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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.