What are some topics in games that make you uncomfortable or hesitant to recommend it to others?

I’ve seen a few people recently discussing different themes or elements of games that make them very uncomfortable. I wanted to see what the general community has to say, because I think it’s useful for authors to know what might make people avoid their games.

I feel like there are at least three different categories of ‘things that make you uncomfortable’:
-Elements of a game that make you personally not want to play it, but which is just due to your personal taste
-Elements of a game that are uncomfortable and which would make you not want to share it with others
-Elements of a game where you don’t know why anyone would play it

(some things spoilered for content reasons)

For me, I really dislike hanging, especially with suicide, due to several real life experiences with friends and family, but I understand most people won’t feel the same way and don’t judge it.

I also don’t associate eroticism in games with positive emotions, and I don’t like to play or recommend games with heavy sexual content (unless it’s optional, as Hanon has done in several games.)

One thing it’s hard to see how anyone is okay with it is using the n-word or including pedophilia.

What are things that you avoid in games, for whatever reason?


I have a lot of triggers surrounding suicide, so I’ll also steer clear of anything involving it unless I’m certain it won’t set me off.

The main reason I won’t recommend something is mechanical rather than thematic: a lot of games I’ve enjoyed in the past are very old-school and user-unfriendly.

It’s hard to think of things that, in my view, shouldn’t exist at all. I’m a big proponent of people being able to make whatever art they want, and especially want to push back against the new Puritanical view that thinking or writing about bad things makes you a bad person. Maybe games that are just straight-up Nazi propaganda?


This is a good point. I do think it’s important to be able to talk about bad things in a good game. There is a difference between discussing something and lionizing it, but I needed your reminder to see it that way. This thread came up because I was talking to someone about Anchorhead; it includes references to rape and pedophilia but I still like the game. That part makes me uncomfortable but it’s definitely not glorified or dwelt on


Extreme depictions of pain and suffering make a game unappealing to me; I avoid any that include cruelty to animals or heavy elements of torture/gore/violence. (Eat Me is one example; while I don’t have any issue with the game existing or other people enjoying it, I definitely don’t think I would.)

Certain types of sexual content can also make a game not appeal to me—sexual assault is a big one, depending on how it’s handled, and any sexual content that’s heteronormative/gender essentialist will make me nope out pretty quick.


Depends on context: in a story set in nazi germany or confederate states of America is inescapable the depiction of racist behavior…

Best regards from Italy,
dott. Piergiorgio.


As a guy who’s been institutionalized, treatments of mental illness (generally or within institutions) can feel insulting or othering. It isn’t a metaphor for some other more important thing, it’s a real thing that happens to real people. While such things can be done well, I dunno, they certainly aren’t always.

I can give things a pass depending on amount, intensity, whatever. I still enjoy Anchorhead. But let’s be honest, not every game is going to be Anchorhead.

Suicide is another thing. I guess in all cases, I read the CW and maybe some reviews. It’s the insensitivity that bothers me, not the subject.

I try to be open to bad things (I know, this is hard to define!) being done well, but it is so rare that they are (there was a game where you had to rape someone to win, but I wouldn’t have enjoyed it even if that content weren’t there). I don’t feel like I need to give everything a chance. The reality is that there are too many games that I will never even have a chance to play. It’s very easy just to skip to the next thing.

e1: I would not play a game where I hurt animals. It was effective in Trinity, but I think I’m done with that. e1.2: I feel silly for thinking I need to clarify this, but in Trinity you have to kill a rather cute skink with your bare hands. I’m not looking for more of that specifically.

e2: to be clear, I’m not advocating for things not existing, I’m against that in principle. This is about things I don’t like.


There are plenty of games I think have some merit but have topics that would make me hesitate to recommend them— especially where the player is an instigator of evil. For example: Taghairm (which I couldn’t finish), De Baron, and Olivia’s Orphanarium (which is excellent and carries the content warnings as you’d expect, but I wouldn’t recommend to a family member who grew up in the care system). I can often sit with that discomfit as part of the intended experience.

There are other games that I’m just not going to want to play because they’re just skeevy. Leisure Suit Larry type games, say.

I’ve got a higher tolerance for gore and other horror elements in text than film or graphical games, but I’m not going to want to play anything with prolonged or vivid depictions of torture or sexual assualt.


I don’t have many personal limits and among other things, I’ve enjoyed Mortal Kombat, South Park, post-cancellation Family Guy, The Boondocks, Kodomo no Jikan, the Works of Wildbo, among other media that some would find distasteful. That said, I’m very much in favor of informing people what they are in for and think it does everyone a disservice the way existing content labeling systems put age-based censorship first and foremost and content descriptors are often vague to the point of uselessness and hidden away where an interested viewer has to go out of their way to see them.

And yeah, if I’m going to play a game set on a pre-civil war southern plantation, I rather have period accurate bigotry instead of a romanticized version of Antebellum where everyone inexplicably has Enlightened 21st Century morals, everyone is a soulless token minority, or the Plantation owners are all bumbling, moustache twirling villains out of a bad saturday morning cartoon.

