Monday, February 7, 2022

Inscryption and spoilers

Spoiler culture is making it difficult for me to understand if I would like things before I buy them. When we conceal important information about plot, we also abandon discussing how well the plot is executed for fear of ruining the concealment.

When we say that we are hesitant to discuss Umurangi Generation's plot, we are therefore hesitant to discuss whether the metaphorical standin of kaiju for climate change is effectively executed: are the kaiju, in fact, a metaphor for climate change? Is that metaphor good or appropriate or inappropriate? Are there deeper cultural themes that can be mined? I did not see this hesitation when discussing Don't Look Up - it was merely a fact. "The meteor is going to fall and it is a metaphor for climate change". Many pieces of criticism then focused on how well or not well that metaphor was executed, or if even focusing on the metaphor was missing the point. "The kaiju will come and it is a metaphor for climate change" was not something that resonated with me. It seemed to resonate with others but I found it difficult to tease that opinion out because so many people were so coy about the entire premise! 

Inscryption is a cardgame pretending to be a roguelike deckbuilder walking you through a found footage horror game. You play through multiple game themes as the characters inside the game change the style of game to suit their needs, but Inscryption fundamentally remains a card game with escape room elements. I bought it because every description of Inscryption was "You <spoiler> until the <spoiler> but boy once you get past act 1 <spoiler>!!! PS don't read spoilers until you have played the game!!! save yourself for the first time ;)"

A double bind. If I read the spoilers and play the game because I am complaining about spoiler culture and the first response will be "then go seek out spoilers", I have missed out on the experience for the first time by reading spoilers. The experience has been diminished, as I was warned, and the fact the experience didn't sit right with me is because I spoiled myself. But because I didn't read spoilers, I ended up finding out myself that the spoilers were essentially hiding that this was a card game and not much else. I'm like 8 hours in and on act....3? and it's still a card game. I actually don't like card games that much! Inscryption is fine, and doing some mildly interesting things, but I would have made some different purchasing decisions if people weren't working so hard to conceal "At the end of act 1, it becomes a slightly different card game". 

Spoilers are fine for spectacle. You shouldn't go out of your way to ruin a magician's tricks. What is a magician's trick vs what is a serious work of artistry deserving of deep thought and criticism is a matter of opinion. I'm not going to say that the sudden last-act appearance of the supernatural isn't a cool thing to be surprised by. The sudden last-act appearance of the supernatural can also be a cheap deus ex machina, and feel unearned. A work that puts effort into weaving threads together for a payoff beyond a single flourish is also a beautiful thing to contemplate! Things which attempt those heights are deserving of contemplation and open, honest discussion! Stomping that discussion out because someone will have their first experience of that appearance ruined makes me wince. I mean, don't shout it in their face if they're waiting in line. Be respectful, definitely! But on the internet, queues of people waiting to play something aren't so easily delineated. An abundance of caution means I'm finding it harder to find any discussion of the actual content of plot and meaning, because they are shielded behind layers and layers of "We don't even want to put this behind spoiler tags because you might accidentally look and ruin the experience".