Wednesday, February 23, 2011

EXP Podcast #118: Dead Club Med

The trailer for Dead Island appeared last week and shook gaming enthusiasts to the core. The internet was positively elated by this emotionally provocative commercial, which you can find embedded below. Techland must be doing something right, the film adaptation of the game has already been optioned (Ed: Or not, although plans will certainly be underway). But how does the trailer hold-up to our critical gaze? What is all the excitement about? Join us this week while Scott and I discuss dead children, cultural expectations, and the art of a good trailer. You can find a slew of links in the show notes and, as always, we encourage you to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Some discussion starters:

- What did you think of the Dead Island trailer?
- Is it sound to try to enhance a game using material not find within it?
- Should Dead Island set a new precedent for successful game trailers?

To listen to the podcast:

- Subscribe to the EXP Podcast via iTunes here. Additionally, here is the stand-alone feed.
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Show Notes:

- Run time: 27 min 38 sec
- "Dead Island - Announcement Trailer," via IGN
- "Welcome to Dead Island," by Ryan Geddes via IGN
- "Dead Island trailer made chronological, humorous," via Joystiq
- Carousel and Delux Commercials by Adam Berg
- Music provided by Brad Sucks


  1. It's a really bad game trailer.
    While it is a nice little very short movie, as a trailer it fails selling anything but the genre tropes this game will deliver. Zombies. On an tropical island.
    Nothing can be learned about gameplay. Or in-game graphics even since this is pure CG.
    All that's there is the setting and general theme of the game.

    Also I find it quite outragously stupid to have the movie rights sold. A zombie movie that takes place on a tropical island, never been done before surely. Or has it?
    I just really hate it when movies are made that are based on videogames which feature settings that are themselves based on very broad movie tropes. Resident Evil, Mortal Kombat, etc. Which is the reason why so few videogame movies work in the first place, since they're just copies of copies of tropes.

  2. For those of us who sometimes enjoy playing games as much (or more) for their story as (than) their gameplay mechanics/elements, I accept trailers like the dead island one as revealing an important, key aspect of the story that we should expect. I don't disagree with your complaints of the trailer, but I would suggest that a large group of game players might weight certain aspects of the trailer differently depending on the kinds of things they enjoy from their games.

  3. I agree that lack of gameplay and the possibility of the game being nothing like the trailer are major concerns with it, but I honestly don't think it's a bad trailer *if* the game turns out to fit that mood. Honestly, I think that's part of the reason it was so well received. People do want a zombie game like that trailer.

    Look at the most highly regarded zombie movies: Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, and 28 Days Later (they're infected/not zombies, I know; it still counts). These movies aren't about the "Holy crap, killing zombies is awesome!" style like most zombie games are. They're about the humans in that situation, and their interaction. They're generally tragic, and focus on the character's suffering at the loss of their family and closest companions.

    That kind of emotion is extremely rare in videogames, and I think that's why people are excited. They want a game with this kind of story instead of just killing 50000 more zombies. It bothered me that you guys just sort of blew off the idea of a game like that. You seem to have already concluded that there's no way the game will be like that. While I fear you might be right, I think there's a discussion worth having in the idea of that kind of game. You touched on it for a couple sentences, but not much.

    (Fittingly, Godspeed You! Black Emperor came up on shuffle around the time I was typing out the bit about 28 Days Later)

  4. Sorry, guys.. I normally love the podcast, but this conversation really irked me.

    You mention commercials selling TVs. I will mention commercials for beer, cereal, toys -- EVERYTHING being sold through ads -- these days, commercials have almost *nothing* to do with the actual product being sold. Gone are the days when ads touted the actual contents of the package; instead, they sell us lifestyles and emotional sensations.

    The Dead Island trailer is no different, and it really worked well for me. This is odd, since I'm usually repulsed by cheap emotional manipulation. But if the chief complaint about the trailer is that it's a different emotional mood than what the game will be -- well, so what?

    I hate to be so negative, especially since I usually look forward with gusto to each new podcast. But the only part of your conversation I really considered worthwhile was when you hinted at the possibility that we'd get a crossover moment, like we saw with the girl in the red coat in Schindler's List. That's a great concept, even though it probably won't be in the game.

    I just don't see how this trailer is any different from Halo3 and GoW, both of which were very powerful, emotionally.. But totally disconnected from the actual sensations of the game. That sort of thing doesn't bother me -- it achieves the primary goal of advertising, which is to spark interest and buzz about a product.

    Now: When we get into the larger critique of modern corporate capitalism, I'm the first in line to blast the MadMen for their hideous tsunami of lies and social pressurization in the name of greasy profits, getting us to buy cheap crap we don't need.

    But if we're evaluating ads as "little movies" (as one of you said), then this one is a compelling little movie, and it's obviously getting us to talk about the game. Mission accomplished.

  5. @ Seb
    These days, studios are grabbing up any tie-ins with franchise capabilities early and often. As for Dead Island, it turns out the rights might not have been sold off after all, though I'm sure it's likely.

    @ Matt

    You're absolutely right. Maybe I was too quick to disregard the amount of people who would be interested in this type of emotional zombie game. As I mentioned in the podcast, I would absolutely love an experience like that. Maybe eying those screenshots made me toss out such a game too hastily.

    @ ESP

    Sorry to disappoint. While I agree with you that plenty of commercials sell stuff without connecting it to the product at all, I would never call those "good" commercials per se. The commercials I linked to by Adam Berg I particularly enjoy, the first for telling an interesting action story in an incredibly clever way, the second for being a visual treat.

    As I mentioned in the podcast, I do think there is a value in "little movies." I just don't think the Dead Island "little movie" is any good. It might be a personal taste issue at this point, but beyond the immediate reaction of seeing a doomed child set to slow music, the story and the atmosphere didn't grab me in the way it did for so many others.