you… because shocking you brings in the impressions on Twitter and Facebook and wherever and then people write about it and it’s free promo and more people will watch it… Shock sells. Sex sells… “Why not combine it?”, I guess. If it’s completely optional to thrust a knife into someone’s throat… slowly… while closing in on it… with realistic graphics… If it doesn’t add much to the story… why do you prolong it so much and make me tap the circle button or whatever to make me, as a player, suffer through it more. Why do you give me that experience instead of letting me skip it?

I’ll sum up my thoughts a bit. Games don’t need to appeal to everyone. It’s 100% fine if they don’t. In those cases, however, trigger and content warnings should be displayed on the store pages (take notes, Valve) where people can see them well… and they shouldn’t be as vague as “it may contain topics that are not appropriate for all ages” but rather outright say that a game contains bad language, sex, drugs, violence, assault, murder, alcohol, torture, etc. (Potentially with a spoiler warning or spoiler tags.) – Scenes that don’t add much past the shock-factor should maybe be skippable in games. Sure, I get that Ellie murdering this character may have some weight on the story… but I personally can’t deal with soft body sections (guts, throats, eyes, wrists, etc.) getting penetrated with pointy objects like knives, scissors, etc. I can’t deal with people pulling other people’s teeth in the most painful way possible. 

But what do I know? I’m just one player that may complain about it and get frustrated with a studio and that may not support them afterwards anymore if they do it frequently… There are still a lot of other people that will love it, so what do I know? Who cares about me anyways. What are your thoughts on this? Have you seen games that let you skip sensitive stuff or blurred it at least out? Did you have issues with a game in the past because of your fears, triggers, trauma or other issues? How could devs improve the experience for you? Let me know!

Cheers!

This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken.

Looking forward to “Grounded”

If you’ve seen “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids”, “The Ant Bully”, or “Antz”, you might like the following title. In Obsidian Entertainment’s “Grounded” you’re playing as one of four kids, shrunk to the size of insects and other small critters. You get to roam a lawn, exploring vast grass-steam forests while scavenging and foraging for resources to survive the dangers that come with not being normal-sized.

The world is beautiful if you look close enough – and well, with your size, you can get close to everything. Ants are as big as you while stink beetles and ladybugs are terrifyingly big! Of course, there are also small critters like mites that you can hunt down for food and… well… as the game tells you in the title screen, there are also spiders. But fear not, fellow arachnophobes, for there is an arachnophobia mode in this game that lets you turn those horrific and vile creatures into weird bobbly balls floating in the air. This also affects their creepy sounds, resulting in a pleasant experience even when you encounter them.

I constantly caught myself staring into the beautiful areas around you – I mean, when if not now do we get to see the world from this perspective?

Houses and benches are huge! We even get to explore “landmarks” such as some weird shrinking machine and soda cans. Resources seem to be rather lush and alas, we gather pebbles and sprigs, mushrooms and clover, so that we can get started with some simple tools for the beginning.

While you chop down trees in other games, you’ve got to chop down the grass, using an actual axe. Quite bizarre in a way but it does make sense. And well, despite stink beetles, spiders and mites wanting to kill you, there are also a bunch of friendly fellows around like ladybugs and ants.

I love ants. The ants in this game look incredibly cute, constantly scavenging for food, just like us, or carrying around sticks and pebbles. “In theory”, I thought… “In theory, I could attack them. I’ve got the spear and all of that already, after all!” – But I didn’t dare to attack such cute little fellows, mostly since I’m afraid that they might gang up on me after sending out their threat pheromones.

There seems to be a full-fledged story available to the game once it comes out but inside of the demo I was able to play for more than half an hour – and the story-part reached until we fixed the (presumably) shrink-reversal-machine that Spoilers blew up on us shortly after we “fixed” it.

Materials can be analyzed for recipes inside of the analyzer that is set near our research globe. Food can be cooked at a roasting spit and, in theory, we can even build a base of sorts with walls, doors and floors!

Honestly, I’m really excited about this game, especially since it does tickle that one itch that I have for base-building survival games! Especially as it also features unconventional aspects to survival. You’ve got to find water drops on grass stems to not dehydrate, for instance, which is a nice touch!

Multiplayer is also something that is going to be included in the full game, so this might get really cool really soon. Grounded gets released in Early Access on July 28th, 2020. It’s by Obsidian Entertainment, so it’s bound to be good, and well, the game so far has been looking great already, especially as this is only a demo!

The only thing that I’d wish for would be an option to turn the spiders into some cute beetles or something, as even the bobbly heads are a little bit triggering to me. I’d also love it if you could turn their sounds into something else that is less creepy. But maybe that’s just my arachnophobia speaking…

Cheers!

