Opinion : Let’s Talk Video Game Spoilers

So, what exactly is a spoiler? Merriam-Webster defines a spoiler as: “Information about the things that happen in a movie, book, etc., that spoils the surprise or suspense for someone who has not seen it or read it yet.” When it comes to any sort of media — books, movies, video games, or television shows, many people would consider any unwanted information about the ending to be a spoiler. What sort of motivation would one have to complete the story if they already knew how it ended? One could rebut, “It’s not what happens in the end; it’s the journey of getting there.”  And while that is absolutely true, for some though, any sort of detail, whether the ending or an hour in, can spoil that journey. Spoilers are not limited to just the ending of the story.

For this piece, I will stick with spoilers specifically in video games. Video games are an experience. They’re an escape from reality. They allow us to live through fantasies, or shoot people in the face, which is not something we’d ever do in real life (obviously). They thrill us, scare us, and excite us. That excitement leads to a myriad of content posted on social media as there’s a large gaming community online. There’s also a large virtual photography community online. And without intention, community members may post a photograph containing a previously unannounced character or a secret location. This can lead to upset for many people who have not yet had the chance to experience the game for themselves. Now don’t get me wrong. Not everyone is upset by spoilers. I certainly hate them and I know I’m not alone in this.

Let me explain, and I’ll use myself as an example for what I mean. I was hyped to the max for The Last of Us Part II. I muted every hashtag possible on Twitter to attempt to avoid any discussion of spoilers after the game was leaked. (This link contains massive spoilers for the game. Click at your own risk.) But by my own mistake, I neglected to mute characters’ names. (But in my defense, how can you mute names of characters you don’t even know exist? Whatever.) Due to my negligence, while scrolling through the Twitter timeline, I came across ginormous spoilers for the game. Imagine my shock when I played through the game and saw what the dude had posted ended up being true. It actually ruined that part of the game for me because someone on the internet felt like being a spoil sport. I felt nothing during this scene that was supposed to evoke emotion. I accept the blame. I could have stayed off social media. I could have muted all the terms. But this person actually set out to ruin the experience for others. This doesn’t even include the “hackers” who leaked the gameplay. They are the actual problem here, but alas, this paragraph was about me and the one dude who got the information…from the hackers…whatever. You get what I’m saying, right?

I truly do believe that the majority of gamers do not intend to spoil anything for anyone. There are a few bad apples everywhere, and those who do post spoilers can go rot in fields all alone. For everyone else who can play nicely with others, I’d like to share a few things that I have seen people complain about. These are examples of things that have been posted unintentionally. I don’t believe anyone who is guilty of these behaviors below did so with malicious intent.

Firstly, there are a few eager beavers who post photographs and video clips of unannounced characters or landscaping and scenery in the first few days after a game’s release. This seems obvious, but posting photographs of characters and environments which were not publicized is a spoiler. Boy (or girl), do I understand the excitement of posting photographs from a brand new game. And yes, it is so much fun to see your amazing in-game photography. Some of you are so talented. But alas, please do not post photos which contain spoilers. (Again, see above. Spoilers are not limited to just the ending of the game.)

One of the most blatant spoilers is when someone who is further along in the game than you asks, “Did you get to such-and-such part yet?” Again, this is so obvious, but it happens so often that I thought it had to be included. No, I didn’t get to that part yet, but thanks for telling me it’s upcoming! Also, I hate you.

The last spoilers I’ll spell out for those who don’t realize spoilers can also come in forms of innocent questions and statements. “One hour into the game shocked me!” and “The ending made me cry!” are two additional “innocent but definitely spoilers” spoilers. Ugh. Thanks a lot, twinkle toes. Now I know to expect something one hour into the game and now I know something sad (or really happy?) happens at the end. This exact thing happened to me with a game that shall not be named because I’m not a poop butt. Someone posted a comment to me on Twitter saying they were SHOCKED one hour in. Way to ruin the moment. Have I mentioned I hate you? Ugh x2.

Alright, I’m almost done here, I promise. I want to say that streaming your gameplay on Twitch or YouTube would not count as spoiling the game, as viewers know they’re watching the game. A viewer has to expect that they are watching a story unfold. No one can cry foul when literally sitting down to watch another person play the game. That’s not a spoiler.

So what can be done to prevent this? Should someone self-inflict a time or day limit before posting about the game on social media? In theory, yes, as this would obviously alleviate a lot of accidental spoilers. But here is what I propose instead. And it’s so simple. Use hashtags. If you can, see which hashtags the official game page is using. There are often many variations, and if we can just stick to the official hashtags, we can all save ourselves so much heartache later. I get it, spoilers are devastating to some people. Use those same tags in each of your posts, so that anyone trying to avoid spoilers can mute those hashtags. It’s common sense and it’s being considerate of others.

In closing, as a reminder, when discussing events or characters in the game, please be mindful of those who have not yet had the chance to progress as far along in the game as you have. Maybe they haven’t purchased the game yet. Maybe they’re traveling or at work. No matter the reason, not everyone plays games at the same pace. Be kind. Rewind. Or use hashtags. Whatever. Don’t spoil the surprise. Please.

By Angela Qustandi

Angela Q. has been a gamer since the early 1980s, beginning with the Atari 2600. Growing up primarily on Nintendo games, she branched out with the Uncharted franchise, and never looked back. A sometimes streamer, she is a variety gamer who loves a friendly co-op experience or a good PvP war game. Angela loves all things nerdy from Star Wars to paleoanthropology.

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