Editorial – Spoiler Sensitivity

Spoiler Sensitivity

Lately, I’ve observed that some players are very sensitive to spoilers in video games, particularly with new releases. Outside of some minimal information, they don’t want to know anything about a game, from narrative, to simply anything beyond the initial area, and they go into complete lock-down even months before a game’s release.

It’s understandable. In this age of the Internet, it’s easily possible to learn just about everything there is to know about a game short of playing for yourself. You can watch playthroughs on YouTube, read message board discussions, or even get detailed walkthroughs at GameFAQs. Game publishers themselves can contribute to this by releasing trailers that expose plot twists and advanced areas of the game before it’s even released. Spoilers can be hard to avoid. But if you already know about everything a game has to offer, then what’s the point of playing it? Players would rather experience it for themselves.

The interesting part is that this spoiler sensitivity has not always been as extreme as it is today. Look back 20 years ago and the gaming culture was quite different. Most serious game coverage came from magazines, which were limited to text and pictures, but even then, most of them exposed quite a bit of the games they featured. Nintendo Power, in particular, was pretty much designed around showing off the full contents of a game, from the story, to full maps, and even how to solve most of the puzzles. It wasn’t uncommon even for television ads to show the final bosses (or endings!) of some games.

But was there ever an outcry that such coverage was ruining the games? I don’t recall it ever being an issue. If anything, seeing later areas of a game was motivation to reach them yourself. That way you could brag to your friends, “Hey, I got to that one part of that one game that was in the commercial!”

Perhaps it’s not just the Internet that has changed the mentality, however. I think players view games differently now than they did back then. Reaching the end of the game is considered more of an inevitability rather than just a possibility. Whether it be due to easier games or players with better skills (or both), beating a game isn’t so much a rare treat as it is simply expected, as if watching a movie. Thus, experiencing a game’s climax is something players feel confident that they can accomplish on their own.

Personally, I’d rather not know everything about a game before going into it, but at the same time, I don’t want to know nothing. I like having my appetite whetted, seeing what a game has to offer beyond its initial areas, and (maybe) even have a few surprises ruined just for the tease. Perhaps that just goes back to my old-school mentality from the early days of Nintendo Power, but for me, it’s part of the experience. Playing games in a vacuum was never the point (nor is it very practical). Besides, at the end of the day, no matter what you may already know, the only way to truly experience a game is to play it for yourself.

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