Phew – took some time, ey?
So the whole point with organising these Machinima evenings is to create a space for people to relax, share a beer and be introduced to what’s going on in the world of Machinima. There’s people who know what we’re on about and there’s people who are just fascinated by the medium and of course, those who are interested in New Media. I try to give an overview of what machinima is, but the more I learn about it – the more I realise that I’m just barely scratching the surface. So this year I decided to toss out objectivity and completely focus on what I wanted to focus on. I completely choked up, though. Suddenly I realised I had a microphone in my hand and people were listening to what I had to say – I haven’t talked publicly in a long long time! Definitely needed the practice. Luckily I’ve been giving a few lectures and presentations with work lately – so I’m starting to get it down again. So anyways – I’m going to squeeze in what I meant to say inbetween talking about the program of the evening. If you don’t recognise some of it – this is why.
So nuff said!
Machinima stands for machine + cinema + animation. If you think it doesn’t add up with the spelling, blame Hugh Hancock who created http://www.machinima.com. There’s also a story about a pub, a few beers and a cocktail napkin. But in essence it’s machinima stands for machine + cinema + animation. It was the intention to focus the evening on the “machine”-part. What fascinates me with machinima is how the artists are communicating with a machine or an artificial intelligence to create their own narrative or story. The machine I’m talking about is the computer game where the film is made. If a machinima film is made in World of Warcraft, the artist will have to communicate with the game and understand the game mechanics in order to tell their story.
I’m usually very casual with my definition of machinima: “Films made in computer games or virtual worlds.” – I feel it works. It’s simple and it’s so that anyone can understand it. It’s a very general definition however so to show the complexities of this – I started off showing the audience the infamous Leeroy Jenkins episode.
At my first ever Machinima event I also started with this little film. I thought it was an entertaining way to show what World of Warcraft actually looks like during gameplay and back then I used it as an example of what wasn’t machinima. My intention was to prove that machinima isn’t replay films. There’s usually a narrative or storyline involved within machinima it’s not all about playing the game, it’s more about playing the game to tell a story.
But a great thing happened – my audience disagreed with me. They started to question whether this Leeroy Jenkins episode was REALLY just a documentation of an incident that happened in World of Warcraft. The authenticity was questioned and if the film is a reenactment are they not telling us a story, and is it not machinima then?
Perhaps I’m confusing my definition with aesthetics. The next film looks completely different from the first. It can maybe be categorised as a celebration of WoW game aesthetics or as I prefer to think of it – a celebration of the art of machinima. The filming, the modding, the acting and the playing. Let me introduce you to one of my favourite machinima artists:
Baron Soosdon – I’m So Sick
Now the theme of the evening is to look at the way machinima artists are interacting with the game or “machine” in order to create their own stories and narrative. I feel this is an important component to defining what machinima is. Gameplay or communicating with artificial intelligence has a narratological significance in machinima films. Henry Lowood has defined it as puppet mastery. An artist must master the game and the avatars in order to create their own storyline. I feel that one of my favourite machinima films (I’ll be writing that a lot in this piece) illustrates this rather eloquently. It’s created in The Sims. Keep in mind that there are no magic buttons in The Sims which makes the Sims avatar angry or sad or have nightmares. The emotions are consequences of how you play with them. The Sims have a complex artificial intelligence embedded within them. While watching this film try to think of what the machinima artist has done to the avatar to make her have nightmares. In addition – I just find this film such a great omage of what you can do with avatar creation in The Sims. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!
One Jovial Sim – Alice
Now – saying that machinima has to have the element of the artist communicating with an artificial intelligence or gameplay reduces the scope of machinima. Or questions it. For example, there’s some beautiful films coming out of Second Life but this is a virtual world, there’s little gameplaying involved. Do these films then deserve to be a part of the same genre?
My favourite film from Second Life is an illustration of a short story by Sherwood Anderson. I haven’t read up on his work and I haven’t researched any analysis of this story. But from seeing this cinematic interpretation of the story – I feel it’s the best story ever told about writer’s block.
Lainy Voom – The Dumb Man
Incidently – One Jovial Sim (Alice) and Lainy Voom often collaborate in each other’s creations. Which makes you wonder – if the artists are collaborating, it must fall under the same media, right? Wouldn’t that be interesting if it’s the community of machinima artists that define what constitutes machinima or not?
Either way – I’ve concluded that there’s more than enough artificial intelligence in virtual worlds like Second Life for us to appreciate the puppet mastery involved in creating films in this space.
Now – there’s a new machinima “world” that I still don’t understand completely and will have to look deeper into, but I feel I can’t question the definition of machinima without mentioning it. The machinima “world” I’m refering to is, Moviestorm. From what I understand, this is a community that uploads environments, avatars, clothes etc. from games and virtual worlds and shares them with other machinima artists. So it seems like a machinima “world”, to me. But again, I must stress that I have not fully understood the concept and tool. Most of the contributions to machinima festivals are filmed with Moviestorm and it’s definitely a very strong force.
We’ve been a bit dark and serious in our film selection so far – so I thought I’d pick a film made with Moviestorm that made me laugh.
Phil Rice – Blast Supper
This is actually made for the Mefunk Akira competition. There was a list of things that had to be said in the film, like “That’s not a chicken, that’s my wife”. Excellent idea! And the film is just hillarious. But is it machinima?
I don’t know. Hugh Hancock, who created the whole term “machinima” says: “Of course it is!” – and for now, I’m willing to trust his expertise.