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Spoiler Etiquette in Gaming

A guest post by Paul Gestl

(Warning: this article contains spoilers for the following games used for sake of example which is Super Mario Bros and Dragon Age Origins) Read at your own risk!

“Bowser really wasn’t all that tough, huh?” Says John. John’s friend Gina says, “I guess that’s why you fight him a bunch more.”

“What!? But he just fell in lava when I got the ax! Plus I just beat his castle, right!?” said John.

“Wait, you didn’t know!? This game has been out for forever, man and the princess is in another castle.” Said Gina (Ha, classic! Reaching Bowser is quite the challenge no?)

“WHAT!? Dude, stop it!” Said John (Covering his ears and pretending not to hear.)

People generally don’t like it when things get spoiled on them. It tends to ruin the experience of a game.

Suddenly, someone steals it away from you, most of the time on accident with just one sentence like, “ Yeah Princess Peach isn’t until like the last castle.” Even in games that are decades old like Mario, the principle is no less meaningful.

In fact, you could say that I am personally against reading on any kind of spoiler: Major plot twists, character building, endings before I even had a chance to try out a game. 

Movies vs. Games Spoilers

Spoilers are present for both games and movies and are considered taboo. In my opinion, however, game spoilers are far more painful because of the fact that the player needs to be more involved in a game. Watching a movie is easy, the only thing you need to do is sit and watch, games require far more investment.

A gamer will need to fight, think, and challenge the game to get the reward of winning. On the way, mysteries may be solved and in-game characters may fall, but when these things happen at the pace that the game sets it feels like the player is involved in the world.

If the player knows beforehand that a person will die when they are likely to be hypersensitive to that person for the rest of the game, just waiting for them to die, like a ticking time bomb. When the payoff finally happens the player feels nothing, because they knew it was going to happen, rather than feeling the investment of losing an in-game friend.

Personal Spoiler Payoff

Personally, I think the best way to avoid a spoiler is to let people know at the start of a conversation that you want to avoid certain topics. People are social creatures and we feel the need to talk about things we like, and you really can’t beat human nature.

So rather than just saying, “No spoilers.” And forcing the person to hold in their excitement which will become a ticking time bomb, instead give them a range to talk about, like saying, “I’m only at chapter 3 so we can talk about the story up till then.” Or, “We can just talk about the game mechanics, but nothing as far as the story goes.”

The payoff for a game is without a doubt the best part of it, in other words, spoilers are dangerous because of their ability to just take that all away from someone. Big warning the following example details a big spoiler for one of my favorite games, Dragon Age Origins.

In Dragon Age Origins you eventually come across a mysterious witch named Flemeth who shared a name with a Legendary witch from centuries-old who is considered to be all-powerful.  For the first half of the game is a mystery if the two witches are the same, and if so, how is she still alive.

Eventually, you are forced to fight Flemeth and she reveals that she has the ability to transform into a full-sized Dragon.

One of my fondest memories of this is when a friend of mine called me up to give his opinion on this, but the only words he could get out was screaming my name as loud as he could sense I had intentionally hidden this from him. 

To recap, spoilers are a double-edged sword. Some people argue that they were able to enjoy a story more. However, I err on the side of caution since the impact won’t be as strong when I know what to expect. What are your thoughts on spoilers?

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4 thoughts on “Spoiler Etiquette in Gaming”

  1. Spoilers really bum me out. I like to be online to hang out with other people who enjoy the same things as I do, so I’m drawn like a moth to the flame sometimes. I’ll end up spoiling myself and get upset about it, even though it’s my fault😩

  2. Completely agree with you when you say that video games spoilers are much more painful than movie spoilers. Movies are usually 3hrs long at the most; video games, on the other hand, are generally around the 30-60 hr mark.

    If someone had spoiled Mass Effect 3, Metal Gear Solid 4, or Final Fantasy X for me I honestly think I would never be able to talk to that person again. Especially considering these are my top 3 games of all time and I’ve replayed them at least 4 times each.

    1. I have to agree on your three games, I would like to play a bit of the Metal Gear Solid series and Final Fantasy since I don’t own either on the console. My boyfriend would definitely know about Mass Effect and Final Fantasy 7 and 8, he’s always telling me about them.

      Man, four times? That’s some serious devotion.

    2. Funnily enough a someone did spoil Mass Effect 3 on me on purpose to get back at me because I had accidentally spoiled LA Noire on him. It really was just a vicious cycle that in the end gave me my current stance on spoilers.

      Everyone deserves to learn a story in their own way at their own pace.

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