Opinion// There is No Dead Island Controversy

Posted 17 Feb 2011 18:11 by
Games: Dead Island
So Dead Island has been announced, and everyoneís going gaga over the trailer. Forgive me for being so blunt, but I fail to see why. Various industry outlets such as MCV and The Guardian are suggesting that it's one of the most controversial teasers in gaming history.

Really? Iíve watched the thing about fifteen times already, just to see if there was something my diminishing brain power could discover. But every time I came to the same conclusion. There is no controversy over the Dead Island trailer.

Hereís the video below, if youíve not seen it yet. Let it sink in - the camerawork, the setting, the emotional message.



Pretty good, isnít it? And yet, film and TV drama trailers achieve this very same level of cinematography without breaking a sweat - especially in teasers for zombie films, where practically everyoneís ripe for a munching.

The issue canít be the fact that a kidís been turned into a fictional flesh-eating member of the undead. What parent gets nightmares about that? Of course, it canít be the powerful idea of failing to rescue your child from danger, either. Even in games, that's been covered by Quantic Dreams' Heavy Rain, and there was barely any controversy over that.

Beyond games, this concept has been raised in countless films in the past, most prominently Ransom - so what makes Dead Island, as brilliant a trailer as it is, worthy of discussion in a world where this sort of idea is played out all the time?


CGI? Oh My.

Maybe itís because of the fact that it tugs at heart strings, yet no gameplay is seen and the final product may well have nothing to do with what weíve all seen this morning. Are we worried that the trailer will mask a potentially awful game with heart-tugging emotive visual scenes?

CG trailers like these aren't meant to detail gameplay elements and mechanics. Like the thirty-second teaser videos of films like Toy Story 3, these videos simply exist to convey ideas, concepts of an upcoming product. Most times, they have nothing to do with the end result. And if the window-chucking child trailer does have relevance to Dead Islandís storyline, then all the better for it.

Similar themes ran throughout the entirety of the aforementioned Heavy Rain, and yet the reaction to that could not have been any different. It was praised for its artistic direction, and the dare to explore and evolve the traditional point-and-click adventure into an experience that truly immersed players in its world. Who's to say that Techland isn't going to attempt the same thing with Dead Island?


Stereotypes

Naturally, the argument against that is because it's a zombie game and it will likely focus on action-based gameplay. But that shouldn't negate any intention of adding a little sensitivity into the proceedings - especially in a completely fictional environment. I am immediately reminded of the search for Dom's abducted wife in Gears of War 2 - an attempt at sensitivity in a game that's largely balls to the wall, brainless pew-pew action. I am unsure why it's fine for one and not for another.

All this proves is that video game marketing has finally turned a corner and decided to target its audience in a more mature fashion. Not necessarily in terms of content (don't want kiddies seeing flesh-munching zombies after all), but in terms of its approach to selling the product. And at the end of the day, everyone has something to sell. Do movie studios not have a film to sell? Books don't fly off the shelves by themselves.

There will always be conflicting reactions to content presented in this manner, based on one's own experiences and morality. But that shouldn't equal a controversy, otherwise we might as well act this way with almost everything. While I can certainly sympathise with those that feel affected by the content in the Dead Island trailer - or in fact, anything - it shouldn't excuse the fact that it's an original, powerful way of presenting the zombie game genre.


Worth the Fuss?

Maybe that alone is worth the amount of discussion this trailer has generated. After all, as game critics weíre always trying to prove how the industry is growing up and how itís maturing into a medium that should be respected on the same level as films, books and television drama.

Reacting to something like this as if it's a controversy, when other mediums pull this stuff off effortlessly all the time, is only reinforcing the mainstream opinion that games are for kids and shouldn't be challenging the status quo, like some of the world's greatest films have done.

The Dead Island trailer is a fantastic piece of filmwork. It's visually and emotionally challenging. But it's nothing really special when compared to the film industry, which farts emotive pieces like this during breakfast.

The fact that this trailer has caught so much attention for what it's achieved is a sign that the games industry at large - from those who make the products to those that report on them - truly has a fair way to go to earn the same mainstream respect given to other entertainment mediums.

The opinion expressed in this article is that of the author and does not reflect those of SPOnG.com except when it does.

Want to vent your gaming spleen? Send 900 words max of well thought-out, deeply analysed opinion and we may even run it. Send in 900 words of incisive but mostly brutally angry invective, and we almost certainly will.

