Fight Club. The Empire Strikes Back. The Sixth Sense. Depending on your tastes in film, you may or may not agree that these movies represent some of the best examples of the medium from their respective genres. You may also have noticed that there’s a common element between them: each contain a 180 degree plot twist so great that it completely alters the viewer’s perspective of the movie and everything that has happened in it. In some films, this ascends the ordinary into the extraordinary; in others, it works against the viewing experience. Regardless, there is one thing we can all agree on: it royally sucks when someone ruins a movie by revealing that plot twist!
FireFly fans everywhere are shocked!
So why is it less of a taboo in gaming, especially on the Internet? Too many times I have found myself casually browsing a news blog or a forum post on the Internet, only to read comments such as “It’s too bad the main character dies just when the game picks up” or “I hate it when the game takes character x from your main party”. I have no problem talking about the plot of games when a discussion is appropriately marked. In fact, replaying games and exploring the events that occur throughout with like-minded people is one of my favourite activities but there’s nothing worse than stumbling onto a plot thread when you were given no prior warning.
Some would say the risks are par for the course if you want to follow gaming news or information closely and there’s a lot of truth to that. I recently had a debate with a friend over defining a “spoiler phase” – a period of time in which a website or forum should try to prevent any plot details from being posted. Three months sounded like a sensible amount of time, but I presented the counter-argument that due to either time or money constraints, even those who keep up-to-date with game releases don’t always get to play them straight away.
Then there’s the argument that games are “just for fun”, and anyone who gets worked up over story spoilers should calm down. I disagree. We all play games for completely different reasons; to compete, to relax, to complete, and to escape. One of the interesting facets of gaming is that the level of entertainment drawn from each game varies greatly from person to person. However, this in turn means that each individual will value very specific elements of each game, and these don’t match for everyone. Personally, I generally play games for the overall experience, and in most cases story factors heavily into that.
So the next time you’re passionately describing a game to a mate who hasn’t had the pleasure of playing through it, try to take a moment to recall how awesome it was to experience that game for yourself and mark spoilers appropriately. That’s a New Year resolution I think we can all keep!