Understanding Machinima


By Jenna Ng

The drunkenness of things being various

World is crazier and more of it than we think,
Incorrigibly plural. I peel and portion
A tangerine and spit the pips and feel
The drunkenness of things being various.

~ Louis MacNeice (1935, np)

The germ of the idea for this book began when I was sitting in my flat in northern Sweden, staring out of the window at a howling Arctic winter blizzard. Two things struck me: the first was the inexorable passage of the elements – the grey rains of the autumn having given way to the flurries of ice crystals; the dark snow now blanketing the ground that would give rise in the spring to the gushing river artery which ran through the town. I had an epiphany: that everything was not only inter-connected, but that existence itself – the very thingness of us all – is not discrete, but the ebb and flow of those connections.

The second was that I was looking at an aesthetic out of my window which could very well have come out of an alternative reality, so warm and dry was I in my room while the storm raged outside. I did not, as Louis MacNeice (1935) did in his poem "Snow", look at roses against the pane to bring to me his inspiration of "the drunkenness of things being various", but I would like to think I had a similar insight. The pluralities of reality are such that participation in both physical and virtual worlds are not discontinuous experiences but parts in a fluid course – a veritable wave function – in which we dip and dive, equally comfortable in both as well as all their shades in-between.

I started formulating the book in the wake of these two thoughts. Machinima – commonly defined as films made by real-time three-dimensional computer graphics rendering engines – had already fascinated me, primarily because it presents many critical issues for studying film and media: its subversiveness in using media as "found technology" (Lowood 2008) to achieve goals beyond those prescribed by its original form (primarily games); its born-digital nature as a medium created, produced, and exhibited entirely with digital technologies; its economic structure (where millions of films are produced and shared without any money changing hands directly); its comfortable, almost associative, straddling between gaming, fan and film cultures; its uses for social and political criticism; its democratic promise as a medium available to most people with a reasonably fast computer who can now make films with any number of scenes which would have been far more difficult to animate or film in real life (car explosions, alien armies and epic battles are all relatively easy with machinima). A small but growing collection of work is already well exploring these issues and more: Henry Lowood and Michael Nitsche's The Machinima Reader (2011) stands as a pioneer of critical work of machinima; the special issue on machinima in the April 2011 Journal of Visual Culture as co-edited by Susan Rojo, Matteo Bittanti and Lowood (Rojo 2011) is another.

Nevertheless, I want to examine machinima in the present collection in terms of two more specific inquiry strands. The first is how machinima has become connected with many other tools and media forms so that it is now less a discrete, distinguishable media form than a fluid dialogue of and between media – reproducing them, translating them, merging them, subverting them – a vital conversation flitting between, among others, theatre, film, videogame, puppetry, documentary, mockumentary, and music video. The origins of machinima are in the subversion/hacking of one media form (video game) into another (narrative cinema) (Lowood 2006), forming a kind of mise en abyme of media as media begets media, endlessly reproducing each as machinima moves fluently – more so than any other media form – through that conversation. This is not a flow of content in the sense of media convergence (Jenkins 2006), but a flow of media and mediation itself. The thingness of machinima is not just the images one sees flickering on the (more often than not) small screen, but its vital inter-connectedness and intense dialogue with other media forms.

The second strand is the diversity of this machinima world and how it stands against all other realities – physical, animated, virtual, blended, hybrid, augmented. Machinima is distinct from live action in that it is not recorded from physical reality; similarly, it is a different creature from computer-generated animation, whose images are composed out of basic geometric shapes. Machinima is generated by a game engine, or software, of the world in which it is recorded; it is thus of a certain logic, acting and behaving according to the (computer-coded) laws of its pre-existing virtual world. The ontology of machinima is the engagement of these digital worlds – its profilmic emerges from realities as directed by the game engine with all its applicable physical and aesthetic laws – how the avatar moves, what the terrain looks like, how the other characters behave, how the objects shine in light and fall in shadow. The physics engine determines the physical properties of all the objects in the game world: how they bounce, break, bend, disintegrate. The desire for representing reality is as old as media itself, but what is particularly fascinating about machinima is how it engages entirely with mediated realities and, by extension, lives as lived inside those worlds. It is perhaps the recognition of such an appropriation in machinima not just of "cultural material" but of this gesture towards the digital realities in which we live that gives us the jolt of recognition, the same wonder and enchantment as from early cinema in how we were endeared by the reproduction of the simplest things, "the slightest incidents of the world about us." (Kracauer 1997, 171) As Christian Keathley wrote: "Indeed, as the story goes, the viewers of a century ago who watched the Lumière Brothers' L'Arroseur arrossé (1895) were delighted less by the scene being staged for their amusement than by the fact that, in the background, the leaves were fluttering in the wind." (2000, np) In that sense, machinima as the documentation and reproduction of mediated realities (in virtual worlds, in video games) is arguably a continuation of that desire for representation – just different worlds.

