GWJ Conference Call Episode 229

Conference Call

Killzone 3 (With The Move, Too), Shogun 2 Demo, Dragon Age 2 Demo, Tiny Wings, Offensive Game Marketing, Your Emails and more!

This week Julian, Cory and Elysium talk about offensive game marketing and just how well it works. Spoiler: parents don't like seeing reverse-flying-dead-girls in game trailers.

To contact us, email [email protected]! Send us your thoughts on the show, pressing issues you want to talk about or whatever else is on your mind. You can even send a 30 second audio question or comment (MP3 format please) if you're so inclined. You can also submit a question or comment call in to our voicemail line at (612) 284-4563!

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Game Thing Daily
Good Old Games

Killzone 3
Tiny Wings
Dragon Age 2
Shogun 2
Dead Island Trailer

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Show credits

Music credits: 

Intro/Outtro Music - Ian Dorsch, Willowtree Audioworks

Play On! - Lucky Ghost - http://luckyghost.com/ - 32:00

Adriondack - Lucky Ghost - http://luckyghost.com/ - 57:47

Comments

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KZ3 can be fun playing 1-player co-op with your SO. I introduced the latest Lady Mao to the demo, she shootin' em down with the Move while I moved us around. Now she wants the full game. It's fun so long as you have lots of patience and tolerance for failure.

edit:MS marketer sig is begging me to know what it means

Regarding the email about posting on the forums, I'd say just to dig in. Everyone has made a mistake at some point and posted a duplicate, made exactly the same point as some one else two posts above, or been totally factually wrong, you just shrug and move on. So long as you don't act like a jerk and post something worth reading, there's room for anyone at GWJ.

Scratched wrote:

Regarding the email about posting on the forums, I'd say just to dig in. Everyone has made a mistake at some point and posted a duplicate, made exactly the same point as some one else two posts above, or been totally factually wrong, you just shrug and move on. So long as you don't act like a jerk and post something that's not related to cars and dragons mating, there's room for anyone at GWJ.

Figured that might help clarify it.

trueheart78 wrote:
Scratched wrote:

Regarding the email about posting on the forums, I'd say just to dig in. Everyone has made a mistake at some point and posted a duplicate, made exactly the same point as some one else two posts above, or been totally factually wrong, you just shrug and move on. So long as you don't act like a jerk and post something that's not related to cars and dragons mating, there's room for anyone at GWJ.

Figured that might help clarify it.

I hear the Skyrim dragons enjoy a bit extra junk in the trunk. Just saying.

Regarding the Dead Island trailer, I don't think I've been so annoyed with a discussion in a long time. Not because it hit Elysium and rabbit so hard because they're parents. I can understand that.

Personally, I liked the trailer, and it got me interested in a game that previously wasn't on my radar. Because that trailer is a supremely well-executed zombie story. The cgi is a bit ropey, but it overcomes that by fantastic editing and really accomplished storytelling. It instilled some confidence that these people know what they're doing, even if all the production values might not be there.

But rabbit, please please please stop saying horror is about the triumph of the human spirit. It is not. Not every story has to be about heroic figures tempered by evil until they finally triumph. It can be. But it doesn't *have* to be. It is in fact *allowed* to create a horror story with a downer ending.

Don't slag something off because it doesn't fit your imaginary standard.

If you personally don't like horror that doesn't fit that template, that's fine. As long as you don't declare that preference as an undisputed fact, I won't feel the need to shout at another podcast.

The combo based shooter Julian's thinking of is The Club.

I love listening to shows I'm not on. I found the Dead Island trailer to be effective, especially within the context they were delivering there. The little girl part didn't get much more of a reaction out of me than a grown woman would have. Or a grandma. Actually, zombie grandma would probably be used in a comedy bit. Sad but true.

If you personally don't like horror that doesn't fit that template, that's fine. As long as you don't declare that preference as an undisputed fact, I won't feel the need to shout at another podcast.

