meaning and definition

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    What is a trigger?

    In the context of text-based roleplaying games (RPGs), trigger refers to any topic, action, or type of content that could negatively impact the well-being of a player, potentially causing emotional distress.

    Players often agree to avoid triggers to maintain a safe and enjoyable gaming environment.

    Additionally, in the realm of multi-user dungeons (MUDs), “trigger” can also describe a feature in MUD clients that automates actions based on textual input from the game, such as aliases, macros, and buttons.

    The use of the term “trigger” in the psychological sense has been incorporated into roleplaying to foster inclusive and considerate gaming communities, recognizing the diverse backgrounds and sensitivities of players. You may also see psychological triggers referred to as emotional triggers or mental health triggers.

    The technical use of “trigger” in MUDs and other online games dates back to the early days of these platforms, where scripting and automation were essential for enhancing gameplay and managing complex tasks.

    The rest of this entry will focus solely on the first definition of trigger, which has to do with the well-being of players.

    Trigger FAQs

    How can I identify what might be a trigger for others in a game?

    Identifying potential triggers involves communication and sensitivity to the experiences of others. Common triggers can include topics like violence, abuse, and mental health issues. It’s helpful to discuss with your group what content everyone is comfortable exploring in your game sessions.

    What should I do if I accidentally trigger another player?

    If you inadvertently trigger another player, the best approach is to apologize sincerely, ask them how you can avoid similar situations in the future, and give them space if needed. Ensuring that your gaming environment feels safe for everyone is key to a positive experience.

    What is the difference between a psychological trigger and a MUD client trigger?

    A psychological trigger pertains to emotional responses invoked by certain topics or scenarios that might cause discomfort or distress. A MUD client trigger, however, is a technical tool in text-based games that executes predefined actions automatically, enhancing gameplay and efficiency.

    Are there tools to manage triggers in roleplaying games?

    Yes, many roleplaying groups use tools like content warnings (CWs) or trigger lists to manage and communicate about sensitive topics. These tools help players prepare for or avoid content that might be harmful to them, ensuring a more inclusive and comfortable gaming experience.

    For an example of a consent checklist which can be used to manage triggers, see this post.

    What does it mean to be triggered?

    When a player is said to be triggered, it means they’ve had a negative reaction to a topic or action. Players can be triggered by things that happen in-game as well as outside of it, such as in the game’s community Discord channel or online forums.

    Myths about triggers

    Triggers are about being overly sensitive. Triggers are legitimate psychological responses based on past traumas or intense negative experiences. Respecting them isn’t about coddling; it’s about fostering a supportive community environment.

    Only certain topics are triggers. Anything could potentially be a trigger depending on an individual’s experiences. It’s important to maintain open lines of communication and to be mindful of the diverse backgrounds players may come from.

    Trigger examples

    • Avoiding graphic descriptions of violence after agreeing it’s a trigger for one of the players.
    • Implementing a safe word in a game that, when mentioned, pauses gameplay to address and resolve any issues related to content discomfort. (For examples and other suggestions, see: ERP and consent in games.)
    • Creating a content warning before a session starts, indicating the discussion of potentially triggering themes like psychological horror or explicit violence.

    Related terms

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    About the author

    Andruid is a writer, roleplayer, storyteller, and nerd who tries to live by Bill and Ted wisdom, i.e. "Be excellent to each other."