Metaspoilers and how they can influence the player experience
Updated: Oct 17, 2018
Hello people, today I’m going to talk about some examples of metaspoilers and will analyze how they can be used to influence the player experience, but before we start talking about it, let's define our usual spoilers.
A spoiler is when someone reveals a previously unknown aspect of something. It can be something as big as revealing who dies in a movie or something silly like the villain of a Scooby Doo episode. In short, it can be anything that will spoil the experience for someone. Spoilers usually can ruin a player/viewer experience by breaking the element of surprise and diminishing the euphoria of a crucial moment. Some people don't really care about spoilers, but a great deal do and it is becoming a problem to major entertainment releases. With the release of the new Avengers movie, Disney has come as far as starting a campaing to ask people not to spoil the movie for others. Now that this is out of the way, let's talk about what a metaspoiler is.
Metaspoiler is a term I use to talk about spoilers that transcend the game/book/movie. Just like metagame means the use of out-of-game information or resources to affect one's in-game decisions and is usually related to the creation of new game strategies, a metaspoiler is the use of out-of-media-world information (information that the characters don’t have) that influence, consciously or not, the user experience. This information is usually given by the developers or in some cases by the media. I believe that the best way to understand this concept is through examples, so let's have a look at some of them.
In Dishonored, a game developed by Arkane Studios and released on 2012, the player controls Corvo, a supernatural assassin driven by revenge. The game offerts the player the option to kill every single enemy or none at all, and this decision heavily influences the outcome of the story. The game actually tells it to the player at the beginning of the tutorial mission and this pieces of information can define the entire gameplay.
While I was playing Dishonored, I got a lot of really cool weapons and powers, but I couldn't use most of them even for a single time during my gameplay, because I knew that I could only get the best ending if I didn't kill any enemies. While I still enjoy the game sometimes I got myself thinking that it could be cooler if I just killed every enemy in a room than played a full stealth game but I wanted that best ending so bad that every time someone noticed me I just restarted to the last checkpoint. This is a great example of how a piece of information that was told to me by the developers and was out of the game world (since Corvo couldn't know the future) totally changed my gameplay stile.
Avengers: Infinity Wars
Avengers: Infinity Wars it the last MCU blockbuster. In this movie the villain Thanos gets the Infinity Gauntlet and the six Infinity Gems, which makes him some kind of god and in the last moments of the movie he uses this power to destroy half of the life in the universe.
So the movie ends with some of the great Marvel heroes, such as Spider Man, Black Panther, Scarlet Witch and the entire cast of Guardians of the Galaxy dead. This could be one of the most tragic endings in the history of superheroes movies if it wasn’t for one detail: The sequel, Avengers: Infinity Wars part 2, was confirmed in 2014, four years before the release of the first part of the movie.
This lead to a lot of people watching the ending and thinking “oh ok, so in the next movie they will have to find a way to bring everyone back”. Of course there are still a lot of people that cried at the when all these characters died, but some of them were actually not aware that a sequel was confirmed, and when they were given that information, the impact of the ending was automatically diminished.
Hellblade: Senua Sacrifice
Hellblade uses metaspoilers in the most genius way I’ve seen until now. The game tells the player, right after their first combat, that if they die too much their progress will be lost and their game would be over, which lead people to believe that their save file would be erased. This created a great buzz and free marketing for the game (it was the main reason why I got interested in it). It also created a sense of paranoia and danger in the player’s mind that accompanied them in every combat of the game, thus making every battle much more intense. When said players finished the game, their sense of accomplishment was greater because not only they beat the game, they also managed to get through it with their save files intact.
However, there was a trick. That very information was false. You could die how how many times you wanted and nothing would happen, your save would remain there. Since Senua was schizophrenic and lived in fear of things that were not there, the developers wanted to the player to feel the same thing.
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I hope you can understand a little more about metaspoilers now and maybe even apply them in your game. Comment here if you have any doubts, if there’s a particular metaspoiler that you like or dislike too much or if you can think of another great way to use them!