Angry Robot

On Game Trailers

Two related items came to my attention today: this article about the growing importance of game trailers, and Narcogen’s shot-by-shot analysis of the E3 Halo 3 trailer – the latter clearly an example of the ‘forensic approach’ detailed in the former.

It is worth noting that the two examples the article gives of trailers backfiring were Halo 2’s 2004 E3 trailer, and Killzone’s 2005 trailer. The article implies that gamers’ expectations can be raised too high, and thus trailers can backfire. Sure, that can happen. But the reason for the backfire is clear, in both cases: the trailers were deceptive. The Halo trailer contained gameplay footage of levels that didn’t appear in the game. The Killzone trailer was pre-rendered, so it had no relation whatsoever to what the game itself would look like. Small deceptions abound in film trailers (different music, sound effects, severe dialogue editing), but if you made a trailer that different from the actual film, you’d likely run afoul of fraudulent advertising laws.

I can’t see how the forensic approach to video is anything but an exciting development. Perhaps it’s only coming now because the technologies required – the pause button and the internet – are relatively recent phenomena. (I think of those poor structuralist film students in the 70s and before, having to watch repeated showings of the same film before they could perpetrate a shot-by-shot analysis). Anyway, it seems of a kind with ARGs, and signifies that techniques previously only practised in ivory towers can now be done by anyone, for entertainment even. The motivation is clear, too; it’s not that “these internet losers have too much time on their hands” but rather that – as the Traxus reference indicates – the material is layered with meaning in such a way that rewards close viewing. Sure, it’s hyped-up graphics porn for the mainstream, but it’s rich with detail for the story nerds, too.