Monster Prom is a series about terrible teens doing awful things, all in the name of getting laid. Monster Prom 2: Monster Camp, the follow-up to the unique multiplayer dating sim, tries its best to up the ante — but not without giving players a choice about what they’re about to see.
I spent a few hours going through a full campaign in October using a code provided by the studio. By the end of my game, people had definitely died or at least done a number of questionable things, like setting a bunch of stuff on fire. That’s part of the appeal; even benign choices end up with almost out-of-control results. I was surprised, then, to look at the game’s settings only to find that Monster Prom 2 actually has built-in trigger warnings that allow players to opt out of content that might affect them.
In my chat with the developer, it explained that the raunchy game tries its best to punch up, not down. While some might feel that being “politically correct” restricts what comedy can do, Monster Prom 2’s writers didn’t see it that way at all. If anything, TV shows like BoJack Horseman proved to them that it was possible to have the best of both worlds: biting humor and a good message.
The game’s “inclusiveness didn’t stop it from packing some punch,” says Julián Quijano, creative director at Monster Prom 2 developer Beautiful Glitch. “We always say it’s like healthy vegetables hidden inside your bowl of delicious, colorful cereal.”
Sensitivity checks on writing can only go so far, however. Enter the options menu, where players can tinker with how the game approaches drugs, toilet humor, sex, drugs, and awful people. While options around gore are becoming more common in video games, settings revolving around entire themes or ideas aren’t.
To be clear, the game doesn’t stop including any of these things — then it wouldn’t be Monster Prom. College-age students drink, they have sex, they do drugs. But Monster Camp players can decide how to engage with this content, rather than simply being blindsided by it.
“It tones it down a bit by subtracting events around those triggers that may make [players] disconnect with the experience,” says Quijano. In our exchange, Quijano cited a Monster Prom livestream where the team watched a player who had substance abuse experience. While the fan didn’t condemn the game and its depiction of drugs in its entirety, the team saw as the fan was jerked out of their immersion. This, the team felt, was a disservice to the fan.
How do you balance a game that encourages people to be their worst selves without legitimizing terrible behavior? You write a narrative that shows despicable people or reprehensible behavior “as a clear criticism of said behaviors,” Quijano says.
As an example, a DLC for the first Monster Prom game included a character named Leonard who was the “embodiment of the worst of gamer culture and toxic fandom,” Quijano says. Beautiful Glitch posed him as a villain players should seek to defeat, and indeed, many fans do love to hate Leonard. Messing with him can even feel cathartic.
“But, of course, some people would prefer not to see this type of person at all (even in cartoon form),” Quijano says. And with the horrible people setting turned on, Monster Prom 2 fans can now have a say in it.
“First we try to explore every case deeply,” Quijano says. “Sometimes we edit the part out. And if we decide not to, we still keep an eye on how people react to it, and now — thanks to the trigger warning filter — people can opt out from said content anyway.”