Arachnophobia intensifies – Venturing into the Deepnest

I’ve talked about my fear of spiders in the past before in this post and even in this one… but ever since I’ve visited that spider-convention nearby and had that tarantula on my hand, I have not really encountered any spiders in my flat. And apart from “Kill It With Fire”, I haven’t seen any in any video games, either, so I wasn’t sure yet if I’m over my fear…

Well, I wasn’t sure until I got to make more Progress in Hollow Knight and ventured into the Deepnest.

But first of all, let me clarify: I love Hollow Knight. I love the soundtrack, the gameplay features, the difficulty of it as well as the fact that you can heal yourself with the Soul you gather from hitting stuff with your Nail. I love the aesthetics and personalities of the enemies and characters in the game and from what I understand… I love the story. I just wouldn’t have thought that, even though I saw it coming, there’d be an area that I’d struggle with so much.

If you haven’t played it yet and don’t want story spoilers, skip the next two paragraphs. (I’ll separate them with pictures!)

The game sends you into this world to rescue villagers and find and “slay” (?) these Dreamers (deities of sorts?) to lift some curse (I guess?). It’s still very blurry to me and while you learn bits and pieces here and there, you hardly get the bigger picture until you read up on it or until you got further into the game. I personally love that about this game. It’s bits and pieces from different times and you just have to puzzle it all together to understand what is going on with the Pale King and all of that.

And well, in my last play session on Wednesday, I finally reached Deepnest, an area near the Distant Village, where Herrah the Beast used to rule. Herrah was one of the three rulers and she is one of the three Dreamers that you’re trying to “slay” (I still don’t know if we really slay them… it seems as if we absorb their souls into our Nails?).

Welcome to the “no story spoilers” part!

My problem with Deepnest was that, just like with other areas in the game, the enemies are based on one small critter from the world of bugs and worms and… well… spiders. There are spiders in Deepnest. And I wouldn’t bother with it, too much, but it’s just the way the area is presented, that freaked me out (Twitch Clip). There are webs and strings everywhere and some enemies come back in the form of spider-zombies! There are spiders falling down in front of the screen, which is seriously tripping me out, and there are a ton of disgusting sounds.

I hated this area so much, just because of those effects, that I didn’t bother exploring it too much more and kind of rushed through the area!

I just hated it. It freaked me out and I had some moments where I felt this weird jiggle that your body does every now and then. The shivers crawling down your spine. I felt something crawling or itching at my head and on my skin every here and there, too, which is just terrifying. Even now, watching the VOD and writing this post, I’m terrified of the potential of there being a huge fucking spider behind my monitors or in the corners of my flat.

So, I guess I’m still afraid of spiders. And confronting my fears wasn’t really helping it… if anything it made it worse. I’m not getting any nightmares from it and I even managed to capture a spider alive and release it into the wild the other day… but I still hate them a ton. I don’t know. Maybe it will get better over time once I get used to capturing and releasing them more often… Oh well.

So, that’s it for this post. Hope you enjoyed it!

Cheers!

TSS#39 – Facing my fears

TRIGGER WARNING!

This post will include pictures of spiders! Big ones! They’re terrifying! Don’t read ahead if you’re afraid of or sensitive about that stuff!


This is a cute drawing that should show up when I post the link. I hope it works.

So, I’m afraid of spiders. And I decided to go to a convention about spiders as confronting my fears may help me in that regard. Or not. It may have gotten worse. I don’t know yet since I haven’t seen any spiders in my flat yet. 

As a child, I used to not be afraid of insects and spiders and everything that’s crawling on the ground. I used to pluck legs off grasshoppers as a child, as my parents told me a while ago. I also used to have no problem with centipedes, worms and other insects. And then there was that one day where I was washing my hands at a well while on vacation and a huge spider crawled onto my hand. At the time I was rather short and the spider probably looked bigger back then on my tiny hands and… well,… ever since I’ve been scared of everything that’s crawling on the ground. 

I guess that that was the trigger for it all. Nowadays I can’t catch spiders alive and put them on the balcony but I’ll have to use the vacuum or my house shoes to get rid of them and whenever I see them I not only let out a rather (not so) manly scream out but also get the shivers all over my body, so that sucks.

And then a while ago, my girlfriend pointed out that there’s a convention for tarantulas and other big spiders near the city I’m living in, so I decided to go there as it may help. My goal was to let those guys there put at least one tarantula on my hand and to take at least a dozen photographs of spiders to confront my fears and get rid of it. My girlfriend came with me as emotional support, although she, too, is afraid of spiders. 

