Normally I use this space to mock movie trailers and the movies they're trailering. But not today! This time I'm going to praise a game trailer. Two game trailers, actually.
Trailer the first:
Trailer the second:
I remember seeing a trailer for Bioshock Infinite about a year ago. It was your standard game trailer, showcasing the game's art and design. I thought it looked amazing. And then, just this morning I had the good fortune to catch two more recent ads. The trailers perfectly capture the look and feel of a (pseudo)history documentary series from the late '70s or early '80s.
The first in the series was particularly resonant for me because I finished reading Devil in the White City a couple of days ago, a book that details the building of the World's Fair. Having read the book, I could easily contextualize the trailer's content, which made the whole thing seem that much more real. I understand that most viewers won't have this same experience, but that doesn't lessen the trailer's genius or its impact. The historical context of the World's Fair, the blending of game art with historical photographs, blur the lines between fact and fiction. The mockumentary format helps to further the mystery of Columbia, inviting viewers to join narrator Alistair Bloom on a journey of discovery.
The second trailer, I think, surpasses the first, which is saying a lot. Here the mystery deepens as we learn a bit more about Columbian culture and history. Legend speaks of a great bird, but we know precious little about it is and what it does. Again, the mockumenary format draws us in, this time with more recent discoveries relating to Columbia's society and fate.
Trading on nostalgia, the way these trailers do is a tricky move. The style will appeal to older gamers but it runs the risk of alienating younger players unfamiliar with this kind of filmmaking. The skill involved in the trailers' production, however, may overcome the generation gap. The storytelling in the trailers is first-rate, suggesting the game itself will weave an epic tale of mystery and intrigue.
If only movie trailers were as good at telling stories and selling their films.