Edit: On the hurting animals front, I was completely desensitized to that in video games when I was 5. Shooting Ducks in Duck Hunt and stomping turtles and what you think are ducks(I only found out Goombas are supposed to be mushrooms much, much later) in Mario will do that… Plus, I had been playing Pokemon for over a decade by the time I found out about the parallels with dog/cock fights and plenty of Adventure games and RPGs in the fantasy genre, especially in low magic settings, have you fighting mundane wildlife in random encounters for at least part of the game.


I’m pretty much done with extreme content for extreme content’s sake. It’s not so much because it creeps me out or offends me, but because it almost always comes across as juvenilia.

If a story I’m reading/playing treats a sensitive matter poorly, it’s usually due to the writer using it as a “zinger” to grab the reader’s attention, or giving the excuse of “well, that’s reality, folks.” Generally, it’s not.


When I’m the player/reader, I generally tend to see trigger/content warnings as a little “hey, this is what to expect” sign, and I rarely let them dictate what I’ll play and what I won’t play. I’ll give almost everything a try. I will have a problem with insensitive portrayals of issues, though. Once it’s clear to me that someone is pulling tragedy after tragedy because the plot got stale, I’m out. Unfortunately I had too many encounters with people who thought that the “darker” - more shocking, more tragic, more horrifying - the story is, the better and more “mature” it must be. This results in incredibly long lists of content warnings and insensitive handling of real life issues - it’s especially prominent in cases of sexual assault/rape, pedophilia, self harm/suicide and incest, which seem to be a go-to for people who want to seem “dark and serious”. In the end, they just look edgy.

Personal “uh oh, I need to be careful” signs for me include:

  • LONG list of content/trigger warnings that are all over the place. Not to say that you can’t have many potentially triggering issues in one work, but when the warnings contain every single major tragedy imaginable to a human being, I get suspicious.
  • Anything involving cults, cult leaders and cult activities. There’s so much of this stuff that simply looks like a story taken out of a satanic panic handbook and at this point, I’m simply tired of it.
  • Promises of a “subversive” experience. Far too many people think “subversive” means “edgy/controversial” or “hating the original genre/trope”.

Given the topic, people probably know going in that the thread will be chock full of things discussing which deserve a content warning of itself, but I’m going to spoiler-mark this anyway:

Any of these “on-screen”:

  • sexual assult
  • domestic violence
  • violence to children
  • animal abuse
  • torture
  • hate crime
  • edgelord-y graphic violence

Cartoonish violence where you know someone will crawl out from under the 10 ten weight that just dropped on them and just be scuffed and seeing stars and will be fine the next scene is generally fine.

I’d accept violence to animals in the form of hunting, or slaughtering a farm animal for food, or setting a snare for a squirrel in a survival scenario, or even a possibly graphic description of an abbatoir. Self-defense against a wild or rabid dog I could live with. But I don’t want to see abuse. No cockfights or dogfights. Or any violence to cats. Kicking a dog as a cheap way to establish a villain I could probably live with if the dog’s more offended than injured.

I can live with torture to the extent of the standard genre tropes of punching someone tied to a chair for information (but not if there’s a requirement that I have to punch someone to advance the story), or dangling someone off a rooftop during questioning when the player knows all along that the dangler was never going to drop the person.

That raises a good point distinct to IF: in general, if a game requires me, the player, to choose/command that the player character commits some form of gross violence I will very likely stop playing and be angry with the author. (Killing monsters is generally okay.)

By edgelord-y violence, I mean things meant to shock in the service of a story with no substance beyond the shock.

I don’t mean that I expect things to be set in a world where these things don’t exist. A reference to a serial killer having abused animals in his childhood would be fine. (Serial killers are massively overdone and I’m bored with them, but that’s another story.)

Context makes a big difference. If a story featured on-screen sexual assault or domestic violence or hate crime while engaging in a serious examination of it and I heard from people I respect that it was a good and powerful story, I could consider it. But if it’s there to shock or, much worse, to titillate, that’s right out.

This is a complicated subject and I could go on, but I’ll stop for now.


I kind of hesitate to recommend parser IF in general to most people because it’s such a weird thing that so many people don’t have the brain-mapping for.

Choice narratives, at least you can kind of easily explain that it’s “like the Choose Your Own Adventure™ books!” and many people have at least encountered those before. I find when I try to explain to people “It’s like Zork - have you heard of…?” they go “Ohhhhhhhh.” with a crestfallen look in their eyes like you’re going to ask them to drive you to the airport.

This isn’t really topic based, but if I did have a candidate who was genuinely interested, I’d make sure not to recommend the most IF-ey of IF with meta elements. Counterfeit Monkey includes delights that can’t be grokked by non-experienced players. And you’d definitely not want to start someone on something like The Gostak or Suveh-Nuh or Slouching Towards Bedlam which breaks apart language completely. Those would be like offering House of Leaves or Ulysses to a first-time novel-reader.


Anything similar to things in A Game of Thrones and its sequels. I love those books, but a lot of the content is horrible and I don’t think I ever want to meet George R R Martin.