The intention of this collection is thus not so much to examine the broad critical issues concerning machinima as previous scholarship has done, but to more specifically explore the ways in which the medium is employed in its diverse mediated realities – the mise en abyme of media worlds within worlds – all as plural and connected as the snow-world outside my window that night. In this respect, two developments in machinima also mark the framing of this book. The first is that the production of machinima, which started as primarily a form of documentation for gameplay (Lowood 2005), is now noticeably shifting to non-video game engines, including virtual world engines such as Second Life and software such as Moviestorm (2008) and iClone (2006), a development that has not gone unnoticed and even termed as "outside-in" machinima (Nitsche 2007). One result is that the use of machinima becomes more structured and tailored as the game engine increasingly becomes a tool for specific purpose. If we can classify the machinima of gameplay documentation and game-related narrative as a "first wave machinima", then this shift marks a "second wave", where machinima is more than just an innovative way of creating moving images to tell standard, linear narratives, but instead is being re-hewn into a more liberated and free-form vocabulary. I genuinely believe its creative possibilities are as yet untold, not so much because machinima is a medium operating in environments without the physical laws of real life – "just think what you can do without gravity!", admonishes Peter Greenaway (2010) – but because, as I try to show in this collection, it is in such free-flow dialogue with other media forms, skating across ponds of inspiration from form to content to software to copyright. Many machinima today, for example, use global license-free music, and import detailed sculptured prims and three-dimensional models to construct visual fields, often with intense surreal images.i There is a growing sense of a liberal media literacy, one which comfortably reads games, cinema, and painting, generating a constantly mutating vocabulary that is still not quite definable or categorizable, even if it might, as soon as it appears, no longer be strange and wonderful (just as the fluttering of leaves in cinema no longer excite modern audiences). In that sense, the expansive potential of machinima exceeds its functionalities as an expressive tool – instead, it promises the visual vocabulary for an alternative articulation of visual and haptic experience.

The second (related) development is machinima's movement from an emphasis on narrative or on its original game to works which are less linear with less straightforward styles, involving more complex builds, more post-production work, more nuances. As Jason Silverman writes, "in the early 1990s, the machinima movement has for the most part spawned self-indulgent, sophomoric movies. But things are changing. Of late, machinima has begun to explore more sophisticated, nuanced storytelling." (2005, np) This movement takes place over a graded spectrum rather than a transition between two groups of films (clear linear narrative, definable genre, references to game versus non-linear narrative, less definable, less dependence on game references).ii In this respect, machinima's countenance with the real, and thereby its role as a mediating tool, becomes increasingly complex. I pointed out above that the ontology of machinima is its engagement (documentation, builds, mediations) with digital realities; today this engagement/slippage is moving into the mainstream. The 2012 "The Real Deal" advertisement for the Toyota GT86 mines precisely this traction between machinima reality and film reality (a supreme irony, for an advertisement is itself the greatest culmination of artificial reality – a wholly socially created desire for the material consumption of an unnecessary luxury good!). In the advertisement, an avatar rejects the "reality" of his virtual world – "there is no ‘alive' in this town. Just pixels, pretence and driver assist" – and drives his GT86 (a sequence set to Edith Piaf's Non je ne regrette rien invoked as the now-famous time-to-awake-from-the-dream-world "kick" soundtrack from Christopher Nolan's Inception (2011)) towards the "real" by smashing through a Truman Show-esque high wall to land – now filmed as live action – on a tarmac road set in rolling countryside. The language here is no longer that of cinema as a media singularity but of its interstices which trade between different realities, where the aesthetic of machinima's reality counter-points the physical reality which we take for granted as the basis of our bodily existence. It is a crude juxtaposition – the real deal, of course, is that you buy the car and make a multinational a little richer. However, as a starting point, this is precisely the language of machinima – the diversity of realities, the richness of its worlds, the plurality of its various-ness. That language can (and will) get so much more evolved, so much more nuanced. Maya Deren writes: "A radio is not a louder voice, an airplane is not a faster car, and the motion picture... should not be thought of as a faster painting or a more real play." (1960, 166) In the same way, machinima should not be thought of as a less real cinema: I do not believe in the commercial value of machinima in replacing cinema but, rather, in being its own medium of visual or haptic language (and possibly combining the two), articulated by a camera liberated of its physical regime and operating in the aesthetic playground of its medial richness, and for these reasons thus capable of an unprecedented literacy expressing all our diverse states of being and realities. The fact that this literacy is used in a mainstream car advertisement shows just how fluent we have become in it, an indication which I think points towards a significant direction for machinima's future. In these ways, machinima is truly still a medium in flux, and a snapshot of its development at this stage not only reaches out to (and is maturing into?) alternative diverse ways and modes of engagement – teaching, creativity, culture, commercial promotion – but also shines a light ahead into its future.

