Web Crush Wednesdays: Game Phobias

Games are art. I don’t think most people will disagree with me that the medium has rightfully gained such a status—if you do disagree, you can take that up with the Smithsonian. Unlike the artworks in museums, however, games share a trait with their counterpart, film, in which they’re rated depending on the content within said games—an aspect more commonly known as an ERSB rating. While these ratings can be good for a general sense of what content someone buying a game may need to look out for, the system itself has its own shortcomings. A T or M rating might let the consumer know that there’s violence or sexually explicit content, but there’s nothing in these ratings that allow for, say, warnings of spiders. Smaller phobias, or even more descriptive break-downs of larger warnings (e.g.: distinguishing “situations of sexual assault” from “appearance of naked breasts” under the umbrella of “sexual content”) simply do not have a chance of being expressed on a small black and white box on the back of a game box. This is where today’s web crush comes in.

webcrush pic

Game Phobias is a wiki-type site which seeks to catalog games under various triggers in an easily accessible and understandable format. As they state:

We are a website dedicated to helping gamers create a safe and comfortable environment. We categorize the games with Content Advisory Tags (CATs), such as clowns, spiders, or sexual assault, and make it easy to search for what games do or do not have content that could be problematic for someone.

Game Phobias bannerAndrew Rasmussen and Paul Mayfield, the founders of the site, may have started out small, but as of now forty-four games have been listed and tagged with various warnings. Now, this might not seem like much in a market where we’re inundated with so many games on so many different platforms. However, considering the effort behind going through an entire game and finding everything that could potentially be triggering, I’d say that having forty-four games is doing pretty well, especially given the short time the site has been live. Though the games are thoroughly scoured, it’s important to note that no one article is guaranteed to have all the triggers for a particular game, and it’s not due to negligence. Sometimes it’s difficult to discern what could possibly be triggering, especially when viewing the game as someone who doesn’t have the same triggers as someone else. This is where the community part of the site comes in. Rasmussen and Mayfield encourage people to contribute to Game Phobias with their own reviews of games and keep discussion pages open to further elicit conversation about things that could have been missed the first time through. A site is already difficult to run with only two people, taking on the task of listing all the games with said two-person crew would have been nigh impossible. Besides, the gamer community already might be looking kind of shit, but it’s nice to know that there’s a subset of people that are willing to think about the comfort of their fellow players.

With games becoming more realistic, more elaborate, and wanting to further push the envelope, a site like this is invaluable to both hardcore gamers and those who are merely dipping their toes into a game here and there alike. In an interview with gamesindustry.biz, the founders comment that:

It’s worth asking ‘why does a site like this need to exist?’ ‘Why aren’t game developers/the games industry doing more about this?’ Maybe it won’t ‘build our brand,’ but at the end of the day, our goal is keeping gaming a safe space for everyone to enjoy. If we can get people talking about this, maybe we’ll see some changes and improvements in the way people are treating and handling sensitive issues in gaming.

It's okay, but we could be doing better.

It’s okay, but we could be doing better.

While I doubt that the ERSB is going to change any time soon, it’s important for discussions about triggers and forming safe spaces in the gaming community to be brought up. Not only that, but the discussion must be on-going and inclusive. Perhaps Game Phobias is a small step in this direction, but it’s a step, and a very important one at that. Make sure to check them out at their Tumblr, and if you can contribute to Game Phobias—whether it be monetarily or with content—please consider doing so!


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This entry was posted in Geek, Internet, opinion, Video Games, Web Crush Wednesdays and tagged , , , , by Tsunderin. Bookmark the permalink.

About Tsunderin

Greetings and salutations! Feel free to just call me Rin—we’re all friends here, or nemeses who just haven’t gotten to know each other well enough. I’m a video game lover from the womb to the tomb, and Bioware enthusiast until the day they stop making games with amazing characters that I cry over. And while I don’t partake as often as I used to, don’t be surprised to find me poking around an anime or manga every once in a while either. A personal interest for me is characterization in media and how women in particular have been portrayed, are being portrayed, and will be portrayed in the future. I’m not going to mince words about my opinion either.