Some (hopefully) refreshing thoughts on "spoilers"

This blog contains spoilers.

I don't blog much.

Mostly because I am aware that many of my opinions and convictions don't track with current internet culture, or current culture in general. So I pretty much just keep my opinions to myself. This may be a concept that may be unheard of to the internet at large.

Lately, though, I've been getting into more and more forum discussions that devolve into acrimony, so I thought I'd try putting out some of my thoughts on some of the lower points of internet culture. That is to say, the points that don't really matter in the broad scheme of life, the universe, and everything. I am hopeful that, by doing this, future discussions may not get so out of hand if someone should stumble upon these blogs and might, just for an instant, see where I'm coming from.

I want to start on the topic of "spoilers".

Let me begin by saying that I abhor the concept of "spoilers". Now that I've gained a certain degree of ire for stating that so bluntly, I guess I'd better expand and let readers know that my opinion is not of the knee-jerk variety, but is the result of approximately thirty-years of experience.

My current feelings toward the concept of spoilers and the people who complain about them was almost perfectly summed up in this Penny Arcade comic from last year.

http://penny-arcade.com/comic/2011/04/27

I suppose the idea of spoilers has been around since I was a child, way back in the forgotten ancient years of the 1980s. We just didn't seem to have a name for them at the time. I remember many times on the playground having discussions about films like Episode IV or Back to the Future and someone would inevitably blurt out some key plot point, one that usually took place around five to fifteen minutes before the movie ended.

"They show what Darth Vader looks like under his helmet! It was cool!"

"Then Doc shows up in a flying car and it ends with "To Be Continued. It was cool!"

When these words were uttered, there was no immediate outburst from anyone about how the movie had just been "spoiled" for them. No one was instantly ostracized for showing their uncontrollable excitement for something. In fact, if anyone had started whining about how they felt cheated in some way, they probably would have been temporarily outcast until they stopped being so annoying. Usually what happened was, everyone shrugged, said something along the lines of "That sounds neat" and we went back to playing, studying, doing chores, or whatever fate had deemed was most important for that day.

In short, we went on with our lives.

When the inevitable time came for the rest of us to see the movie, we would get to the part that had been "spoiled" and our thoughts were usually along the lines of, "Oh, that was the part I heard about, that was cool."

Then we would finish watching the movie and we would move on with our lives.

Somewhere among the ensuing years, though, in subsequent age groups, these views on "spoilers" shifted, and someone gave a name to the event. At some point the participant in the conversation who cried "spoiler" was no longer seen as the annoying one, but rather, as the one who should be apologized to and have his or her feelings catered to. A microcosm of early political correctness that has infested our world to an extreme extent to this day. But I digress.

Today, having grown up with these experiences and at some point becoming aware of the unstoppable march of time and just how insignificant I am in the world, my feelings about spoilers break down into two simple categories. I have had countless things "spoiled" for me in my life, but I have always dealt with them in one of two ways.

Way #1

I hear the spoiler, whether in active or passive conversation. Then I go back to my life in much the same way I did when I was a child. Only nowadays, my life consists more of paying bills, being responsible at my job, being responsible at life, taking care of family, having good times with family, and focusing more on family and life than on entertainment opportunities.

You may see some recurring themes there, namely "family" and "life".

After all of that, when the time comes for me to see the film, or play the game, or read the book that was "spoiled" for me, I have forgotten about the spoiler. Oh, sure, I remember the spoiler when I get to that particular part of the entertainment, but the surprise isn't lessened for me.

Then I chuckle. Then I get on with life, because entertainment isn't life.

Way #2

I hear the spoiler. I remember the spoiler. I go to see the film, or play the game, or read the book. I am aware that the piece of entertainment was "spoiled" for me, but not knowing how the "spoiler" fits into the narrative, I don't consider it a spoiler.

In short, the "spoiler" increases my anticipation for the entertainment because I want to see how and where it happens.

I wanted to see how and where Darth Vader lost his helmet. Was it in a battle? Was it in a dramatic scene? Who could be badass enough to knock the helmet off of the biggest badass in the universe?

I wanted to see how they made the car fly. How could they end the movie on "To Be Continued"? That's just freakin' crazy talk.

Then I finish watching the film, or playing the game, or reading the book. I see how the "spoiler" fit into the larger picture, and I don't see it as a spoiler anymore. I only remember the story as a whole and how amazing or disappointing it was. Disappointing not because of the spoiler, but because the story wasn't that great to begin with.

Then I say "That was cool!" just as I did so many years ago. Then I chuckle. Then I get on with my life, paying bills, being responsible, taking care of family. All things that I was raised to believe were the important things in life, not worrying about "spoilers."

