Doki Doki Literature Club, Meatloaf Cupcakes, and the Unexpected

I like cooking, especially anything with a clever twist to it. Did you know you can make apple pie out of ritz crackers, spice, and slight of hand? And when looking for similar recipes, I came across the meatloaf cupcakes. These are the most brilliant unusable prank.

In the comments of various recipes, there are two situations anyone plans to use it: on their own family, or for the church social. Those are the only two situations you could ever feed people these and have them enjoy the situation. This is an extreme version of the problem a lot of the prank food runs into. People have all sorts of restrictions on what they’ll eat. If you’re familiar with and share the same restrictions, this is no problem, but as a group gets more diverse, the more problems you’ll run into.

Vegetarians are obviously going to be unhappy about this, as are most non-Christians. This particular version will upset anyone who avoids eating pig, cow, or mixing meat and dairy. Short of adding in some delicious people-meat, I don’t think you could make a less inclusive food. It’s also not gluten-free, but at least the celiac population wasn’t going to pick up a mystery cupcake in the first place.

Are they evil for this? If I have time this April, I’m totally going to make these! They will not be eaten by anyone who isn’t either a blood relative or married to one and of the same culture, and we’re all fine eating ground mixed animal flesh topped with potato dairy. I can say to them, “Oh, they’re just regular old cupcakes, try one!!!” and the only problem I’ll face is someone realizing the trick in advance.

So, to go back to Doki Doki Literature Club. The main site contains a warning. The game’s Steam page goes even further. It first shows just a warning screen and a list of tags, of which “horror” features regularly so you know exactly what that warning is really about. Click through and more warnings are plastered all over. Get recommended it by a friend who knows you like twists and are fine with the content? When you load the game, it’s more warnings. Given this is one slow boil of a game, this ends up really taking the bite out of the eventual twists. Should it have been unwarned? God no.

So, what’s the solution? I said I would make prank cupcakes for people I knew already, but that’s not a solution for anything digital. The broader the distribution, the more variety there is among people and the more easily someone unintended will run across it. There seem to be three basic responses.

  1. WARNING WARNING WARNING which, as I’ve just said, means you functionally can’t have “twists”. If you’re just concerned about general rating, you can do a bait and switch where you lock it to adults and let them assume it’s because there’s porn, but that’s locking out plenty of your audience and ignoring the fact that adults can find subjects disturbing. The more specific you get, the more useful it is to people who need the warning and the more annoying a spoiler it is for people who don’t.
  2. Make things appropriate to everyone. If there’s no disturbing content, then there’s no need to spoil anything. This locks off an enormous amount of subject matter and also all horror games at all, since people who don’t like horror do not appreciate it suddenly dropping into their lap.
  3. Fuck this SJW bullshit! No warnings on anything! ART IS SUPPOSED TO CHALLENGE!!! And now your art has ruined someone’s day for nothing. Everything is now done with based on what the artist’s general cultural tolerance levels are, and anyone who doesn’t exactly match that is in for some unpleasant surprises. And, of course, it’s not like there’s going to be even representation among artists, so we continue to have one culture’s viewpoint on what’s acceptable dominate the conversation.

Looking at this, however, I’m struck by the fact that this is on Steam, where you’re generally logged in. More and more of the internet, in fact, “knows” you and your particular account. The solution to expanding diversity is expanding algorithms. It would be easy to change our current system of prominently displayed tags into a more hidden filter. If (media) contains content you never want to see, it doesn’t come up. If (media) contains content that’s upsetting but tolerable if you’re warned for, then it shows but contains the spoiler – after all, you wouldn’t enjoy the game at all without that. And if (media) contains content that doesn’t bother you, it pops up with no warnings. It’d be really nice to have some central repository where people could look up games (or general media) without it having to be a single publisher, using a similar user tag system to keep track.

I’m not sure why we don’t have anything like that. It’s a similar thing that bugs me about AO3 – proper tagging often involves spoilers I have no interest in seeing in advance and tags that would actually warn me off mean I have no interest in seeing the story at all, but the setup is designed to highlight the tags as the primary source of information. Content, advertisement, and warnings are all rolled together. I wonder if it has something to do with the more puritanical mindset of current fandom – perhaps media that contains anything inappropriate must wear its scarlet letter of shame.

56 Comments

  1. Roarke says:

     It’s also not gluten-free, but at least the celiac population wasn’t going to pick up a mystery cupcake in the first place.

