For gamers, it’s never been harder to be willfully, blissfully ignorant.
Want to see how “Bayonetta” plays out, without bothering with all that pesky gameplay? No problem. All the in-game movies, as well as video tutorials for the three-week-old game’s most challenging bits, are over on YouTube. Want to learn what happens in “Mass Effect 2,” which just hit stores Tuesday? Everything will be on Wikipedia or GameFAQs.com in a matter of days, if it’s not there already, just waiting for folks to stumble upon inadvertently.
In a recent post over at Kotaku, blogger Luke Plunkett even wondered whether game companies are spoiling their own games, with endless gluts of pre-release novels, animated comics, developer diaries, exclusive magazine previews, screenshots, countdown clocks and videos galore. All of these, of course, are disseminated to hundreds of video game blogs, many of whom, desperate to be the first to report anything, dutifully pass on all too many of the links.
Plunkett has a point: Is there a need to watch four or five developer diaries that painstakingly elaborate on relatively mundane details while dancing inelegantly around revealing key secrets? Or is this stuff best viewed after completion of the game, when hardcore fans have an insatiable desire to know more about the title they just finished?
I fall firmly into the too-much-information camp. While keeping up with upcoming releases is part of my duties as a columnist and part-time blogger, it’s not much of a challenge to avoid learning too much about a game I’m really looking forward to. After a while, you learn which bloggers and sites you can trust not to reveal too much. Steering clear of comments posted at the ends of articles around release day is a no-brainer.
Yet there seems to be a class of gamer who, even though its members frequent gaming blogs and online forums, prefer to come at their video games cold, without any knowledge of what’s in store beyond the box art and title screen. While these folks shun reading reviews of games, they’re not above popping up in comments sections of other articles to shrilly chide someone for revealing a fringe plot point they deem to be a spoiler.
As an example, Plunkett’s Kotaku article quickly ran down some of the tidbits about “Mass Effect 2” (rated M, $60 on Xbox 360, $50 on PC) that leaked out before release day. One of these (and here I’ll take the extra step of warning that I’m about to reveal the mildest of spoilers) was the fact that the main character’s ship from the first “Mass Effect” is destroyed in the sequel, a fact that prompted several folks to freak out in the article’s comments section because they thought Plunkett had crossed a line.
I’ve played the beginning of “Mass Effect 2” and the destruction of the Normandy, which was announced months ago, is literally the first thing that happens once you fire up the game. Divulging this fact in a blog post published on the game’s release date is the equivalent of telling folks that “Star Wars” opens with stormtroopers capturing a ship.
These people need to develop a little more trust in the Web sites they visit, or find new places to congregate online. They’re ruining intelligent discussion of games.
In what might be the final article ever at Crispy Gamer — after the company’s board of directors sacked the site’s entire editorial staff and the CEO quit in protest — Tom Bissell concurs, arguing that video gamers have developed an unhealthy obsession with “spoilers.” He makes a point that I can agree with, that a good story remains good regardless of whether you know its ending ahead of time. If all a story has to hang its hat on is a “shocking” development or two, it likely wasn’t that good to begin with.
No one’s advocating full disclosure of end-game surprises. But willfully ignorant gamers need to get away from the idea that they can hold the entire cottage industry of game journalism hostage by flipping out every time someone discusses the ending of a game that’s been in stores for three years, or talks about the opening scene of a hot new release.