09 February 2013

It's my entertainment, I'll spoiler myself if I want to

"If you read a walkthrough (or get spoilers from a forum), you can never un-read it. You can never un-spoiler yourself! So don't spoiler yourself."

These words of wisdom were imparted unto me by the official walkthrough of a game I was trying to play. I say "trying" because there was some craaaaazy smackdown happening in the particular level I was attempting to play. The rules kept changing, I had no idea what was going on, and I was being mauled by herds of killer bunnies! It wasn't fun anymore, which is why I was on the internet looking for a guide to tell me what was going on in the level. Usually I'd end up in a forum but this time the first result was a link to the "Official Walkthrough." An official walkthrough? I thought. Huh, that sounds ideal.

Of course it was just an opportunity to chide frustrated players for looking for tips.

I found a less-preachy unofficial walkthrough, but I haven't been able to kick the indignation. Something about people getting worked up at me about spoilers has always irritated me on a fundamental level.

Promotional image from BBC America. You wouldn't want to spoil somebody's life for them, which is why 
Doctor Who character River Song says "spoilers" when conversations creep into areas where she knows things 
about another person's future that she can't reveal. This is a reasonable use of the cry of "Spoilers!"

Here's the thing: If I'm asking you what happens, you can tell me. With rare exception, this has never ruined my enjoyment of anything. If someone had told me that Snape kills Dumbledore* I still would have enjoyed the story because (1) that person might have been lying and (2) I still don't know HOW it happens or WHY or how the story gets to the point where that would ever happen.
*If you didn't know that fact, I have zero sympathy for you. 
The book has been out since 2005.
"Snape kills Dumbledore" was an internet meme. 
Have you been living under a rock for the past seven years?

Tell me which Game of Thrones characters die? Oh come on, at this point I assume George R.R. Martin will kill all of his characters and the series will end with an epic bloodbath. (An epic bloodbath with dragons.) Please tell me Joffrey dies! I hate that guy! I don't even care if all my favorite characters die as long as Joffrey is bumped off, too! Honestly, the only story I'm actually trying to avoid "spoilers" for is Doctor Who, because I like watching those episodes in order, but even if someone had told me the Big Secret About River Song, I doubt I'd have been terribly upset.

What I'm driving toward here, in a roundabout way, is that I'm not that worried about spoilers. If the story is good, I'll enjoy it anyway. If it's "ruined" by knowing the "twist" ahead of time, then I don't think it's a very good story. (Of course I try to respect other people's preference to not reveal plot twists and surprises, which makes for very difficult book reviews and is why I don't review books very often here.)

I often read the last page of a book first, as well as flipping around and reading scenes here and there. I find that it gives me a good idea of (1) if the book actually ends at the end or if it's a set-up for an unwritten sequel and (2) if the writing style is something I would like. What it almost never does is ruin the book for me.

So I don't need condescending lectures about how I shouldn't spoiler myself, thankyouverymuch. I can make my own spoiler decisions for myself. If your story is so shoddy that me seeing "answers" or "future information" about it will completely and utterly ruin the experience, then maybe you don't have a very good story. Personally, I think the best stories don't rely wholly on trick endings. They are, I suppose, spoiler-proof.

Of course that's just my opinion. Tell me in the comments what you think about spoilers: should stories be able to withstand advance knowledge, or should all people always avoid exposing themselves to advance information?