Last week, a minute-long teaser brought the Final Fantasy VII remake roaring back into view for the first time since it was announced in 2015. The footage looked spectacular, a dazzling new way to play one of the most familiar and beloved games of the last 25 years. But is it safe to spoil?
It’s a question that’s cropped up on various online forums in some form or another, and it’s an understandable one. Final Fantasy VII is the game with That Moment. It’s not just a significant, unforgettable development in the game’s plot, but a scene that has proven to be a watershed for the medium. A generation of people who play video games consider it a foundational moment in their relationship with games, the video game version of the ending of The Empire Strikes Back. If that experience can be preserved for a new generation, that would be tremendous.
On the other hand, the game is 22 years old, and for most of those years, it’s been readily available. If there is a reasonable statute of limitations on spoilers, we reached it some time ago, and should be able to freely discuss it. That’s just what happens with popular culture. It is absorbed into the ongoing, never-ending conversation among all of us, a touchpoint we can refer back to and reasonably expect other people with similar backgrounds to know about. If they don’t, that’s totally fine—it’s just that this far from the game’s release, avoiding spoilers is entirely up to them.
Spoilers are a particularly sensitive issue on the internet, an asynchronous, non-linear environment where people discover things old and new all the time, at their own pace. It’s also a medium that vastly prefers novelty, and what’s novel for one person may be stale for the next.
My experience with Final Fantasy VII was a “spoiled” one. I didn’t have a PlayStation when I finally got into role-playing games in the very early aughts, which was tragic, because I had seen the commercials and the art and was completely entranced. I wanted to know everything about that game, I wanted to conjure in my mind an image of what it was like, even if I couldn’t play it for myself. We didn’t have YouTube or Let’s Plays then, so I did the next best thing: I read the official strategy guide cover to cover, more than once. So yeah, I was spoiled rotten.
Would I have loved to have been surprised by the game’s big death? Absolutely. It would crystallize that day in my memory forever. I’d remember the room I was in, what I was doing, how it felt. But I didn’t—by choice—and I’m not poorer for it. For me, it’s one powerful beat among many, and when I finally played the game, I had so many other things to obsess over. Sephiroth’s descent into madness. Cloud learning about his past. Literally everything about Jenova. There’s so much to this game, and that’s just on a plot level. Engage with its themes, and there are rich veins of material contemplating the nature of identity, and an incredibly melancholic throughline about loss, environmental disaster and corporate greed.
There’s also plenty the original game could have done better, and worth revisiting if a remake is inbound. We should talk about these things freely, so we can understand how far we’ve come as a culture, and how far we need to go.
Spoilerphobia can get in the way of meaningful discussion, and cripples pop culture as a facilitator of real human connection. Any decent person isn’t going to go out of their way to spoil things for you—that pure first experience is a wonderful thing, and most are accommodating if they’re aware you don’t want to be spoiled about a thing ahead of time. Unfortunately, we’re not always in control of what gets spoiled for us, and the further out we are from the work in question, the more likely it becomes. It’s reassuring then, to remember that learning what happens next is only the beginning of a story’s pleasures. The best part comes after you get to live with it a little, and we’re going to live with Final Fantasy VII for a long time.