So that was spoilers week

Spoilers have been in the news a fair amount this week, one way and another.

First off was Kotaku printing some leaked spoilers (no spoilers in this link btw, it’s a story about them with links for those who are interested) for the storyline of the forthcoming Modern Warfare 3. This also inadvertently leaked the fact that MW3 existed, which was duly announced officially a couple of days later.

I can’t really think that anyone felt that knowing MW3 existed was a spoiler, unless you think it spoiled the effect of the official announcement (which probably involves everyone pretending that it was a surprise). What I do wonder is how many people who are celebrating Infinity Ward’s next shot at the franchise know or remember that many of the big shots from that studio no longer work there.

In news over here, Steven Moffat (the show runner) complained publically about fans leaking the plot of the first two episodes of this season of Doctor Who. The Times responded magnanimously by leaking the plot of this week’s episode.

Other notable recent leaks include The Avengers script, and a leak of the Diablo 3 followers video (that Blizzard covered fairly neatly by doing their own reveal shortly afterwards.)

In today’s ever-more-connected world, it’s increasingly difficult to avoid spoilers, but evidently this isn’t helped by people actually leaking advance information. You can understand the news sites motivations – nothing like a good leak to get eyeballs on webpages. And it only needs one of your friends to read the spoilers and decide to pass them on to make it irrelevant as to whether you clicked the link yourself or not.

I’m sure both game devs and programme makers don’t have massive issues with spoilers being issued after the game is released or the programme is aired. It still affects players/ viewers but it also props up the PR, and encourages them to play/watch the item as soon as possible – a tricky proposition if you happen to be in the wrong timezone. And whilst this may lead to pirating, you can assume that the real fans will buy the thing anyway when they get the chance, at some point.

But there’s also no doubt that you’ll have a very different experience watching something with a twist in the tale if you don’t know what’s coming than if you do. However commercially clever it is to spoil a piece, it’s pretty much never in the players’ best interests. And if you print spoilers, you may lose the chance to see people’s genuine responses to the forthcoming surprise …

This post contains no spoilers

My favourite spoiler story is connected with Harry Potter and the Halfblood Prince. If you have managed to go all of this time without ever learning what the spoiler is for that book then I salute you, and if real life had achievements you’d be up for [Harry Who?]. In any case, as soon as the book was out, so were the spoilers. People plastered them all over bulletin boards, had t-shirts printed (helpfully giving page numbers), blabbed it all over TV shows and … my personal favourite … put up huge banners on motorway bridges telling everyone who passed underneath the secrets of the book.

I’m reliably informed that indigenous tribes on planets in another solar system first learned English by interpreting messages beamed out from NASA about the Harry Potter spoilers. In a millenia’s time, when mankind makes first contact, I won’t be surprised if the first information exchanged by aliens, with a mad snigger, is about Albus Dumbledore.

Now, spoilers are a very personal issue for both geeks and non-geeks alike. You’ll definitely get a very different experience from a book or film or game if someone tells you the shocking twist in advance, but not everyone finds that it totally ruins their enjoyment. I’m fairly relaxed about spoilers myself, for example, but I don’t make a habit of deliberately spoiling twists for other people. (With the shameful exception that I guessed the twist in Sixth Sense about five minutes into the film and told my husband. I don’t think he has entirely forgiven me. My defense is that it was just a guess, I wasn’t SURE.)

In WoW, we’re now quite resigned to spoilers leaking out in advance of new patches. We know that someone (probably someone from mmo-champion) will have datamined the patch from the test server, people on wow.com will have posted all the strategies for new instances from the test server, and it probably won’t be difficult to find out anything else from various forums or twitter. Is it really a problem? You can just avoid the spoiler sites if you don’t want to learn too much.

In a surprising move on the official forums, Nethaera posted a comment this week implying that Blizzard do see it as an issue and disapprove of sites posting data-mined content:

We’ve put thousands of hours of work into crafting an epic conclusion to the Wrath of the Lich King story, and we’re excited that we’ll soon be able to share it with everyone — however, we also think the surprises we’ve got in store are best experienced within the context of the game itself. Should you wish not to have your Icecrown experience spoiled, we advise you to steer clear of any sites data-mining and posting this content. And if you do seek out spoilers, we ask that you please be mindful of your fellow players on the official forums. We’re looking forward to hearing about your adventures once the new content is available on the live realms.

Rumour has it that they have also exerted some IP influence to have spoiler related clips taken off youtube.

I can’t say I’m sorry to see it. I do find it frustrating that just because people are off testing the new patches (which is good) they feel they have to spoil it for everyone else. I just don’t see that it can ever be stopped, as long as lots of people really do want to get that slight advantage that the knowledge might give them. wow.com aren’t going to stop posting data-mined content, it must get them a ton of search hits every day.

But perhaps it’s not asking too much to have RSS feeds for people who don’t want their content spoiled, or to mark the spoilers a little more clearly…