Spoiler Alert: Spoiler Alert, Part 1

Let me start off by saying there are spoilers ahead. Spoilers for the Mass Effect series, some for Buffy and House MD (both pre season 5, so no spoilers past, if you please), some for Soylent Green, Sixth Sense, all Harry Potters, and Game of Thrones, season/book 1. If you have not completed these forms of media and you hate spoilers, as I do, you should not read ahead.

I hate spoilers. There was a time when just finding out that there might be a spoiler infuriated me, because it was a spoiler that there was a spoiler. I’ve gotten over that last one, because you have to start somewhere, and there’s quite a difference between saying “Spoiler Alert: I’m going to talk about Sixth Sense” and “Spoiler Alert: I’m going to talk about the huge unforeseen twist at the end of Sixth Sense that you may actually have seen coming if you notice Bruce Willis never actually opens the door for himself and maybe is there another reason the wife says nothing at dinner?”

I’ve spoiled myself several times. When I was in Japan, I was watching episodes of House, and I had apparently not been sent the correct number of DVDs. I loved the character Cutthroat Bitch, and when the season ended, I went on Wikipedia to read more about her. I found it odd that her character had a Date of Birth and a Date of Death…so my eyes slipped down the page, and I learned not only were there 3 or 4 episodes that I hadn’t watched, but she freaking DIES in one of them!

There’s the famous “Snape kills Dumbledore,” which I stumbled across on SomethingAwful just days after book 6 came out. When book 7 came out, I was RELIGIOUS about not going on websites where jerks are. I wasn’t on Twitter much, and FB was a safe haven, so I was safe to read “Deathly Hallows” in Japan in relative peace…until I stumbled onto the comments section of a blog somewhere that proclaimed that Moody, Fred, Snape, and Ron died. I was SO UPSET. Furious. I removed myself from as much Internet as was humanly possible and flew through the book — partly to get these sad parts over with, partly so I could actually get back online.

And I don’t feel like I was really as sad over each of the deaths as I would have been if I hadn’t known it was coming. After each death, I just kept flipping pages to get to the next one. Ron was still alive. He embraced Hermione after a particularly tricky battle. JK’s really trying to draw it out now, isn’t she? I got to the end…and Ron never died. I reread the epilogue, making sure I wasn’t reading something wrong. I’m still not sure if this person was ill-advised or just trolling, but it was almost WORSE that I THOUGHT he was going to die on “good” authority, because I couldn’t actually attach myself to his heroism, thinking he’d kick it on any page.

I am hesitant to fully immerse myself in the Buffy fandom because I’m terrified of reading anything past season 5. Sure, statistics are in my favor, but it’s still a mine field.

Reading “Game of Thrones” (or “A Song of Ice and Fire,” really) has been interesting, because, while I can’t wander into chats or Google any characters, since I’m technically two books behind what’s published, I don’t fear stumbling upon show spoilers that much, since, you know, I know what’s going to happen. I read someone’s tweet a few days ago that said something to the effect of, “Wow, no nudity alert?! Thanks a lot! I’m watching with my dad!” And I hadn’t seen the episode yet. For an instant, I was almost upset that she was actually spoiling some nudity that I had, what, wanted as a surprise? Then I remembered…this is “Game of Thrones.” How did you not know there would be nudity and WHY ARE YOU WATCHING WITH YOUR DAD?

So I ask you: what is the statute of limitations on spoilers?

Used to be — before ubiquitous DVRs — you were free to talk openly about TV shows the day after they aired unless someone specifically started flailing when you mentioned the title. There’s the famous first “Seinfeld” episode (I’m pretty sure the statute has run out on this one, so I’ve left it out of the title warning…) where Jerry asks everyone he comes in contact with not to mention the outcome of a Mets game he’s taped, answering the phone with that request, and at the end, Kramer spoils it right before he gets to finish watching it. But those were the rare cases, and I think Jerry’s constant warnings were the right thing to do. But how can I do that now with ALL the shows I’m halfway through, yet still don’t want spoiled? I’ll need a scroll and more cellphone minutes.

