recess radio program

6/17/04
Machinima
    by Laurie Taylor

You may not be aware of it, but there are interesting new ways that people are "playing" video games. For instance, you can actaully use video games to make original short movies. A number of games now come with built-in options for advanced players to invent their own game worlds and to use these possibilities to develop new game settings, characters, and plots -- the results of which can actually be filmed. The Academy of Machinima Arts and Sciences was formed to promote this emerging digital art form, holding its own regular film festivals that showcase comedies, dramas, music videos, and documentaries.

One machinima, Anna, traces the life cycle of a single flower. Though it was made using the video game Quake III, which is a multiplayer fighting game, Anna begins with a lyrical soundtrack and with a small girl dropping seeds on the forest ground. A bird eats all but one seed, and the final seed sprouts into a purple bloom -- this video ends with the forest floor covered in these bright flowers. Another film, In the Waiting Line, tells the story of a robot looking for meaning outside the continuous work routine; Anachronox follows a private eye investigating trouble in the galaxy; and Ozymandias is a machinima adaption of the poem by Percy Shelley. These and many other machinima can all be found on http://ww.machinima.com. It's a richly varied group of subjects, but what they all have in common is that they were made by improvising with the elements that are contained in video games that already exist.

Machinima is the latest variation in a highly creative tradition of experimental game playing. Winning the game winds up at the end of a long list which includes exploring, playing music, figuring out puzzles, and sharing the game with friends and family. More often than not, adults see the purposes of games in rather narrowly defined, rule-oriented ways. But kids often view games as looser and more open-ended. That's why using video games to make movies isn't a such radical new departure from "the rules" for them. Rather, machinima is creating its own, new rules, and its own kind of "game" as it evolves from the original on which it is based. If you think the emerging young video game designer in your family might be intrigued by this, summer classes that can teach them how to make Machinimas are starting to be offered -- like the one in New York City's Summertech Computer Camp, for girls and boys, ages 8 - 16. They've even got a family camp in the Carribean this year: parents can snorkel while the future Spielbergs of Machinima are busy on the digital soundstage.

See: http://www.summertech.net/curriculum.html

Copyright 2004 Laurie Taylor

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Tuesday, 25-May-2004 12:45:52 EDT


"Recess!" is a co-production of the University of Florida's Center for Children's Literature and Culture and WUFT-FM, "Classic 89."