ESRB ratings are unfit for their purpose. An uninformed consumer wouldn't know what ‘Comic Mischief’ was if it poured cold custard into their undercarriage. And ‘Mild Lyrics’ sounds more like a Christian rap act than an useful content descriptor. PEGI takes the boring approach, with generic content notes for "Violence" or "Drugs." The ratings system exists solely to provide worried parents with more reasons to suspect games are destroying their childrens' brains.
To fix this, we’ve come up with a list of warnings that will benefit anyone who plays games: a collection of specific issues that could help inform your decision to buy. Or, more likely, put you off playing any games ever again. You’ve been warned.
More useful game content warnings
Audio Diary Exposition
Crucial parts of the story are explained 90 seconds into a three-minute audio diary, which stops and restarts whenever you move.
Scenes of Indifferent Peril
Contains a first-person crevasse-jumping cutscene in which your character seemingly falls to their doom, only to be grabbed at the last minute by a teammate with whom you share a volatile, love-hate relationship.
Menus contained within do not instantly jump to the bottom when you press up at the top, robbing you of precious seconds.
This game contains tedious sections which you have to navigate while semi-conscious, restrained, or hanging upside down in a sack. Someone, somewhere will be into it.
Hair, skin, and age options in this game will be unsuitable for anyone not thirsty enough to roll a sassy teenage catboy.
Escort Mission Disparity
Contains escort missions in which you walk 12% quicker than the NPC you’re tasked with accompanying, meaning you have to stop every 20 yards and wait for them to catch up.
May Cause Game Face
Sections of this game are taxing enough to make you stick out your tongue, chew your cheek, or otherwise pull a face that makes it look like you’re suffering from a terrible, platforming-induced palsy.
Danger of Bad Dogs
At some point during the game, the nuanced, tactically-sound enemies you’ve been fighting will be replaced and/or supplemented with dogs, who will run fast at you while barking.
Possibility of Interactive Paralysis
The amount of time taken to complete this game will be exponentially increased depending on how easily distracted you are by flushable toilets, functioning light switches, and showers that actually get you wet.
Cutscenes may contain a frustrating reversal in which a boss you literally just bludgeoned to death comes back to life, defeats you, and flees while telling you how lame you are.
The invigorating skills you began the game with will disappear in Chapter 2, leaving you feeling like the protagonist equivalent of a small child’s toy with missing batteries.
Acquired Gaming Knowledge Required
Nothing in this title is explained. Do not approach unless you’ve spent at least 70% of your life learning to play games. Do not search for answers on forums unless you want to feel worthless.
May contain a horde section in which you have to protect someone from waves of enemies as they open a door, hack a computer, create cross-stitch versions of Cliffy B tweets, or carry out some other time-consuming guff while you fight.
Passive-aggressive Difficulty Modes
This game goes out of its way to make you feel shitty about playing on easy mode.
Enemies in the game scale with your level. It’s likely you’ll end up fighting a bandit with weapons and armour worth more than an entire hamlet.
One or more levels take place underwater. Your weapons won’t work, you’ll move too slowly, you’ll hold your breath IRL. No amount of handsomely-rendered coral will make it bearable.
Red Ring of Death
The closer you get to death, the more the screen will be obscured by a glowing red vignette reminding you that yes, you are going to die, and no, you will not have the full range of vision at this important juncture. Good luck!
Navigatory Decision Fatigue
May contain moments when you can’t decide between choosing left and right, just in case you inadvertently choose the correct path and miss out on the chance to collect rotten fruit from the trashcan hidden at the end of route #2.
Chaotic Evil Controls
This game has no respect for established PC controls. You have to use the number pad instead of WASD. Jump is assigned to the print screen button. You can’t define your own keybindings. Also: this is what every new game was like 25 years ago.
Yes, the keys you’re carrying could cut the rope. But instead, this point-and-click game wants you to fashion a makeshift miniature lawn mower from a can of peas, duct tape, and a hurdy-gurdy handle, all while wearing an improvised clown costume.
This indie title contains a text-heavy examination of the fragility of human companionship, told via the medium of a cartoon boot on an adventure to find romance in 17th Century Parisian catacombs.
You're a biologically enhanced conflict node entirely encased in ceramite armour. Unfortunately, someone has forgotten to include your flashlight, so have this dollar store pen torch that lasts for five seconds instead.
May contain stealth sections at complete mechanical odds with the rest of the game. Failing to understand the rules will result in instant failure. Failing will result in instant failure. Near-success will result in instant failure.
Fisher Price Settings
Graphics options are limited to turning fullscreen on or off. There’s one sound slider and it controls both SFX and music. There are no keyboard controls.
Pay attention, please. The important game is talking.
Post-checkpoint Unskippable Cutscenes
Like the above, but designed by people who used to melt ants with a magnifying glass.