Everyone is familiar with the aftermath of a good trailer. The music starts, the scenes flash, that voice seduces you, and before you know it, you’re turning to the person next to you to announce your interest in exploring the full version of the media before you. We’ve all felt the evocative power of the movie trailer and the pull and anticipation it leaves us with. 

When we think of trailers, we think of movies. However, there is a whole slew of trailers dedicated to another booming form of entertainment: gaming. I’m assuming at this point you’re conjuring memories of AAA previews you’ve seen on TV with the badass voiceovers and graphic flaunting à la Halo. At least I did.

Thanks to Gamezebo, I had the honour of attending the OIGC (Ottawa International Game Conference) this year, where I attended a number of sessions conducted by leaders of the industry who specialize in a variety of gaming fields. My favourite session by a long shot was Kert Gartner’s talk entitled “Game Development: Trail-er Blazing! Giving Your Games The Trailers They Deserve” where I was offered a welcome window into the creative design and technical development world of the game trailer.

Kert, a Winnipeg native, and “Survivor of 8 years in the VFX industry” according to his Twitter account, offered a variety of examples of some of the work he has produced for clients over the years. Each one was better than the last, exhibiting a clear understanding of tone, audience, and angle. The vast majority of them demonstrated a keen sense of humour that kept the audience laughing while simultaneously showcasing gameplay.

One of my favourite trailers that was used as an example during the presentation was that for “Jack Lumber” – an iOS game developed by indie studio Owlchemy Labs and published by Sega.

 

This trailer was the perfect way to demonstrate a lot of the key points that Kert went over when it comes to creating visceral and effective game trailers. If you watched the trailer, you can see that within 5 seconds you understand the tone of the game. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and embraces its own absurdity. It builds to a climax: “A tree killed his granny and he’s out for revenge!” The zoomed-in footage allows them to demonstrate Jack’s time-slowing ability and log-splitting action. All in all, it creates enticement and generates excitement through anticipation without giving everything away. You can check out more of Kert’s trailers here: http://kertgartner.com/#13c/vimeo. 

Though it was not an official part of his presentation (Kert continued to talk and answer questions due to audience request), he mentioned a more recent example of effective creative implementation in game trailers: that for Leviathan Warships.

 

Though the actual visuals consist exclusively of in-game footage and floating text, interest is achieved through great writing, a great sense of humour and, more than anything, a clear understanding of marketability. This is just an example of the kind of serendipitous success that can result when game developers are faced with low budgets, time constraints and lack of resources. Oh, and Kert’s advice if you can’t come up with a unique concept for your trailer? He suggests taking a page out of the book of the monster-budget-bearing AAA games and just adding dubstep.

On top of keeping my attention engaged (a feat in itself) and keeping me laughing, Kert turned me into a game trailer believer. My mind ablaze with trailer concepts, I left the conference room with a whole new appreciation for game trailer development and a plethora of useful tips for both creative concept development and technical implementation. If the OIGC keeps bringing innovative pros like this to the table, I have no doubt it will soon find itself on game developers’ radars everywhere.

Jennifer June is a Social Media Strategist for Arctic*Empire, the game development studio behind the upcoming tower defense game Office Attacks. The Ottawa International Gaming Conference, now in its second year, brings together top Canadian talent to discuss the gaming industry at large. Learn more at oigconf.com.