Machinima, The Block


The Block, Kelvin Grove

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Machinima artist Friedrich Kirshner talks with Oiliva Porgand, a member of the QUT's Machinima Curation Team.

How would you define Machinima in its present form?

Machinima in its present form is probably best defined as "Filmmaking using Video Game Technology". It's a term often used by Paul Marino, the Director of the Academy of Machinima Arts and Sciences, and I feel it encapsulates the current state of Machinima quite well. Most works people will stumble upon will use settings within existing games to tell a story.

How important do you think the notion of narrative is hen constructing a Machinima work? Is it possible to make Machinima without a narrative?

Narrative is a broad term. Today, we design everything from Computer Operating Systems to elevator controls with "narrative" in mind, so it's hard to say that time-based work like Machinima movies can have no narrative. Most Machinima movies relate to a very classical idea of narrative, with character arcs, dialogue, story development and so on. But of course there are the odd ones out: films that are based on mood, visual expression, or document special events, like protests or performances in Multi-player game environments. I think the term narrative is as much applicable to Machinima as it is to Animation in general.

How has Machinima changed from its beginnings in Doom and Quake to the present day? How many of these changes have been affected by the evolution of the games engines themselves?

Well, of course the graphics are shinier and have more polygons. As well as this, though, there are some more subtle changes. The first Machinima tolls, like Keygrip 2 for Quake 2, had highly advanced functionality for filming and editing Machinima at the time. While most games are now developed with editing tools to create custom levels and import characters and animations, in the early days not much work was going into tools specific to filmmaking. Until YouTube arrived, game designers weren't aware of the marketing potential of user-generated movies. Now we have games with direct-to-YouTube functionality (Spore by Electronic Arts), and so on. Also, in recent years, more and more "Machinima only" software has appeared on the market, like iClone, Moviestorm, and Muvizu. And then there's SecondLife!

However, I do think that most of the evolution of filmmaking in games was simulated by people eager to tell their stories with the limited capabilities they had access to. Game developers soon recognized the potential of user-generated content in marketing their products. There's still a fair share of user-created tools, hacks and add-ons for popular games that provide additional functionality for filmmakers, and with the rise of Massively Multiplayer Games, a whole new way of documenting and reporting on in-game occurrences has found its way into Machinima.

Many Machinima works over the years have been focused on the characters offering a critique of the game engine. Is this still a relevant practice today or has game-critique reached its limitations?

I think for as long as video games are based on exaggerated characters and ridiculous settings, critique comes naturally. Machinima is a way for people to play with the content, stereotypes and tropes that are presented to them.