In the end, I made a list of parts of the world that I’m not going to visit:

  • Australia
  • South-Africa
  • South-America
  • India
  • Mexico

There are spiders out there that get up to 28 cm big! Wtf?! And some of them even jump rather high and look terrifying with their huge hairy legs!

Well, I managed to take a picture with a spider on my hand and that one wasn’t that big. I noticed that my beard (which I very much like) shares a lot of resemblance with that tarantula on my hand back then. Both my beard and those spiders are soft, hairy and dark. That’s kind of terrifying. 

Later I slept at my girlfriend’s place and ended up waking up a couple of times during the night due to nightmares. At one point, I woke up as my girlfriend was shivering because of some nightmare. I guess, that that confrontation didn’t help either of us. Even now, a month after going there, I’m waking up from nightmares in the middle of the night, although they’re not as frequent as they were… Also, while writing up this post, I’m getting shivers all over my body and I’ve got to check the ceiling and the walls every few minutes, just to be sure that I’m not getting surprised by one of those monsters.

So the lesson from this experience was that confrontation isn’t the best idea in some cases as they may worsen your fears. 
This post, btw, isn’t edited, as I’ve made the mistake of putting those pictures in here already and as I don’t wanna look at them again.

Oh well. Cheers!

The Stray Sheep #4 – Arachnophobia and Videogame Spiders

Here’s Elise from League of Legends – with the Bloodmoon Skin

Well, hello there, everyone!
Today we’re talking about my arachnophobia. I’m scared of spiders. Being quite tall and all that doesn’t make it better, but a lot funnier for other people seeing me get scared by a thing that probably isn’t even out to kill me. I just hate them. It’s mostly due to the fact that some of them get so insanely huge while some others suddenly move super fast. What I hate most about them is the fact that they seem to vanish like ninjas whenever I look away for a second! When I know where they are, it’s alright, when they aren’t too big.. but when I don’t, I get freaked out and have to resist trying to burn my house down.

Anyways, I didn’t want to just admit my angst of things that may crawl into my mouth while I’m sleeping. No, I wanted to tell you about video games and spiders and what I hate about those games.

Well, in most RPGs and MMOs there’s those typical mobs like Slimes…and Wolves…and spiders! Like, wtf? Why does it have to be spiders? And why are they so big all the time? When I started playing Skyrim, there was this huge spider that I was really disgusted by! But a while I got used to it and found it kind of…cute. I don’t know. Especially after it died. Then, after it died, I used my necromancy-skill to revive it as a companion! I mean, what harm is a spider going to be if it just kills other spiders for me,…right?

Thanks to Ninja43092#8533 on the IGP-Discord for taking a screen of it! My Skyrim didn’t want to start up, so..yeah. Thanks!

Well, that’s where I’m wrong, because that fucking spider crawled to me and followed me everywhere. It wasn’t just a spider-boss anymore either. It was a zombie-spider-boss-companion that followed me to wherever I went. And the faster you ran, the faster it followed, making it a lot more scary. Once you stop, it runs past you and may even go through you, letting you see those legs, that butt and it’s zombie-spider-queen-boss-monstrosity of a head up close! I don’t know why I revived it in the first place when I was able to kill other spiders without problem. I probably just wanted to find out if that works. Luckily, the spell ran out after a while and the monstrosity I created has vanished into dust and ashes.

There’s also “Elise” in League of Legends. When I first played her (wanted to try her out), I got so disgusted by her that I ended up going AFK. It was my first time that I’d ever go AFK while in a round of LoL but it was worth the reports I got since I didn’t have to stare at a champion that can transform into a fucking spider. Apparently the lead designer of Elise was also quite scared of spiders and just signed off the champion without looking at her. After a while I got used to her, it’s just still kind of annoying to play as her. Against her? No problem, just kill it with fire. As her? Not so much.

There are quite a few other games that have fucking spiders in them but it never was as disgusting as in Skyrim, in my opinion…. And then there’s Satisfactory. It’s a cool game that I haven’t played at all and that I don’t even own because it’s on Epic Games and I’m boycotting that for some reasons, but I’ve seen people play it and it looks like fun.. BUT there’s small spider creatures in there that move really fast as well and you’re actually able to deal with them by simply turning on “arachnophobia mode” where it replaces all of those creepy spider-thingies with Cat-sprites! Static cat sprites! It’s great! I love it! Please add that to every game! There’s probably a mod like that for Skyrim. May need to check that out!

Are there any things that you get scared by in video games? And how did you like this post here? Let me know in the comments if you don’t mind 🙂

Anyways, cheers!

This post is part of a contest/challenge called Blaugust! The goal is to post as much as possible and participants are awarded with different prizes depending on the goal they achieved. My aim is to post on all 31 days of August and if you’d like to know more about this “event”, you should check this post out.