This comes up once in a while. I can't imagine anything more tedious than having to say "Well, it's just MY opinion" every time I say something. Of course it's an opinion, regardless of how it's stated. That's called having an adult conversation.

Alien Love Gardener wrote:

But rabbit, please please please stop saying horror is about the triumph of the human spirit. It is not. Not every story has to be about heroic figures tempered by evil until they finally triumph. It can be. But it doesn't *have* to be. It is in fact *allowed* to create a horror story with a downer ending.

Like most HP Lovecraft stories.

If you personally don't like horror that doesn't fit that template, that's fine. As long as you don't declare that preference as an undisputed fact, I won't feel the need to shout at another podcast.
Quintin_Stone wrote:
Alien Love Gardener wrote:

But rabbit, please please please stop saying horror is about the triumph of the human spirit. It is not. Not every story has to be about heroic figures tempered by evil until they finally triumph. It can be. But it doesn't *have* to be. It is in fact *allowed* to create a horror story with a downer ending.

Like most HP Lovecraft stories.

To the point, I think it's OK to talk about genre conventions (or "templates") in this sort of assertive tone. Certainly not all tragedies or comedies do or did fit Aristotle's definitions of the two, and not all hero's journeys fit every aspect of Campbell's monomyth, but that doesn't mean that genres and their associated audience expectations don't exist.

Certis wrote:

I can't imagine anything more tedious than having to say "Well, it's just MY opinion" every time I say something. Of course it's an opinion, regardless of how it's stated. That's called having an adult conversation.

It may be overly "PC" or even Clintonian, but I've tried to develop the habit or starting my opinions with "I feel that ..." or "I think ...," or flagging opinions as "this game feels like" instead of "this game is/does."

But I'm also a celebrated pedant, and there's probably good reason I'm so rarely on the show.

I think the point where Rabbit and Elysium used the word "abusive" for the Dead Island trailer is where it became clear to me that you guys were reacting to it so personally that discussing it wasn't worthwhile. It offended you both. That's fine. It's a sensational, upsetting story. But to hear you guys talk about it, the trailer was the result of some malevolent, nefarious plot to attack the viewers.

I'm the father of a four year-old daughter and had a hard time watching the whole thing, and I don't plan to ever watch it again. But I found it to be a well-executed short film about a really disturbing subject. I didn't like how it made me feel, but that doesn't mean I think the people who made it should be punished.

And it does make me interested in the game — because I'm intrigued to see what a studio who can make a preview that is that engaging will do.

I didn't see anything more offensive in the Dead Island trailer than, say, the first zombie scene in the Dawn of the Dead remake with the little girl coming into the bedroom. I actually liked the DI trailer as a piece of short cinema: It interwove the backwards and forwards parts of the story to make the reveal of the story much more interesting and moving.

Certis wrote:
If you personally don't like horror that doesn't fit that template, that's fine. As long as you don't declare that preference as an undisputed fact, I won't feel the need to shout at another podcast.

This comes up once in a while. I can't imagine anything more tedious than having to say "Well, it's just MY opinion" every time I say something. Of course it's an opinion, regardless of how it's stated. That's called having an adult conversation.

This isn't the first time that comment has been made on the podcast, and it's definitely presented as a generally accepted thesis, but it doesn't really matter if it's prefaced with "In my opinion". If you say "Good horror is about the triumph of the human spirit" you're dismissing a vast amount of acclaimed horror stories, and furthermore you're saying it's impossible to *be* good if you don't fulfill that criteria.

"In my opinion" or not, having enjoyed plenty of well-made horror where evil is not overcome, it's still going to make me exasperatedly go "You don't know what you're talking about do you", especially since I'm under the impression that adults can acknowledge things as having merit even if they don't personally appeal to them. And converse without resorting to ridiculously sweeping statements.

