In an age where video games have lengthy marketing cycles that encompass numerous trailers, detailed breakdowns, extended live streams, and many other pre-release showcases, it can be hard to avoid spoilers. These days, as the media we love is dissected in videos, articles, and podcasts, it's even harder to stay fresh. Which begs the question, where do you draw the line? How do you even go about avoiding spoilers? What happens when you do get spoiled?
That's exactly what Jake, Lucy, and Kallie discuss on this week's GameSpot After Dark podcast. And they're joined by a couple of illustrious guests: Kinda Funny's Greg Miller and Blessing Adeoye Jr., who offer up their own experiences with dealing with spoilers.
Ironically, if you're planning on catching up with Game of Thrones, we recommend being careful as there is a fairly big spoiler in both the podcast and the transcript of the conversation below. Guess we're part of the problem this time.
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Lucy: This is from Phil in San Diego. "Hi, Spotters. I've been struggling with trying to find a good balance of following stories, discussion, and trailers for an upcoming game and not knowing so much that it affects my enjoyment when I finally get my hands on it. Some games show too much, like Metal Gear Solid 5, and I end up spoiling myself while others, I try to stay entirely blind to, then end up disappointed with them because they don't click with me, most recently Greedfall. I feel the same is happening [when] listening to every game podcast with Control. I now know a lot of cool moments from these discussions, and I'm worried this will detract from my enjoyment when I finally play it. How do I strike a good balance to still be surprised by games? Additional question. What's the worst you've been spoiled on a game before?"
Jake: That's going to be hard to answer without spoiling the game. Lucy's got a good one that I think you already mentioned on the podcast.
Lucy: I already told the story on the podcast, but Troy Baker spoiled a death in The Last of Us for me. Yeah, I think that's maybe the worst I've been spoiled on a game, I want to say... It's the one that's most memorable at least. I think everything else, if I've been spoiled, I've been like, "It's fine."
But, in terms of finding a good balance, that's a tricky one. So, you can either go... so Tamoor, for example, is not reading or watching anything to do with the new Joker movie, because he's such a big DC fan. He wants to go in completely fresh.
Greg: That's such a... Movies are always such a different thing. Less investment. Right. Okay. It's two hours of your time. That's fine. Yeah. Whereas this is like so much 60 bucks and it's, "Do you like the story and do you like the game playing? Do you like all these different parts of it?"
Jake: Yeah, I mean, just off the top of my head, I would say if it's a developer you like... Maybe look at developers, like if it's a developer you like and you know you're probably going to like that because you liked the previous games they made you liked the games like it. Then maybe that's a good case where you just do a media blackout right and tried to avoid everything you can.
Greg: I feel like debut trailers are usually good tone pieces for like, "Okay, well I like this story." And then usually like in E3 stage demo is a good thing to show the gameplay. And be like, you seen that? And then that should be enough if you want to bounce and not have it ruined.
Lucy: I don't recall. What did Metal Gear Solid 5 ruin?
Greg: I think by the time that came out, we had all pretty much pieced together before we picked it up ... what was happening. 'Cause it was one of those games of like... If you looked at you like, "How is this happening?" And then it was like, "Well what about ... okay that's probably what's happening." And then we got it and was like, "Yeah, that's what was happening." All right cool. And that was supposed to be like a big reveal at the end and it was like, "No, good."
Similarly I think like, and it's not even the, it's another Troy Baker story, not on purpose, but it was a Arkham Knight. The first time we heard Troy's voice ruined what the kicker of Arkham Knight was, where I was like, "Oh, I know this, what the hell?"
Lucy: I noticed who was playing this.
Blessing: For me it's Death Stranding. I've had such a weird, kind of like deal knowing that I'm going to play that game and I'm going to be ... I don't know if I'm going to be into it, but I am looking forward to that game because I am such a Metal Gear Solid fan. And knowing the work of Hideo Kojima, that seems like a game totally aimed at me. But then like you know at Gamescom or Tokyo Game Show, he did like the 80 minute demo. So like he laid out like a... I think it was a 50-minute gameplay demo and then another 30 minute one and then there was like the eight-minute trailer with the mission briefing and all this stuff. And as all that stuff was coming out, like I knew deep down like, "I'm going to play this game. I would like to go into it fresh."
But then there was another side of me that I was like, "I really want to know what goes on in this game." So I kind of had that struggle and I ... might've scrubbed through the gameplay like very quickly just to see like, "Hey, what are you doing this game?"
