Thursday, August 21, 2008

Machinima Is Not Cinema

And it is not art. And it is not good.

Or so went the argument an acquittance of mine made during a 'discussion' on the less than finer points of machinima.

Oh, I'm back by the way. Thanks for asking.

The entire foundation of this argument appeared to rest on the idea that by reusing existing content, machinima was nothing more than a lazy hack. To paraphrase, when watching this, the entire concept would be clouded by the idea that someone somewhere was too lazy to make the content themselves (the characters, maps, engine, physics, environment, etc.). Nevermind that some machinima requires the 'inside the game' perspective that would be virtually impossible to create or to watch without that context.

It was bloody hot too. Like blistering hot. Fry an egg on the pavement hot.

I think anyone who reads this blog would know that this argument would hold no merit with me. For those of you who don't, then consider this: I not only think machinima is cinema, I'm beginning to suspect that the 'inside the game' perspective may be fundamentally more important than either the pure raw cinema or the pure raw gamer perspectives that have been developed over the last century or the last 30 plus years, respectively.

Sand and sun is a good combination.

Bruce Sterling would probably call this folk art. And he also would say it is not good. But at least he would call it art and describe it as 'interesting'.

So, is machinima art or a bloody hack? Cheap regurgitated nonsense not much above the cheap collages we all made in elementary school or is machinima a truly unique cinematic artform?

Vacation should be permanent and we should only have to take work for two weeks out of 52. Not the other way around.

Machinima: cinema or not?


Johnnie Ingram said...

The argument holds little merit with me, either. To say that there's no artistic validity in machinima (in any of its many guises) is simply ridiculous.

Of course, there's some dross out there, stuff that's so toe-curlingly awful that one struggles to find anything good to say about it. But, at the other end of the scale, there's Anna, The Apology, The Return, Summer In City 17, The Dumb Man, Clockwork, Beast, Person2184, When We Two Parted, Of Fables And Men ... and many, many others. I struggle to see how anyone could make a reasonable argument that none of these hold any artistic value.

Hugh said...

Bruce Sterling is indeed interested by Machinima - I've talked to him about it before.

As for the other argument - OK, then presumably a lot of live-action film isn't art either. After all, all the Blair Witch Project, anything made under the Dogma manifesto, and hundreds of other films do are reuse existing art, whether that be real-world architecture, landscapes, or the faces and bodies of people who already exist.

Overman said...

Great point, Hugh. How many live action films construct everything from scratch? (rhetorical)

Bill, I'm most interested to hear more about how you countered that perspective you were confronted with.

Welcome back, by the way!

bllius said...

How much art is constructed from scratch?

Obviously there is a continuum from completely novel creations to complete copies of preexisting works.

My counterarguments fell on deaf ears, unfortunately, but basically:

1. Although taking a 'shortcut' by utilizing something like a game engine, there is still a creative element to making machinima.
2. This machinima should be considered both art and cinema.
3. Judgement of whether it is 'good' or not is another matter entirely.

Linn Søvig said...

I have absolutely no understanding for the argument that machinima is a shotcut form of film making. I've also always been kinda weary of people boasting that machinima is so great because it helps aspiring film makers to create alone and within a limited budget. So I've heard this argument from luvrs and non-luvrs of machinima.

Firstly - making machinima is far from easy. If all the creators want to do is make an animated movie, with no relation to gaming what so ever - I tell them to use A.L.I.C.E.

The 'inside perspective' of the game is essential to machinima, if you ask me. When appreciating machinima, I'm often completely in awe of the creator's mastery of the game, it's environment, angle and characters. So...yeah - I totally agree.

But I've been playing with an idea that machinima is both hacking and art at the same time. A hacking art? Because that not what machinima is about - bending the codes of the game to create something new?

I'm still on vacation so NANA NANA NAAA NAA! Although, a bit sad that I'm still reading blogs and posting unthought-through comments on them. MUST TURN OFF COMPUTER NOW!

Pineapple Pictures said...

Any chance of a link to a good example of a film made using A.L.I.C.E Linn? I hadn't heard of it before, most of their forum posted shares are not viewable without the program. Kate

Ricky Grove said...

It's really an argument that has been going on for decades: what is art? Andy Warhol takes Campbell Soup cans and puts them on a canvas and they become symbols for a whole artistic movement (Pop Art). Modern art is filled with examples of "re-use" of content.

Not to see the possibilities in Machinima is to be narrow minded. That's why I do machinima, because it's so new and unique. Many other art forms (Impressionism, DaDa) took time to be accepted by the art world (and the general public). But, frankly, one of the great things about machinima is that it doesn't matter if your work is accepted or not. I want to make films that interest me and my friends, not films that I think will be picked up by a cable channel.

So many contemporary art forms have been established as a reaction to the formula-driven crap we see on TV and in movie theatres. Machinima is personal and non-traditional in form and some people simply reject the non-traditional out of hand.

The idea that machinima is not art is simply not true and simply shows a lack of understanding. More significant is something like the Ottowa Animation Festival walkout a few years ago. But all of that is changing. Siggraph 2009 will be allowing machinima entries for the first time and knowledge of what machinima is capable of is growing in leaps and bounds.

dRNn1076 said...

HI, I'm new here and to the machinima scene.

My name is Ricardo and currently I'm working in my master thesis which revolves around machinima and its modes of production. My aim is to analyse whether machinima is truly a new approach to movie making and in general to digital media production. That is my basic hypothesis.
So far my work is taking a look at machinima's history and its similarities in development to early cinema.

Next steps are in the line to study some "representative" movies and how they were produced, who, her/his intentions, relations towards production tools, and distribution systems.

So far I do think they are three general critical issues.
1. The fan and amateur.
2. The techno-logic of videogames
3. Digital spectacle
I'm going to scrutinise them through:
1. Production and spectator-ship values in machinima.
2. Techniques and languages of machinima spectacle.
3. DIY spectacle as the fragmented digital aesthetic.

Of course any comment and critique to my approach is more than welcome specially coming form the machinima community.
Many thanks for your time reading this lines.

bllius said...

Sounds interesting Ricardo.

johnnie said...

That does indeed sound interesting. Be sure to let us know how you get on, and welcome to the community!

Ross Scott said...

I don't really understand what you're referring to with the "inside the game" perspective aside from it actually taking place in a game. I just see that as a medium.

dRNn1076: I don't think there's anything genuinely new about machinima, it's comparable to amateur filmmaking or creating shorts using actual 3D modelling software (depending on the director's approach), but with many more limitations and shortcuts.

bllius said...

"I don't really understand what you're referring to with the "inside the game" perspective aside from it actually taking place in a game. I just see that as a medium."

That an embedded perspective using the game not simply as an engine but a complete virtual world upon which to comment is potentially far more interesting once it transcends folk art. That the spectrum between interactive fiction and non interactive narrative and the bridge in between the two that some machinima takes place in/on willl have far-reaching consequences.