Followers of the official Tap Repeatedly Twitter feed (accept no imitations) may have noticed a brief spat this afternoon regarding a well known mainstream blog perhaps saying more than it should have about the upcoming Batman: Arkham City. To cut a dull story short, it seems the more established gaming press have recently been treated to an extended hands on session with The Dark Knight’s latest outing, and with embargoes clearly lifting at around 3pm GMT today, Twitter was alive with links to each respective sites impressions. Ignoring the possible sensitivity of such information, however, a number of websites decided to explicitly blurt out an early plot twist across Twitter before linking users to their article. Kotaku was the first and most high profile website I noticed do this, but they were soon followed by a number of other smaller profile sites and blogs.
The offending tweet is listed straight after the break, but I’ve highlighted it for those equally sensitive to such issues. Skip past the spoiler warnings to proceed.
Kotaku’s Tweet read:
Kotaku: The Joker Dies in the First Act of Arkham City (Or Does He?)
Followed instantly by god knows how many tweets from small blogs, big blogs and regular users with the same variation on this theme.
So yeah, apparently The Joker pops it at some point during the opening hours of Arkham City. There’s more than a subtle hint that this won’t be a permanent death – this is The Joker after all – but it’s still a plot revelation regarding one of the game’s primary characters that none of us knew about before. The fact that this “death” may or may not be reversed later in the game does not excuse the fact that I don’t want to know about it happening at all, at least not until I experience that section of the game myself.
Naturally, I unfollowed Kotaku instantly.
This annoyed me greatly. Arkham City is probably my most anticipated game at the moment, and, along with BioShock Infinite, is one of only two games I actually care enough about to enforce myself on a news embargo for. Sure I’ve seen the character reveals and the artwork, but I’ve ignored every magazine feature and every Rocksteady interview in an attempt to keep my own experience with the game as pure as possible. That’s been the case for the better part of the last eighteen months, maybe longer. Arkham Asylum, despite its flaws, is probably one of my most cherished games of this entire generation. I’m taking the release of Arkham City very seriously, and I certainly don’t welcome plot reveals no matter how seemingly innocent or tenuous.
With that in mind, Kotaku’s careless and arrogant slip of the tweet instantly set me off on a bad mood. The only reason I didn’t challenge them directly about it was because Kotaku have a really shitty habit of retweeting (that is to re-send your message to all their 95,306 followers) any messages that disagree with their opinions or call out their site or content. I guess that’s part of their image as a really witty, zany, edgy and wacky set of dudes. Whatever. I’m not going to entertain them over it. But I did moan about it quite alot on our own feed. As one of the negative attributes of my personal character I’m the sort of person who speaks and then thinks about it later. A Gobshite, as it’s referred in the UK. So after moaning for a bit to nobody in particular I sat back and wondered if I was out of order. If I was being over sensitive and if it was actually okay for a major website to shout a plot reveal to 95,307 people and god knows how many more visitors to their site. I thought about it, then rightly or wrongly came to the conclusion that it bloody wasn’t alright at all and that I was well within my rights to be a grumpy sod.
Whether you’ve seen the tweet or not, I guess it’s not the absolute biggest spoiler in the history of storytelling. This isn’t like telling somebody that Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker’s father (it’s been 31 years people, I’m okay to say this!) or like spoiling the ending to any great thriller you might care to mention, but it’s still an annoyance and it’s still careless. It’s telling me something about the plot I didn’t know a couple of hours ago and I still wish I didn’t know now. It’s telling me something I would quite liked to have seen myself. It’s telling me something that I now know about, that I can’t forget about and which is going to weigh down constantly at the back of my mind until the event itself actually happens when I buy the game in November. It’s something which involves a major character and what sounds like a potentially significant plot twist, and I’m not going to be able to take anything that character does seriously until this issue is settled. To me, that’s a spoiler. It might not be the games ending or the fact that Batman is in fact a male prostitute from Amsterdam trained by Van Damme and Chuck Norris (Yoink!), but it’s still story related stuff that I don’t want to know.
I have no problem generally with well-concealed spoilers and I have no problem with people who want to read those spoilers. It’s their experience to ruin as far as I’m concerned, and as long as they don’t tell me about it then all power to them. With Twitter, however, there is a fine line between concealing spoilers and carelessly leaving them out in the open for any foraging readers to feast upon. If you discuss a spoiler in an article, not only is there the chance to inform the reader that your piece contains information they might not wish to see, but you also work with a loose assumption that anyone who cares enough about a games story will skip your article altogether. As a reader I will simply avoid anything regarding the likes of Arkham City or BioShock Infinite until I’m personally prepared to expose myself to such spoilers, and that’s my choice. That’s not to say writers can go spoiler nuts, but there’s generally much more common sense applied when spoilers appear in article form on the side of both the writer and the reader.
With Twitter, that element of choice disappears to a certain extent. A tweet is a sentence or two at most made up of a maximum of 240 characters. It’s easily readable, it’s instantly attention-grabbing and it’s easy to notice even if you’re skim-reading your own feed. Any single one of Kotaku’s 95,307 followers will have seen that tweet whether they wanted to or not, flashed in front of their eyes against their choosing by a website too careless to consider the content and information their readership might want to see. As much as anything, it’s just sloppy and lazy coverage. I’m not suggesting Kotaku have any sort of journalistic integrity whatsoever, generally or even within the gaming community, but could you imagine the New York Times splashing the plot twist of a Hollywood blockbuster or a bestselling novel across a 240 character tweet? Even if they did, would people who go to the movies or read books stand for it? At a time when I think the majority of people who write for gaming blogs and websites are keen to see our industry taken more seriously, regardless of their own size or stature, I can’t help but feel that amateur mistakes like this from an established
and respected site show us all in a pretty negative light. As with all new communication mediums, I can’t help but think this represents a warning as to how such messages are presented and the sort of care applied when talking publicly about unreleased content; be it games, movies, books or anything else. Twitter is an incredibly powerful broadcast medium, one I enjoy using and reading on a daily basis, but clearly caution has to be used in these sorts of circumstances. Especially when you’re directly communicating with almost 100,000 people.
But on a much more basic level, as a gamer who wants to enjoy every bit of Arkham City for myself, it just pisses me right the fuck off.
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