The collection

The collection is divided into two sections – machinima (i) in theoretical analysis; and (ii) as practice. Both sections work to explore machinima in terms of the theoretical challenges it poses as well as its manifestations with respect to its interactions with other media forms. Chapters One to Six of the collection fall into the first half; the first two specifically think through machinima in relation to cinema. In "Machinima: cinema in a minor or multitudinous key?", William Brown and Matthew Holtmeier examine machinima by drawing on Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari's concept of the minor, arguing how machinima is the minor by disrupting "major" forms that are cinema and gaming. In particular, Brown and Holtmeier use one of machinima's most prominent works, Alex Chan's The French Democracy (2005), to demonstrate how machinima as minor cinema gives voice to French minority ethnic youth otherwise invisible and unheard in mainstream French media. In the process, they argue that machinima shows not "the people", but, taking Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, "the multitude". Chris Burke continues the dialogue in "Beyond Bullet Time: media in the knowable space" between machinima and cinema, this time by looking at knowability (and thus of reality and truth) in their respective spaces. Burke argues for the knowable reality in machinima (in terms of quantifiable space and time) and compares it to knowability in two films, Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow Up (1966) and The Matrix (1999) by Andy and Lana Wachowski. Ultimately, Burke identifies how machinima offers us a plastic way of mediating our world ("in the simulated space of a video game, we have managed to extract not just image and sound for manipulation, but space-time itself") and calls for new syntax and stylistic approaches to further developing machinima.

The next two chapters push the question of the nature of machinima in relation to other media forms. In Chapter Three, "Be(ing)dazzled: living in machinima", Sheldon Brown explores the wider dialogue between machinima and digital media via his own art projects, such as "MetaStasis/MediaStatic", "The Vorkapitchulator" and "The Scalable City". Exploring "the sensibilities and processes that we have developed in digital media over the previous several decades", Brown identifies five types of media practices and environments as "translations" of machinima: (i) "reverse machinima" (where cinema evokes virtual worlds); (ii) satellite imagery; (iii) interactive projection screens; (iv) captured data from interactive play session; and (v) 3D fimmaking. In "Moving Digital Puppets", Michael Nitsche, Ali Mazalek and Paul Clifton discuss machinima as a form of digital puppetry, with their particular concern being the means and techniques of controlling expression for machinima performances. Covering a range of control schemes of video games to control expressions in digital puppetry, ranging from early first person shooter controls, gamepads, to more recent motion controllers, body as interface, body armatures, and Kinect, Nitsche et al investigate the challenge of enabling expressiveness for the virtual puppet in machinima.