    Another little complication: just like folks with gluten allergies won’t pick up random cupcakes at all, DDLC without trigger warnings would never be looked at twice by folks who aren’t already into reading harem VN’s, or at least comfortable with the concept of them. The game would then have to spread solely by word of mouth, at which point we’re approaching personal responsibility re: only recommending it to friends/family you know can hack it.

    I think the myriad trigger warnings actually end up as an oblique marketing strategy to reel in folks who’d never normally open up the game. I know some folks who opened it solely because they wanted to see how a cutesy harem game would devolve into something that deserves those warnings. I personally am putting it off because, despite my curiosity, I’m a coward who is bad at horror in general. 

    1. Farla says:

      I was actually thinking about that, but while there needs to be something, it doesn’t need to specify horror. Genre subversion would be vague enough to tell you there is a twist without knowing what form the twist would take. Also, the warnings everywhere meant that when I hit the first departure from convention, I was still expecting it to get all meta-mindfucky so all further escalation wasn’t a surprise.

      Ideally, there should be a “deliberately stomps on genre conventions” or something type of tag, to indicate this is a game for people who like a different type of game instead without telling you anything more than that it’s not whatever the apparent genre is.

      (Also, if there was a robust tag blacklist system, then people wouldn’t need to look for more info – if you have, say, gore blacklisted, then if a game pops up on your list with just ~*~*mystery genre subversion*~*~ you’d know if doesn’t have gore and not need to check through the list of all the things it does have to verify. Etc.)

      1. Roarke says:

        I just don’t think having a Genre Subversion tag is enough to pull people in. It’s like the Scary Movie and other parody series – they market themselves as parodies and you know going in they won’t be scary/dramatic/romantic or whatever the source genre is, but plenty of people still ignore them because “not like this thing you like/don’t like” is not a strong enough selling point in a big market, especially not enough to overcome the first reaction to a niche, even stigmatized genre like Harem VN.  

        I think that DDLC being both free and very loud about its true purpose was the best possible way to get attention from a wide audience, and that, to the creators, that’s probably worth reducing the individual impact it has.

        1. Farla says:

          There really isn’t anything else to this one but genre subversion and HAHA YOU WEREN’T EXPECTING THAT WERE YOU?!?! though, and it’s hard to judge how well it did that because the game itself seems to be built on the assumption you’re not expecting it. If someone likes genre subversion type games, then it’s for them. If that alone isn’t enough to feel interested in it, then they probably wouldn’t like it anyway.

          1. Roarke says:

            Yeah, I see your point, and I’m really not sure how it can be salvaged for this game in particular because it HAS to, in some way, let people know it’s going to be weird/extreme to get any attention at all. Maybe they had the concept and created it, and only when they started trying to market it realized it wouldn’t garner attention?

            The genre that DDLC is subverting is not overly popular with the market it’s in, unlike a game like Spec-Ops: The Line. That was a FPS coming out in the heyday of the FPS genre, so when that game turned out to be psychological horror and such, people were all over it, and it didn’t need to have trigger warnings because normal games for the genre already had you shooting up airports as a terrorist.

            I think the ultimate problem is as you said: it’s for people into genre subversion. It’s not for people into the genres themselves, be it horror or dating sim. People who like the dating sim aspect will know it’s just a thin veneer for the horror, and people who like horror won’t like their surprise getting spoiled.

        2. illhousen says:

          It’s like the Scary Movie and other parody series – they market themselves as parodies and you know going in they won’t be scary/dramatic/romantic or whatever the source genre is, but plenty of people still ignore them

          Many people ignore them because most of those movies are shit, though.

          I mean, I agree that the specific way in which stories subvert genre expectations matter. Someone who likes surprise horror wouldn’t necessary appreciate RE:Zero style exploration of typical protagonist’s flaws and someone who likes that wouldn’t necessary go for an over-the-top parody, but your example is not the best one.

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          1. Roarke says:

            Valid. My example isn’t good as an argument. It’s just the easiest thing I could think of that I’d dump in the garbage. Re:Zero, KonoSuba, or even Grimgar might be better examples of what I’m trying to say, which is that they each have a twist on the genre as part of their premise, but that doesn’t guarantee attention because it doesn’t guarantee quality.

  2. Act says:

    It’s always odd to me that there isn’t a doesthedogdie-style database for trigger warnings, since it seems like it’d be so easy to community source.

