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I am writing a series of criminal investigation games in an alternative version of the real modern world.

To avoid conflicts with real-world information, I am designing my own characters, corporations, and a fictional British town where the events take place.

But often, I make references to real-world subjects to telegraph to the player that this works just as it works in the real world, like other locations, medicine, web services, car brands, historical people, chemicals, and more.

Is there a universal symbol to highlight what is made up and what is taken from the real world? Currently, I am using the ◍ for made-up concepts and ○ for real-world concepts, but I was thinking that others might have struggled with this before me.

The symbol should indicate that the entity can be googled for more information, or if they know something about the subject, those things still apply.

Where the fictitious symbol should indicate that this is a made-up entity, and if any results appear when googling them will be entirely coincidental.

The symbols need to work in both digital and print media, and not conflict with any other commonly used symbols.

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    I've never seen a story do this.
    – JRE
    Oct 11 at 10:39
  • There are existing conventions unique to their publishing medium: footnotes for print, hypertext links for digital. Readers already know what they indicate and how they work. No need to re-invent the wheel.
    – wetcircuit
    Oct 11 at 12:08
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I'm not sure if such a thing is needed in a game, as if you're afraid of controversy, most players will be able to distinguish what is real and what is fictional. I think of Red Dead Redemption. They make reference to places like New York, they talk about how there's this or that going on in the United States - but most of the places in game are fictional. Places like St. Denis are clearly meant to imitate New Orleans, but that doesn't really cause much issue.

I think one advantage that game has is a separation of time. Things in the game's story may ring true today but players may find uncomfortable things more palatable because it takes place in 1899 rather than today.

You'll have to work out how to do things like this with your own setting. Just know that it's a tried and true method in books, film, and games, to have fictional towns or cities in the real world, and most will understand this without issue.

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To the best of my knowledge there are no universal or widely accepted symbols for such a purpose. If you think this is important information to provide to users of your games. You will need to invent your own convention for this purpose, and document it so that a user knows what it is. Symbols are a reasonable convention, but test could also be used, say "(r/w)" vs "(fict)".

A comment mentions footnotes and hyperlinks, but neither of these seem really appropriate for the purpose described in the question, nor is a game either a text or a website.

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