What are some good things to think about for content warnings?

My general philosophy for content warnings is:

  • I’ll warn about anything that would affect the age rating of a film
  • I’ll warn about anything that I can easily imagine poking at trauma
  • I’ll warn about anything testers or players bring up as needing a warning

But I imagine nowadays there’s a better way to go about these things. Is there a good reference for what things people generally appreciate warnings about?

For example, my IFComp entry is a murder mystery, so the plot revolves around the aftermath of someone dying, but the level of gore is about what you’d expect from an Agatha Christie novel (basically a description of the cause of death and nothing more; in particular, there’s no blood). What should that get tagged as? I’m sure there are conventions around this, but I don’t know what they are.


There are a lot like this. Sherlock Holmes finds a spot of blood which he analyses with his chemistry set.

content warning: blood & gore!

Tom & Jerry run around the kitchen hitting each other with frying pans.

content warning: violence!

Trouble is there seems to be no scale factor with these things. Just binary yes or no.


That’s basically what I’m getting at here. I want to convey that someone who’s uncomfortable discussing corpses shouldn’t play it, but someone who’s squeamish about blood and gore and such won’t have any issues. And I’m not sure what the best way to do that is.

There is a scale factor, to some extent; for example, I’ve seen warnings about “death” vs “death mention”. But I’m hoping someone’s written up a nice explanation of what people will expect from each of those.


In this specific case if you’re calling it/tagging it as a murder mystery I wouldn’t really expect it to need additional content warnings about someone dying. Unless the story dwells on forensic details or something like that. Because it’s more or less right there on the tin.

In terms of more nuanced stuff, one of the ideas I’ve been toying with is an interactive content warning…thing. Basically an option in the main menu that gives very broad warnings, like you might see at the start of a TV show…just a itemized list of keywords. If the player wants more, potentially spoiler-y detail, then they can enter the keyword to get a longer description of the sorts of things being warned about.

I don’t know how this would work for your specific example, but something like a top-level warning that the game discusses a murder, and if they want details maybe offering that the game depicts a death by drowning (or whatever) and gameplay involves searching the crime scene which has detailed descriptions of the signs of struggle.


You might find that Does The Dog Die? a useful resource, as it lists many categories consumers tag and look at before engaging with media. I do so myself, as I have PTSD, and trigger and content warnings allow me to make an informed decision on whether I can engage with something at a given point in time.

Additionally, I personally use “genre typical violence” occasionally, and label my works with said genres like, for example: Anchorite is a work of gothic interactive fiction. Content includes: genre typical violence. I might also use “brief mentions of X” or “allusions to X” but in general, most people will be able to assume if they’re getting into a piece of say, a murder mystery, there’s likely to be a murder mentioned! Genre norms and conventions can help a lot, I find.


Well, if it’s up to the author to add the content warnings (and not some heavy-handed organization), then the author can add the necessary warnings with the desired level of specificity.


I think “death mention” would be fine. I really like “genre typical” but the range in detective movies (from never even seeing the body, or only a tiny bit all the way to oh my god you’re really going for the gore!) is so big that saying “genre specific” gives the player no idea what they’re in for.


That’s a very useful site! I’ll skim through that and see if anything stands out.

I think the “genre-typical” label will be a useful one, since my biggest inspirations for this are “golden age” detective novels and I don’t really go beyond them in terms of violence and so on. You might examine the wounds on a body, go searching for a murder weapon, and figure out how it was used, but no gore, torture, and so on.

My big difficulty is just figuring out what that level of specificity should be! Going based off what testers and players say has worked so far, but it would be nice if there were a widely-accepted “best practices” page.

For a not-great analogy, I’m partially colorblind, and I can tell authors explicitly when this makes a puzzle difficult or unsolvable for me, but there are also tools that let you check the contrast of your colors and make sure they’re suitably distinct even if you don’t happen to have a colorblind person among your testing crew.


