Where is the limit?

Somewhere in my game the player needs to create a diversion in order to get access to a passage.
I thought I had come up with a “funny” way of creating this diversion.
The game takes place in a museum, and in the room where the diversion is needed there is this little boy (5-6 years old) and his parents. To create the diversion the player needs to pick up the boy and throw him onto the bed… This is an antique bed where once a king slept.
Naturally this will make the custodian come running (taking his mind off other things) and the player can now sneak into the passage. (This is very simplified)
When running it past a friend he told me that I might get clobbered for this as it could be seen as child abuse.

I realize that people are different and what is considered ok in one country is considered off limits in another, and that as an author you should try to accommodate as many as possible. But I can’t help but wonder, where’s the limit? It’s not as if I’m making the player beat up or rape the kid or anything like that?
Woud you be offended if you came across this puzzle?

I don’t find it offensive. Just illogical. Who grabs a random kid and throws it?

Like I wrote, this was a simplified version of the puzzle.
The main thing was whether people would find such an action offensive and even more important, where is the “limit” of freedom of expression in games.

Why does the player need to throw a small boy onto the bed to cause the diversion? Couldn’t it be handled in a different way - jumping on the bed himself maybe? Or turning the bed over?

Having killed all children in Skyrim in quite graphic ways (using the killable children mod), I might not be the right person to judge this :mrgreen:

If by jumping on the bed himself, you mean the player, it would not move the attention away from him allowing him to open and sneak into the passage.
Turning the bed over somehow might work, but again it would move the unwanted attention of the custodian to himself rather than elsewhere.
By throwing the boy onto the huge bed (remember a king once slept there and we all know they need lots and lots of space :wink: ) the player can do that from a distance.

What makes you think kings slept on huge beds? I’ve seen the state bedrooms at Hampton Court Palace and if I were to sleep on the four-posters there my lower extremities would be dangling off the end…

I think you should probably rethink the diversion. Your present solution doesn’t sound like something I’d guess (unless it was very heavily clued) and there must be a hundred more obvious ways of creating a diversion in a museum; knocking over a suit of armour, setting off an alarm, etc.

In this game they did sleep in huge beds :wink: But that’s beside the point.
The original question was where is the limit of what is acceptable when writing IF, how far can you go before it’s considered offensive. Is there a tolerance of other cultures or is it… We don’t do this in this country therefore I hate it …

Personally it wouldn’t offend me but then I’ve always been an insensitive so-and-so. But if one of your testers thought it might cause offence, you can bet there’ll be someone who plays the game and throws a fit over it. Some people are very easily offended.

I don’t think the problem is so much that people will be offended by it, rather than that grabbing a strange child and hurling them onto a bed is something that most people would feel uncomfortable doing, even in the unlikely event that it occurred to them to do it.

I’m not sure why you would say that an author has a responsibility to accommodate as many people as possible. If one’s objective is to appeal to the greatest possible audience, then certainly you want to try to write something that won’t offend anybody – but if that’s not your goal, then you should write what you think works, without trying to please everybody.

For what it’s worth, I don’t see anything particularly offensive in what you describe. As others have commented, grabbong a kid and throwing him onto the royal bed seems like a rather odd thing to do, but if the context of the game provides players with an adequate clue to try it, it could work, and, in any event, I see no reason to censor your work for fear of offending somebody. Just about anything which is beyond the level of a five-year-old will have something in it to which somebody will taKe offense.

Robert Rothman

I’ll admit my knee jerk reaction to throwing a kid on the bed was bad and I would stop playing the game at that point. I am very sensitive about child abuse.

I think you could achieve the same effect by just telling the kid “Kings used to sleep in that bed. It would be really cool to jump on it.” and then let the kid do the jumping.


Hi Susan.
Thanks for your response…
I’m curious as to what it is you find “knee jerking” :slight_smile:
Is it the fact that the kid is thrown upon/onto the bed, or the fact that it’s a “stranger” that does it (In this case the player character) I remember as a kid it was great fun when my dad would pick me up and throw me onto the bed.
I just don’t see it as abusing the kid, since I’m not hurting him in any way. But I guess it all depends how one interpretates the subject “abuse.” Which was why I started this topic in the first place.

