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October 26, 2017

On Danganronpa V3 and Spoiler Culture


All right, Danganronpa.  I’m starting to get a little pissed off here.

Don’t get me wrong, though.  I’m not mad at Danganronpa V3.  Even though I’m way early into the game -- inasmuch as one can be early after putting in about 10 hours yet only making it a few paces past the first class trial -- I’m seriously digging it.  I think it’s great.  I’m ready for more, both on its own merits and as a continuation of a franchise I’ve been following for years.  The sooner I can make it to the end credits, the better.  Why’s that, you ask?  What is it that’s got me so hyped up?  Well, I’d tell you, but I can’t.  Spoilers.

And that’s where my frustration lies.  I’m so tired of playing with kid gloves because of spoilers.

But here I am regardless.  See, the thing about Danganronpa is that as good as it is, it’s a minefield of spoilers.  That’s a given when you’re dealing with a franchise built around progressively murdering cast members and whittling down the number to a scant few characters.  On top of that, you have to deal with an overarching story, universe, and mythos where it still feels like there are a ton of missing gaps to be filled in due time.  V3 takes it up to a whole new level, though; talking about what happens in Chapter 1 (i.e. to the end of the first class trial, i.e. the gathering of top-tier students to debate which teen among them killed a fellow pupil) means revealing details that utterly turn the game on its head.  Not to mention story developments, burgeoning character arcs, and the emotional impact.  And boy oh boy, is there an emotional impact.

I wish I could tell you about it, buuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuut spoilers.  Sorry, my hands are tied.

Okay, I get it.  People put up spoiler warnings to keep people from learning vital story details before they’re ready -- before they can experience them raw in the proper context.  Even in the best case scenario (as an example), there’s a difference between watching a commentary-filled LP of a game and playing it for yourself.  There’s an ideal, if sometimes impractical, way to get the most out of a game, or TV show, or movie, or whatever.  But these days, it feels like the spoiler barricades are getting out of control, and there’s no easy way to get around them.

Take Danganronpa as an example.  Again, I would love to go on and on about my reactions to the first trial of V3, but doing so might make some people close the page in an instant for fear of learning some forbidden truth.  Regrettable, but understandable.  But with Danganronpa, it’s getting more and more excessive.  I’m so afraid of stumbling into spoilers that I’ve had to put a hard ban on anything related to the game.  To wit: I can’t even listen to one of V3’s coolest tracks yet because doing so triggers YouTube into dropping spoilers into my “Recommended for You” queue.

I can’t look for any DR images to fill up this post (which is why I’m filling it with other bears instead).  I can’t pop over to the wiki, because I’ve done so before for other posts and other subjects and immediately been spoiled.  I can’t run a Google search because that’s a surefire way to learn some unwanted factoid (pro tip, Attack on Titan fans who’ve only seen Season 1: DON’T EVER run a search for the Colossal Titan).  I want to look up the voice actors for the game because there was one in particular who sounded startlingly familiar; I did manage to confirm it, but only by going through the back road via hunches and misspelled names as I perused an unrelated TV Tropes page.  I would’ve glanced at IMDB or Behind the Voice Actors, but I’m worried they’d list the whole cast and thus reveal what I didn’t want revealed.

I have a pretty lax stance on spoilers (which is clear if you’ve spent any amount of time reading my stuff).  I’ll go over content, no matter how sacred, because you can’t have a proper discussion without being fully informed.  On a personal level, though?  There have been plenty of times where I’ve read stuff online ahead of time to know who’s who and what’s what; thanks to a loaned player’s guide, I knew Aerith’s death was coming before she even left the party.  The only time I’ll refrain is when I’m extremely invested in a story/franchise, particularly if I’m already deep in the thick of it.  I’m gonna find out what the fuck’s going on in Kingdom Hearts someday, but until then, nobody tell me what the deal with Xehanort is.

But these days?  It seems like you can’t even learn -- let alone spread -- basic information about a story without having everything dumped on you in a substandard format.  I could’ve used this post to go on about DRV3, but I can’t because there’s a wall as thick as an elephant in the way.  I want to know what makes Nier: Automata truly special, but it seems like a lot of that is gated behind spoilers.  For whatever reason, I was convinced that I’d have to sidestep incoming details about Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite and its story mode -- and now that that’s passed, now I have to worry about tumbling into some massive reveal in Splatoon 2’s story.

