E3 season means people get to experience the biggest video game hype train ride. For a solid week, nearly every day in early June is full of surprise announcements, updates, celebrity guests, and first peeks. To many video game fans, the thrill of those surprises is perhaps the best part of the show. As exciting as the stuff within those announcements can be, other gamers aren’t satisfied with waiting. These folks, the impatient ones, like to seek out leaks. When leaks happen, the world reacts almost just as quickly, especially on social media. But that first group, the one who loves the thrill and surprise? They get upset. To some gamers, leaking E3 announcements is akin to spoiling plot details in a movie.
For E3 2019, a ton of beans were spilled not just ahead of the show, but literal days before. Within 48 hours of the Xbox briefing, one of the most highly anticipated parts of the show due to all the mystery surrounding it, several game announcements were leaked. Leaks included several games from Bandai Namco, including a collaboration between Dark Souls developer FromSoftware and Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin. Ninja Theory’s new game, Bleeding Edge, was leaked as well. Ubisoft couldn’t get away unscathed either, as the new Watch Dogs Legion and Roller Champions also got out ahead of E3.
Now, the real question is, are the folks who compare video game leaks to spoilers correct? Do they have the right to get mad at people passing articles detailing leaks across their social media feeds? Personally, I would say that the comparison is a little far-fetched. While surprises and big reveals are certainly a lot of fun, there’s a huge difference between the details of a story being spoiled and a product announcement leaking early. This opinion of mine is mostly due to the major differences between art and marketing.
Marketing can take many forms. Marketing can be dressed up and look nice, be fun, and appeal to the most primal parts of your lizard brain. But marketing is an inherently manipulative practice. Marketing is designed to manipulate you into spending money on something, it’s a form of corporate maneuvering that has little value otherwise. Ultimately, the information that a game exists and is coming out does not affect the experience of actually playing the game. That’s because the game itself is the true experience. When a game leaks, all you’re losing out on is a brief sense of surprise, which in and of itself lacks substance. I yelled when Resident Evil VII was announced for example, but quickly moved on with my life afterwards. Meanwhile, playing through the game had a much more lasting impression on me.
Now, the very concept of spoilers is also a concept of discussion, but I’m going to give it the benefit of the doubt here. There are studies that have been conducted arguing spoiler actually enhance a reader’s ability to extract more meaning and understanding from a story. We’ve covered that already and I’ve written on this very site about spoiler culture. Instead, here, I’m taking spoiler fears at face value. Because despite disagreeing with it, I do understand why people try as hard as possible to avoid spoilers. Having that raw, emotional reaction to seeing events take place before your eyes in real time is understandably important to many in a given work’s audience. That’s because art, the actual work and not the marketing pushing you to buy it, is where the actual substance happens.
At the end of the day, E3 truly is a lot of fun. As much as video games are a huge marketing machine that allows companies to punt customers around almost as much as they want, there’s a reason so many are happy to drink that kool-aid. Video games are great, for so many reasons. And learning about new ones is such an exciting thing when it happens. But leaks don’t hold the same weight as narrative spoilers, in my mind. What do you think?