    I also think that at least part of the reason why a tag system for warnings has been so slow to appear is that the first platform that does it is almost certainly going to have to deal with a gg-style hate campaign. It makes me think of the college that removed scales from its bathrooms to try to prevent people with eating disorders in dorms from obsessively weighing themselves and was immediately met with a tsunami of backlash from people who have to know their exact weight all the time in a way that has nothing to do at all with unhealthy body imagine of course not.

    UMass apparently has calorie counts on their vending machines which is a nightmare for me (also fuck them and the vending machine company), and I thought about writing a letter the other day but there’s just no point in a word of angry white dudes. I just have to remember to bring snacks with me or not eat on campus. My point being, it’s so much easier to go with the current methods of working around triggers which do work, if somewhat unreliably, than risk an assault by maga-types. People who needs TWs have survived, if with challenges, and will continue to, and poking the beast could make it sooooo much worse, so I think it’s not something you’ll see actively campaigned for by people in the community.

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    1. Farla says:

      Well, we’ve got an okay tag system built up thanks to the “everything is an advertisement!”/”Steam shall be all” mentality, we just need to make it easier to filter things out and easier to keep that as a permanent filter. If it wasn’t explicitly stated to be for the purpose of triggers and merely coincidentally was really useful for that, it might fly under the radar. I mean, the same people who complain about the easily triggered SJWs are the ones getting offended by practically everything and demanding that developers warn them for trans characters ruining immersion by existing and are always shouting about boycotts and blacklists.

      And sorry to hear that, that sucks. With luck it’s just an administration fad that’ll go away again.

  3. Nerem says:
    They probably didn’t mind so much as there’s a lot of evidence that DDLC wasn’t the actual real game, I guess you could say. It’s fantastic, but it’s also apparently just a REALLY well-hidden ARG, as it contains a lot of stuff hidden in it hinting at the game its advertising and said game’s plot.
  4. CrazyEd says:

    If the gluten-intolerant people I personally know are any indication, they totally would pick up the mystery cupcake and eat it, and then leave Future Them to deal with the repercussions of eating delicious and glutenous food.

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    1. Act says:

      Am lactose intolerant, can confirm.

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  5. SpoonyViking says:

    To be fair, DDLC’s twists can be seen from a distance, and the warning inside the actual game is very vague – it warns you there will be disturbing things, but doesn’t specify anything else.

    Also, I love both meatloaf and potato mash, but faking cupcakes out is just cruel.

    1. SpoonyViking says:

      …Actually, is it just me, or does the warning come off as condescending? “Not for children or those easily disturbed”?

      1. illhousen says:

        Isn’t it just a standard wording for such warnings? At least I’ve seen it a couple of times in otherwise unrelated media.

        1. SpoonyViking says:

          I don’t think it is, though I may be mistaken.

          1. Keltena says:

            It’s a pretty common stock phrasing in my experience. Which isn’t necessarily mutually exclusive with being condescending, but if it is, I’d see it as more of a general issue than one with any particular instance.

            1. illhousen says:

              Though, to be fair, I’ve seen similar phrasing used in a sorta condescending way where it’s basically an advertisement: “This awesomely gruesome video you’re about to see is not for the faint of heart! (And you aren’t one, are you, chap?)” with an implication that those who would rather not see such a video are weak-willed.

              Reply
            2. Roarke says:

              I’ve seen them used in an outright condescending way, though I don’t remember what it was for. It went something like “Not for Small Children or Big Babies.” 

              Reply
  6. Ash says:
    My experience with DDLC was very different. I found it on the horror tag of itch.io, so I knew there would be <em>something</em> disturbing about it, so the warnings meant nothing to me. Most horror games I play either come with warnings or don’t but qualify for them anyway by at least some set of standards, including when there isn’t really any extreme content. I’ve seen warnings for things that would only be disturbing to very young or sensitive people, like blood, death, and non-detailed mentions of disturbing topics – I’m in favor of those warnings existing for those people, but the presence of warnings has stopped indicating the presence of extreme content to me. So I had the opposite problem that a lot of people did, in that I never even thought to check the warnings because I’ve always been okay with the way the horror genre handles my personal sensitive spots, so I had no idea how disturbing DDLC was going to be at all. It’s interesting that the warnings were supposed to be an unobtrusive signifier, but people who weren’t used to warnings everywhere saw it as a spoiler while people who were used to warnings everywhere didn’t see it as significant enough to worry about.

