There’s Something About Machinima

I remember back in 1994, or was it 1995, when I first saw SEGA’s Virtua Fighter 2 at the local arcade thinking: “Ok, this kind of visual fidelity would be more than enough to make movies with”, and my imagination started running wild of the possibilities. VF 2 wasn’t the first one with real-time texture mapping, but that technology combined with cinematic camera-movements, motion capture and fairly high poly-count was unprecedented at the time.

So, it was only the matter of time when the vision I had then came to existence in a form known as machinima. In short, machinima is a cinematic narrative realized by using some particular game engine and, usually, its in-game art assets as they are. The historical machinima milestone was reached recently when FOX aired a 30 min. machinima made by Rockstar Games using their own game Red Dead Redemption. To be honest, I found it booring as hell, but as a concept it was a cool move by FOX and Rockstar Games.

However, there’s an interesting ambivalence present in machinima. On the one hand, it can be seen as a tribute or celebration to the medium itself, as a “hey mom (cinema), look what I can do” –moment. But at the same time, it’s abusing the medium by not allowing user input to the process, which gives rise to the question why have it in real-time if there’s no genuine need for it? Obviously, the answer to that is, because it can.

All in all, it’s sad how much real-time medium has always wanted to be more like cinema, than itself. There was a time, when “geez, that game looks like a movie” –sentiment could have been considered as a compliment, but that time is long gone now and people should realize that the real-time medium is a whole different animal in itself.