I can think of a couple different questions here, beside the question of whether the action is adequately hinted.

One is that, if the command that’s called for is “Throw child onto bed” or something like that, the player probably won’t be sure how you’re throwing the kid onto the bed. Is it affectionate roughhousing as you described with your father, or is it something more abusive? IF players don’t enough fine-grained control over our actions to distinguish between those two. It might depend on how the action was hinted; if the child’s father was playfully chucking him around, that might indicate that if you did the same thing it wouldn’t be abusive.

Another is that, if the action does come across as abusive or possibly abusive, there will be many players (probably including me) who won’t do it. You might remember the IFComp reviews of Sentencing Mr Liddell, where several players refused to keep playing after a certain point. The action that was called for there was intended to be abusive of a child (or a sort of symbolic child), and this was part of the dark theme of the work; but if you have a work that’s intended to be light-hearted and there’s something in there that seems abusive of a child, I think it will turn many people off.

And then there’s the question of what you can do with someone else’s child. I might tickle my two-year-old mercilessly, but if a complete stranger walked up and did the same thing my first instinct would probably be to eviscerate him with a boat hook. Boundaries are important.

…now that I think of it, you could have the player throw a ball onto the bed so the kid would chase it and start jumping on the bed. Would that work? Or Susan’s solution seems good too.

The knee-jerk is that my first thought after the line “throw the kid on the bed” was that the player is about to assault the kid. I kept reading and realized this was not your intention.

for me: stranger + child + bed = sexual assault

It is a combination of all three things that make it so negative.

The scene could be written in such a way that it is clear that the action is playful and not creepy. (As matt w pointed out)


I forgot to mention, “put the kid on the bed” seems much more innocuous to me than “throw the kid on the bed.” If I type “put the kid on the bed” I know I’m lifting him up fairly gently so he can play on it or sleep in it. (There’s still the stranger/boundary problem, though.)

It has been quite interesting to read the various opinions and it sure shows that there’s a lot of different opinions.
I wasn’t going to have the player pick upi the kid in front of the parents and then throw him onto the bed. The text would have mentioned that player sees the opportunity as the parents is studying the tapestries in the chamber, he quickly pick up the kid and throw him onto the bed.
Of course the kid would be having a great old time boncing up and down on the bed and in the big commosion the custodian would come running.

Anyway, I’ve decided to change the puzzle so instead of throwing this (poor) kid around the room :wink: Player character will have to pull a cord attached to the canopy of the bed and make it fall down.

With respect to your original question, my own games are generally G-rated. Violence is sometimes necessary, but not violence toward children or animals.

I can think of a couple of ways to set up the action you had in mind. How about, ‘bobby, jump on the bed’? Or, ‘tell bobby about bed’? Either of those commands could result in the kid getting the right idea, climbing over the guard rope, and starting to jump up and down on the bed.

The trouble with ‘throw bobby onto the bed’ is that you need to be holding the kid in order to throw him anywhere – and the parents will surely notice and stop you if you try ‘pick up bobby’.

My reaction that, basically, only a terrible person would do that to a kid* is not because of throwing, it’s picking up the kid in the first place. I very much do not enjoy being touched by strangers, and getting enough of a grip to actually lift someone up is way beyond acceptable boundaries to me. (Also, I am a smallish female person who does occasionally deal with people trying to lift me. It’s not pleasant.)

*and therefore I would feel weird about directing my protagonist to do it, unless it’s already been established that the PC is That Kind of Person. So yeah, it’s a bit problematic from a game play perspective. I’d say let the player do it, but also allow the “suggest the idea to the kid” option.

Having it be one of multiple solutions might work quite nicely. Few players may think to try it, but it enriches a game when it rewards occasional player experimentation. Some people play games as if they were asocial problem-solving machines, and being able to chuck a kid about to solve a puzzle would gel with that kind of play-style.