Maturity and Merit

Machinima is not classy. It’s a little immature. It does not add anything of artistic merit to our culture. This, however, does not mean machinima is not an important cultural movement worthy of study. Machinima is the dawn of players becoming creators.

When I was 12 or 13, machinima videos were almost all I watched on the internet. It was partially because I liked the video games, but also because I was enthralled by the power of remix culture and how polished yet mindless it was. Let’s Plays were very easy to watch, but had very little actual storytelling substance. The story was not the story within the game, but the journey of the player and content provider. References to these stories could then be expanded and remixed, adding a whole new dimension to the medium. The fan base could become an active participant in the story.

Perhaps as I grow older, I will completely lose interest in this medium. Already, some of the more popular Let’s Plays seem a little juvenile, which makes sense, as most of this content is aimed at kids.

Are people warranted then, to dismiss this medium of its importance? Perhaps the same way we dismiss a 4 year old’s drawings? Of course not. With machinima, there is an interesting cultural phenomenon at work. The pioneers of machinima created content that was never intended by the game developers. All they thought about was making a game with certain mechanics that would be fun for the player. What ended up happening, was that people created something entirely new. Footage of people playing games eventually became a unique form of storytelling.

In the text Found Technology: Players as Innovators in the Making of Machinima by Henry Lowood, Lowood discusses this occurrence at length. He calls this a “found technology.” No one made the tools explicitly for machinima, but rather they were discovered. Machinima content providers were amateurs, but they were able tell stories in a way no one had before. Despite how cringe-y these stories are sometimes, they are revolutionary.

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One thought on “Maturity and Merit

  1. I agree with you that, to date, machinima has been limited to primarily juvenile content, despite the potential demonstrated by The French Democracy. I’m still fascinated and even a little awed by the particular type of creativity that is expressed in making machinima, which I think you articulate well in your post. Machinima may not have evolved into the serious-minded art form of its potential, but what it does do (for me at least) is stand as one of the premier examples of subversive play and creative misuse. And in that sense I think it is worth taking seriously, even when the content isn’t.

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