I like to give general content warnings like movies or TV that don’t spoil anything:

  • Mature themes and subject matter
  • Comic Violence|Mild Violence|Violence|Graphic Violence
  • Mature Language|Adult Language
  • Sexual Themes|Descriptions of Sexual Activity|Graphic Sexual Descriptions
  • Often something like “Recommended for mature players” “Recommended for players 18+”

Then I will usually have a link to Content Warnings/Trigger Warnings that is more spoilery mentioning anything that might cause someone specific distress.

“Contains discussions of death, bereavement, IV drug use and addiction, rabid badgers, hostage situations involving firearms, spiders, clowns, and discussion of self-harm.”


I view colourblindness as falling into one of the more addressable areas of accessibility. It’s genetic and physical. I mean, there are takes on accessibility considering more than what is unchangeable in humans, but I don’t enter into them that much myself. They will have to come down to author preference in the context of that story and the relationship the author wants the audience to have with the story, ala what @inventor200 said.

This inbetween accessibility zone could include stuff like: An author may want to potentially broaden their audience by having an option that cuts out the swearing. But that’s up to them. I just put a note at the front saying the game has ‘strong language’.

My stray observation is that pet deaths seem to be the easiest way to blow up an emotion or rejection bomb in some audience members.

My imp of the perverse wants to subject people who’d ask ‘Does the dog die?’ to numerous violent dog deaths, but sensible me doesn’t want to waste all our time actually performing such facetiousness. All I do is remember that the ‘Does the dog die?’ people are out there, and accept that if a dog dies in my story, I might lose them, or Something Else them. Then decide: do I care? Or is this dog death (or other equivalent) just distracting or subtracting from the more important stuff? Obviously if the novel is Pet Semetary, the cat or dog must die.



For something like this, I think “non-graphic death” could work?


agree on Hanon on general rating.

Aside that rating is a major YMMV and these US/EU divergences, I think that the major point is that the depictions in IF are rendered by the most powerful, but also least deterministic, GPU possible. example, on the field of gore, even with CSI report-grade textual description of gore, how the gore is in the mind of player, is objectively out of author’s control. no binary nor scaling possible when the range is infinite.

[NPC] kills [other NPC].

three words. infinite depictions. this is the real point.
now, these three words is also the extreme synthesis of the most defining seven seconds in gaming history, know appropriately as THE SPOILER (all caps: if someone don’t have get, I refer to a certain FMV video in Final Fantasy VII) and now I reached the point “context warning vs. plot spoiling”. albeit I have used the most extreme and renowned example, I think is plainly obvious that one can’t ask an author to self-spoil a major point of his work for sake of content warning. And honestly, I can’t find a viable solution for this.

Best regards from Italy,
dott. Piergiorgio.

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Went to go searching for something else since I’d fired off that link while rushing out the door. This draft and it’s additional linked readings could also be potentially of use. It also includes a brief list of some of the more common triggers. It’s geared for a university classroom setting, but I think broadly it’s applicable.

As someone who has been diagnosed with PTSD (and would qualify for C-PTSD, though it is not a recognized diagnosis under the DSM model used here in Canada, though it is under the ICD model), I appreciate you taking the time to look into how to best approach this, Daniel. Content warnings allow me to make an informed decision regarding my health, and to consent to, or opt out of the experience. As someone who has had agency forcibly taken away from me in the past, it is particularly meaningful.

Being exposed to a trigger can be a re-traumatizing experience, as it involves re-living the original trauma and being launched into extreme physiological stress [flashbacks, panic attacks- (being unable to breathe, vomiting, shaking, heart rate pounding, feelings of impending doom, sobbing uncontrollably, etc), etc] unexpectedly. In the past, I have been escorted into emergency triage because of it. They are not things that are simply confronting, or uncomfortable- they invoke some of the worst possible experiences I have unfortunately lived through: for example, surviving an attempted double homicide-suicide as a child.

It’s unfortunate how the language has occasionally become muddled or watered down. But attempts at making works accessible in this way, by allowing people to choose, are appreciated.