I watched the mission briefing video too. But yeah, it's a difficult thing because I think part of it too is restraint. Especially if you do want to go into a game totally blind and you're scared that knowing things is going to ruin it for you. And that definitely also varies game to game because a lot of games ... knowing what the gameplay experience is isn't going to ruin a lot of games. Especially if it's a game like Shadow of Mordor, which is all about interacting with the systems and kind of manipulating what's going on in the game, right? Like a game like that... it doesn't matter if you know that there's an Nemesis system or it doesn't matter if you know the details of how the system works.
But something like Death Stranding, I'm sure part of that reveal is like, "Oh, this is what I'm doing in the game. Oh, there's monster energy drink." Or whatever the reveals might be of the gameplay system and all the things involved with it. And so yeah, it is a balancing act and it's difficult sometimes.
Lucy: I do wonder as well, I mean talk about The Last of Us Part II, if they even needed to reveal Joel and Tommy. I know we talked about it we all had like this big emotional reaction even just to seeing Joel, but him to be a part of the marketing. Would it maybe have made the final game even more impactful if you-
Greg: Well, that was interesting, right? 'Cause it didn't work for you. I was afternoon demo for Last of Us, and so that morning I got an email from PlayStation that was like, "Hey, we're aware that the State of Play's happening before your thing. Don't watch it." They want the game to play out a certain way for you. And like if you watch it ... and I read that and went, "No way." I watched it and it's like it their whole thing. I talked to him afterwards like, "Well yeah, you know, we think ... it's cool that Joel's revealed the way he was in gameplay." And it's like, "Well yeah, but everybody who's going to play that game knows that now." You know what I mean?
Kallie: Like I was writing the news story and, we're in this group of people sitting around the like on these couches. And I was like, "Should I put Joel as the thumbnail? Is that spoilery?" And Tamoor was like, "Well he was just shown the trailer." And I was like, "I know, but it just doesn't feel right."
Blessing: Yeah, I saw a comment on the Kind of Funny's one, where, because Joel wasn't a thumbnail ... there was one comment that was like, "Some people might not want to know if there's Joel." But it's like, "Well they showed it in the trailer, so where's the line of like-"
Jake: Also, he didn't die at the end of one, so it's like he's got to be in here somewhere right?
Kallie: Well that's what I wrote my story, it was like the question of whether he's alive is not a big one. It's not like, "Oh, Joel may or may not be alive." So it's not like you know-
Blessing: 'Cause like the thing about Joel being alive, right? Like it was the first trailer that was the thing that made us think that he wasn't alive. So for another trailer to come out and be like, "no, he is alive." Like what's the line there?
Kallie: Stop playing with my emotions.
Blessing: Yeah. And it was ... almost like a, "Stop playing with my emotions," thing. But like if you're going trailer blackout then you shouldn't really care anyway. As far as like what's the worst, he'd been spoiled on a game before. I had a friend that I was playing ... Me and him played Persona 4 Golden at the same time cause we both played it.
I'm not going to say the spoiler, but like he essentially ... it's my friend Ian, right? And Ian's awesome because he is very good at like theorizing and very good at putting things together and getting into the lore of a game. So he was putting out theories on who a certain character might be in Persona 4. And he nailed it. And so by the time I finished Persona 4, I was like, "Dang it."
Kallie: My mom does that with movies. She'll be like, "He's the killer." And I'm like, "Yeah, I know you're going to be right. Why would you say anything?"
Blessing: But then the same exact thing happened in 2017 because we both played Persona 5 at the same time. And then he was like, "Oh yeah, I think they're doing this, this and this, and I think it's going to end up being this." And I was like, "Never talk to me about video games." And then yeah, it ended up happening. It's weird because they weren't spoilers cause he didn't know. But he's just really good at figuring that stuff out.
Kallie: I think the worst I've been spoiled for a video game and I wasn't upset, but I think if somebody could have been really upset with this, I told Mike Mahardy, that I was in the process of playing Heavy Rain with a group of people just for fun.
Lucy: Oh no.
Kallie: And then he was... I said I was currently playing it and then he just spoiled the ending for me. Like not to be a dick, but he was just like-, "Oh, and then this person's the killer." Yeah. And I was like, well, "I don't know that yet since I'm still playing it." But also I still haven't finished it because it was just like a ... we all got drunk and played Heavy Rain.
