What Constitutes Spoilers?
  • POSTED BY elheber on Feb 14, 2017

    I know it may sound odd coming from me, the guy who wanted to spoil in his review of Uncharted 4 that [redacted], but I really dislike spoilers. Not only that, my definition for what constitutes a spoiler is a lot broader than it is for most folks. Most people think only plot can be spoiled, while others believe only plot twists can be spoiled. However, this is not true. Anything that would be a pleasant surprise to the audience can be spoiled.


    NOTE: I’m about to spoil some gameplay elements from Resident Evil 7. Things that even the publisher and developer didn’t reveal in their marketing material.

    Personally, I think it’s important for writers to keep their reviews as light on information as humanly possible while still providing all the pertinent information the reader needs. It’s a fine line to walk. You want to tell the reader how the game turns from an Outlast-style horror game to a bona fide Resident Evil game within the first hour, but the game itself saves this as a surprise for the player so you can’t. At least you can’t if you want to serve your reader. Notice how GameSpot’s Scott Butterworth skillfully dances around this problem in his review:

    You do gradually gather weapons as you progress, but you could never mistake this for an action game. Every time you start to feel powerful enough to kick some ass, the game finds a way to pull the rug out from under you. I’m going to do my best to avoid spoilers, so let’s just say it respects series traditions and that there’s a lot more to RE7 than what you’ve already seen. And while the setting and characters have no obvious connections to any previous Resident Evil game, the series’ DNA can be felt in everything from the puzzles and keys to the subtle psychological tricks used to cultivate dread.

    Scott understands that the people who would love this game are the people who loved the original Resident Evil trilogy. He could simply come out and scream at the top of his lung, “AFTER THE FIRST HOUR, THE GAME COMPLETELY CHANGES INTO RESIDENT EVIL ONE EXCEPT IN FIRST PERSON!” But he doesn’t. He understands the game is much more valuable to a fan of the series to discover this themselves. So instead what he does is he hints at hard as he could. He tells the reader straight-up that there is more to the game than meets the eye, and he uses keywords like “weapons,” “puzzles,” “series traditions,” and “Resident Evil DNA” to catch the attention of old Resident Evil fans without giving the game away. Scott does this for the entire review.


    NOTE: I’m about to spoil two neat gameplay tricks that a player can do in SUPERHOT. The game is only like 2 hours long. Please do yourself a favor and just play it first if you can.

    Discovering things is fun in itself. If you tell someone where a hidden treasure is, they won’t get the joy of discovering it themselves. In my review of SUPERHOT, I purposely avoided two mindblowingly awesome tricks the player could do that would probably increase their chances of wanting to try the game. But convincing someone who would probably like the game to try it in this way would also diminish their joy of discovering it themselves. One of these tricks involves throwing your weapon at an enemy, teleporting yourself into their body, then catching your own thrown weapon yourself.

    I want you–no, I need you too look at Brandon Jones’ reaction as he discovers he can do this on his own in the following video:

    Why would anyone want to steal this joy from a player?


    You are not paparazzi stalking game developers around to report on what they’re eating for breakfast. You aren’t Nintendo’s loudspeaker to deliver readers every single screenshot of Breath of the Wild they keep sending out. I overanalyzed a hardware trailer, but I wouldn’t dig around for spoilers in a video game trailer.

    We are in the business of telling consumers only what they need to know in order for them to make informed decisions. Entertainment is secondary. If you go too far with what you report, you risk cutting into their enjoyment. If a news article is only a news article of spoilers, then what’s the point of reporting it? Marvel Studios is happy to announce to the public which actors will be in Avengers: Infinity War, and news outlets trample all over each other to shove it on us as soon as possible. Meanwhile few of them slow down to consider those things would be better left for consumers to find in a great trailer down the line. Too late, though; all that was in the thumbnails and headlines and I didn’t even have a chance to avoid it.

    Holy crap, I needed to get that off my chest.


    "A closet intellectual, he acts dumb to impress women."

    "A closet intellectual, he acts dumb to impress women."
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