Welcome to the Electron Dance Advent calendar. Each day will bring another post from the archives.


Have you read A New Art Form that was posted on 19 Feb 2011?

I’m not sure I convinced anyone with this one particularly with the hyperbolic title. You’d probably assume I was going to talk about how games were a new art form. WRONG-O. I was talking about game trailers and it was that infamous Dead Island trailer that drove me to it. Yes, the Dead Island trailer that had nothing at all to do with the game.

I still look for interesting trailers that do different things. The Stanley Parable ones were fabulous, the recent Botolo launch trailer is too cool for skool and, while not offering new ideas, the execution of the Oxenfree trailer is sublime.

In contrast, I found the impressive trailers of No Man’s Sky uncomfortable because there was a gaping black hole in them: what could this massive universe game possibly be about? Could it really do everything implied? All promise, all self-fulfilling disappointment. That’s why I had originally decided not to buy the game on release… a decision I reneged on (through weird logic: as I assumed it was crap, it was likely I would enjoy it).

Go read it! (Although the Singularity ARG videos seem to have disappeared.)

From the comments:

  • BeamSplashX: “Maybe all game trailers should seek to be that if they don’t want to include any real footage.”
  • Steerpike: “That Dead Island trailer sure riled a lot of emotions.”
  • Chad M: “I can’t blame anyone for liking the trailer.”

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12 thoughts on “Countdown 2016, 20: Commercial Break

  1. I just watched the World of Goo gameplay trailer with the sound off while playing “Mad World” in another tab. I would like to report that this created incredible synchronicity but it only worked about half the time. I think it would work all the time if you slowed down the World of Goo trailer to half speed on the speeded-up parts. World of Goo, Gears of War, basically the same thing, right?

  2. I think you would probably have fun with one of those YouTube mashup sites.

    But I can see, without actually seeing right now, how Mad World might work on World of Goo footage…

  3. Mashup! That was the word I was looking for when I was looking unsuccessfully for those sites. (I didn’t put much effort into the search.) Here you go: http://vmashup.com/aFhPBDM7 (fullscreen the World of Goo video for best effect).

  4. You know, I enjoyed playing Dead Island, especially in co-op. There were parts of a really great game in there… just not arranged quite properly. The whole game was torn between its pulp/exploitation nature and its attempts to be grim and emotional. You can have something that’s both pulpy and emotional (Borderlands 2 does it very well), but Dead Island doesn’t manage to combine its elements correctly.

    So, in a way, the trailer does have something to do with the game. It feels like parts of its setting *want* to feel. But then you’re murdering zombies with a medieval mace bought off a tourist for a million dollars and the atmosphere doesn’t quite survive that.

  5. Matt, all I can say is I am glad that you’ve definitely had some fun today. The World of Goo trailer does work well, except in those bits where it’s all speeded up as you said.

    Jonas, I still plan to play Dead Island one day because I remember hearing a fair bit of praise for it (you know, as fun). At least I don’t have outlandish expectations of living that scene in the game. I’m not much of a zombie freak and I’ve never found them particularly interesting (after all, the critical drama is supposed to be between the humans under threat) so this is why it takes me a long time to build up the enthusiasm for zombie game.

  6. The Oxenfree trailer captures the game perfectly, which is why I’m glad I didn’t see it before I played it. That game was one of the most delightful surprises in a year that’s for some reason been filled with delightfully surprising games for me. Oxenfree wasn’t a major work, wasn’t a breakthrough in design, just a delightful surprise to discover and play. So that perfect trailer would have completely ruined it.

    The Stanley Parable, on the other hand, is unspoilable. I’ve spent more hours with that game than were probably healthy, but I still couldn’t describe it to anybody in a way that would ruin the surprise of actually playing it. So the trailer does a nice job of conveying the concept without even slightly spoiling the experience. Bravo for it!

    (I’ve been trying to find a reason to work the term ludonarrative dissonance into a sentence, so I’d probably say that The Stanley Parable is a game about ludonarrative dissonance and no one would have the slightest idea what I meant by that. Although I have a funny feeling I’m not the first person to say it.)

