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I make games. I also play them. I talk about both activities here.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

I Just Wanna Show Some Videos

So there's this promotional video going around - let's call it a trailer, for ease of use - of Gears of War. I must admit firstly that I have had only moderate interest in Gears of War prior to viewing this new trailer. Everything I've seen of the game has pushed me steadily further and further away from it. Its generic space-marines-versus-aliens premise is probably the worst offense (having never really liked Epic's big, blocky cro-magnon take on its characters only exacerbates this feeling), but the gameplay doesn't seem very promising to me either. And yet I had unquestionably committed to buying it - Gears of War has become bigger than a video game; it has become an event that demands, even deserves, my attention. So relax, Epic, in knowing that you already have my money (don't count on me forking out for the "special edition," though). Anyway, let me show you this trailer.

There is some debate over whether or not the trailer features real time or pre-rendered graphics - I honestly don't care. The song is called "Mad World," written and originally recorded by the New Wave band Tears for Fears, although the version contained in the trailer is performed by Gary Jules. The song was also featured in the movie Donnie Darko, which although I have yet to see, I am constantly recommended. This song, paired with some effective (if not spectacular) imagery, has turned me into a card-carrying Gears of War fan. I watch the trailer at least once daily, and on one occasion, I listened to the song on repeat for an entire day at work.

I'm not alone in my adoration for this trailer. I chose the above video from dozens of identical ones uploaded to YouTube. At work opinions vary from those similar to mine to outrage over what is seen as emotional co-opting on the part of Epic, capitalizing on Mad World's already effective use in Donnie Darko. While I wouldn't go as far as to call this view baseless (I know more than one person who enjoys the trailer specifically because it conjures up residual feelings from the movie) , I will at least say that my adoration of the trailer lends credibility to its effectiveness as a standalone piece.

The trailer works on me for a number of reasons. For one, I'm a sucker for the stoic, dutiful hero. Given the choice between Superman and Batman, I choose Superman every single time. In fantasy RPGs, particularly MMOs, I frequently opt for warrior types, those who protect weaker party members with their big shields and heavy armor. And the song. What can I say about it, other than that it's perfect in its cheerful moroseness.

I can say that I find it interesting that a video game trailer - consisting of an entirely non-interactive sequence (and probably one that doesn't exist anywhere in the actual game) - has brought me closer to a fever pitch, for a game whose concepts have heretofore left me tepid. Remember, I'm the contextual narrative guy, the storytelling through gameplay guy. But this trailer succeeds because it hints at a subtlety that before its release had been completely absent from Gears of War's hype machine. It is perfectly conceived marketing. And it's not the first of its kind.

That's a trailer from Silent Hill 4, a game that spawned some of my favorite video game trailers ever. It does exactly what trailers should - try to convey what it's like to experience the product they represent. I find that trailers like these are far more effective than trailers that simply show gameplay footage. Gameplay trailers fight an uphill battle because games tend to present themselves in a way best-suited to effectively communicating pertinent information as opposed to presenting information in the most glamorous way possible (although this is changing, for better or worse). And since when viewing a gameplay trailer you tend to have no idea how a game is actually played, this can lead to a disconnect. Attempts are being made to remedy this, but I'd say we're far from any sort of ideal.

That's a trailer for Red Steel, probably the Wii title with the largest hopes riding on it. While I don't have high expectations for this game in particular, I have to say that the Wii does allow for some expressive gameplay, perfect for demonstration through trailers. I imagine I won't mind Wii gameplay trailers nearly as much as gameplay trailers of old.

So that's pretty much it. No huge conclusions, points, or dogma to beat in. Just a really cool Gears of War trailer with a great song. Shouts out to Derek for inspiring me to flood a post with YouTube spam.

Thanks for reading.


  • At 2:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I think it's downright funny how much we share in common, this post features one of my all time favorite trailers. You worked on a little gem of a fighter I've come to love; Next Dimension. And your blog has the same name as the website I've been running for about 5 years now.

    Kudos sir, I'll be checking this out more often.

  • At 12:24 AM, Blogger whiskeypail said…

    i have a feeling youll be as dissappointed as i will be with gears of war. the trailer, although effective perhaps as a movie or even a cut scene, probably does not represent gameplay. the song is clearly the most dominant part of the entire video.
    ive been playing SoTC again lately and this reminded me just how well the world was put together. everything connects so well. its not like a gears of war that improves only with a new, esoteric soundtrack. its retarded awesome in the way it makes me feel (the camera, however, is just retarded).
    i almost want to say its a better game than ico in the way that instead of emotional ties you find joy in that david and goliath sense of accomplishment everytime a colossus goes down. ico never really felt that difficult(plus, those black spurts of blood are perfect).
    what ico lacked in a feeling of accomplishment SoTC lacks in emotional attachment. if you put them together id probably have a new favorite game. i doubt gears will come close in anything but excitement.

  • At 1:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    yea i would like to hear your take on the trailer now that you have played the game. the song now seems very out of place and poorly chosen in my eyes.

  • At 7:33 PM, Blogger omar kendall said…

    Man you got me there. I still maintain the trailer was effective, if for no other reason than it suckered guys like me into thinking Gears was going to be more of a game than it actually ended up being. Isn't that what advertising is all about?


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