Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Emotional Trailers

Video game announcement trailers from the past seemed to focus more on gameplay footage rather than the CG animations that will never ever be in-game. As the industry grows and expands I feel like the latter will be the direction that studios will take when they announce or market a game. In all honesty, nice looking CG trailers are really captivating and make me say, "Oh my gosh, I want that game now!” However, one thing I’ve never really thought about before was how trailers are so moving and it’s usually not the ones that show gameplay but the ones that have a story to tell, a message if you will. It just happens that a lot of them are CG.

Take for example the Dead Island trailer. If you haven’t seen the trailer I highly suggest that you watch it above this paragraph but beware: it’s graphic, powerful, and emotional (unless you don’t have a heart). I won’t spoil it but this short three minute trailer tells a small narrative of a family and in the middle of zombie outbreak. The trailer is very artistic in that the video repeatedly alternates from the ending to the beginning with the trailer eventually concluding at the middle of the event. From the beginning you already know what happens but the repeatedly changes of the future and past of the family as they struggle to deal with the outbreak is emotional. The CG animation only adds to the realism and engrosses the audience. Put in the very somber duet of a piano and a violin for a kicker and you have the making of something that might make you even tear up a little. If the director for this trailer wanted to punch you in the gut or have that slight pinch in your heart then I’d say mission accomplished. Geoff, an employee from Rooster Teeth, had a strong emotional reaction to the trailer to the point where he couldn’t even finish it. The video is also below and check it out. 

What does this say? Trailers aren’t really about the game anymore. Nowhere in the trailer for Dead Island is there a footage of gameplay. In fact, the game is nothing like the trailer. It’s just a simple trailer that shows off the setting of the game. Still this doesn’t mean it’s a bad trailer. In fact, I would say for a trailer it definitely does a good job. It’s emotional and captivating feel draws in the audience and creates intrigue for the game. CG trailers feel more like a snapshot or a mini narrative that a game has to tell. It wants to pack a lot of details, characters, and emotion as it can in a few short minutes. Dead Island delivers that feeling of dread, sorrow, helplessness, and hopelessness that few movie trailers even hope to accomplish.

Another trailer, though no somber, is Meet the Spy Trailer from Team Fortress 2. This trailer trailer probably is one of the more wordy trailers in the industry but that’s because it’s quirky. The trailer is comedic and takes its self serious in the context of the situation but still manages to be easy going. The characters although have no background explanation are easy to understand as their characteristics are shown the moment they enter the screen and the plot of the trailer is easily comprehensible. Though it tends to be gory and sometimes vulgar, the cartoonish animations almost akin to Pixar makes the dire situations not so serious. Add this in with a script that’s cleverly written with short jokes and you have the making of a trailer, or perhaps a short story, that packs a lot of punch. If you’re having a bad day, it’s hard not to feel better after watching. 

If there is any trailer that has emotion more emotion, personally, is the Director’s Cut of Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Ignoring the excellent CG animations for a moment, this trailer houses everything that an excellent trailer should have, whether it be a movie or a video game. From the get-go it delivers a strong message of how man can go too far through the falling of Icarus symbolism. The voice acting is gruff and adds personality as it speaks of a world that is gritty and bleak. The gold and black ambience that is resonated through the images as you watch adds to this tone and the choir singing in the background adds in that extra emphasis. Combine all of this and it delivers something powerful. Individually, it doesn’t deliver a strong emotion. However, when you watch the trailer and the short synopsis of the game is told, one that is personal, and the music constantly banging into your ears as it melds extremely well with the script involving action and drama, there’s a lot going for it. It invokes the emotion of the main character and you begin to sympathize with him as he struggles to find his path in the world. 

Now I think I’ve talked enough, and I’m sure that I was lacking a lot of detail for the most part because I didn’t want to spoil anything, but you cannot deny that there is something powerful here. Whether you want to believe it or not, trailers have become sort of art in a way that is very separate from video games. Even so, they are to pique the audience’s interest. The emotional messages that it’s trying to send is only one aspect. Still, if a trailer made me cry, I would want to check it out.


  1. I bought dead island solely on the trailer

    1. I haven't played it. I heard it was good.