Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Spoilsports

"I take reasonable care around here to hide spoilish discussion after a jump, and you can ask me in conversation not to spoil you on certain things; I'll certainly take it under advisement. But if you care that much, you watch it right away, you stay off the internet until you can, or you…stop caring that much and just enjoy the experience of the show or movie. The internet means we can get information right away; that has a downside. Live with it."
-Sarah Bunting, Tomato Nation

"For their part, critics are badly misapplying their energies when, years after BioShock's release, they are still warning of spoilers while writing about BioShock's third act. Worse are the readers who upbraid any critic who fails to preface any disclosure about BioShock's third act with a spoiler warning. Here is a spoiler: Eventually, you have to grow up."
- Tom Bissell, Crispy Gamer

"Shakespeare spoils "Romeo and Juliet" right in the prologue. (They die, by the way.) Theodore Dreiser didn't call his novel "An American Story That I Can't Say Anything More About." And I hate to blow it for you, but "Death in Venice" lives up to its name. Not everything is a whodunit, and a work is more than its outcome. Suspense is a lovely element, but it's not the whole megillah; if it were, nobody would ever watch a Hitchcock film twice."
-Mary Elizabeth Williams, Salon

"Maybe we’re gradually outgrowing our obsession with spoilers after all. Then again, as games become even more procedural, the whole argument could become increasingly moot. No one will be able to tell you how your game's story will play out, not even the developer herself."
- Jason Killingsworth, Paste
(post format inspired by Leigh Alexander)

6 comments:

Tim Mackie said...

I can only assume that the flurry of talk about spoilers has been inspired by the end of Lost, but the third entry up there makes an excellent point. I haven't seen any of it, but I've heard people talking about it and I know that the suspense it's supposed to create is one of its primary attractions. Again, just pulling things out of my rear here since I haven't seen it, but maybe people who know what happens but haven't seen it (I am not among them) will watch it and not enjoy it. How important is the outcome in a thing like that? Maybe someone who has seen the whole series can enlighten me on that matter.

Re: video games, I'm going to have to agree with the stupidity of spoiler concerns. It's silly to be concerned with accidentally being told what happens, especially in games, where the experience of moving through the game is arguably more important than the narrative. And as the fourth post says, that's becoming even more true than it has been, as narratives become more fluid and dependent upon player interaction. I think the concern with spoilers is largely a holdover from JRPGs, Metal Gear, and those sorts of games which are an extremely linear progression that emphasize the narrative. The game is happening, but it seems as though the player is not meant to enjoy the game as much as the story, and as a result gameplay sometimes suffers, particularly with the interposition of very long cutscenes. (And, of course, the narratives won't always be as engaging or otherwise "good" as we'd like in those circumstances either.) Personally, I'm getting sick of that method of game design, and judging from what's been coming out lately, I think a lot of other people are too.

Finally, re: the opening picture, eww.

David said...

Hmm. I am on the fence with this one. Any comment saying that people need to "grow up" is ironic.

While I agree that people can go a little extreme with this topic, I still don't like it when someone in casual conversion mentions "rosebud" and the ending to Sixth Sense. The Mousetrap in London is the longest running play ever and they still tell the audience at the end not to spoil for anybody else. I am sure a casual search on the web will happily reveal the ending to this whodunit.

For me, ignorance is bliss when playing a game or seeing a movie. Here is a classic example: I was in Europe when Terminator 2 came out. When I came back and saw the movie I kept hoping the one cop would get to the boy before Arnold did since Arnold was the evil terminator. Needless to say, that whole scene was far more awesome to me than anyone else since everyone knew who was good and who was bad in that movie thanks to the media blitz.

So yeah, I am pro-spoiler alert in some instances.

Kirk Hamilton said...

David, that is awesome - I can't imagine having not even knowing that Arnold was the good terminator. That must've been sweet. I remember in that scene he busts the shotgun out of a box of roses, which was one of the first times I noticed symbolism in a movie. Thanks, James Cameron.