Yeah. But I think a funny one that ... you know when like you haven't played a game yet and so you don't know the vocabulary of what might be a spoiler and so it misses you. I think that's how I've avoided Bioshock for so long. It's like I wouldn't know if it was a Bioshock spoiler unless someone said "This is a Bioshock spoiler." So if you email me with that subject line, I'm coming after you.
But Jake spoiled the end of Red Dead One for me. But I didn't-
Jake: I did?
Kallie: Yes you did. But I didn't know until I reached the end of the game and then I was like, "Jake told me about this once." But it didn't affect for me because I didn't realize that it could happen until I had gotten to the end, like right before the ending actually happens. And I was like, "Oh, he did say this to me once." So that could have been really bad, but luckily I didn't put it in my long-term memory because I was just like, "I don't know anything about these characters yet." And then I played it. So, I am really, really happy that I have a shit memory.
Lucy: I still feel bad about this one.
Jake: Oh no.
Lucy: This isn't a video game. We were talking about like disappointing endings and I just said, "Oh yeah, the Dark Tower! [said the ending] of the Dark Tower." And Tamoor went, "I've spent the last five years reading the Dark Tower books, I'm on the last one. Are you serious? Did you just spoil the ending for me?" I still think about that at like, four AM.
Kallie: And you're like, "Wow. I shouldn't be on this earth anymore." Yeah.
Lucy: And he was like, "Okay, fair, that ending does sound kind of shitty." But at the same time-
Kallie: Aw yeah ... my mom's spoiled Game of Thrones for me because she was reading the books and I was watching the show, and she didn't realize that the seasons weren't one-to-one. Those books that she was like "Blah, blah, blah is dead, right?" And I was like, "Excuse me?" That's when I still cared about Game of Thrones. And now I don't care.
Oh, you spoiled Game of Thrones!
Lucy: Oh, I fully spoiled Game of Thrones for you.
Kallie: But I don't really care anymore. So I was like, "Well, I guess that's what happens."
Greg: When I was still at IGN ... And are we trying to not spoil anything we talk about? 'Cause this is Game of Thrones related and it's an old Game of Thrones. It was the Monday morning after the episode where Joffrey died, it happened, right? Purple wedding. And it was that thing where so many of us, for some reason, hadn't watched it and I was planning to go home and watch it with my ex-girlfriend and it was that thing where we were sitting there Monday morning, everyone in IGN had the rules. We're not going to talk about Game of Thrones. Don't spoil. No problem. Everybody's fine. Blah, blah, blah. And it was like 2:30 in the afternoon and boom, an email came in and it was monster.com going, "Joffrey's dead And so everybody's looking for a new job! Who will be the new ... who is looking for new job as the King of Westeros, or whatever?"
And like seven ... it went to like the IGN, whatever, editorial thing. And it was just like a, "What the-" from everybody. Like five different people jump up like, "Are you kidding me?" I ... emailed them so irate, like every other people did. They eventually sent a care package of like, "We're sorry, we didn't mean to ruin this at your workspace."
Lucy: I told my mom that I'd never seen Twin Peaks and that I was going to watch it and she told me who killed Laura Palmer in response.
Greg: "So you'll never see it coming when X, Y, Z."
Kallie: This was not some, "This was an accident." This was a Twitter fluke. I was in the middle of watching Twin Peaks for the first time, I was two episodes away from finding out what happens, and Mike Drucker tweeted a joke tweet that involved who killed Laura Palmer. And I was like, "What? I was so upset. I was like, "I'm so close to finding out who killed Laura Palmer. This show came up before I was born. This is not my fault."
Jake: So mine's an interesting one I guess, because we talked about it before. I started Final Fantasy 7. I feel like I know all the twists in that game, just 'cause they're so infamous and I'm about to play, well whenever the new one comes out, right? The remake, I'll play it and I'll know like, "Which characters are going to die, what's going to happen here?" Like just because those scenes are so famous. I don't know if it's a big spoiler, 'cause at the time I never really cared, but going into Seven now I'm kind of disappointed 'cause it's like, "Oh, I kind of know what's happening."
Blessing: Oh same. I feel that too, 'cause I know the same things, I imagine. Like I don't know when they happened in the story but you know they're going to happen, right? And so this is part one, right? I'm like, "Okay, well maybe it might not happen in this game." Which might help the experience, but you know, if they remade Ocarina of Time, there's a certain character reveal and that game, too, where it's like, "Oh, this person is actually this person."