I’ve been rereading Convergenge Culture on the bus of late.1 I haven’t gotten very far yet, but it does start off with this compelling idea of people who are so dedicated to figuring out the ending of reality television that they travel the world and pool their resources in order to figure it all out.
Now, I grew up in fandom. None of this is particularly new to me. Fiction fandom does this, non-reality based fandom does this, just not to quite the degree reality shows do.2 No, the whole act of spoiling and the lengths people go to isn’t the interesting bit here.
The part that grabbed me was the part about production’s involvement in spoiling.
Production, of course, wants nothing more than to keep the secrets of the show a secret. In terms of reality television, who gets kicked off and who wins the prize are the draws that keep people coming back every week along with the drama. Survivor, which was the example in the book, had to be filmed well in advance, which gave people time to try and figure things out because everything was done by the time everything aired and made production even more at risk of people finding out their secrets.
The fun part is what probably wasn’t so much emphasized in the book but more what I was thinking about when I was reading it. How much fun would it be to be able to string fans along on a trail of clues to figure out what was going to happen? To infiltrate the community as one of their own and to leave behind clues that hint at something that will happen in the future, but remain vague enough to keep them guessing?
I’m not a fan of reality television, but it looks like playing the spoiling game with the fans would be a lot of fun. Not to say that only reality television has this fun. I dimly remember something on JK Rowling’s site way back when where you could find clues to gain access to a page of Harry Potter 7 well before it’s release. Heroes had clues about the future scattered throughout it. I can’t come up with a third example off the top of my head, but my point is that there are plenty of opportunities to do this outside of a reality television framework.
Granted, you can’t be bothered by spoilers if you’re going to actively search for them or, conversely, you can’t be worried that knowing what will happen will impact your audience negatively. For myself, I am not really bothered by spoilers because I’m more interested in how things happen as opposed to the actual events that occur. I rather like going out and hunting for the little clues that would hint at the future.
I wonder if my audience would play, though. I know a lot of people who feel that something is ruined if they know what the end is. And I would want people to try and figure out what the end was. I’d want them to get it wrong, but I’d want them to try.
Ah well. Only time will tell if I ever get to play.