    Also, normal dating sims often have love interests with serious situational and/or psychiatric problems. It wouldn’t be incredibly unusual to have a normal dating sim where one girl had depression and wanted to die, one girl was abused at home, and one girl had anxiety and a self-harm problem. I’m currently working on a dating sim myself, and while the characters don’t have quite as many problems as the characters in DDLC, there are still some things I’m going to have to warn for. A normal dating sim could have a “suicide themes” warning, because such a warning says absolutely nothing about how those themes are portrayed (like… Katawa Shoujo, which I’m using as an example due to it being the most popular English-language normal dating sim, had a suicidal side character and so could reasonably have this warning). A warning for suicide covers something like DDLC (where a character kills herself after a leadup of agonizing depression in a way that’s supposed to be as awful as possible and then later on that character is treated as explicitly not worth caring about) but would also cover something like Undertale (where several characters are suicidal and there’s a backstory suicide, but generally you’re supposed to care and can improve their lives).

    I suppose what I’m clumsily getting at is that I’m not sure how someone would effectively warn for the content in DDLC, because it feels like it involves deliberately handling these subjects in a malicious manner for the sake of horror, and that’s a completely different animal than just containing the subject at all. I mean, I think DDLC’s handling of its subject matter came out in a really cruel way (and I will go on about that forever if given half the chance), but it’s possible a game could do a similar thing with maliciously-handled subject matter without being so awful, and if it did, it would need to warn differently than a work that handled that subject matter more “in good faith”.

    1. Nerem says:
       
       Agreed. The warnings made me think it was going to end something like School Days. I was not prepared.
       
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      1. Farla says:

        Huh. For whatever reason, I assumed that a vague but extremely broad warning meant it was of the glitch-scare family, and was instead surprised there was any realistic depiction of mental illness.

        1. Nerem says:
          It just seemed to trigger my School Days sense. Which I guess isn’t entirely wrong but was only the surface. Also, how do you feel about conversation on the ARG stuff? Since it’s all definitely about the sequel and I don’t think any of it spoils DDLC unless one talks about how it’s found.
           
          1. Farla says:

            I return two months later to officially say all spoilers are fine.

            1. Roarke says:

              So, DDLC was referred to me by everyone as a horror parody of a dating sim, and I’m happy nobody mentioned it actually has a deeply sympathetic and tragic story about Monika.

              I was prepared for the horror, but I was not prepared for Monika’s character arc. That song she plays during the credits is going to haunt me pretty much forever. Mostly because I still listen to it like every day.

              Reply
            2. SpoonyViking says:

              That song she plays during the credits is going to haunt me pretty much forever. Mostly because I still listen to it like every day.

              Have you tried not being on fire? :-P

              Reply
            3. Roarke says:

              I didn’t see the need.

              Reply
    2. CrazyEd says:

      It wouldn’t be incredibly unusual to have a normal dating sim where one girl had depression and wanted to die, one girl was abused at home, and one girl had anxiety and a self-harm problem

      Did you mean, “Grisaia no Kaijitsu”?

      1. Roarke says:

        That basically fits Fate/Stay Night, too. Goddamn near every work of every harem genre has mental illness/abuse as part of the excuse for why the intelligent, beautiful women are hanging out with the viewer some loser. 

        1. Nerem says:
          My favorite excuse in Grisaia (which I only played because I uh… worked on the series so I kinda had to) is that the guy is a proxy for her dead girlfriend. His little sister.
           
           
           
          1. CrazyEd says:

            Honestly, I couldn’t care less about the story or the other characters or anything like that. The main character of Grisaia is basically Eroge Sousuke Sagara and I could never hate a game like that.

            1. Roarke says:

              Sousuke Sagara in an eroge sounds like a nightmare for him… I’ll need to check it out.

              Reply
            2. Nerem says:
              … That description is more accurate the more I think about it…
               
               
               
              Reply
            3. CrazyEd says:

              When he unknowingly walked in on Redhead McMainGirl when she was topless, because she was changing in his dorm room (which she used to use as a spare room before he moved in), his response was basically “You’re free to change in here if you want, just don’t expect me to act embarrassed for seeing your tits because this is my dorm room, and also don’t. Fucking. Touch. The. Tea. In. The. Fridge.”

              Later on, he teaches the imouto-bait character how to shoot a gun. A really, really, really big gun. An anti-materiel gun.

