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LET'S PLAY SENSE-MAKING GAME!

by Aaron Gover

Warning: This editorial may or may not contain spoilers for games under a decade old. This is the only warning you'll get. If you get a game spoiled here, tough. You'll deal.

Is it just me, or is almost every gaming website nowadays is super-careful about spoilers these days? Every letters column, review, editorial, even the music sections, are gratuitously labled with spoiler warnings and red text saying "spoiler!"

Am I the only person who think that this is insane? This is like, for example, going into a whorehouse and being upset by the fact that there aren't any "Danger: PEOPLE HAVING SEX!" warning signs, or going into a CNN-run forum and getting blasted for talking about world events.

This is a sticky subject to discuss without being flamed more than GameFan. Just bringing the subject up in a ration gets people upset. Babies cry, grown men whine like children, and the seas turn to blood. Or so you'd think, by the reactions you get. Just for talking about this subject, people always assume that you're going to spoil, and react as such. It's almost like the third rail of videogame discussions.

If you can read english, you've probably picked up on the fact that I think spoiler warnings are stupid, but so far I haven't made anything resembling a logical argument. However, I plan to do so, starting now. My arguments against are threefold.

Firstly, if your enjoyment of a game is based soley on the story, with all due respect, why not go read a book? Or watch a movie? Forty hours chugging through gameplay that you don't enjoy seems an awful waste of time. There are other genres of games, such as Action RPGs and point-and-click adventures, which offer story without the RPG gameplay. Why not play those? I played through Xenogears because I enjoyed the gameplay and the plot. It would have to be a pretty bad game if I stopped playing just because I knew how the game ended.

Secondly, if somebody doesn't want to be spoiled on a game, what the heck are they doing reading anything about it? This is my big complaint right here. If some one is on a game-related forum, such as a newsgroup, a mailing list, a website, a messageboard, or an IRC channel -- especially those forums established specifically for those games and series -- then, in my opinion, they have no excuse for not avoiding spoilers simply by not visiting those forums. Let me make that even simpler for you GamePro fans and GameFan editors out there:

Protip: Don't visit forums for games you don't want spoiled!

Finally, provided you follow those other rules, there seems to be a time when spoilers go "out of date," so to speak, and it is okay to actually talk about games on game related forums. However, this length of time has no set, mutually agreed-upon value. When does the so-called spoiler time end? A month? A year? Ten years? How about never? Sometimes it seems as if there is one person who hasn't played a game, then you can't talk about it. My personal feelings feel that six months is appropriate. Playing at two hours a week, a person can finish the average RPG in that amount of time, unless they are lazy, and why should somebody else's lazyness impact my conversations?

For instance, I cannot count how many times I've had this particular conversation:

Me: So, Joe, remember part x of Game Y?

Joe: Yeah, that was cool, and then...

Bob: HEY! Don't talk about that! I haven't finished Game Y yet!

Me: Uhm, Game Y was released over a year ago.

Bob: I know, but I haven't finished it yet, so don't talk about it!

Me: Why haven't you finished it?

Bob: Well, I got bored and stopped playing.

This is usually met with some sort of retaliatory violence by me against Bob. I mean, if some one can't be bothered to finish a game within a reasonable amount of time, why should I be bothered to care not to spoil the game for them?

In the end, though, I think we all just need to use a bit more common sense when it comes to going insane over spoilers. A spoiler is not the end of the world. It shouldn't ruin the game for you. It will not kill you. (If it does, then you probably would have keeled over dead the next time you got into a heated Star Trek vs Star Wars debate anyhow.)

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