In Defence of Spoilers

This blog may contain spoilers for any media from the entirety of human history. BE WARNED!

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Are they gone? Good. I've eliminated those people who most need to hear this blog, devaluing it almost to the point of worthlessness. Conveniently, they are also those most likely to critique it. Now, we may begin.

On the Internet, we've built a culture that reviles spoilers. Communities go to great lengths to avoid revealing even the most trivial of details about media, lest they “ruin” them for other users. But does knowing one detail about the ending of a work really ruin it? For example, does knowing that Rosebud is Citizen Kane's sled tell someone anything about why that movie is considered one of the greatest of all time? Does it even impact the experience in any meaningful way? I don't really think so.

Context is so much more important than the users who cry “spoilers!” and run for the hills realize. Knowing that, in Ender's Game, Ender genocides a race of insect-based aliens doesn't tell you anything about why that novel is a classic work of science fiction. Sure, that's where the book ends up, but me just telling you that, without any context of the novel, has not negatively impacted the experience for you if you choose to read it. The context of the rest of the novel, of why it's so horrible that someone like Ender did that, is completely lost on those who didn't read the novel.

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Being unwilling to talk about spoilers also stifles conversation. Can you imagine trying to explain trying to talk about why Super Metroid is so good without spoiling any of the set-pieces? But if Super Metroid came out last week, we'd have to censor ourselves, and not be as able to express our experience. People who read these truncated accounts might think that Super Metroid was just a side scrolling adventure game, not fully comprehending the depth of the emotion behind its non-verbal story.

If I may be allowed to give a more recent example, Dust: an Elysian Tail was a game I was not interested in at all until I heard the spoiler talk for it. I was under the impression that it was just yet another Metroidvainia for the Xbox live arcade. But when I heard the talk on the GOTY podcasts, I was interested because story in games is something I am very interested in. However the fact that I now know that genocide is a major part of the story, without other context, will not ruin the experience for me. Likewise, I read Patrick's article, which was a fascinating look at the way an Indie game was developed, and for all the panic in the comments, the only thing I learned was that General what's-his-face (I was going to look up this name, but it illustrates my point rather clearly) doesn't justify his hate of the race being killed. Presumably this will be much more meaningful to me after I have played the game, but without the context, it was meaningless, and won't affect my experience at all.

It's foolish for us to continue to limit our communication to eliminate spoilers. I feel that allowing more open conversation can only serve to improve on-line communities.