SSC: Misleading trailers

The first few moments of a film that we witness is what draws us into the film’s world.  The same goes with TV, theatre, video games etc – the world is opened up to us and we step inside for the first time.  More than often, the first glimpse we get of a world is in a trailer or other promotional content that are released before the text at hand.  Usually they fill the audience in on how the text’s world is set up and give a sneak peak into what the text’s content is going to be.  We see who the characters are, when the time period is, where the location is, what the story is (vaguely) about and occasionally why the narrative has taken place with a bit of backstory.  However sometimes trailers can lead us astray.

In class we discussed the occasional times where a trailer for a film either misrepresents the film or misleads the audience – or even when footage from a trailer doesn’t end up in the film at all.  This immediately made me think of cinematic video game trailers.  For a lot of recent large-budget games, a cinematic trailer is released with footage or scenes that are created separately to the game’s actual gameplay and cutscenes.  Often they are of higher quality or different animation style to the game itself, so there is a chance the audience could be let astray in thinking this is how the game is going to look.

Now I’m not suggesting the games’ marketing teams are purposefully misleading their audience, as these trailers are often released along side a gameplay trailer which shows content from the game itself, as well as the fact that most gamers understand this trend and expect that the cinematic trailer is not going to accurately represent the game.  Also sometimes a trailer is made before the game to get funding or to raise awareness for how the game could potentially look.  However I still find it interesting that this can be seen as an audience member’s first step into a world that turns out to be nothing like they expected.

Above is both the cinematic trailer and gameplay trailer for Bioshock: Infinite so we can compare the difference. The cinematic trailer captures the essence of the game very well, however the art style is quite different from the game itself.  Elizabeth (the girl in blue) hardly even looks like she does in the game at all (although I personally like her game-version a lot better so it works backwards this way).  So if one was to only watch the first trailer before playing the game, would they feel a little betrayed or confused that it wasn’t like they expected?  Possibly.

There’s a similar deal with the Alice: Madness Returns advertising.  The first video shows a style completely different to the actual game content.  I personally saw both trailers before buying and playing the game and didn’t know quite which style to expect, as I thought maybe both were incorporated in the game.  Of course I wasn’t disappointed at all to find out it was only the latter because the game is beautiful and creepy and fits what I generally thought it would be – however the fact stands that the ‘misleading’ trailer DID skew my initial reaction on the game and it’s world when I started playing it.

The first Dead Island trailer brought tears to its’ audience’s eyes with a super emotional wordless story animated beautifully, but the game that came out was allegedly nothing like what the fans expected from the trailer.  The actual game had little to no emotional story-driven content and instead was more a simple beat-em-up zombie game.  I think this is a perfect example of false world-building.  A trailer should be accurately representative of the game/film/tv show as it’s the first glimpse the audience gets of the world within the text and sets their expectations.


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