May I suggest blurring the Content Warning while simultaneously acknowledging that the Content Warnings contain plot spoilers?

Content Warnings (contains plot spoilers): Reader may encounter cranky pineapples, depressed snack food, simulated social ostracization by fellow fruit, Dumbledore dies, and gratuitous crimes against mimesis.

This allows those of us privileged enough not to suffer from the horrors™️ to enjoy a spoilerfree playthrough if they wish without ostracizing or retraumatizing everyone else.


I personally have a little checklist for this. It usually covers it (though sometimes, I might miss some things),

  • does it characterise physical harm (violence, injuries, etc…)?
  • does it characterise emotional harm (harassment, emotional violence, etc…)?
  • does it include a controversial topic?
  • would it appear in a PG game (like swearing)?
  • are there other weird stuff that could be icky (like body alteration)?

If it’s a yes, then I add a CW for the relevant element.
And I send to keep it to very general terms: violence, crude words, mention of [insert].
If it’s spoilery, I’ll try to put it inside a <details> markup or in a seperate page (still accessible for the player if they wish)

It usually takes me 5-10min at most to make a list. So that’s nothing compared to potentially hurting someone…


I don’t know what the conventions are, but personally, I appreciate knowing about player complicity. It’s one thing to read a book where a character does questionable things, and another thing to play a game where the game author encourages you to–or makes you–do questionable things if you want to see the end of the story.

Another category I didn’t see mentioned above is horror elements (Cragne Manor’s warning page has several examples of those).

Also, I like the idea of having a more general tag, with an option to see more detail.

For the more detailed part, the way you described it–“the level of gore is about what you’d expect from an Agatha Christie novel (basically a description of the cause of death and nothing more; in particular, there’s no blood)”–works for me. :slight_smile:


IMDB has a parental warning section. It goes into detail and I find it works well for the odd scene here and there. Of course, if the theme of your story is potentially offensive, I think a blanket statement in general terms would suffice.

Back to IMDB, there’s no reason one can’t describe a scene’s offensive content and still provide that information in a non-spoiler way.

One of my absolute favourite movies… Galaxy Quest (1999) - Parents Guide - IMDb



It’s usually a sign of good writing (and good filmmaking) if an author can make a person imagine more than what is literally depicted. You can’t guess what a reader will conjure up in their head.

I personally divide levels of descriptive violence like this:

  • Mild Violence: A punch or a fight with no blood. Politely described off-stage murder or assault or past-tense death discussed clinically like a cozy-murder mystery.

“The report says the wounds Mr. Ellis sustained means he was strangled to death even before he was hit in the forehead by the crossbow fired from that rigged mantel clock!”

  • Violence: Deaths or non fatal assaults with injuries involving blood that occur “in front of” the player, or are spoken of with more detail and perhaps mentioning emotional trauma experienced by the victim or by other characters.

“You hear a thok sound and Mr. Ellis sinks to his knees, trickling blood from his forehead from which emerges the feather-end of a short crossbow bolt! Did that come from the mantel clock?

  • Graphic Violence: Specifically and extensively describing blood, viscera, gore, organs, and certain types of extreme bloodless body horror (think that transformation scene in American Werewolf in London) which may include depictions of torture or suffering in more detail.

“Mr. Ellis’s revelation is interrupted as his chest bulges forward and bursts open, spraying blood across the antique linen tablecloth and most of the assembled dinner guests, along with his intestines where the alien creature tangles, voraciously snacking on a slimy portion of Ellis’s left lung.”


Didn’t disappoint for the last section! :joy:


It’s a good idea, albeit I think can be slight perfected, separating the non-spoiler CW from the spoiling ones.

BTW, the last trailer for FFVIIR part II shows a scene of Tifa swimming in the Lifestream. in original VII, this scene happens after THE SPOILER… and albeit they are by definition questionable people, I feel sad for the guys @ ESRB and PEGI, a wrong wording in the CW and they ends on the hot coal…

Best regards from Italy,
dott. Piergiorgio.