The word ‘SPOILERS!’ triggers an innate fear in people. I bet you got scared reading that just then. SPOILERS! See, I did it again. It’s a warning that must always be written in caps and followed by one or more exclamation marks, such is the power of SPOILERS!
My spoilerphobia regarding Fallout 4 is different. There is no singular ‘Snape killed Dumbledore’ bombshell to drop. Instead, potential cases are potent and innumerable like bee stings – one’s annoying, two are painful, and a whole lot make life not worth living. I don’t care what happens at the end of Fallout 4, such as finding out your long-lost dad is a robot or that the whole thing actually takes place inside a giant goldfish, because there isn’t really an end. The central questline in which you hunt for your missing son is one of 100 threads to pull on. If someone gives away that one, then plenty more wait in reserve.
It isn’t malicious intent or slips of the tongue that undermine parts of Fallout 4 so much as a steady drip-feed of good-natured anecdotes: a funny weapon someone found that I would have liked to discover myself, a quip by a companion, a fetching piece of dog armour. They’re the little details the game is made of, and knowing about them beforehand slightly narrows my otherwise wide eyes (annoyingly, I can’t tell you what’s been spoiled to me specifically for fear of becoming part of the problem).
This isn’t limited to Fallout 4. When Twitter blabbermouths revealed Metal Gear Solid V’s customisable chopper music, I felt a memorable moment had been snatched away – one that should have been about me in Mother Base suddenly realising I can storm the next mission blaring Kids in America. Kojima often tweets pictures of Snake’s unlockable outfits – I’d honestly rather he gave away the final scene. He’d be doing me a favour, since there’s a strong chance I’ll be too busy playing with cardboard boxes to see it myself.
Free-roam games are more susceptible to these smaller spoilers, because they’re driven by the anticipation of seeing what lies around the corner. Without mystery, exploration is meaningless. Going back slightly, enthusiasm for Dead Rising 2 waned each time I saw a ridiculous new weapon, because while Chuck’s motivation is saving his daughter, mine is rampaging through the zombie apocalypse in armoured wheelchairs and hamster balls.
More personal examples of minor game moments indecently exposed by people include a bit in Assassin’s Creed Syndicate where you SPOILERS! climb a very tall tower, a bit in Rise of the Tomb Raider when you SPOILERS! fight a bear, and a bit in Lego Dimensions where your characters SPOILERS! explore a Jetsons world, then SPOILERS! a Flintstones world, then SPOILERS! the actual real world. Are they even spoilers? I don’t know, but for each one a little part of me dies.
Sometimes I ruin games for myself. I deleted Don’t Starve after reading a list of all its monsters and robbing the game of its capacity to surprise. Trailers are a problem. Call of Duty packs them with its best set-pieces, so my experience revolves around waiting for the cool bit I know is going to happen, happen.
So what’s my plan to address this subtle spoiler-creep? There isn’t one, really, besides proposing a universal ban on talking about games – and you can’t do that because I’d be out of a job. The alternative is self-restraint. While people do need to be a bit more sensitive about what they give away, you should also make a conscious choice of who you listen to, because one thing’s for certain: if I find something cool in Fallout 4 tonight, you better believe I’m going to tell people.