Higgledy, in the very first post, said what I was thinking about the Dead Island trailer. Apocalyptic fiction deals with subject matter that I find very intriguing and insightful, but it does mean delving into some of the darkest scenarios. And to me, part of what makes zombie stories interesting is the notion of, what happens when those closest to you are turned against you? What do you do? So that was the aspect of the trailer that resonated with me.

But I do agree with Rabbit/Elysium on the point that the particular imagery and story arc chosen were likely intended to generate controversy. The subject matter could have been handled in a more responsible way.

If you personally don't like horror that doesn't fit that template, that's fine. As long as you don't declare that preference as an undisputed fact, I won't feel the need to shout at another podcast.
Quintin_Stone wrote:
Alien Love Gardener wrote:

But rabbit, please please please stop saying horror is about the triumph of the human spirit. It is not. Not every story has to be about heroic figures tempered by evil until they finally triumph. It can be. But it doesn't *have* to be. It is in fact *allowed* to create a horror story with a downer ending.

Like most HP Lovecraft stories.

Or every found footage horror movie ever.

wordsmythe wrote:

To the point, I think it's OK to talk about genre conventions (or "templates") in this sort of assertive tone. Certainly not all tragedies or comedies do or did fit Aristotle's definitions of the two, and not all hero's journeys fit every aspect of Campbell's monomyth, but that doesn't mean that genres and their associated audience expectations don't exist.

That's all well and good if that expectation actually exists. And if we were discussing the slasher subgenre specifically, I'd agree: it's expected that eventually the virtuous Final Girl will slay the beast. But there's more to horror that slashers.

And considering how the genre codifier Night of the Living Dead ended, I'd argue that it's an especially unfounded expectation to bring to the zombie genre.

I figured this is a perfect time to link to this brilliant Extra Credits video from last week. I can't stand the damage EA's marketing is doing to gaming as a whole of late and in particular, why they aren't getting slapped for making ads like the Dead Space 2 ones that clearly are marketing a game to teens that's rated such that they shouldn't be playing it.

I also think the Dead Island trailer was awesome but it's done nothing to sell the game to me. Once I see the actual gameplay, then I'll make a decision on that.

After being dragged deep down into the gutter and mired with cynicism in the Catch-All thread, I'd like to thank you guys for riding the optimism train in regards to Dragon Age 2.

So excited for this game.

DA2's dialog wheel is ripped directly from Alpha Protocol (which cribbed from Mass Effect).

I never miss a chance to point out good things about Alpha Protocol.

I came here in an aesthetic huff ready to argue how creatively restrictive and inaccurate Julian's statement about horror stories was, but I see that Alien Love Gardener has already done so-- and much better that I could have.

I would like to add, however, that genre conventions should generally be kicked to the ground and curb stomped whenever possible. "Entertainments" (genre fiction, video games, hell... maybe porn) struggle to be respected artistically. An important step is to give up restrictions that have little purpose than to make the audience-receiver feel content.

To mix and match two of my favorite quotes:

Rage, rage against the hobgoblin of little minds.
-- Ralph Waldo Thomas

Oh. But I forgot to add.

Good show.

Certis wrote:
If you personally don't like horror that doesn't fit that template, that's fine. As long as you don't declare that preference as an undisputed fact, I won't feel the need to shout at another podcast.

This comes up once in a while. I can't imagine anything more tedious than having to say "Well, it's just MY opinion" every time I say something. Of course it's an opinion, regardless of how it's stated. That's called having an adult conversation.

Reminds me of this:

When I heard that the Conference Call was going to be focused on offensive marketing, I never would have imagined that the Dead Island trailer would factor so heavily into the discussion.

I can understand the idea that putting children in any kind of peril is cheap and, especially for parents, emotionally manipulative, but I also recognize that this is a trailer, a short vignette that doesn't have a lot of time to get, let alone keep, your attention. In the same episode where the phrase, "the art of the demo," was uttered multiple times, the discussion seemed to be hung up on the imagery of the trailer without consideration for the method of delivery and the larger theme in play.

