So, we discussed this a bit in class, but I think it’s still a bit of an issue. As such, I’d like to put forth a few pieces and ask if people think they are Machinima.
Obviously, RedvsBlue is Machinima. It’s people controlling the characters in highly intentional ways to create a traditional (if absurd) narrative.
“Leeroy Jenkins,” too, seems to be Machinima, although it is posing as an unscripted gameplay video.
But what about this video? It’s a serious attempt on (at the time, several years ago) a new boss. However, they do have a dedicated “cameraman,” since no UI is showing on the recording. The use of music, too, seems to have a pretty big impact on the footage. And there’s definitely a narrative here.
I’m not sure if it’s Machinima or not, but I can’t say I can just clearly dismiss it.
Anyway, I think it’s worth questioning how much you have to be “using things in unintended ways” for it to be Machinima, since the act of recording video games is (until recently) rather unintended in and of itself.
When starting to read these pieces, it seemed completely foreign to me. Firstly I don’t play Halo and the idea of creating a film using videogame characters seemed a bit absurd. Not that I didn’t think videogames lacked the potential to be turned into movies (since we have examples like Laura Croft, Silent Hill, and…Resident Evil, though I wasn’t a fan of that last one), but the thought of doing it within the confines of a virtual world seemed hard. There are some games with exceptionally intricate and vast worlds but the limitations on the characters and their actions seems the greater difficulty. The enlightening part within the FAQ was just how much time and money Machinima can save in the production of a film/episode. While animation has progressed from being hand drawn frame by frame to some digital rendering, moving to ready made 3D videogames seems like it would hinder the creative process. If you don’t collaborate directly with the videogame producers, you are left to deal with a handful of limitations. People most likely will have to become inovative because of this, but it is likely that lots of the merit from these Machinima works will have to come from the script. Another key limitation I think exists is that representations of humans within videogames are not realistic yet to create believeable portrayals. There still remains an alien factor while watching these 3D characters in situations going past their roles within their respective games. I don’t think it would qualify as Machinima, but the only example I’ve seen where I think videogame characters had sucessfuly translated into film was “Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children“. I don’t think Machinima can produce great works of art…or anything beyond comedy just yet. Will be interesting to see how it develops in the future.
In “The Xbox Auteurs”, after posing the question of whether machinima can be “art,” Clive Thompson mentions a piece by Brody Condon composed entirely of footage of player characters committing suicide in various game scenarios. The piece is “Suicide Solution” (2004), which Condon describes as an “in-game performance.” You can find an excerpt from “Suicide Solution” and documentation of a lot of other really interesting work with gaming, machinima, and digital imaging on his website, tmpspace.
In “The Xbox Auteurs,” Thompson is trying to create an analogy between independent, “auteur” filmmaking practices and machinima. The analogy falls flat, however, when you realize how beholden machinima filmmakers are to the prefabricated and limited game scenario. Even the most low-budget filmmaker has a huge variety of options in terms of crafting a film narrative compared to the machinima “auteur.” As Thompson observes, until the character-based, dialogue-heavy machinima project “Red vs. Blue” became popular, Halo characters couldn’t even lower their weapons.
The question of whether machinima can be “art” is a loaded one, and Thompson doesn’t do a particularly good job of framing it in the article–“serious emotional depth” is not the sole qualification for artistic merit. Nevertheless, it’s a question worth asking. I would argue that machinima is art, to the extent that any use of any technology can be art. But as an artform, machinima is distincly different from cinema. It’s not just showing us a mediated “reality,” it’s showing us a doubly mediated vision of an already mediated game world.
Getting back to Brody Condon, I think his characterization of his work as “in-game performance” is more accurate than Thompson’s comparison of machinima to indie filmmaking. No matter what kind of story one tries to tell, machinima can’t help but at some point become a commentary on “world” it represents–and, consequentially, the world outside that one. To me, the most interesting thing about machinima is its ability to represent a counter-narrative to the imposed narrative of the game–for instance, Thompson’s jokey example of the innocent Canadian tourist wandering around Grand Theft Auto, or Condon’s intentional “suicides.” Machinima is not simply telling a story, it’s telling us what it means to be “in-game.”