Okay, sure, none of those games’ spoiler barriers are one-to-one or even that severe in some cases.  It’s understandable sometimes when you’re dealing with late- or end-game stuff.  But that doesn’t make the barriers any less infuriating, especially when they tower high over anything up to entry-level content across any given medium.  I want to read a review of Thor: Ragnarok, but I’m immediately locked out because of spoiler warnings.  I want to learn a bit more about Stranger Things because I haven’t taken the plunge yet, but now I’m scared to even give it a Google search for fear of learning some sacred knowledge.  Game of Thrones?  No hope, no future.  And then there’s stuff like that movie mother!, where it seems like all the stuff that’s good can’t be talked about -- so you basically have to take the dive or get locked out.  “Nah man, it’s totally great!  Why?  I can’t tell you, but trust me on this one!”

I realize that I’m being really petty with this post, and using it more to gripe than to offer a call to action or a viable solution.  (Then again, I’d bet that describes every other post I write.)  But the real issue I’m having isn’t just that I’m being denied knowledge about a story.  It’s that talking about this stuff in a free and open environment -- not just isolated nooks throughout the internet -- is being made harder and harder.  How are we supposed to take away the best parts of stories -- to learn from them, and share vital, eye-opening information with general audiences who otherwise wouldn’t give it a second look -- if we’ve got our hands tied?  Like, the main reason I tried to hurry through the first class trial was because a USGamer article’s subheader pretty much put up the ACCESS DENIED sign vis a vis the spoilers.

But there’s more to it than that.  I once told my brother that if you’re writing a story just to have a plot twist (or otherwise building/gearing everything towards that twist), then you’re probably not going to tell a good story.  There’s obviously some wriggle room there, but here’s the real point: when you make a strong lean toward spoilers or secrets or mysteries and entice people with the prospect of some golden truth that can only be seen with your story, you’re setting yourself up for a fall.  People, fans or otherwise, can come up with far more interesting ideas (as a single person or a collective group) than a pack of writers ever could.

Remember that whole mystery box angle from J.J. Abrams?  How many people bought into what he and his crew were selling in terms of his questions, only to be disappointed by the actual answers?  While I’m no expert on his works, I can say I know the sting.  The Force Awakens seemed to imply (if not justify) some level of secrecy that would change the Star Wars canon forever -- and while I still think it’s a fine movie, there were parts when those big reveals -- the spoiler-worthy stuff that was delivered in a way that would leave audiences floored -- pretty much made me go “Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…wait, that’s it?”  Like, okay, sure, have your spoilers.  Let them be a natural product of your story, put up by fans who think that certain plot points need to be kept hidden.  But don’t use spoilers as a selling point.  You’re totally gonna mess it up.


I’m getting off-track here.  Like I said, I don’t have a solution to this problem.  It’s not really a problem that can be solved -- not by straightforward means, anyway.  The only answer I can give is that if you don’t want to deal with spoiler culture, you have to blow through as much content as you can as quickly as you can -- all so you can be in the know, and converse with others in the know.  On the plus side, that means you’ll expose yourself to all of the wonderful art and stories out there, and enrich yourself as a result.  On the minus side, that’s a hell of a time (and money) investment we’re talking about.  There are only so many hours in the day, as you’ll recall.

I hope, that at the very least, people aren’t missing out on the incredible stuff out there because of spoilers or general obfuscation.  And who knows?  Maybe in a way, spoilers and spoiler culture are more helpful than I give them credit for.  Since we humans are naturally curious creatures, it’s inevitable that our hunger for knowledge makes us that much more excited about learning what stories have in store for us.  How much has my cloak-and-dagger treatment of DRV3 enticed others into giving the game a look?  Probably not at all, considering my fear that I’m writing for a bunch of phantoms.  But I’d like to think I’ve made an impact.  So we’ll see how it goes.

The same, of course, applies to me and DRV3.  I’m…reluctant to talk about what happens at its outset, for obvious reasons.  But I will eventually.  Probably soon.  In the meantime?  Consider this a recommendation from me to you: whether you take the safe route and watch a full LP, or go all in and grab a copy for yourself, get this game whenever and however you can.  I’m not that far in so the quality could go belly-up, but I would legitimately be satisfied if my copy refused to load ever again.  That’s the level we’re on here.

Also, as a friendly reminder: this is another golden opportunity to go after your waifu or husband of choice.  I’ve already got one in the crosshairs; I’m just hoping she doesn’t bite it hard anytime soon.

And that’ll do it for now.  See you next time.

Also Snape kills Dumbledore.

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