We’re back and we’re heading into uncomfortable territory. This is our discussion about extreme subject matter in games. As you might surmise, the conversation gets a little unpleasant at times. It is hard to talk about things that genuinely upset us without talking about things that, um, genuinely upset us. Inevitably, this leads us to discuss topics such as sexual violence, cruelty to children and animals, gore, necrophilia and cannibalism. If you are worried that we might bring up something you really don’t want to hear, it’s probably safest to assume that we do.
We start off by trying to define our terms, using examples from media — mainly horror films — that exemplify what we mean by “extreme”. We largely focus on the difficulties of portraying extreme content, whether this is repelling your audience, being so focused on transgression that you fail to do anything interesting or crossing the line into unintentional farce.
This episode isn’t just a catalogue of atrocities, however. We try to identify where our own boundaries lie, how to handle it when a game crosses the line and possible techniques to stop players becoming uncomfortable (in the wrong way) without neutering the game. This last topic in particular, tricky as it is, is one we care passionately about. All three of us run a lot of horror games at conventions or online, often for people we’ve never met before, and there is a world of difference between making someone’s skin crawl in a fun way and stirring up horrible emotions that will leave them upset afterwards. Finding that balance isn’t always easy and we’ve all made missteps.
This was one of the longest recording sessions we’ve had. We spent the best part of three hours dissecting these topics, trying to work out where our respective boundaries lie and why they are there. We were stopped only by sore feet and the encroachment of teatime. Paul has been fairly brutal in cutting down our rambling, removing redundant examples and circular arguments. We hope that we have left you with only the juiciest meat of the discussion.