Why We're Going To Keep 'Spoiling' ESports Results

Why We're Going To Keep 'Spoiling' eSports Results

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. It's 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 anyway). 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 analogue 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 of an event like 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 as the news of the game breaks and trickles its way down basically every person living in the United States. I can empathise with those kinds of superfans, 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 have 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.


Comments

    How noble. Don't feel like anyone deserves an explanation for acting like an entitled child but kudos.

    Would it be possible to at least keep the spoilers out of the article titles? That way I could scroll down and choose whether or not I want to be spoiled by expanding the article. You'd still be able to report on the results all you like.

    Otherwise I'm forced to avoid Kotaku altogether until I've caught up on the matches.

      I think that is a more then fair request (keeping the pictures of the article and headline spoiler free).

      I am not sure why this is even an issue... Sure spoil away in the article itself and if people still complain they they obvious lack intelligence, hey I want to read that article about Team X vs Team C without spoilers thank you!... I mean come on. Just do what the rest of us have done since the beginning of time and VHS was a thing avoid all media evolving that match or articles until you watch it.

      PRO TIP... Here is a great extension for chrome, it automatically hides youtube video lengths so you don't get a spoiler, i.e say in counter strike the game might be 14 8 and the team losing starts to mount a comeback if you see only 4 minutes to go you know they are going to fail, this hides the total time so you never know how long the matches go for.

      https://www.reddit.com/r/smashbros/comments/3hd1t8/ever_watch_a_youtube_match_only_to_figure_out_who/

      Last edited 24/10/15 6:58 pm

    The counter point of course is that 99% of the time when someone complains about a spoiler on Kotaku it's because they put it front and center on the main page. Personally I find people psyche themselves out with spoilers, most of the time they're only significant because we insist all spoilers ruin everything, but there's plenty of room between 'team A won' with an animated gif of the game winning moment and 'Worlds is over, read this for the results' appearing on the main page.

    As people have said surely the issue is the headlines right? Nobody would click on the article about the results then bitch about spoilers, but if they're browsing kotaku at lunch at work...

    I read this article purely for the defence of that but you didn't raise the issue.

    Not that if affects me, but perhaps consider why people are asking before discounting it.

    Uh, why don't you just not put any spoilers in the head line and use a thumbnail that doesn't show the result? Then everyone is happy.

    Personally I don't watch LoL but on the DotA2 subreddit they still keep results out of the titles so you can still browse and check non competitive threads.

      Same in the lol subreddit. Pretty sure it's a 24 hour no spoiler policy for titles.

    Yannick, ultimately this boils down to a much simpler problem: page views driven by community engagement. If you put spoilers in the article title or lede, readers who want to avoid that have to disengage from the website altogether from the time the event happens to the time they watch the outcome.

    From a revenue perspective this is terrible, because not only are they not clicking your article, they're not clicking any article, perhaps for days in a row. On the other hand, if you run a policy of keeping spoilers out of the title and lede, people who don't want the result spoiled can simply skip that one article and continue to engage with the rest of the website.

    There's no journalistic integrity gained by having spoilers in the title and none lost by leaving them out. You don't have to choose between one group or the other. You can cater to both groups of fans by simply putting the details in the body and leaving them out of the title and lede.

    Last edited 24/10/15 10:09 pm

      You'd have to post that on the US's site's page if you ever want him to read it.
      Otherwise you're just shouting to the wind.

        Already done by email. Was posted here more so others could agree or disagree if they wanted.

          Consider me impressed!

            Was going to post his response but realised it was in an email and I don't necessarily have permission. He did say he appreciated the feedback but that the solution proposed didn't really fit with Kotaku's existing values. He also quoted a response he made on the original US article that's relevant:

            That is a big thing that we debated/discussed internally, and I’ve done my best to couch spoilers when possible. What makes those kinds of headlines tricky is that they play a totally different way to our readers who aren’t super intoLeague or its eSports.
            League eSports, like most MOBAs/eSports, can be very confusing to people on the outside looking in. A huge part of my job is just trying to translate things to a general audience. A headline/lede that deliberately skirts around saying what happened in, say, last weekend’s KT Rolster vs. KOO game wouldn’t be comprehensible to a large swath of our readers. To others, it would look like we’re deliberately withholding information in order to get people to read further down in an article, which is a practice that’s so shitty it’s earned its own epithet: clickbait.
            I noted in the article that my duty as a reporter is to “provide you the news as quickly, cleanly, and accurately as possible.” When it comes to eSports stories, that means I have to do my best to tell people a) what happened and b) why it matters as clearly and succinctly as possible. Unfortunately that also means we end up revealing too much information for certain people’s tastes. But my editors and I agree that the newsworthiness of our eSports stories outweighs that concern.
            I think this is one of those crappy situations where it’s legitimately impossible to make everyone happy. But I’m still doing my best!

            Last edited 25/10/15 3:28 pm

              Hah, I never thought about it but I guess he's right that the alternative would be clickbait.

              I guess it's damned if you do, damned if you don't.

    I don't mind spoilers in the articles, but you keep putting the spoilers in the article titles. Considering this is an Australian kotaku, you are very aware that most people haven't watched the games that have started at 1:30am on a Sunday night. For example "Europe steam rolled out of the competition" tells me exactly the results. Why not a title like Europe's fates decided , or Fnatic Vs Koo tigers the kotaku breakdown. We expect spoilers in the article but your insistance on spoiling the games before people can watch them in the article title is just downright rude and unprofessional.

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