After seeing the Dead Island trailer for the first time, I didn't think about my own five-year-old daughter flying through a window. I thought about the Dead Rising 2 trailer.

I thought about how that game tried to weigh its story with paternal responsibility...and how nobody would ever be able to even anticipate such a theme from watching the trailer, which literally presents the protagonist's love for his daughter as a momentary check box, juxtaposed between images of gratuitous, comic violence. The trailer for Dead Rising 2 made it entirely too easy to dismiss that game -- not just as a heartless clone of the first game, but as an emotionally barren game altogether -- and it was only when critics like Tom Chick brought that theme to light that I ever gave any second thought to the game at all. That, in my opinion, is a complete and abject failure in marketing.

Yes, seeing the horrifying final moments of a little girl in a zombie apocalypse is an incredibly broad stroke, but that imagery serves a more important theme behind the Dead Island trailer. The idea here, and one that has been echoed in previews of the game, is that there's supposed to be more of a focus on story in Dead Island. By seeing the excruciating outcome for the family contrasted against the happy vacation video at the end, it invites the viewer to wonder what in the world happened to lead that family to that painful, gruesome fate. I'm not sure how you really present that kind of question to the viewer, while simultaneously trying to get their attention, with a more subtle tone in an online video trailer.

Ultimately, I would prefer to see game companies try -- and perhaps even fail -- to put those kinds of questions to the viewers, to introduce more mature themes in all marketing materials (not just trailers), even if they are framed within overdone narrative and gameplay tropes. I would take that approach over ignoring those themes altogether in favor of sex and/or violence for the lowest common denominator. Even if the imagery in Dead Island made me, as a father, momentarily uncomfortable, I'd take that any day over seeing Chuck Greene whack some zombie in the head with an inflatable giraffe while industrial guitars churn in the background.

The Dead Island trailer worked for me. I didn't feel like the child's death was used purely as a strategy to get noticed and sell copies (which doesn't mean it wasn't.)

To me the trailer is saying that the Dead Island game is going to be in the spirit of the zombie movies where horrible, horrible things can and do happen to good people and innocents. At one time in horror films the people who die were the annoying people: the guy who wouldn't give up his seat on a train, the woman who spoke too loudly in the queue or the teenagers who had had sex or dabbled in drugs. The good people, children especially, where behind an invisible narative wall that you knew would never be breached. The small child might run over to retrieve it's ball from the shadows, just beyond the crate with the glowing red eyes, but there was no way anything was going to happen to the lad. That kind of thing removed any tension for me and gave the whole film an artificiality. I prefer horror films where anything could happen to anyone. No one is safe. I don't want to see children dying or being turned into zombies, and the film/game makers know that, but that doesn't mean they, or the people I am rooting for, will survive. That's what the trailer was communicating to me.

Also, another plus point in the trailers favour, was that there was no 'secret glee' involved. In a lot of horror and zombie games there is an unwritten delight in the fact that you are getting to kill undead people with axes and baseball bats. You get to mutilate and dismember people because, handily, they are all zombies. I don't like that kind of undertone in a zombie game. I much prefer Left 4 Dead's cold, hard 'kill them or they will kill you' equation. The Dead Island had that feel to it.

Lastly, I'm a sucker for time manipulation in stories and I'm not sure why (Although perhaps it comes from being a comic collector and many times having read issues 8 and 10 before going out and finding issues 6,7 and 9.)

Edit: Took out reference to spam.

rabbit wrote:

The point is every post doesn't have to be an opus of fabulous intellectual content.

Most typically aren't.

A 2 Girls 1 Cup reference? Bingo! I've got Bingo!

Edit: And I'll briefly sum up my thoughts about Dead Island: I haven't a friggin' clue what the game is about. That trailer could have been evocative of the game experience, it might not. Was the trailer an emotionally powerful experience? Your damn straight it is.

