One of the most compelling and emotional Microsoft Xbox commercials ever made is climbing its way to viral fame.
But until the video started getting attention online last week, Microsoft had no idea it existed.
It turns out that the ad was created by an aspiring Los Angeles filmmaker named John Wikstrom,Â Adweek first reported. Wikstrom works in the ad industry as a treatment designer, but he’d never had the chance to actually make a commercial.
So he decided to create and post one on his own time to give his portfolio a boost. Â
The commercial, entitled “Player Two,” tells the story of a teenager who revisits an old Xbox â “the first, ruggedy blocky one from 2001” â that he hasn’t touched since his dad died ten years before.
Years ago, he and his dad used to spend time together playing a racing game called Rallisport Challenge. When he fires it back up, he finds that his dad’s game-winning race is still saved on the console in the form of a ghostly looking recording.
The story is pulled directly from a YouTube commentÂ that was posted a year ago under a video called, “Can Video Games Be a Spiritual Experience?”Â
In fact, the comment lent itself so well to a film script that Wikstrom simply reproduced it word-for-word in the voiceover.
Wikstrom originally had something more conventional in mind when he set out to make an ad, he said, but that haunting comment had lingered in his mind a full year after he saw it.Â
He eventually scrapped the video he was working on and, with the help of actor friend Zac Pullam and cinematographer Idan Menin, started setting the story to video.Â
“Even a year after I read the comment, I wasn’t able to shake it,” Wikstrom told Mashable in an email. “I loved the way it spoke to the relationship the boy had with his father, and the unique way it dealt with loss and memory.”
The video quickly began to gain traction last week, and as of Wednesday, it was approaching one million views on YouTube.Â
Reactions started to pour in. One of the game’s designers, Kiki Wolfkill, contacted Wikstrom to ask if she could show the video at an upcoming speech she was giving. Microsoft proliferated it through its social media accounts, implicitly giving it the company’s blessing.
The Xbox marketing team didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.
But perhaps the most rewarding feedback came from the surprising number of people who had experienced similar video game connections to dead loved ones.
“It seems to have hit some sort of artery,” Wolfkill said. “People started sharing all kinds of stories of video games and loss: people completing the ‘saved games’ of a lost loved one, watching recordings of matches played with lost friends and even people seeing ‘ghosts’ on other racing games.”Â
“Yesterday, a woman whose gamer son passed away sent me a message that made me burst into tears,” he added. “She spoke of how happy this made her: the idea that part of her son might still be out there, on a leaderboard, with his characters sitting quietly on the sidelines.”
The original poster of the comment responded to the video with a simple, “thank you,” followed up the next day with a “<3.”
But later, he had a sad post-script to add to the story.
“Sadly, today I raced my father for the last time,” he wrote. “The console, after over a decade, finally succumbed of old age.”
On a happier note, he went on to announce, he had been accepted into a university to study video game design.
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