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Spoiler Alert: Kotaku Boldly Reveals Plot Twist in Batman: Arkham City

Feature; Oct. 14, 2011; Channels: Video Games; By Tyrone M. Cato
Subtypes: Opinion
Tyrone M. Cato discusses how Kotaku's treatment of the death of a main Batman: Arkham City character has made him rethink going into video game journalism

Imagine with me for a moment that it’s May 1980. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back is about to be released, and you’ve been looking forward to seeing it since the previous film. While reading the newspaper that day, you see a story about the film. The headline reads “VADER IS LUKE’S FATHER.”

Your reaction would likely be similar to mine when I saw a story on Kotaku.com, a video gaming blog that frequently reports on news within the video game industry. The story was about a key plot point in Batman: Arkham City that involves the (possibly faked) death of a main character.

Spoiler Alert

I have no qualms with spoilers, as long as they are handled properly. Kotaku writer Kirk Hamilton was invited to sit down with a representative for Rocksteady (the developer of the game) and play through a section of the game that involved this plot point. His headline says who dies, and the story’s preview image has a picture of the character with large text saying that he/she will die.

I’m a huge Batman fan, and I thoroughly enjoyed the previous video game, Batman: Arkham Asylum. It’s been two years since that was released, and I’ve looked forward to the sequel since then. Even though I don’t want the game’s story to be spoiled for me, I still occasionally choose to read articles about the game if they don’t involve information I don’t want to know at the moment. When I scrolled past Hamilton’s story, I and thousands of others were not given a choice.

To say that I shouldn’t have been reading any news sites or blogs about video games (or that I should just stay off the Internet entirely) until the game gets released makes some sense. Again, it’s not that the spoilers were posted that’s the problem. It was that no consideration was given to readers who wanted to experience the game fresh, without knowing anything huge that was coming up.

Brian Crecente, the editor-in-chief at Kotaku, explained in the comments section (which has hundreds of responses) that the editorial board as a whole came to the agreement that the plot point should be revealed in their article. He based this on the fact that Rocksteady revealed this important story element to journalists. Crecente and the rest of Kotaku interpreted this as an “OK” to treat the information as fair game and not as a possible spoiler for fans. Crecente himself wrote an article revealing the entire plot for a still unreleased game earlier this year.

The only reason I can think of that would make Kotaku do this is to pull in more page views. That’s not to say the people at Kotaku are heartless, sociopathic jerks, but what other reason would they have not to add a simple spoiler warning as they have in the past? Rocksteady’s official website has a spoiler warning on its press release. Maybe that means they think it’s a spoiler too, eh, Crecente?

Kotaku
Boo, boo!

I’m considering getting into video games journalism because of how rapidly the industry is growing, and the advancements being made in game storytelling fascinate me enough that I want to explore the topic. Knowing that professionals (even though it could be argued they are merely a blog and not a true news site) would do something like this is discouraging. What hope do I have to make it in the field of games journalism if I have to succeed people who betrayed the trust of their readers?

When it comes to stories in any medium, suspense and surprise are sometimes vital to enjoy the tale. If it becomes so important to gain more page views that you’re willing to hurt your readership, please spare Star Wars/Batman/whatever fans the pain and find a different field in which to work.

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