Spoiler-free Reviews?

I enjoy writing reviews a lot, recommending games to people that may potentially get these games and have a fun time. I’d like to think that due to the countless new releases out there, reviews become more and more important. After all, reviews help people find new games when the sheer volume of new releases becomes overwhelming and hard to navigate. Sadly, though, not every reviewer avoids spoiling events in games and while that’s a bummer, I find it still valid in a way because it’s incredibly hard to recommend a game without potentially spoiling events of it. Hence, I try my best to avoid spoilers but ultimately, it’s nigh impossible. Today, I wanted to talk about the struggles of avoiding spoilers and why I try my best anyway, as well as about why exactly it technically is nigh impossible to avoid spoiling something.

For starters, how do I avoid them when I write my reviews on here. Generally, I try to take screenshots as I play games and, usually, I only really add screenshots to my reviews that are from the first hour of gameplay or the earliest chapter depending on the length. That way, I don’t take away too much from the experience of seeing something for the first time. Also, I try to make it relevant to one of the paragraphs below or above it, showcasing certain mechanics or elements. This doesn’t work every time, though, as some games don’t have a special UI or a separate screen of sorts that is fitting when I talk about mechanics. In my review on ABZÛ, I ended up just utilizing screenshots from a press kit that showcase the game well. Similarly, my review on Ape Out also just showed different levels, I guess. It’s hard in those cases to find something fitting for the paragraph, which is why I try to showcase the beauty of the game in the screenshots when I find that my review isn’t descriptive enough.

And descriptions are obviously important but I don’t want to overexplain something that you’ll experience yourself if you play the game. I used to do that all the time but eventually moved away. Explaining the control scheme, for example, is unnecessary. When it comes to visuals and the audio, the way I describe things doesn’t often quite do the games justice, which is why screenshots are a big help.

The reason why I go into screenshots and descriptions for this post, though, is that these in themselves are already spoilers. Trailers are spoilers. Storefronts are spoilers. Reviews are in themselves basically a quick look into games that you probably haven’t played yet, meaning that they also are spoilers. Everything is a spoiler if you haven’t played it yourself yet and hence it’s nigh impossible to write a review without spoiling something – be it the premise, mechanics, or even the plot. It was incredibly hard to keep my Outer Wilds review spoiler-free as that game heavily relies on the first impression, exploration, and going into the experience without knowing much about it. Hence, my review mentions that (spoiler alert) there is time travel but while that in itself was a big reveal to me it isn’t why I got into the game. You’re in a time loop and have to figure out why. You also explore planets, learn about an ancient civilisation, and try to find a way to potentially break out of the loop. Outer Wilds is all about that sense of exploration and mystery. The “time travel” and the “time limit” as well as the loops are less of an element that you can really spoil and it’s more of a mechanic that helps you experience the game. I believe it’s okay to say that there is time travel but if you talk about what the Nomai actually did that caused this whole thing, that’s not okay in my opinion. Similarly, talking about solutions to puzzles would be something I wouldn’t write down… and while I describe a mechanic on this one planet, for instance, I don’t explain the exact details of it.

Meanwhile, with shows, it’s incredibly hard to tell people why they are so good without spoiling some parts of it. I love Ascendance of Bookworm way too much and am incredibly excited about the third season airing this season. I’d love to publish a review on the show in general, talking about why it’s so great but ultimately, the draft stays a draft because I’m not quite sure how to talk about it without taking away from the experience. After finishing my draft, I checked if Geoff from Mother’s Basement had a video on the show as I love his style and videos and as I wasn’t sure actually… and yeah, he did make a video on the show and did a great job at talking about it without taking away too much – and that’s a skill that I’d like to have. How do you talk about a story or the plot of a show/game without taking away too much? How do you tell people what makes something interesting without mentioning what makes it so interesting? For games, it’s sometimes rather easy to do – like in my review on In Other Waters where the game’s whole premise of being a navigation AI already makes it so unique and fun to play around that I didn’t really have to think too much about how to explain why that’s great. Other times it gets a lot harder to explain it without revealing at least a little bit of information, like in my review on A Short Hike.

Still, I try my best at getting better at that and I think that I’ve done a good job a lot of the time. I believe that I shouldn’t have to put “spoiler-free” into the description or title of my reviews because it shouldn’t be necessary. I also do believe that my reviews have as few spoilers as possible most of the time. I avoid spoiler story stuff and I tend to just go over the premise at first before heading into descriptions of the gameplay and how I feel about it. It’s a struggle for sure but in the end, it is absolutely worth it to try my best at it as I believe that I’m getting better at writing reviews… and I do like to think that someone may enjoy a game that I recommended to them. And that enjoyment may be bigger because I didn’t spoiler the game… which should in theory be a given but in reality, it absolutely isn’t.

Anyway, I just wanted to touch on this briefly as some of my review drafts here are taking a bit longer than I thought because of spoilers and because of the editing. Do you mind spoilers in reviews? Do you think that the risk of potentially getting spoiled is worth it? Are there any things in this post that you’d disagree with? Let me know!

This post was first published on Indiecator by Dan Indiecator aka MagiWasTaken. If you like what you see here and want to see more, you can check me out on Twitch and YouTube as well.

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