Spoiler Warning

Have you seen this old episode of The Simpsons? During Marge and Homer’s dating period they go and see The Empire Strikes Back and as they leave, passing by a queue of people still waiting to see the movie as they go, Homer says to Marge, “Wow! Who’d have thought that Darth Vader would be Luke Skywalker’s father?”

I’m really sorry if I just spoiled that for you. Genuinely. I can only assume you’re fresh out the womb if you haven’t seen it though, so I hope I’m safe from any potential attempts on my life or other types of revenge. But aren’t spoilers a funny thing?

In that example I used above the crowd waiting to see the movie booed or shouted and were angry, but why? Homer was blissfully ignorant of what he was doing. It was an accident. Accidents of this type can happen all the time. A situation like that can spring up without warning. It can be as simple as two friends talking about a new game and one saying, “Have you got to that bit yet?” and just like that something has been spoiled by accident.

For a situation where a genuine accident is to blame, forgiveness is probably the most desirable conclusion. Be it a spoiler about a book, movie or game the repercussions are the same and a mistake is a mistake. But what if it was something else? What if it was a vindictive act?

Do you have one of those types of friends? The ones that just seem to love trying to spoil things for you? I know I’ve had one and I know other people who have as well. Not just friends mind you, but strangers as well. It got me thinking about the reasons why.

Heavy Rain is a good example of a recent game to be plagued by spoiler related troubles. The game plays like an interactive movie and the big selling point is trying to work out who the killer is. Going into it with that knowledge thanks to a spoiler would tarnish the whole experience, making it largely pointless to play at all.

Perhaps inevitably then an individual, vindictive to a level that makes The Bride from Kill Bill seem normal, took to a popular PS3 forum and sent private messages to members en masse declaring who the killer was. Thankfully, I was smart enough to quarantine myself away from the internet in a secure ignorance bubble until I had played through the game, but needless to say that when I saw this I was shocked.

As misanthropic as I may be and generally negative of other people as a result, I suppose what is most shocking is the effort put into being so vindictive. It’s almost impressive, in a depressing kind of way. Is the pleasure of ruining someone’s playing experience really that enticing? That particular example creates the mental image of an Xbox 360 player disappointed at Heavy Rain’s PS3 exclusivity setting out on a quest for justice. Perhaps I’m over dramatising. Perhaps I’m laying down some flame-bait. Who knows?

Here’s a real example of vindictive game spoiling in action and the comeuppance of said actions. A friend of mine has a colleague that seems to pro-actively enjoy spoiling things. I won’t say it is fully malice to blame here since I don’t know them personally, but you can form your own opinion. A few examples of things this individual has spoiled for my friend (which I have chosen to be vague about to avoid being a hypocrite) include: the finale and plot to Mass Effect 1 and 2, the twist in InFamous, certain sections of Arkham Asylum, a surprisingly detailed synopsis of the God of War universe, every single Phoenix Wright murderer identity, and the meaning of life.

Naturally this all left my friend in a very bad mood and unfortunately due to work related needs he couldn’t distance himself from this irritating individual. Now, they say two wrongs don’t make a right and that’s probably correct, but I chose to ignore that saying in this instance as I felt this person needed to experience what they were forcing other people to go through.

I played through Heavy Rain and knew that my friend had no interest in it at all, so I offered to pass on some choice information about it to him. Yeah, I told him the killer’s identity. My friend held onto that precious piece of information, held onto it tightly until a few minutes after this pleb of a colleague of his had bought Heavy Rain. You can guess what he then did (with probably a bit too much glee to be fully justifiable or excusable).

You just made me waste £40!” the pleb cried.

Now you know what it feels like!” all his friends replied.

Was that mean? Yes, it was. But from this event that person might take away a lesson. A valuable lesson. To experience the disappointment, the anger, the resentment at the vindictive power a spoiler can hold over someone. Or maybe they won’t. Maybe they’ll just try even harder to find the next big spoiler and get it out there first and the whole cycle will repeat itself again. Isn’t life wonderful?

I have no idea if this is actually true.

Still, going from an accident to pure hateful spite is quite a leap and there is a middle ground. Perhaps in someone’s overeagerness to talk about or even show an exciting point of a game (or other form of media) they’ll do it without taking into consideration whether or not the person wants to find out for themselves.

