My Favorite Marketing - Batman: Arkham City
There comes a time in a man's life when he has to look in the mirror and tell himself, "son, you're a fascist."
See, I used to be a big-ass Batman fan. Bruce Wayne was an ordinary man in a sea of metahumans, mutants, gods, and gamma-radiated beasts. He used his trauma to power his will to become an avatar for vengeance. He traveled the world, amassing the knowledge to eradicate crime from Gotham because the kindness and benevolence of his family weren't enough to save the city or them. He worked to become a fearsome figure that criminals would run from.
Batman didn't need powers. All he needed was a plan.
My co-workers decorated my desk in Batman shit because they knew I was a big-ass fan.
It wasn't until I watched Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice as a birthday gift the year it came out that I started questioning my love of Batman.
Here was a Batman unleashed. Here was a Batman after years under the cowl, as tainted by the darkness as the criminals he fought. Here was a Batman unafraid of killing. I thought, "not my Batman!"
But yeah, this was my Batman. The same Batman that worked with the cops. The same Batman who created whole-ass plans to murder his teammates/friends. The same Batman who kept using child soldiers in his war on crime. The same Batman who has a shard of kryptonite because Superman thought, "yeah, this muthafucka cold enough to kill me if I break bad."
What about that is something I should admire?
And boy, was it all on display in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. All in front of me, on that big-ass screen.
I got home, looked at myself in the mirror, and told myself, "son, you're a fascist."
I'd given myself the best birthday gift of all: the gift of truth.
Even the great Alan Moore, who wrote his fair share of Batman comics, sees the danger of idolizing a rich kid beating up the mentally ill. As he said in an interview with The Guardian:
"I said round about 2011 that I thought that it had serious and worrying implications for the future if millions of adults were queueing up to see Batman movies. Because that kind of infantilisation – that urge towards simpler times, simpler realities – that can very often be a precursor to fascism."
I've gotten rid of most of my Batman paraphernalia. I've mothballed my Batman tattoo idea.
But let me tell you, when I loved Batman, I loved him HARD! So much so that [x years] later, Batman: Arkham City's viral campaign is still my favorite marketing.
Let's talk about the time I became Batman!
Becoming Batman: Arkham City's Viral Marketing
Rocksteady Studios released Batman: Arkham Asylum in 2009 to rapturous applause. We had the old Batman: The Animated Seris crew back together: Kevin Conroy as Batman, Mark Hamill as the Joker, Arleen Sorkin as Harley Quinn, and Paul Dini writing the story. Batman fans now had a game that got us closer to being our hero than we'd gotten before. We didn't think it could get any better.
And then they started dropping the teaser videos for Batman: Arkham City.
🤯 is all I can say, folks.
The marketing was brilliant. Rocksteady used the video to introduce some of Batman's rogues included in the game.
Check out this sweet intro to Dr. Hugo Strange, Arkham City's Big Bad.
Or this one for The Penguin (and a special guest).
Or how about the "No Place for a Hero" trailer? I know that will get your blood pumping.
But it wasn't any of those that dragged me into the world. Instead, it was this one showcasing The Riddler.
Riddle Me This, Batman
I never gave a shit about The Riddler. He was a lower-tier Batman villain who had a cool costume. His appearances, from the Adam West-led television show to B:TAS to Batman Forever, made him a joke. He was a poor man's Joker.
Then, they dropped that trailer. Finally, I felt the menace, the horror, the fear The Riddler can instill. When depicted right.
And damn, was that a good depiction.
But that wasn't all that drew me to the video. Look closer. Did you notice anything?
They put a fucking riddle in The Riddler's video. FANTASTIC!
Yes, like a nerd, I rewound the video repeatedly, pausing when I thought I saw a number or a word. I solved the riddle, just like my favorite superhero.
I was hyped to have a sequel to Arkham Asylum. This marketing video convinced me to do something I'd never done before: purchase the game from a brick-and-mortar store at midnight the day it was released.
Goodbye Night Sky
I'm glad I got to play Batman: Arkham City before my love of Batman died. I'm happy I also got to see such a fun marketing campaign. It was refreshing to see a company use the character to enhance to marketing experience. You didn't need to solve the riddle to enjoy the marketing or the game. If Batman is a detective, and I'm playing the game as Batman, that makes me a detective, too.
The marketing showcased that with The Riddler trailer.