Skip to main content

The latest Star Wars: Battlefront ad uses nostalgia like emotional blackmail

The latest Star Wars: Battlefront ad uses nostalgia like emotional blackmail

Share this story

Using nostalgia to sell games isn't anything new, but the latest ad for Star Wars: Battlefront on the PS4 lays it on so thickly that you might end up weeping for your lost innocence by the time you're done watching.

We open to a bored man at a desk in an unremarkable office block, slumped over and barely conscious due to the wearying pressure of Being An Adult. He gazes wistfully at a battered R2-D2 toy and remembers happier times, when he was young and had a friend and acted out Star Wars instead of numbing himself with booze and Netflix. Then, a miracle (or maybe a psychotic break). There's an X-Wing at the window and his friend's piloting it! There's one for him, too! He smashes the glass and leaps to freedom, zooming straight into the Battle of Hoth (and casually blowing up a number of office blocks on his way).

Abrams' trailers and teasers have already been pushing the nostalgia angle hard

These are not new tropes for video game commercials by any means (Sony's friendship-video-games-forget-reality theme has been going for a while now, and the Xbox One launched with a similar escape-from-your-office-life ad campaign), but it's notable how Stars Wars in particular can push the nostalgia angle. That's partly thanks to its longevity as a franchise, but also due to J.J. Abrams' direction. As the various trailers, teasers, and teaser trailers have demonstrated, Abrams is exceptionally good at retrieving the "blessed artifacts of the original films," dusting them down and restoring them to their former glory with a one-liner from Harrison Ford: "Chewie, we're home."

Commercials like the Battlefront one do the same thing for our memories, effortlessly reminding us of a happier time when the sun shone every day and we played outdoors. And it doesn't even matter, of course, if we were actually miserable loners who spent most of our time on our computers, or if we weren't even born before the time of the original trilogy. The useful thing about nostalgia is that it's always an invented feeling. It's entirely flexible, a sort of universal adhesive that can bind us to any media property. The only question is whether we'll stay stuck after The Force Awakens.