              The moment I decided he was my best girl of the series was when a girl with Issues attacked him with a box-cutter, and he was like “what the hell!?” and she was like “I didn’t actually murder you so it was okay”. I paused the episode to tell a friend about it, being like “WHOA HAS THIS CHICK NEVER HEARD OF ATTEMPTED MURDER!?”

              Unpaused the video. Dude’s inner monologue? The subtitles said literally exactly what I had just said to my friend.

              Reply
        2. Ash says:
          Hmmm… I mean, I didn’t bring that up to portray it as a bad thing! I like that dating sims generally feature a variety of mentally ill characters designed to be lovable. Our representation is generally really bad, so even if these characters were written much more for the purpose of romantic fantasies for losery men rather than to make mentally ill people happy, they’re still precious to me. I’m glad that people exist who don’t mind the idea of dating a mentally ill person, especially when the mainstream position seems to be that anyone with anything more than very mild depression is a repulsive burden that no normal person would ever want to be saddled with.

          Also, not to pick on you specifically, but I’m a little baffled by how often “a lot of people are interested in the protagonist” is brought up as a criticism of stories that wouldn’t really work if a lot of people weren’t interested the protagonist, and I’m more than a little baffled by the way people seem to discuss it as a gendered phenomenon as if 1) the same “several love interests who trend much more interesting than the protagonist” dynamic wasn’t happening in reverse-harem shows and otome games and 2) pretty, smart girls are never normally kind of bad at interacting with guys unless they’re mentally ill or have a serious problem in their lives? DDLC raised the topic too, in the form of Monika saying it didn’t make any sense that the girls had such high standards that they were still single but also such low standards that they’d immediately be interested in a relationship with the protagonist… and my first thought was “wow, Dan Salvato, have you ever actually met any girls?” Most girls aren’t actually getting swarmed with great offers all the time, and it’s completely normal for a girl who’d generally be considered a good catch to be single even if she’d be open to dating someone if any decent offers came up, especially if we’re talking about young people who maybe haven’t done much dating yet and haven’t really developed those specific social skills, or who don’t have great social skills in general, or who don’t know many people of their preferred gender/orientation. None of this is weird, or something that anime invented to justify mediocre guys dating up (nor is mental illness). Girls are people. People do not uniformly distribute their attention to the highest-ranked romance object in the room.

          And I know the point of these arguments is to criticize the stupid ways that men can conceptualize women, but they require conceptualizing women in a different stupid way to be coherent at all, so maybe we can just… not?

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          1. Roarke says:

            Your concerns are valid, and I agree with a lot of it, especially the bits about having expectations/conceptualizations of what women are actually like in romantic/social situations.

            I’m not going to argue what I disagree with point by point, but I will just say that I don’t really share the charitable view of mental illness depiction that you do here, especially I feel that a lot of the time it’s not remotely being done in service of the character, nor for the sake of representing people who are mentally ill. Still, if you’re good with it and you’re happy about it, that’s awesome and as far as I’m concerned you should keep that.

          2. CrazyEd says:

            “a lot of people are interested in the protagonist” is brought up as a criticism of stories that wouldn’t really work if a lot of people weren’t interested the protagonist

            I think the problem isn’t so much “a lot of people are interested in the protagonist” so much as “a lot of people are interested in a completely unlikeable protagonist with no real redeeming qualities of his own for absolutely no explainable reason”.

            When I think of harem protagonists that harem fans tend to actually like, they’ve generally got something going for them other than a generic “is nice” kind of deal which is not something you can say about all harem protagonists.

             the same “several love interests who trend much more interesting than the protagonist” dynamic wasn’t happening in reverse-harem shows and otome games

            I dunno man, I’ve watched a couple otome-type shows, and some of their heroines could slot right into a harem show as the generic sweet good girl achetype.

             

            I think Roarke’s problem might be that, like… in a lot of cases (not DDLC or Grisaia, but most harem anime), a lot of the characters you might think “oh, this character might have a legit mental illness”… aren’t supposed to be seen that way. Like, the main girl of The Pet Girl of Sakurasou is basically some form/degree of autistic, and its kinda just played up as her being a space-y weirdo for moe points.

            1. Nerem says:
               I think the problem isn’t so much “a lot of people are interested in the protagonist” so much as “a lot of people are interested in a completely unlikeable protagonist with no real redeeming qualities of his own for absolutely no explainable reason”.
               