I do think that spoiler tags are used a little too often in critical discussion, but I also see their value, if only from the standpoint of good manners. If I don't want to get spoiled, I try to be careful about what not to read... for example, I haven't finished Braid, so every time I see it on a list of game of the year candidates (which happens pretty often), I've so far managed to skip the parts about the ending. I'm sure I've jinxed myself now, though. But regardless, I've always thought there's sort of an unspoken statute of limitations for spoiler avoidance, and if you wait too long you gotta take your lumps.

But on the other hand, I know I was really glad not to have had Bioshock spoiled for me, or even better, KOTOR. That twist knocked me on my ass! With either of those games, knowing the twist ahead of time would have robbed the experience of a little bit of its awesomeness.

Tim - I agree that you can't spoil a game; you can only spoil its story. You've gotta play a game to play it, there's no way to spoil that in advance. So really, the spoiler thing stems from how a lot of popular games are just linear story sequences... Which granted raises a whole other question, but an interesting one. I like Jason's idea of game stories becoming branching and dynamic enough that no one's experience could be spoiled.

All the articles are worth reading, if you get a sec. Bissell's is really nuanced and well thought-out. The "growing up" is in reference to the way that he says spoiler obsession infantilizes gamers.

Lost Sidenote - I really liked the finale, and think that even if someone started the show with knowledge of the ending, they'd still probably find a lot to like. In the end, it was the journey with the characters that counted, both for me and for the theme of the episode itself - "Everything you did really happened, and the time you spent together was the most important thing of all."

Amanda Lange said...

These quotes are actually great. Particularly like the Crispy Gamer article. I run in to the spoiler police a lot myself! There's common courtesy and then there's paranoia.

Andrew said...

Meh.

Rubbish arguments when targeting reviews - although it is poor writing actually having to both state "spoiler warning" then using a spoiler as a key reason to buy the game of course.

Good reviews spoil the bare minimum needed to portray the game. A brief description of why the plot is good can be better then an in depth analysis of the turning point when so and so dies.

Criticism can vary - criticism of a plot point around the time the game was released is annoying because of the fucking bad writing people do. I mean seriously...this happens in films and books - you simply have to avoid reading insightful commentary because "Snape Dies" comes up or "He was dead all along!" is the second sentence.

Even after the initial week - be careful, you never know what will come along unexpectedly...

Thank goodness these authors don't expect me to read their words eh? Tom's is especially bad example of this. Gah!

I'd prefer some measure of warning - and certainly when I am not expecting it. Juvenile? Rubbish. Letting someone know they should avoid a discussion until playing the game if they wish to be moderately surprised is a good thing.

Of course there are lines to draw - when does something become so common knowledge you have more people knowing the spoiler then who have seen the work? Do you reference other spoilers then the core topic with impunity? Especially applies to older films (Citizen Kane, Psycho, etc.). Still, it's nice to not be a stupid person and post spoilers willy-nilly for no reason and out of context where people don't expect them.

Person preference is to keep them. Simply put; the plot is one key part of the game as much as many other parts, thus the more complex games that have such spoilers really are much more enjoyable to play the initial time. You get a 2nd hand account and bad influences otherwise - something I've had issues with watching films or TV shows I already know the ending and plot outline to - it just simply isn't as enjoyable, even if the series is actually really good. The ending and spoilers are not even usually needed to describe the work, I've just come across them elsewhere - mainly intentionally read mind you, but in many cases not so sadly!

Sorry to be such a dissenting voice, but I'm not alone (Tom's post actually had dissenting comments but they've disappeared as told on Tap-repeatedly - very odd eh? - here they are though: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:W9n_JPqegkEJ:www.crispygamer.com/features/2010-01-21/spoilsport-on-gamings-unhealthy-obsession-with-spoilers-.aspx+http://www.crispygamer.com/features/2010-01-21/spoilsport-on-gamings-unhealthy-obsession-with-spoilers-.aspx&hl=en&client=firefox-a&gl=uk&strip=1 - some very nice points on the length of time on previews, and other issues too I don't mention).

Andrew said...

Isn't it also ironic I spoil some things in my post? Gah...my bad.

I should have added a spoiler warning, hah!

Just me being tired (thus my "Person" instead of "Personal"), it's not a discussion on those things anyway, so hopefully no one will mind. Can't edit comments here anyway...oh well.