  7. Oh, Singularity ARG! I followed their ARG very intensive. The initiative ARG trail video looks in the light of recent events in Ankara very ominous: a Russian scientist get shot at a pressconferencelive with running cameras by a Russian girl (Norvikova).


    The ARG collapsed AFAIK, but it was an intense experience.

    As The iconic trailer you can call all Assassin’s Creed trailers or, recent bombastic wonder by Mr. Confusion Kojima-san with his enigmatic “Death Stranding”. This is already art. And if the game would suck at some point (which I hardly doubt, though), these trailers will remain genious art masterpieces.

  8. Sorry for not getting back to these comments so quickly. With Christmas and everything, just been a bit exhausted!

    Chris – well, I’ve seen the Oxenfree trailer and I bought the game many months ago so we’ll see what I think. We’ve talked a lot about ludonarrative dissonance here at Ranch Dance over the years and my current view is that it doesn’t really exist or, at the very least, has been exaggerated. It was actually going to be discussed in the next newsletter but I might be kicking that forward to next month.

    Merzmensch, omg you really do know about every ARG under the sun. If I ever want to write about ARGs again I guess I should hire you as consultant. The only ARG I ever followed was I Love Bees but, even then, I didn’t participate, I just watched other people solving things and running around after phones.

  9. With pleasure, if you need some help with ARG stuff, it’ll be for me a honour to assist you and to make a little contribution to your awesomeness here!

    I LOVE BEES was actually one of the few prominent ARGs I hadn’t occasion to follow (Cloverfield ARG, some years later, was my First Impact [if we use エヴァンゲリオン terms ;-)]). For example, I translated to English that Japanese Manga “Kishin” (which was written specially for Cloverfield promotion in Japan) – with my horrible English, but hey, I always was the first on the website of Kadokawa somewhen at 4 hours in the morning (European time) in order to get the fresh stuff to translate. And I could profit from my Japanese knowledge in ARG community (OK, soon I was not only one on this international amazing club of inspiring cooperation of crazy code crackers, source code readers, role players, theoreticians, practicians and magicians).

    But I know personally people behind ILB from 42 Entertaiment. I have this bad habit to add book authors and Puppet Masters of ARGs at facebook after enjoying theor creation (do you have FB btw.?).

    After Cloverfield I tried to follow every single ARG and grassroot (which was of course impossible, since they popped up like mushrooms here and there). So with time I decided just to follow some trustworthy ARG-houses, such as everything around JJ Abrams productions (StarTrek/Super8/continuing Cloverfield universe/LOST/Fringe etc.) and some unique (or insane) grassroots. Ah, you know, if I begin to speak about ARGs I cannot stop. I just… can’t. And Leonard Nimoy called my ARG nickname “kosmopol” in a video message! Ah vanity!.. Stop me please stop me! 😀

    Alas, the ARG times seem to loose the focus, the actual flourishing times were 2004-2014 or so, but this time was so intense, so overwhelming, so mind changing. OK, I’d stop for now, otherwise I will write down here my complete bio “My life in an Alternate Reality”.

  10. Joel, can I recommend you skip Dead Island and go straight to Dying Light? There’s still zombie bashing with electrified hatchets if that floats your boat, but there’s a much better way of dealing with zombies – running away. The movement isn’t quite as fluid as Mirrors Edge when you’re getting everything right, but it’s at least as satisfying and the threat is more intense, especially at night. The story is rubbish, and I never bothered to finish, but I had a lot of fun just running away.

  11. Joel: I feel faintly relieved that I may never have to use the term ludonarrative dissonance in my blog, because, like you, I’m not entirely sure that it exists, except inasmuch as I’m convinced that the Stanley Parable is an entire game about how much fun ludonarrative dissonance would be if it actually DID exist.

    Merzmensch: A friend pointed out at that there’s an ARG currently on the Web for the TV show Westworld, which I won’t link to because TV shows and games are two different things, except that Westworld is an entire TV show about RPGs and game design. It just doesn’t call itself that. But what else would you call a show about an open world where behind-the-scenes programmers code NPCs to the specification of an aging game designer who’s decided his game has finally reached the critical mass of emergent narrative where the NPCs should actually be given free will?

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