Ever since I began covering the League of Legends World Championship this year, I have received complaints from readers asking (or demanding) that I stop spoiling the outcomes of games in my articles. After a lot of deliberation, I’ve decided that I can’t do that. You all deserve an explanation as to why.
Spoilers are shitty, I know. I believe that everyone has the right to experience fiction on their own terms—though that right is sometimes weighed against the news value of revealing some aspect of a story. The epic internet protests against Mass Effect 3’s ending were a good example of a necessary spoiler. Thankfully for all us lovers of story-driven single player games, that doesn’t always happen.
I like that you don’t see Kotaku plastering any headlines on its front page right now telling our millions of readers how the new Assassin’s Creed ends. This same degree of caution is also why I’ve managed to work at Kotaku and still not know how The Witcher III or Metal Gear Solid V end (though I probably won’t understand the latter’s ending once I get to it anyways). We still report and critique these games’ stories, but we do our best to make sure to couch revealing information under prominent spoiler warnings.
But eSports are not works of fiction. Events in League of Legends eSports (or in any game’s eSports scene) are real events happening to real people in real time. They’re competitive events, just like the World Series and the Super Bowl, whose scores and results are reported on without spoilers as they happen.
My duty as a journalist who has been assigned to cover the meaningful news that comes out of this month’s League Worlds finals is the same responsibility that any Kotaku reporter has when covering a major event in the gaming world: to provide you the news as quickly, cleanly, and accurately as possible. Worlds is no different than E3 in this regard. And if Square Enix announces they’re finally remaking Final Fantasy VII, to give an example, any reasons we might want to hold off on reporting that would be immediately outweighed by the newsworthiness of the story.
I understand that there are some League of Legends fans who want to maintain the purity of their Worlds experience. Their argument tends to be that they want to watch the matches themselves, when they have time, and they don’t want to find out who won or lost via a Kotaku headline or tweet before that.
Whenever I report something, I have to consider how that reporting will either negatively or positively affect people. And believe me, I do weigh the risk of upsetting a chunk of League fans whenever I write a story revealing the outcome of a fiercely competitive and closely-matched game at Worlds. But I have to weigh that spoiler-phobia against any number of other concerns that Kotaku’s large and diverse readership might have. And when I do that, I see a lot of compelling reasons to “spoil” a match-up. Some League fans might be at work and not be able to watch 4-8 hours of Riot livestreaming but still want to know the outcome of a match. Others might not want to watch every single game (there are a lot of them!) and prefer to skip straight to the ending instead. A whole other group of readers entirely doesn’t know anything about League of Legends besides what they read at Kotaku. These people still want to be able to understand why their friends or loved ones are freaking out about something called “ahq” getting “rekt” by another thing called “SKT.”
I might feel differently about spoiling major eSports events like Worlds if the rest of the online gaming community had adopted spoiler warnings the way fans have for things like Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, or the Batman games. But eSports are exactly the same as analog sports when it comes to spoilers.
There are diehard football fans who go to incredible lengths to try and shield themselves from learning who won the Super Bowl. The fact that they must go to incredible lengths to do so indicates that such a sporting event unfolds in real time, as do people’s reactions to it. A great piece from the public radio show On The Media shows how the immediacy and relevance of the Super Bowl forces the people who don’t want to learn its outcome to cut themselves off from more and more parts of media, social media, and ultimately society itself. The bigger the news, the faster it trickles its way down basically every person living in the United States. I can empathize with the kinds of superfans who don’t want to hear a word of it until they’ve taken in a full game in its all of its glory, but I can’t direct my eSports reporting towards them alone.
Developers at Riot Games live-tweet Worlds games. Fans begin posting memes and jokes about games the moment something crazy happens in a match. eSports and gaming outlets cover them at the same breathless pace as any breaking news story. Even the teams themselves will post their reactions on social media while the actual five-person team is playing a game at Worlds.
Shielding our readers from breaking news simply is not something that Kotaku can do as a gaming news outlet. The best I can do is encourage readers who are deeply invested in League eSports and don’t want Worlds to be spoiled for them to keep their distance from the internet until after they’ve managed to watch the day’s (or weekend’s) games. That, again, is what fans of other types of sports have to do.
Photo via Riot Games’ Flickr.