There’s also those who just don’t ‘get’ spoilers. They don’t see the need to warn people or understand why said people might hate them so much afterwards. Perhaps it’s to do with how much someone cares about the story? Plot certainly seems central to most spoiler sensitive subjects and how important the plot is would vary depending on the genre of game. I wouldn’t have particularly cared if what was in The Vault at the end of Borderlands was spoiled for me ahead of time for example, yet I would be annoyed if I was told the objective of the final GTA IV mission.

Someone not aware of the annoyance caused by spoilers might look at both those examples and not see any discernible difference. However, that doesn’t mean it’s right to just say what they want. It would be better to err on the side of caution and warn of potential spoilers and that way they still get to talk about whatever plot twist they want yet have given due warning to anyone who might not want to see anything like that.

Is it just down to manners in the end? The internet is as void of manners as Scotland is of non-alcoholics, so I suppose it’s no surprise that spoilers are bandied about as weapons on there all the time. But it doesn’t just happen on the internet, so that’s no excuse. If there is anything to take away from this, it would be to take into account a bit more due consideration of a fellow gamer’s feelings when openly talking about plot twists or big reveals.

Or, I suppose, you may have also learned that if you really, really wanted to tick someone off you could wield a powerful spoiler for +1D20 bonus damage and a chance at a critical hit. Someone like me for instance.

…Back to my ignorance bubble I go.

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Written by Ian D

Misanthropic git. Dislikes: Most things. Likes: Obscure references.

7 comments

  1. TristanMike /

    I can relate. **SPOILER ALERT** When “The Sixth Sense” came out I decided to go see it on some pretty awesome psychedelics. While at the theatre, I ran into a good friend of mine who was also going to see the same showing. Well, about 30 minutes into the movie and I just couldn’t sit there any longer in that dark room, with that huge screen and all those people, so I left early. Anyway, that Monday at Uni, I happened to see him. I walked over to tell him my story from that night, and before I could utter a single word he jumped up and said, “Could you believe that Bruce Willis was DEAD !?” I collapsed to my knees, mid-run. No fault of his of course, he couldn’t have known that I hadn’t stayed for the entire movie, and to his credit, why would he assume I would leave such a good movie. Anyway, we had a good laugh over it all, and I still pick on him for it when I see him, but the WOW factor was definitely spoiled for me.

    On the other side of the coin, I was watching “The Game” with a friend who had brought it over. It was late and they had to jet with about a half hour left of the movie. No worries, I’ll just catch the end later. The next day I was at my girlfriends house with her mom and I was saying how much I was enjoying the movie but hadn’t seen the end. Her mom asked a question like, “What would you do if I told you the end ?” I thought she was kidding (who does that, right ?) so I said some silly remark and boom, she said it. I knew instantly that it was the actual ending because my girlfriend got pretty pissed at her, then pulled the ‘ole, “Uhhh, uuhh I mean, NO that’s NOT the end” (valiant attempt on her part). Man, she was such a bitch (the mom), it wasn’t the only thing, but it was the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back, and I never spoke to her again.

    I say it’s manners. Even uber-fans can have respect for story but people who are self-centered and selfish are generally the people who do the intentional spoiling.

  2. Maester /

    Well written article – except for the Scottish reference, which though tries to come across as amusing could be viewed as offensive.

    • Luke K /

      Speaking as editor, I can tell you that the reason the Scotland joke was left in was largely because… Ian is Scottish himself. We also have another two Scots on staff.

      Naturally, the three of them have bright ginger hair, do nothing but stuff their faces with haggis, and have regular caber tossing competitions.

    • Ian D /

      As Luke pointed out, I am Scottish. And as I told a friend of mine I let test read this: I’m allowed to make a joke like that, but if he or anyone actually laughs at it then that makes them racist. That’s how it works, right?

      While I’m commenting I might as well also put here that my friend got in touch with me and apparently this person who loved spoiling things has learned their lesson, meaning that for the time being at least my friend can enjoy games spoiler free.

  3. Hawkeye /

    Nice read. I despise spoilers myself, I hate even the vaguest of hints. Like just saying “Someone dies.” in a cast of about 20 characters, I’ll still be pretty annoyed.

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