              Yeah this exactly. The reason why the harem genre tends to get scorn is because it tends to ave perfectly generic as hell protagonist with no real personality, and generally everyone falls in love at first meeting with them. A good example is the protagonist of the Asterik Wars, who is only vaguely ‘unique’ by instead having Light Novel Hero personality where they act like they don’t care and everything is just too much of a hassle but is also the generic hero and for some reason everyone loves their uncaringness.
               
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            2. CrazyEd says:

              The funny part about The Asterisk Wars is that the MC of Chivalry of a Failed Knight (which is like AssWar But Decent) actually is a cool enough dude for me to believe he’d have a few girls with crushes on him… but it’s not a harem series.

              Reply
            3. Roarke says:

              I actually have a lot of respect for Chivalry of a Failed Knight, yeah. It does have a couple of staples of harem, like a little sister that’s hot for her brother, but, indeed, it’s not a harem. The dude’s in a committed relationship and is indeed enough of a badass in his own right to not be boring.

              Reply
            4. CrazyEd says:

              I don’t really mind the little sister, because the series doesn’t try to have its cake and eat it too on that one.

              Reply
            5. Roarke says:

              It’s a terribly low bar, but yes. I actually am fine with it too because the sister is a character in her own right separate from the brotherlust. In fact IIRC in the light novel she’s something of a hardass who straight-up kills the villain she had to fight.

              Reply
            6. CrazyEd says:

              And it’s literally the coolest part in the first six or so volumes, yeah.

              Reply
          3. Farla says:

            I like that dating sims generally feature a variety of mentally ill characters designed to be lovable. 

            I’d agree. I think this is one of those things where the problems that crop up are often inadvertant, or where a slight shift is making an existing problem suddenly pop out when really it’s always been there.

            I like playing talking sims to make people happy and solve their problems, but dating sims are also about the player getting something out of it, which can easily end up more exploitive than heartwarming – but that’s always been true, and the ones trying to give attention to the girls having their own wants and problems are at least trying to view them as more than collectables.

            And it’s not like the “these girls are broken wrecks unless chosen to be saved by the player” criticism is limited to the subgenre, since WORMS.

            1. Roarke says:

              And it’s not like the “these girls are broken wrecks unless chosen to be saved by the player” criticism is limited to the subgenre, since WORMS.

              Is F/SN not part of the subgenre? I always thought eroge and dating sims were basically the same thing. Tsukihime has the same type of character as well, only she’s handled better than Sakura. 

              I’d say F/SN in fact is where I first realized there was a criticism to be had all those years ago, whenever I first read it. 

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            2. Farla says:

              I’m thinking of dating sims as the genre, with ones about mental illness or disability the subgenre.

              Reply
            3. Roarke says:

              Ah, makes sense.  

              Reply
            4. Nerem says:
              I should add that the difference between dating sims and a visual novel like F/SN (Which is an eroge, but it’s the type where the ero can be removed without any real issue) is that in dating sims the girls are the point of the game, whereas F/SN the girl isn’t so much the point but the side-effect I guess you could say.
               
               
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            5. Roarke says:

              I guess I was focused on the part where the route you got was predicated on which girl you chose. In terms of actual plot focus, I do see where they diverge.

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            6. Nerem says:
              Yeah. It’s kind of a standard division that if you aren’t very familiar with the genre you might not notice. Dating sims are about the dating/girl getting and have gameplay elements supporting it. While visual novels/eroge tend to still, as a result of deriving from dating sims, have a focus on the girl being the indicator of a plot split, don’t have quite the focus on the girl itself.

              Hell, even in romance-less visual novels with female leads, they sometimes focus each route around a girl.

              Reply
    3. Farla says:

      I mean, I think DDLC’s handling of its subject matter came out in a really cruel way (and I will go on about that forever if given half the chance), but it’s possible a game could do a similar thing with maliciously-handled subject matter without being so awful, and if it did, it would need to warn differently than a work that handled that subject matter more “in good faith”.

      I guess I’m a bit more charitable in assuming the maliciousness was meant to be in-universe maliciousness, though the secret arg thingy does make me question if it’s just shock for the sake of it. I think it’s mostly that we’re still working out the language around triggers, having currently stalled around “does this literally contain (subject) or not?”

  7. Gwen says:

    It’s a similar thing that bugs me about AO3 – proper tagging often involves spoilers I have no interest in seeing in advance and tags that would actually warn me off mean I have no interest in seeing the story at all, but the setup is designed to highlight the tags as the primary source of information. Content, advertisement, and warnings are all rolled together. I wonder if it has something to do with the more puritanical mindset of current fandom – perhaps media that contains anything inappropriate must wear its scarlet letter of shame.