But now, with DVRs, people watch stuff on their own time. Then you have facebook, and when the east coast watches “Game of Thrones” first, they rush to their computers to post “HOLY CRAP DID YOU SEE WHAT JUST HAPPENED? THAT’S NOT HOW YOU GET AHEAD IN LIFE. HE’LL NEVER BE THE HEAD OF A MAJOR CORPORATION. WHAT I MEAN TO SAY IS THAT EDDARD STARK JUST GOT BEHEADED. I NEVER SAW THAT COMING, UNLIKE THE REST OF YOU SAPS BECAUSE I’M AN UNTHINKING MORON.” I hate those people.

But still, when is it okay?

I was once in an sketch comedy group, and we were talking about “Soylent Green,” and some guy — a few years older than me — didn’t know what I was talking about. I said, “You know, Soylent Green. As in ‘Soylent Green is PEOPLE!'” And the leader of this group legitimately got upset that I had spoiled his friend on a movie released in 1973. That same guy stole my Directing book AFTER mocking my bookshelf sign-out system created SPECIFICALLY to avoid such thievery. In 2004. I’m still mad. And possibly secret twins with Tina Fey.

This whole topic came about because I wanted to talk about Mass Effect 3 like just about every other nerd on the planet. I got it, like most other nerds, the day it came out. Unlike most other nerds, I either like sleep or my job too much, and I didn’t finish this 45-hours-of-gameplay game the first weekend…or the first four weekends.

My friend Ryan came into work three days after release and said, “I just beat it. I liked it, but I didn’t like the ending.” I felt heat rising, and I must have twitched or something, because he quickly followed with, “It’s not a spoiler. I just didn’t like it.” Maybe I’ll like it, I thought, and I clung to hope. After all, I’ve been known to like a few things that not everyone likes. I like Twilight. I like Evanescence a little too much. I would eat a bowl of garlic if I could. Surely it’s just the hardcore nerd elite.

I have since beaten the game, and it so happens that I agree with everyone that the ending is terrible, and tears were streaming down my face during the final cutscene AND NOT IN A GOOD WAY. Not like, goodbye to one of my favorite video game series of all time. Like:
Me After Mass Effect 3

But I will talk about that in Part 2. What I want to talk about here is how infuriated I was that LEFT AND RIGHT people sought to spoil the everloving Eezo out of me. It was being discussed and tweeted in every gamer blog I went to every day. Gabe from Penny Arcade tweeted that Tycho had written up a good post with no spoilers. However, sadly, since he linked to their website itself and not the blog in question, I was brought to HIS take on the ending and in the second paragraph, he mentions something about an Indoctrination Theory, which up until that point, I hadn’t even heard of or considered. AND (as you will see in my next post) THAT THEORY IS ALMOST CERTAINLY TRUE. So, looking back, I read something that was (as the result of a misunderstanding) guaranteed not to be a spoiler that changed my entire perception of not only the ENDING, but THE ENTIRE GAME.

I’m not sure what the answer is. Movies have been released, and most people know not to go trouncing around giving away the ending, but all you need is one moron. With TV, how long do you allow? A week might be fine, but sometimes I’m busy on weekends. With games, how long am I supposed to take? Can I be given a month? On the other hand, should no one ELSE be allowed to talk about it for a month — much less a video game webcomic that I usually enjoy because it does just that? I suppose I should have known better, but, as I said, they DID say no spoilers…I just got directed to the wrong entry and started reading immediately like some crazy person.

The news of the historical ending spread to my work, and although only Ryan, Chris, and I were actually playing the game, it was such an interesting and relatively new case, Ron wrote up an article about the future of storytelling, citing this as a possible new chapter of crowd-sourced storytelling, where if you have enough people invested and complaining, you might be able to make a difference. Or maybe not. Maybe artists can fold their arms and take their ball and go home, smugly reminding you that without them, you wouldn’t have even HAD a ball to play with. I rushed through the rest of the game before the article was released, because, since I wanted to read about it at work, I wanted to avoid being spoiled about anything else as long as I could.

I don’t know what the answer is. All I know is that people should use spoiler alerts. And mean them. Some of us take our time with stuff.

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