Amping up gamification to a 10 (or maybe even 11), thrash rockers Red Fang—with help from Wieden + Kennedy—have created a mobile app that's part music video and part video game. And you control it by headbanging.
The game is called Red Fang: Headbang. You can play for free on iOS or Android, or on this website. Check out a promo for it below, in which the self-proclaimed "riff barbarians" pose the question: "Does your head have enough bang?"
Well, it seems you'll literally lose your head by playing. Better slap on a warning label: "Parental Advisory: Decapitation Hazard!"
W+K writer and director Ansel Wallenfang (is that a death-metal name or what!?) devised the campaign.
"I had the idea one night while watching a metal music video," Wallenfang tells Muse. "When I realized how I was moving with my phone, it hit me like lightning—which is also pretty metal. I spent a few months developing the idea. The interactive part was clear, but what it should look like and why took some thinking. I went through a number of versions before I felt like I nailed it."
While gripping their handsets, users make up-and-down head and body motions to keep Red Fang alive and jamming toward three possible endings.
"Metal completely owns headbanging in the way that, I don't know, books own reading or marathons own running," says Wallenfang. "So the concept is easy to get, whether or not you're a fan."
Gamification with a retro vibe is all the rage these days—even grocery stores are stocking up—and this gloriously gory evocation of Clinton-era goofiness fits (or maybe even breaks) the mold.
"I grew up in the '90s, so I have a soft spot for classic arcade games," Wallenfang says. "Metal often uses dark imagery, with demons, goblins, fantasy hellfire and brimstone, which all lends itself nicely to that era. Plus, those games, with all their blood and cartoonish violence, were famous for terrifying parents into demanding a rating system for video games."
Wellenfang previously leveraged metal for his Time to Dye: Extreme Easter Egging kit, and he's contributed to W+K's high-profile KFC spots with Cols. Reba McEntire, Jason Alexander and George Hamilton. (The agency's also produced several music videos for Grammy-winning band Portugal. the Man.)
For Red Fang, he employed vintage methods to create the visuals, editing on the pixel level for greater authenticity.
"When it comes to pixel art, I feel like it's an often-overlooked era of games," Wallenfang says. "Even though it's a throwback, using it felt like a fresh approach to a music video. Just like those mid-'90s games, I filmed all my characters against green screens and then worked with a team that converted them into pixels so they could be integrated into gameplay."
If you're guessing some in-jokes and easter eggs found their way on screen, you're right.
Matt Pike, the singer/guitarist of Sleep and High on Fire, appears, as does Big Bang Theory's Brian Posehn. What's more, "the video includes a number of people close to the band—their tour manager is the guy who gets axed in half and cries about the destroyed van," Wallenfang says.
Dude, don't be a wuss. BANG! YOUR! HEAD!
Red Fang: Headbang
Written & Directed by Ansel Wallenfang
Produced by Wieden+Kennedy
Starring RED FANG
With Matt Pike and Brian Posehn
Lead artist & Animator: Andy Gregg
Additional Music: Disasterpeace
Executive Producers: Jules Brown, Adele Major
Concept and copy: Ansel Wallenfang
The Monster Squad: Caitlin Alexander, Shaine Edwards, Nick Stokes, Anthony Feggans, Damion Lazzara, Kevin Shaw, Danika Nutter, Alyssa Noël Mehler, Adam Pike, Tim Bias, Chris Rhodes, Felicia Glover, Chris Coyle
Monster Masks created by Rad Biker, Skinner
Additional Art by Skinner, Bossdog, Lloyd Winter IV, Smelly Elle
Director of Photography: Jason Roark
Engineers and Animators: Michael Latzoni, Stephen Schieberl, Nate Horstmann, Trent Johnson
Consulting Producer: Eric Alba
Producer: Giulia Jiménez
UX/UI Designer: Manxue Wang
Creative Technical Director: Grant Thomas
Lead Creative Technologist: Ola Björling
Sound Design: Matt Miller
3D Modeling: Jeff Ackley, Adam Sirkin, Chris Huang, Oliver Rokoff
Designer: Ken Berg
Website: David Chathas, Trent Johnson
Creative Director of W+K Studios: Jason Kreher
Director of W+K Studios: Patty Brebner
Business Director of W+K Studios: Katie Gurgainus
Line Producer: Jules brown
Assistant Director: Kyle Eaton
Assistant Camera: Erik Wallin
DIT: Anders Lund
Gaffer: Ian Jennings
Key Grip: Cory Standridge
VFX Supervisor: Katrina Salicrup
Stylist: Demi Yoko
Stylist Assistant : Kailah Armand
Hair and Makeup : Mari Joe
SFX Makeup: Katie McHugh, Karen Koch
Production Coordinator: Mulu Habtemariam
Production Assistant: Giulia Jiménez, Jordan Sevigny
Business Affairs: Karen Roche, Kevin Moyer
Storyboard Artist: Leo Zarosinski
Editorial Executive Producer: Leslie Carthy
Editors: Eric Hill, Steve Sprinkel, JB Jacobs, Dylan Sylwester
VFX Executive Producer: Alex Thiesen
VFX Producer: Rebekah Koerbel
VFX Artists: David Jahns, Kevin Alfoldy, Aidan Jung, Jasmine Vazquez, Matt Blum
“Antidote” by Red Fang licensed courtesy of Domino Music Publishing Limited
“Red Fang Buddies” photo courtesy of James Rexroad
Special thanks to Eric Baldwin, Jason Bagley, Karrelle Dixon, Felicia Glover, Laurel Stearns, Nick Stokes, Karen Roche, Kevin Moyer, Rachel Gardell, Jenna Simmons, Lizzy Harris, Claire Wilson, Jack Stringer, Brian Cook, James Rexroad, Amy Ellars, Andrew Clayton, Erica Nikolaidis, Arson Wolfenstein
Extra special thanks to: You, the player!
Writer / Director / Producer: Ansel Wallenfang
DP / Colorist: Jason Roark
Talent: Shaine Edwards
VFX Supervisor / Special Visual Effects: Katrina Salicrup
Practical Effects: Jozy Kinnaman
Editor: Steve Sprinkel
Sound Design: Matt Miller
Production Assistant: Brian Lake