This was going to be my response too—I enjoy horror, my tolerance for disturbing content is reasonably high, but when I feel like it’s not there to make any kind of meaningful commentary on anything and is instead just kind of a “hey, hey, check this out, is it messed up or what?”, that really puts me off. Of course, this is somewhat subjective; for example, Taghairm pinged me as a “look, isn’t this disturbing!” game rather than some kind of exploration of the desperate lengths to which humans will go in hard times or whatever due to the total lack of background on why this is happening and how blase the characters are about giving up on the ritual if you make the choices to prompt that, but clearly not everyone feels that way.

Well, there’s that and then there’s my weird foible of having a poor tolerance for in-depth depictions of gaslighting. There is absolutely no real-life reason for this, it’s just that reading about it makes me feel anxious in a deeply unpleasant way rather than a typical cathartic horror/thriller way and I don’t know why. If I played a game with this kind of content and thought it was well-executed, it wouldn’t affect my willingness to recommend it (with whatever warnings seemed appropriate), it’s just the kind of thing where my IFDB review would probably be unrated because it’s like, well, I hated the experience of reading/playing this but I’m aware that that’s for idiosyncratic personal reasons.


I wonder if people becoming sensitive to written depiction of ugly things is an evolution or involution of the society…

But human condition isn’t the point. As I noted, the brain remain the most powerful, albeit absolutely non-deterministic, render engine, and even acknowledging that actual life experience can influence said render engine, I don’t think that text based narrative, interactive or not, inside an average mind, can be warped by imagination.

Taking an example cited above:

The man kicks the dog.
The man kicks the vicious dog.

I think that the two mental pictures is deeply changed by a simple adjective.

Perhaps I’m not precisely clear, but I have a bout of insomnia (03:50 here in Italy…) so I apologise.

Best regards from Italy,
dott. Piergiorgio.


the game I am most hesitant to recommend to others that I deeply enjoyed and kind of made me fall in love with IF as a teen: slouching toward bedlam.

it is…wow. even aside from the whole deeply rooted thematic ableism which I talked about a while back, the content warnings in the game including half the endings are major trigger warnings for most of my friends (even assuming they’d give parser IF a shot at all). That and the interface screw AND the thematic message of (spoiler AND tw: severe ableism, suicide) “once you know you have schizophrenia you should kill yourself immediately” means I will probably never recommend it to anyone ever again. I still think the Yeats references and aesthetics rip though.


I see a couple of questions in the original post. “What are some topics in games that make you uncomfortable or hesitant to recommend it to others?” and “What are things that you avoid in games, for whatever reason?”

  1. To the latter, I don’t think I avoid anything in games. I avoid subject matter that I personally am not interested in. Like romance games, whereas static romance I can love. Uh, that’s about it!
    Okay, things with anime style artwork I don’t relate to and so become a turn off. Sure, I grew up on Battle for the Planets and Astro Boy and Starblazers, but when anime morphed outside of its original context I was no longer interested. Younger people can just wait for me to die.

If a lot of people review or comment on something and point up some really obvious failure in it, like that game where you had to rape to win and it was foolishly handled (or just not handled – like with zero thought) I probably won’t bother, and in that case didn’t. Even though I also skew devil’s advocatey.

This is my ultimate Amen. I was grappling with the problem of people interpreting the mere presentation of a thing as vindication of a thing twenty years ago in other projects of mine. The problem is infinitely worse now, with social media just taking one word or concept one person says is “bad” in a story, and vindicating an utterly pointless banning/avoiding/slandering/non-thinking relationship with the story.

I think stories are here to explore everything that’s in life and beyond. That’s why my start position is anti-avoidance of everything, and I advocate anti-avoidance. Maybe if 80% of everything is crap, it’s more realist to expect sensitive topics will be badly handled 80% of the time. They probably are. But 20% of the time, they could be handled in a manner that actually advances your evolution on a front that’s difficult for you, making it less difficult! I exclaim mark this because I do think it’s amazing.



I have problem if amoralic behaviour is presented as something positive, especially physical violence.

I hesitate very much to deprecate anything to others because I don’t like it. In other words I consider nearly everything that I don’t like as still possibly good for other people.


That has the opposite effect on me lol: “How have you managed to cram so much triggering content in one story? I must know!”


I guess it’s the youth are more desensitised. I have little that I will completely avoid. If something is really horrible, yes I will definitely stop it. Like the stuff Zed said earlier, as an example. If a game looks at those subjects negatively and is used effectively, then it’s probably worth it: a lot of the time it isn’t. Personally, I think in Wade Clarke’s Music Room for Cragne Major, when Francine turns down the role as an Alderman, it’s really effective because it recontextualises another scene but never describes the contents at all. It made me say “oh shit and yet I wasn’t put off because it wasn’t actually described. (The rest of that room was a little too much for me to be fair. I was quite put off by the forestland and her head.)

Weirdly, Eat Me only describes it, and I love it so much. I don’t know really. In text, I can handle a lot more than some. Otherwise, not so much.

I wouldn’t recommend most to others because they just don’t know IF and wouldn’t appreciate it. Bogeyman has been popular though. And Computerfriend. Not sure why dark/depressing choice IF is popular. I guess just that the UI and writing are both amazing, and is captivating.