A Response to Henry Lowood’s “High-Performance Play: The Making of Machinima”

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“The early history of Machinima illustrates a number of themes in the appropriation of game technology to create a new narrative, even artistic medium. (Lowood 38).”

This article highlighted the ways in which Machinima was developed, improved, and sustained among the gaming community. Machinima, according to Lowood, is animated films created using first person shooter video games. It exemplifies the idea that “the dissemination of accessible tools – even if they are not necessarily easy-to-use – creates opportunities for the emergence of unexpected content in a postmodern environment that places playful experiments and throwaway pieces alongside startling and original instances of creative expression (Lowood 26).” But what does this mean? It means that the tools that are embedded in video games have had some unintended uses that have allowed users to showcase how they feel about, view, or play the game. By filming their realtime actions, the gamers are able to accurately portray their exact vision within the game to others. These visions can greatly differ between users, which adds to the creative expression aspect of Machinima.

Machinima is a film-like medium in many ways. Those creating Machinima are able to change the camera angle in which the film is shot, just like in traditional frame-based methods. However, they are shot in real time and the camera angle can be altered at any moment without affecting or having to go back and reshoot what is happening, so Machinima does have an advantage in that way (Lowood 33). Machinima is also a film-like medium because it pays attention to the sequence, the audio and visual in relation to each other, the mise-en-scène, and many more of the aspects associated with film. While the variation between Machinima is technically limited, there can be great variation between them due to the freedom that each user has during creation.

For my example of Machinima, I found a clip title “Los Santos Psycho,” which is a remake of the introduction to the movie American Psycho made using Grand Theft Auto 5. In this clip, some of the key elements of Machinima are easily identifiable. First, the changing camera angle and the attention that is paid to it by the creator. The different scenes, camera angles, and shots used in Los Santos Psycho also closely mimic those in American Psycho, although there are some slight parodic twists. Another element present is the attention paid to the movement and mannerisms of the virtual actor. The narration and movements of the character in the film are very similar to that of the narration in the movie, and in watching this clip side-by-side with the original, the creator’s intentions are clear, easily visible, and understood.

This is just one of countless examples of Machinima, but I thought that this one did a good job of displaying just how close attention to detail and creation a user can have in order to accurately depict and display what they have in mind. Perhaps one day Machinima will be the “original” film, and real life actors will be the ones doing the remaking.

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