At some point in our lives, we’ve all had something spoiled for us. Whether it’s the book, game, film, or TV show we haven’t got round to yet, it’s incredibly annoying when the ending is ruined. In the old days, spoilers would come from word of mouth; conversations between friends were the most common place the odd spoiler could filter through. However, with the advent of social media —WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook, etc — the threat of spoilers is much higher and much harder to avoid. With more people prepared to brazenly put spoilers up on various social media outlets with no warnings, it begs the question: do we have to change our stance on them?
Spoilers are in the news this week for all the wrong reasons. On August 9th (10th in Europe) No Man’s Sky was released. Unfortunately, though, one person got his hands on a copy a week early (it cost him $1300) and proceeded to share every detail of his experience on Reddit. Obviously it’s fairly easy to avoid Reddit posts and the subsequent reports on them, but that’s not really the point. This person clearly has no compunction on revealing intimate details of the game a full week before release. These posts even prompted the lead developer of the game, Sean Murray, to implore people not to give them the time of day. The interesting question is, though; is the spoiling individual ahead of his time and a nod to the future of spoiler culture, or being completely unfair on his treatment of a piece of media entertainment?
On the surface, it’s an easy answer: he is being unfair to the game, the developers, and to the future consumers. But the second the game is released, spoilers will be all over social media anyway, particularly considering the hype and expectation around No Man’s Sky. So where do you draw the line; after release, before release, or simply not at all?
It’s not so much a problem with games — there is not usually one climactic moment to be spoiled — but the modern spoiler culture can have a more detrimental effect on films. Recently I stumbled, completely accidentally, on a spoiler for Batman V Superman. Now, granted, I probably wouldn’t have seen the film anyway, but I certainly wasn’t going to see it when I knew what happened. But that could be because I am living in the past. I think film companies have foreseen this problem and subsequently leave little to the imagination with their trailers. I knew almost everything about Batman V Superman (apart from one moment) before the film came out, so why should I be annoyed about another spoiler? Unfortunately, I think the answer is I shouldn’t.
Society these days can’t wait for anything, and that mindset manifests itself in the growing indifference to spoilers. So what if I already know what happens? I still haven’t experienced it for myself, and it’s not going to put me off. It’s a total psychological change facilitated by a societal shift off the back of new technologies.
For films, it’s easy to avoid pre-release spoilers but difficult post-release. For games, though, as No Man’s Sky has found out, it’s difficult both pre-and post-release. Even without the redditor who bought a copy of the game early, street release embargos have been broken days in advance, allowing more people to play and increasing the prevalence of spoilers. As far as games are concerned, there are ways to stop this, but are they worth it?
Always-online consoles are a tested way to beat playing a game early. Having to check in with the servers before you play will stop early buyers from playing until the release date. But when Microsoft announced this for the Xbox One, there was widespread criticism from many, myself included. Another idea is digital downloads only, avoiding street date infringements, but with the current price discrepancy between brick-and-mortar and digital games, and the aforementioned online aspect, that too becomes unfeasible. The only alternative is to put up with the prevalence of spoilers before and after release dates for fear of an unpopular change to distribution.
Spoilers will always be with us. They are, while more prevalent today, avoidable to the cautious. But it’s obvious that the effect of them has changed. People aren’t as bothered about something being spoiled, or spoiling something themselves. To those who are bothered, especially console gamers, there are ways to curb the problem, but they have proven to be equally unpopular. The spoiler culture is a societal shift that is gathering pace and is unable to stop. Individually we can try our best to avoid spoiling something, but in 20 years’ time the term ‘spoiler’ might well be a forgotten phrase.