What is KAOS?: The Value of Mystery





Well, I guess this may have grabbed your attention…

These days, it seems that movie trailers are getting longer and longer, and as a result showing more and more of a film’s action, jokes, and even major plot points – yes, I’m looking at you Batman vs. Superman! In a sense, that oft-repeated and parodied ‘This is Sparta!!’ moment resonates as emblematic of the present’s addiction to getting the message up front: blaring loudly and proudly right into your face; giving away all the answers before any questions can be asked. I wonder whether for some people the negative connotations of ‘spoiler’ are there at all?

A teaser is never enough anymore. It’s almost like we’re going back to a time when some trailers essentially gave away all of a film to the point where you had to consciously turn away to get any surprises. Just to take one example, the trailer to one of my child favourites Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971) takes you step-by-step through every major scene from start to finish. Seriously, if you haven’t seen this film – or haven’t seen it in a while and have been meaning to re-visit the brilliance of the late Gene Wilder – do not watch this trailer!!

Enter the Matrix.jpg
Enter the Matrix by Linus Bohman (CC BY 2.0)

So why am I talking about this?

Well, recently I was inspired by the marketing for a movie called The Matrix, which was first screened in 1999 – a huge year of big movie releases. Most young people today won’t be aware of this, but the use of mystery in the ‘What is the Matrix?’ campaign was highly successful. That year, I was (mistakenly) more interested in the upcoming Star Wars Episode I prequel to care much about whatever this ‘matrix’ thing was, but I still remember the campaign, which says enough in itself – even if the whatisthematrix.com site has long been taken down, it was very powerful.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been promoting an initiative I’ve co-developed with PR Lecturer Ross Monaghan called ‘KAOS’. I took advantage of some superhero visitors to Deakin University’s Open Day, as well as my partner’s long hair, to make a few ‘What is KAOS?’ videos to tweet out to my students. Now, what I did here is nothing like the above example in quality or effect, but I did want to play around a bit to see if mystery still had its place.

I didn’t end up doing as many vignettes as I planned to, but student responses I received on and off Twitter suggested that raising a question rather than simply saying something in a straightforward way continues to hold some weight – if only because it’s not done often enough. With mystery a key element of games – and, as a result, gamification – I’ll no doubt be looking more into this theme as time goes by. What will come of it, of course, remains a mystery.

And if I’ve piqued your curiosity enough with the question I’ve asked over the last few weeks, feel free to watch the video below to find out the answer…


Featured image: Spartan by Istolethetv (CC BY 2.0)

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