And if you don’t want to know the score, look away now

Here in the UK, the rights to televise football are a lucrative multi-million pound business. Not all the networks can afford the big matches and some are only able to broadcast the match either later in the day or just highlights. In those cases it would be fairly common to hear the news reporter say “…and if you don’t want to know the score, please look away now“. It was a great service for football fans who weren’t able to watch the match but may have recorded it or had planned to watch the highlights on Match Of The Day.

It’s not uncommon to hear of football fans avoid watching TV, listening to radio or reading the paper altogether during the day in the hopes that they can avoid finding out the final score and experience watching the match as though they were there. Many people work when their team is playing so miss out on seeing their team playing, but that shouldn’t mean they should miss out on the experience of watching the match, whether or not it’s live.

To clarify why I’ve just written two paragraphs on football, a rather eventful episode of Game of Thrones aired in the US the other day. With it being produced for HBO, it’s going to be broadcast first in the US and then syndicated around the world on networks that have paid for the broadcast rights. In the UK, Sky Atlantic is the channel that gets to broadcast it first and usually only a day after the US has seen it. This means there is a period of time where one half of the world has seen it and the other half hasn’t.

There’ve been a lot of angry complaitns from people I follow on Twitter and Facebook that other users have been posting tweets and messages which were basically spoilers, along the lines of “OMG I can’t believe BLANK happened to BLANK“, thus ruining their experience.

I’m a fan of the series but have not yet seen the episode and I’ve also not had it spoiled for me by taking certain steps to ensure I don’t (though after this post, I’ll not doubt get tweets telling me precisely what happens). Whilst I sympathise with those who have had the latest episode ruined because they read something they didn’t want to, unfortunately we have made social networking such a deeply integrated part of our life that it’s become our way of expressing initial reaction. Go and watch the latest blockbuster film and as soon as the cinema starts to empty out, see how many people take to Twitter or Facebook to let the whole world know exactly what they thought.

Not everyone is able to do this spoiler-free and sometimes their too over-enthusiastic to share the information which ends up becoming a spoiler. I doubt many people who posted spoiler information did so maliciously, rather they just got caught in the moment after seeing or hearing about something dramatic and got a little too carried away with their tweet in the hope that someone would engage them in dialogue to discuss what just happened.

What makes this especially unique to Game of Thrones is that, to many fans, whatever happened wasn’t new, or a plot twist or a surprise. Don’t forget, the series is based upon books that were written over ten years ago so to some, what happens in the episode happened years ago for them, something they’d waited to see ever since episode one.[^1]

I remember listening to an episode of the Rooster Teeth podcast last year (I forget which episode, unfortunately) and it talked about a guy who went to see Terminator 2: Judgement Day at the cinema when it was released. He’d purposefully avoided watching any trailers (which did ruin the surprise plot twist at the beginning of the film) and reading anything about it so he went in knowing absolutely nothing.

The result was as soon as the line “come with me if you want to live” was uttered, this guy jumped out of his seat in one of the greatest, yet most spoiled, plot twists in modern cinema. Can you imagine, having seen the first Terminator, going to see the sequel and not knowing about the twist? It’s similar to how it’s such a shame that anyone wanting to see the original Star Wars trilogy will more than likely already know about the twist at the end of The Empire Strikes Back.

Game of Thrones has been one of the most talked about shows of recent years, mostly through social networking since that is the primary method of communication for many people. If you want to avoid spoilers of something you’ll soon be watching, taking a day or two away from Twitter probably isn’t a bad idea.