Yesterday, waaaaaaaaay down at the very bottom of The Morning Read, I ran a video that is a trailer for a new video game called "Dead Island." I thought it was a nifty little mood piece, and that's about all the thought I gave it.
It is genuinely amazing to me, then, to see just how much impact one dialogue-free video game ad can have. If you look at Twitter, "Dead Island" has been trending for the last 24 hours. If you go to Google and search, there are hundreds of news articles in the last 24 hours. Axis Animation, the Scottish production house that made the trailer, has become a big story today. I'm even hearing that the film rights to "Dead Island" have become a hot property based entirely on that one short spot.
Here's how you know it's huge: Devin Faraci has written a strongly-worded editorial dismissing it.
All of this for something that is essentially a zombie version of a Coldplay video. Why? What is it about internet culture that allows something that brief and, honestly speaking, inconsequential, to suddenly become an overnight phenomenon? I think the next big talent pool for feature film directors is not going to be from music videos or short films, but from video game cut scenes and from these moody sort of announcement videos that have become increasingly common in the gaming industry.
Remember the "Gears Of War" spot that used "Mad World"? The one directed by Joseph Kosinski, who went on to make "TRON: Legacy"? That seems to have set a template that we're seeing followed now in film trailers as well as game trailers, this sort of no-dialogue, music-that-works-in-contrast-to-what-we-see, hyper-moody thing where you're not even being sold story or characters. It's just a feeling, and in the case of "Dead Island," I'm curious how much the trailer even reflects the game. I don't think we're seeing anything from the actual game play, or even characters from the game itself.
Is it just because of the nature of the internet, where a 45 second video is easier to watch than something long-form? Is that why things like this go so viral so fast, and why they have become our daily cultural currency? For those of you who still haven't seen it, here it is again:
All I would ask of Hollywood executives who are busy looking up the phone number for Axis Animation is that you remember… making me feel something in a 45-second spot and making me feel something for a full two hours are very different skill sets, and one depends solely on manipulation and shortcuts and a heavy heavy hand, while the other requires, in the best-case scenario, a full range of abilities.
"Dead Island" might turn out to be a very good game. It might be terrible. But this ad really has nothing to do with that. It is a stand-alone product, and judged just on the reaction to that, it kickstarted the conversation and did what it had to do for Techland, the Polish company developing the game. It's just lunacy to assume it means anything beyond that. We have reached the age where the ad is a stand-alone product, and it's strange to see how rabid people get about what is, at its heart, pure marketing.
And before you decide that you need to option the film rights to the game, how about actually playing it? Don't assume that this trailer is what you'd be buying. It just seems like Hollywood overreacting based on a moment's heat, and in the end, it sounds like the game is really just another riff on the survival horror genre we've seen a lot of in the last few years. That trailer isn't enough to form the spine of a whole movie, and I have a feeling if someone does pony up before the game's even out, this will end up as a big fat case of buyer's remorse.
"Dead Island" will arrive on PS3, XBOX 360, PC and other formats later this year.