There’s been an interesting debate on the gaming airwaves lately about whether or not reviews etc should warn readers of an upcoming spoiler. I had no idea there was even a debate about this! Surely it's annoying for everyone? But, no, it appears that there are some who think that anyone who complains of a spoiler is a whiny brat and others who vociferously disagree.
One side is arguing that spoilers are fine. That the more “dependent a work of art’s emotional power is upon the lizard-brain surprise generated by some putatively shocking revelation, the more cheaply sensationalistic that work of art probably is". [Crispygamer]
Indeed, this is part of the vision by a writer called Tom Bissel. He explains that he doesn’t care one iota about whether or not he reads/hears/learns of a scene or element in a game before he plays it. He believes that the power of the game lies in the “how”. How do the characters get to that point, what drives them and why are they there?
He wants to eradicate the term “spoiler alert” and believes that true game critique should avoid even mentioning it. He compares it to music criticism, literary criticism and film criticism, pointing out that these forms of critique never resort to warning of a spoiler in the copy.
He says, and I quote, “most of the people who pay enough attention to music, literature and film to want to read intelligent criticism about it do not think of themselves as hapless consumers at the spoiler’s loose-lipped mercy.”
Nice turn of phrase there Tom, but I hardly think that equating film, music and literature to games is placing everything on an even playing field. There are certainly people who like to be, ahem, surprised by a piece of music but this form of art is hardly the same as gaming, and an unexpected glimpse into its depths won't ruin the experience.
While they still lurk nervously on the festering banks of universal acceptance as art, games are about an entire experience. It’s something that uses most of your five senses at once and is hardly comparable to a book or a film or an ode by some classical composer.
While the latter three are equally rich and vivid experiences in my book, and for those who delve into the depths of appreciation for them, they are not the kind of mediums that would be damaged by a spoiler or two leaking out. On the contrary these may even thrive and become more exciting as a result of a sneaky preview.
Games are just not the same. The sheer magic of gaming is that overwhelming sense of excitement as you step into the unknown. You have no idea what your next move will be or how that move is going to change the face of your game. You don’t want to spend the first half waiting to see some or other scene that you accidentally read about in a random review. It’s about experiencing it for yourself.
I completely disagree with the idea that games that rely on shocking revelation and sudden twists are “cheaply sensationalistic” and that anyone who objects to not being warned of an upcoming spoiler in a review “has to grow up.” Frankly that’s just ridiculous. I’m aware that I am now one of Bissel’s bawling babes in a nappy, smashing my tiny fists against my monitor in outrage, but SERIOUSLY!
If I’m about to spend my hard earned cash on a game that I’ve been desperately waiting for, and want to read a review or two before I pick up my wallet and buy it, then surely I should be allowed to have some mystery left before I start? Why should I be ok with the fact that some literary jock has played the game and then decided to tell me every last riveting detail? Why should he get the surprises while I get the damp end of his pen?
I am, fortunately, not alone in this sentiment. That has to be one of the most amusing and, ahem, vitriolic responses I’ve read on the issue so far. Dave raises some excellent points and it is his blog that got my blood boiling through my veins. He’s right! I want to be the one to experience everything in a game for the first time. I remember turning off every TV, radio and website that even whispered of HL2 when it was coming up to launch. I really didn’t want to know anything more than the release date. The entire thrill was for me to discover Gordon’s adventures by myself.
So yes, please continue to warn me of a spoiler coming up in the copy and don’t expect me to be happy when you don’t. It’s akin to you picking up that book beside my bed and telling me exactly how it ends and why.
Oh, and by the way, before you click on the links above...SPOILER ALERT