I was playing Final Fantasy X the other day, finally having forced my way past the Seymour Natus boss battle and making it to Macalania Woods. The scene that came next is one of the most famous parts of FFX. A screenshot of its FMV has been used on promotional materials for the game ever since it came out; a pretty rendering of Yuna and Tidus half submerged in a body of water, embracing each other as if about to kiss. I was excited. I never got to this point when I last played the game, 15 years ago. And I was very immersed in the game. The excitement of having toppled a boss I held such a grudge against had me filled with adrenaline, and the prospect of finally getting to see the culmination of Yuna and Tidus’s romance was tantalizing. I had given up all hope of making it to this point 15 years before when I played the original PS2 release.
So why, given all of that information, did the scene begin with my PS4 loudly announcing that “gameplay recording has been paused because you entered a blocked scene.”
I have long had an issue with the idea of “spoiler panic.” I understand the idea that one would like to keep a narrative unspoiled; that they wander into a story and be surprised by every little twist and turn of the plot. I don’t begrudge that idea or the preventative measures that come along with it. But for the most part I’d more expect that kind of social censorship to appear in casual conversation. You could be discussing with a friend a movie you have both seen and another friend approaches, unspoiled. He joins the conversation but he asks that you censor what you say so he can go unspoiled. A little annoying, yes. But I can keep my mouth shut for 5 minutes for a friend.
Yet at the same time I don’t feel like spoilers are that big a deal. They have personally never bothered me. In fact, I find plots so formulaic sometimes that some spoilers don’t even surprise me. It’s easy to follow logical thought patterns and come to the same conclusion the writers of the movie or TV show you are watching came to. So when I come across a story that actually does surprise me, rather than preserve the euphoria of that moment in the plot I would rather watch the movie with that foreknowledge and better appreciate the steps and plot threads that lead to that moment. After all, that’s what I would be doing on a second viewing anyway. And if this story is years old, perhaps a Hitchcock movie from decades ago, can you really expect to not know the details of the plot beforehand? The Sixth Sense had a plot twist so unexpected and well thought out it has entered the cultural lexicon of unforgettable film moments while simultaneously managing to make M. Night Shyamalan’s entire reputation (and to an extent undermined his later efforts, but that’s another argument for another day).
And I understand why someone would want to go into a video game unspoiled. In addition to the intricacies of the plot that we as a viewer can appreciate, video games entail an interactive aspect as well. You can become immersed in a plot in such a different way that you can with movies, a more intimate and personal way. It is with your influence that the plot can morph and change. So I can understand why gamers might be more sensitive about spoilers than some. My way of thinking isn’t for everyone. And even I’ll admit there is every so often a rare game that I do appreciate getting through unspoiled.
The problem here is that Sony decided to implement an actual part of the software that actively prevents people from recording “spoilers.” It interrupts gameplay and breaks the immersion that game developers and players fought so hard to maintain and players tried so hard to delve into. Add to that, it’s specifically designed to target 1 group of people: Streamers and those who receive review copies pre-release. But what baffles me is that if game developers really wanted people to keep spoilers a secret, why can’t they just trust the viewing public to keep those secrets. And if these pre-release players don’t keep those secrets, why can’t the developers trust the viewing public to be smart or cautious enough to avoid those spoilers. Even with all that, there are still people like me who will sometimes actively seek out spoilers, sometimes with the intent to see whether or not to spend money on the game myself; to see if it is worth my time and money. In my opinion the functionality to block recording of certain aspects of the game from the viewing public actively undermines enjoyment of the game. At worst, every time I see that “gameplay recording has been paused” notification appear I feel like I am being talked down to.
All of the above is meant to be my honest opinions about spoilers and the culture of the spoiler alert, so that argument isn’t even getting into the fact that the particular notification that sparked my intention to write this article came from a scene that has been well outside of the culturally accepted spoiler embargo for 15 years. What’s more, it isn’t even that much of a spoiler. The plot of FFX has been leading to this point. Yuna and Tidus have been courting romance from the moment Yuna appeared before Tidus in Besaid Temple. The scene in question occurs just after Tidus and the other save Yuna from being forced into a marriage to Seymour, a prospect that Tidus has been vocally opposed to since he first heard of Seymour’s proposal. For all of those reasons its patently ridiculous that my PS4 would treat me so childishly as to stop me from possibly telling the internet. Cause it can’t be just because the game has been upscaled to HD and the devs wanted to keep people surprised about the prettiness of the scene. If anything that is something that should, like it was in FFX’s original release, used in promotional material to help sell the game!
[UPDATE: Since originally posting this article, you guys have made clear to me that the reason for the gameplay recording issue is because of the music that plays during the scene in question. I didn’t understand that, but I can’t say I’m surprised. So while FFX may not be the best centerpiece for my argument of spoiler culture, I still feel like it’s worth discussing so my point stands.]
And as a extra note: I don’t even record gameplay, I don’t stream, & I don’t maintain a YouTube channel with Let’s Plays. So why should the game spend the time with reminding me that I can’t do any of these things at certain times when I’m just playing the game like a normal person. Its completely unnecessary and undeniably annoying.
Am I crazy? I understand that not everyone feels the same about spoilers as I do, but am I nuts to think we as gamers are being treated like the ones in the wrong about spoilers appearing on the internet with this stupid “Gameplay recording paused” function? Please tell me what you guys think.