important to ensure that these can be
undertaken quickly, easily, ethically,
and with minimal burdens on both
researchers and testers.
For particularly novel software,
including some developed by
researchers as radical proofs of concept,
the issue becomes even more acute.
In some cases, this can be explained
textually, often by analogy, such as “It’s
like sending text messages, but to loads
of people all at once.” In other cases, we
may be tempted to say, “Just try it—
trust me.” However, an unconvinced
potential user may reasonably require
a bit more information about the
user experience before committing
themselves. This is where an experience
trailer can be useful.
This work has been supported by the
Mixed Reality Laboratory “Living with
Digital Ubiquity” platform grant (UK
1. Parker, L. The problem with game trailers.
Gamespot. Mar. 12, 2012; http://www.
2. Duwell, R. Graphical downgrades stirring
up controversy in gaming. Techbuffalo.
Mar. 24, 2014; http://www.technobuffalo.
3. Kernan, L. Coming Attractions: Reading
American Movie Trailers. Univ. of Texas
Press, Austin, 2004.
4. Rennick Egglestone, S., Walker, B.,
Marshall, J., and Benford, S. Analysing the
playground: Sensitizing concepts to inform
systems that promote playful interaction.
Proc. of Interact 2011.
5. Schnädelbach, H., Rennick Egglestone,
S., Reeves, S., Benford, S., and Walker, B.
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systems and spectator interfaces for
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Michael Twidale does research in
computer-supported cooperative work,
computer-supported collaborative learning,
and human-computer interaction, with a
particular interest in informal social learning
Stefan Rennick-Egglestone is a design
researcher with interests in digital healthcare
interventions and the integration of technology
into creative practice and performance. He
currently works in the Nottingham Institute of
Film trailers may not want to give
too much away, especially plot spoilers.
This issue may seem less relevant to
experience trailers, but for example
when running a usability evaluation,
we may not want to give the whole
game away. Similar to a film trailer, we
may sketch out the generalities of the
experience while not revealing all the
Experience trailers have to answer
similar questions ( What is it about?
What is it like?) but with a greater
emphasis on the question of what
engaging with this product or activity
will feel like. Particular challenges
arise when the intended experience
is somewhat different from possible
expectations, or a genre where a person
might think the artifact belongs. It can
be particularly difficult if the product
or service is intended to be radically
different from its competitors.
The advertisement for the Wii is
a particularly good example of that.
At the time, computer games were
regarded as a niche activity, often
seen as violent and of greater appeal
to younger people, particularly young
men. They raised connotations of
playing alone or with like-minded
friends in a basement or dorm room,
as a somewhat exclusionary activity
that required considerable focus and
expertise to enjoy.
The Wii was a novel product with
a novel input device associated with
a set of games, many of which were
more casual in style and intended to
be enjoyed by families, often across
wide ranges of ability. The design of
the device and some of the associated
games facilitated that, but the trailer
needed to explain to people that playing
with the Wii was a rather different
kind of experience than perhaps people
associated with computer games.
To do that, it was important to show
the wider context—not just what
you would see on the screen, but the
wider activity in the living room. That
included showing the interaction with
the Wii controller, showing its novelty
and also implying it was easy for non-gamers to learn how to use.
Like many other game trailers, it
of course showed the players having
fun. But it also showed a wider context
of a larger family group enjoying
the activity—even if they were not
currently playing. The Wii facilitated
not just play but also playful social
watching, commentating, cheering,
and discussing; the trailer emphasized
an experience that transcended simple
Similar challenges occur with other
new technologies, where it is important
to help people understand what this new
experience will actually be like—and
why it is different from (and hopefully
better than) other experiences, as well
as their expectations.
Experience trailers can be used like
film trailers: to help people decide
which of many competing claims
on their time and money to choose.
With interactive software and
devices, a static description or list of
features is frequently insufficient for
a well-informed choice. Even a simple
demo may not be enough; people
may reasonably want to know what
it will feel like to actually use the
product—before even trying it. Just
as a film trailer does not try to be a
précis of a film, an experience trailer
does not have to convey the entire
experience; a flavor of the experience
may be very useful. This is particularly
the experience of using the technology
is novel, or substantially unlike what a
person might imagine from their prior
In describing experience trailers,
we do not claim to have invented a new
way of interacting or a new subgenre of
demo or video. Some people are already
doing this, and some pioneers did it
decades ago. We think it is useful to
note the problems of imagining oneself
using a novel technology that experience
trailers try to address, and to be aware
of some of the techniques used. Several
of our examples are video experience
trailers, but a few use live action and
participation as a kind of trailer. We
hope that others will continue to
expand both the techniques and the use
contexts of experience trailers.
We think an especially important use
is in providing better informed consent
for volunteers taking part in research
studies with novel software. We are
strong advocates of more, earlier, and
more frequent user testing, and so it is