Discussions about video games are routinely constrained by “spoilers.” People go to great lengths to tiptoe around major (usually plot-related) components of games for fear they will negatively impact those yet to play them. A couple weeks ago, a study conducted by Jonathan Leavitt and Nicholas Christenfeld of UC San Diego was published that suggested this focus on avoiding spoilers may be unnecessary and “giving away surprises makes readers like stories better” (“Story Spoilers Don’t Spoil Stories”, Psychological Science, 12 August 2011, p. 2).
In the spirit of the research, I guess I should say this up front: while the study is entertaining and provocative, I think its contention that “Story Spoilers Don’t Spoil Stories” is premature. If anything, the study illustrates the difficulties of trying to empirically measure enjoyment and the dangers of imprecise definitions of pleasure. Video games, perhaps more so than any other medium, are defined by the exploration, discovery, and the learning process. Because of this, spoilers often detract from what makes video games special.