Certis wrote:

I love listening to shows I'm not on. I found the Dead Island trailer to be effective, especially within the context they were delivering there. The little girl part didn't get much more of a reaction out of me than a grown woman would have.

On my travels today I was wondering if the trailer could have been done with a grown woman in place of the child and it still had the same impact. I think it could have been as good a trailer or better. The relationship of the three people would have been more ambiguous and it would have been equally heartbreaking to see the happy threesome (three friends, rather than Dad, Mum and Daughter, maybe) in the last bits of footage taken before the outbreak occurred.

One horror film that has stayed with me to this day is Open Water. The empathy I felt for those two characters was agonising. Part of me wants to see it again just to work out how they got me so locked in.

Higgledy wrote:

To me the trailer is saying that the Dead Island game is going to be in the spirit of the zombie movies where horrible, horrible things can and do happen to good people and innocents.

This.

I guess my brain is wired differently, because I am also a parent (but my son is 17, if that makes a difference) and I was not offended at all by the trailer. I thought it did a good job at portraying a dire situation to a mature audience. What I do find offensive is that Julian assumes that Dead Island will suck simply based on this single, stylized trailer that he doesn't like. For all I know, it may not be exactly what the game will play like. Hell, it may not even be one of the cutscenes. All I do know is that it's an effective marketing tool.

angramainyu wrote:

I didn't see anything more offensive in the Dead Island trailer than, say, the first zombie scene in the Dawn of the Dead remake with the little girl coming into the bedroom.

Or the opening scene of The Walking Dead TV series. (Or, for that matter, several other situations that arise in the comic book that I won't spoil but will NEVER make it to TV).

Not that I would ever suggest moving into "A Serbian Film" territory (if there's a line that I personally feel shouldn't be crossed - that's pretty much it) but I'm all for being challenged in my media - that Dead Island trailer was brilliantly executed.

Quintin_Stone wrote:
Alien Love Gardener wrote:

But rabbit, please please please stop saying horror is about the triumph of the human spirit. It is not. Not every story has to be about heroic figures tempered by evil until they finally triumph. It can be. But it doesn't *have* to be. It is in fact *allowed* to create a horror story with a downer ending.

Like most HP Lovecraft stories.

Like most horror stories full stop. Pick up any collection of horror short stories - they rarely end well for anyone involved.

Alien Love Gardener wrote:

Or every found footage horror movie ever.

To be fair, most protagonists in found footage movies are so annoying that their eventual gruesome demise is to be appluauded, rather than mourned. So I guess that counts as a triumph...?

Also, fart.

Edit: And here's the the bridge game mentioned in the email section. Hedgecon worthy?

Higgledy wrote:
Alien Love Gardener wrote:

Or every found footage horror movie ever.

To be fair, most protagonists in found footage movies are so annoying that their eventual gruesome demise is to be appluauded, rather than mourned. So I guess that counts as a triumph...?

I don't think wishing death on your fellow man was what Julian had in mind when he said "triumph of the human spirit".

Higgledy wrote:
Certis wrote:

I love listening to shows I'm not on. I found the Dead Island trailer to be effective, especially within the context they were delivering there. The little girl part didn't get much more of a reaction out of me than a grown woman would have.

On my travels today I was wondering if the trailer could have been done with a grown woman in place of the child and it still had the same impact. I think it could have been as good a trailer or better. The relationship of the three people would have been more ambiguous and it would have been equally heartbreaking to see the happy threesome (three friends, rather than Dad, Mum and Daughter, maybe) in the last bits of footage taken before the outbreak occurred.

I think you'd have a hard time topping the emotional punch of the trailer: The dad lifting up his daughter, which when played backwards becomes him letting her slide into darkness, which she *is*, since she's infected. You'd certainly have to spend a lot more time defining their relationship. You don't have to add any information in the current version, everyone knows what he's going through during his futile attempt to protect her. Between adults, that would be a lot more ambiguous.

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