Games: Dead Island

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Comments

mark 17 Feb 2011 18:17
1/9
Fantastic article. Couldn't have said it better myself.
-Mark
2gays1joystick.com
Nike 18 Feb 2011 09:31
2/9
Shut up, c**t.
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miacid 18 Feb 2011 10:57
3/9
I can't say I've seen any of the Controversy surrounding this trailer and this is the first I've seen it, so I may be missing the point (wouldn't be the first time!)

However as you said it just shows how the mainstream consider games, had this been a trailer farted out by Hollywood for a film, it would have largely gone unnoticed. But because it's a game related trailer that looks like a film, people don't seem to be able to wrap their heads around this fact. Sad really, especially when we've still got no idea of the game mechanics or quality!
Cheswick Fede 18 Feb 2011 13:12
4/9
I agree to a point but i am wondering what films have depicted a child's death in a trailer? She references other media that does it but never mentions a film that actually does.
just wondering...
Just Sayin' 18 Feb 2011 14:24
5/9
There's a reason why we couldn't kill kids in any game up to date. These are human beings parents will do anything to protect!
amg. 18 Feb 2011 15:51
6/9
You're just being silly, people who say it's the best trailer in allllll time is just being over the top.
With most games, you don't need an over the top trailer to make you want to play it. If you fancy the game just by the sound of it or learning what it's about. So the fact that there's a movie-like trailer along SIDE the fact it's a zombie game, just adds extra "ooh".
ClymAngus 18 Feb 2011 16:42
7/9
Congratulations Svend, you've completely missed the point. Of course film does it better because that's the end product. I don't know; CGI 8 year olds (however undead) smashing out of windows to be shattered on the ground some 6 floors below. Well gee, seems like a bit of a heavy handed way of selling a game to me.

Kind of like trying to sell monopoly with an advert of a CGI nut job stalking round the mother and baby wing with a lump hammer.

It's only a game after all. Nothing serious. Bringing out the big emotional guns is at best cheap at worse down right crass.
Svend Joscelyne 18 Feb 2011 17:46
8/9
ClymAngus wrote:
Congratulations Svend, you've completely missed the point. Of course film does it better because that's the end product.

And you have no problem with films showing such scenes? Hmm.

Kind of like trying to sell monopoly with an advert of a CGI nut job stalking round the mother and baby wing with a lump hammer.

Looks like you're the one missing the point. Games feature characters. Characters that have feelings, emotions and family just like any character in a film, TV or book. Now imagine a family on an island full of zombies. You don't think at some point during their pleasant stay that those characters won't be put in a position where they feel pain, have to look out for others or suffer loss?

Of course not, it's just a game! It's totally different. Characters in games don't have feelings and emotions, certainly not in a zombie game. The only way to present a zombie game is to have comedic heroes run lawnmowers over George A. Romero-inspired undead to a heavy metal soundtrack in an abandoned shopping centre, right?

That's the stance you seem to be taking - that games are nothing but kids toys and shouldn't ever try to be thought-provoking. I am saying that sometimes games can - and should - try and be that bit more mature and make the audience think about the emotional repercussions of the environments they're in. The fact that this content happened to be in a trailer is irrelevant.


CGI 8 year olds (however undead) smashing out of windows to be shattered on the ground some 6 floors below. Well gee, seems like a bit of a heavy handed way of selling a game to me.

Would you rather have a virtual wife in the kid's place? A doting father? A fat man to the tune of a Benny Hill soundtrack?

Why exactly is it heavy handed? Because it made you feel uncomfortable? Because it raises the emotional circumstances that can come from such dire situations? Because it dared to make you feel?

This is not a real murder of a child. This is not a campaign to convince you that doing this is a good idea. And if you feel more compelled to buy this game based on the idea that you could throw 6 year old daughters out of windows then you're a bit sick in the head. I think the general public should be given a bit more credit than that.

Yes, it's a trailer. Yes, it's promoting a game. But does it have to be as black and white as you seem to think it is? Can't directors and marketing companies try to create short films that go beyond the status quo?

Further, how do you know that this is not a core story element of the game? If it is, then shouldn't the thought-provoking idea of having those close to you be in danger be celebrated as it is in say, Heavy Rain? If it isn't, then there's nothing to worry about - the video was simply an artistic take on the tried-and-tested zombie game premise. But to get all up in arms about this while films, books, TV and almost every other medium contains graphic material that is ten times worse than this is nothing less than an overreaction.
The Agreeist 18 Feb 2011 21:18
9/9
Sven, I want to report you for being awesome.

Consider yourself told.
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