    This I can provide some context on. AO3 grew out of the situation where fandom kept getting kicked off of platforms due to puritanism on the part of the platform owners–if you wrote a slash fic, or a noncon fic, and labeled it appropriately, maybe LJ would change owners and decide to ban you and delete your account and everything you’d ever posted. Whereas if you didn’t label it, you were making it [a] hard to find for people who were actively seeking out that kind of thing, and [b] hard to avoid for people who were trying to avoid it. The tension between [a] and [b] was a big part of the arguments about whether, and how, people ought to tag fics containing–explicit sexual content, slash, het, child abuse, incest, harm to animals, major character death, et cetera. (The most heated flashpoint, as I recall, was around the appropriateness of the tags “dubcon” / “dubious consent” versus “noncon” versus “rape”.) But for any of them the arguments were like: It should be warned for because some people don’t want to see it (for a range of “don’t want to see it” extending into “major setback in recovery…”). It shouldn’t be warned for because that’s kinkshaming. People should curate their own fandom experience and not count on everyone else to tag for them. Having warnings for common triggers allows curation of one’s own fandom experience. You can’t warn for anything that might be a trigger. No one is asking you to warn for anything that might be a trigger, just for certain common ones. Actually I don’t personally need this to be tagged as a warning, but as an advertisement, to make me more likely to click through. And of course: if I warned for this element my story would be spoiled for all readers, even ones who don’t want to avoid this element.

    There came to be a sort of consensus, at least among the Metafandom-reading crowd (back when that was still a thing), that tags/content notes were a good idea for things like noncon/dubcon, that it was a good idea to call them tags or content notes rather than warnings due to the aforementioned “actually I’m looking for that” people, a certain standardized list of things people expect notes for as a minimum (which became the AO3 standard warnings list) plus the concept of “choose not to warn” so there’s a fair way to “caveat lector” your audience if that’s what you prefer, plus the concept of see author’s note at end of story / click through to here for a more comprehensive content note list which is potentially spoilery. So basically what we have now.

    Tl;dr: rolling advertisement and warnings together as tags is a feature, not a bug, and is anti-puritanical in intent–sometimes you just want to read a story containing major character death without feeling like you’re a Bad Person, going somewhere you shouldn’t.

    1. CrazyEd says:

      Alternative: Just don’t allow yourself to be affected by spoilers. Works for me.

    2. Farla says:

      I know what AO3 originated as, but pre-AO3 people had already moved toward the solution of warnings in spoiler tags, so you could choose to highlight, CTRL-F for the one tag that you wanted to know about, or scroll past completely. Meanwhile it’s been years and years of people asking for the ability to filter out ANYTHING and you still have to use workarounds to divine the secret name and then manually edit a URL. The actual official warnings are the least of the issue, it’s everything else that’s an irritating spoiler that I don’t want to see unless I’m choosing to search for it.

      1. Gwen says:
        I filter things out all the time without manually editing URLs (“-filter_IDs:” + tag number in the “Search within results” field). “Divining the secret name” i.e. finding the tag ID, is a couple-step process, yeah–there’s a bookmarklet to make it easier though.

        Anyway, not trying to be obnoxious by giving that context, I was just trying to put an answer to “I wonder if it has something to do with the more puritanical mindset of current fandom – perhaps media that contains anything inappropriate must wear its scarlet letter of shame.” Answer: that’s not the history of it, no. I would be… pretty surprised if that turned out to be why it’s stayed that way, too.

        It looks like tags on AO3 have the “tag” class, so if you have a custom style sheet (you can use an extension like Styler or Stylish to enable that if you’re on Chrome) you could turn tags to white text with that (#tag {color:white;}), if you wanted.

        1. Farla says:

          But I’m lazy and hop computers and the point at which I have to use bookmarklets and extensions and edit the CSS is the point they’re intentionally denying basic functionality for some weird ideological reason. It’d be child’s play to just say that if I’m logged in, my global settings are -vore and no misc tags. Not loading tags would even slightly slow the servers from their fiery death! (And the possibility of readers not loading tags so put the summary in the fucking summary section would do even more.) And neither has the rest of fandom channeled a fraction of the energy they use for bullying fic off the internet toward any actually convenient filter with like, check-box level functionality, that could protect their innocent virgin eyes from Reylo.

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