Now, having said all that I want to give an instance of a "spoiler" that actually sticks with me, at least in terms of entertainment.

In 1999 a film came out called "The Sixth Sense". It's already thirteen years old, and I know that in today's internet culture that just as well be a million, so I'll include an IMDB link for anyone who hasn't heard of it.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0167404/

It was quite an event in it's day. The director used some narrative techniques that had never been seen by much of the movie going public, and it had a great twist toward the end.

That twist was "spoiled" for me.

I don't blame anyone but myself. It was bound to happen with all the time I was spending in chatrooms in those days. Nevertheless, I read the spoiler, and it was one that I remembered (see above: Way #2).

As a quick side note, this was still in the early days of the "spoiler" concept as we know it today. Still though, the figure who submitted the spoiler was quickly fallen upon, called several rude names, ostracized, and eventually booted. If we had been sitting around a campfire in the wilderness circa 10,000 B.C. instead of in a geek filled chat room, the offense would have no doubt resulted in brutal cannibalism.

So I remembered the spoiler, but I still went to the theater and saw the movie. The supernatural subject matter was too much of a pull for me to miss it. Only this time, the spoiler didn't fit neatly somewhere into the narrative, it was an integral part of the narrative. The whole movie had truly been "spoiled" for me.

You know what, though? I still didn't care. I didn't rage at the world. I didn't embark on a crusade to obliterate from the face of the Earth every spoiler from past, present, and future.

I chuckled.

The movie was good anyway. The writing and directing techniques were astonishing, and to this day, if anyone tells you they knew the twist ending was coming, there's a 99.5% chance they're lying.

I sometimes wonder how much more elation I would have felt had I not read that spoiler. Then I remember how much elation I've felt at certain points in the course of living my life, and I know it couldn't have come close anyway.

In closing, I just want to state that I wish more participants in today's entertainment culture would learn to keep the concept of "spoilers" in perspective. It's just entertainment, and in most cases, it's entertainment that you most likely won't remember in a few years anyway.

Then chuckle.

Then get on with your life.

57 Comments

Praise for Giant Bomb!!!


I don't know how to write a blog.  I'm not even sure I'm internet savvy enough to fully understand what a blog is.  Having said that, I'm going to write this first blog by going straight up my own ass and unashamedly praising this site. 
 
Jeff, Ryan, Brad, and Vinny, you guys are just incredible.  I wish I had known enough to have been following you all for the last decade at least.  Your knowledge of the games industry is uparalleled.  I've considered myself a knowledgeable gamer since the mid eighties, but after a month of reading your stuff and listening to your podcasts, I've learned just how much I have yet to learn.  Your insight into and connections with the games industry is simply mind-blowing. 
 
I also love how you guys seem to relate on a personal level.  You all seem to be the kinds of friends that I always wished I could have.  You respect each other and you understand each other's eccentricities to a point where you don't end up grating on each other.  They're just something to be shrugged off. 
 
I don't know what else I can say.  I only found this site a month ago, but I wish I could have been here from the start.  I've listened to the entire backlog of the bombcast.  Thanks for making it available and before you consider that to be stalker behavior, understand that I just needed something to listen to for ten hours a day at my fifty hour a week factory job.   I've watched as many of the videos as I can in a month's time and still have plenty to go.  Your video content is more entertaining than ninety-five percent of what is on network television right now.
 
Jeff, your long and esteemed career covering the games industry has granted you an insight into upcoming events that is almost always right.  I wish I had half the knowledge you do.  Your sense of humor also makes you an incredible companion. 
 
Ryan, your managment skills seem to be what holds Giant Bomb together.  I wish every boss I've ever had could be replaced with you.  Your appreciation of and interest in so many disparate genres of games makes you incredibly interesting and entertaining to watch.  Thank you for the time you give to this site and to our hobby. 
 
Brad, you're a cool dude, but one who is also hard to figure out.  Your respect for the games industry has seemingly granted you some connections that no one else can hope to have.  I always respect your opinions and your insight, and, like Jeff, your predictions are almost always right on. 
 
Vinny, I wish I had you sitting next to me during every game I play.  You have an insight into every genre of game that is always so spot on that I can't believe it when someone disregards your advice during a quick look or other playthrough.  Your sense of humor would also make any game a laugh riot.  Your work in video editing is also some of the most innovative and entertaining I've ever seen. 
 
So there it is.  If anyone ever reads this, I'm sure I'll either be made into a fanboy pariah or swept aside as a complete nutjob.  That's your prerogative dear reader and in the end, no one will care.  I just wanted to heap some praise on the gentlemen who are doing a job I wish to God I could be doing...and doing it with unmatched class, confidence, and enjoyment. 
 
Carry on, lads.
 
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