On Spoilers in Reviews

Over the last few months I have been fortunate enough to start getting some constructive feedback on my blog, whether written or in person, which means people care enough about it to lend me their two cents. This is an amazing thing and it truly is moments like those that help me to keep on posting. So thank you to everyone who has done so!

Having said this, one of the more popular comments I get concerns a topic that I’m sure nearly everyone who has ever written regular reviews in history has dealt with: spoilers. So allow me, dear reader, to comment on my side of this topic.

First up, it’s definitely worth saying that some people are pre-review people, and some people are post-review people. The former tend to be more selective about which movies they pay money to see, so reviews are an important part of their decision making process. The latter kind tend to place a great deal of value on the ability to shape their own opinion on a film, independent of outside sources. Group B tends to be more sensitive about what constitutes a spoiler than Group A.

These are generalisations, but most people can identify with being one or the other, even if the attitude one takes into a movie screening actually differs from movie to movie and may involve mixing things up. For example, I usually like to read a handful of reviews before I go into a movie theatre, then a couple more afterwards, but sometimes, as was the case with my review of The World’s End, I go in almost completely blind because I just happen to have avoided any hype about the movie whatsoever (When this happens it’s usually by accident, but I digress). My goal, albeit as a non-professional reviewer, is to cater more to the needs of Group A while welcoming Group B’s often insightful input after they have seen the film.

Ultimately, I base my review style – at least as far as movies go – on the kinds of reviews one might consistently find on Rotten Tomatoes or Metacritic, sites that essentially brings together some of the most respected review sources on the interwebs. So basically, I try to keep in line with what you might call the general “internet style” of review. This kind of review almost never spoils anything that isn’t assumed to be “common knowledge” for any movie fan who keeps up with trailers, interviews, and announcements about said movie. Of course not everyone is a die-hard follower of every movie ever, so I try to limit what I allow myself to talk about solely to the contents of a film’s trailer. Exceptions to this rule come in the form of plot points that stand out by a long way in how amazingly or poorly they are executed.

What do I mean by this? As someone who writes reviews, I need to evaluate what I see from my own personal standpoint. If I didn’t, there would be little point to even writing reviews at all. This involves pointing out things that are good and things that are bad about the movie (in my opinion, of course). Often, I won’t have to bring up plot points at all, but when, for example, a scene blows my mind with how impactful it is, or a blatantly forced plot development comes about, I have to call the film out for it. I will almost never actually reveal what happens in said plot-critical moments, because that would be a disservice to everyone, but just saying “This one kinda bad thing is there” just isn’t specific enough to be of any sort of value to that aforementioned Group A.

So generally speaking, I write the kind of reviews I personally would be OK with reading, even before having seen a movie. I’m certainly not perfect; sometimes I happen to be so hyped up about something that I bend these rules. Feel free to chastise me for doing so. However, generally this is where I stand on movie reviews.

When it comes to reviewing videogames, I find that it’s a great deal easier to avoid things that people might consider to be spoiler-ish. In games, story is only one part of a much larger product, which contains other, equally important (if not more so) components. Discussing story may still yield spoilers in the eyes of some, but it’s easier to just say general things about videogame narratives and move on to the next point than it is in the case of movies, where plot is pretty much always the most important thing to talk about. I will say however that, with some exceptions (The Last of Us comes to mind as one) I will generally consider anything story-related that happens very early on to be fair game. To sign off on this point, I realise there are some people who care about “gameplay spoilers”, in that they dislike mentions of even Gym typing in Pokemon games, dungeon contents in Zelda games and level themes in any platformer ever. But I think it’s safe to assume that such people aren’t in the habit of reading reviews anyway for that very reason.

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IN SUMMATION, if you are the kind of person who doesn’t tend to look at reviews at all before experiencing the movie/game in question because you believe they always spoil something, mine aren’t going to change your mind on that subject. However, please consider reading my review afterwards anyway, and keep giving me feedback! Cheers.

NOTE: Just about all of these principles also apply to the things my colleagues and I say on the Mega Ultra Blast Cast, unless, of course, spoilers are marked in the episode description on SoundCloud.

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