The final two chapters in this section think about machinima in relation to other genres. Lisbeth Frølunde explores machinima as a "hybrid animated film" or "hybrid text" combining machinima with live-action imagery. Using MM Bakhtin's concepts of heteroglossia, genre and chronotope, Frølunde reads Bente Milton and Mikkel Stolt's full-length feature film, My Avatar and Me (2010), as such a hybrid text, particularly in highlighting how the multiplicity, diversity of voices, intertextualities and interplay of genre conventions deepen our understanding of the work and the richness of both machinima and live-action film. Frølunde also calls for greater diversity in narrative, visual and compositional styles, such as in the way of hybrid texts, for the evolution of machinima: "Hybrid films interweaving machinima and live action, such as My Avatar and Me, can offer just such alternative multiple viewpoints on our life journeys, viewpoints I find lacking in highly self-referential machinima". In the last chapter of this section, "Dangerous Sim Crossings: framing the Second Life art machinima", Sarah Higley contributes an insightful and much-needed chapter analyzing Second Life art machinima, on which too little has been written. Higley's discussion proceeds on two vectors: the first is in relation to the concept of the frame, the parergon, a discussion which Higley takes from Peter Greenaway's goading, in an interview following review of entries to the May 2011 MachinimUWA III, to abandon. She then takes a virtuouso tour of Second Life machinima, particularly experimental machinima art work such as Lainy Voom's Push (2009), Pia Klaar's SurreaL (2010), Bryn Oh's Rusted Gears (2011), the Second Life machinima builds for the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai and many others, by examining in depth their unique look and aesthetics in comparison to other media forms.

Chapters Seven to Twelve in the second section takes a different direction from the theoretical concerns of the first, turning instead to the multiple employments of machinima in different contexts. The reason for this change is to reflect on the developments of machinima since its recording of gameplay, highlighting its changing practical uses. The first three chapters in this section explore the use of machinima in the context of games, performance and documentary. In "The Art of Games: machinima and the limits of art games", Larissa Hjorth discusses machinima as "a melting pot for rethinking the convergence and boundaries" between machinima, new media, games and art. Referring to online interventions such as Velvet-Strike (2002), machinima such as Eddo Stern's Sheik Attack (1999), and Cao Fei's Second Life project, RMB City (2010), Hjorth explores the role of art in exposing media depictions and the artifice and illusions of the images we consume, where game art is not simply for play but also a space for critique and reflection. In particular, Hjorth examines Cory Arcangel's work in his 2011 Pro Tools exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art to explicate the intersections between machinima, games and art. Joseph DeLappe extends the discussion in "Playing Politics: machinima as live performance and document" by describing several of his own online and mixed reality works of interventionist performance in games and virtual communities, such as dead-in-iraq (2007), The Salt Styagraha Online – Gandhi's March to Dandi in Second Life (2008) and Twitter Torture (2009). In thus placing machinima, DeLappe argues for its consideration as a media form beyond the recording of events in virtual worlds for documentary purposes, but also to include the experiences of mixed realities both ingame and through projections in physical environments, with "such ingame/inworld actions before live and virtual audiences functioning effectively as a new type of real-time, live machinimatic performance." In the third chapter of this section, "Virtual Lens of Exposure: aesthetics, theory and ethics of documentary filmmaking in Second Life", Sandra Danilovic considers machinima as documentary filmmaking, or docu-machinima – the convergence of machinima and documentary filmmaking in 3D virtual worlds. Like DeLappe, Danilovic uses her own machinima work, Second Bodies (2009), an award-winning semi-autobiographical, point-of-view documentary, to illustrate her investigations of docu-machinima's aesthetic, performative and technical dimensions which, while complex, also create new possibilities for filmmaking and filmic expression.

The remaining three chapters in the collection detail machinima projects used either as research projects or as teaching tools. In "Call It a Vision Quest: machinima in a First Nations context", Beth Aileen Dillon and Jason Edward Lewis discuss machinima as a means of representing Indigenous people, culture and art. The authors highlight in particular the "futuristic" aspects of machinima as an effective leverage to combat the more common depictions of First Nations people as being "in an idealized past". They examine in particular Mohawk artist Skawennati's science fiction/cyberpunk machinima series, TimeTraveller™ (2009), which "uses Aboriginal history to look both forward and back in time to understand the role First Nations people have played and will play in North America." The authors argue for the story-telling malleability of machinima and ultimately its role for a more culturally critical media approach to creating narratives in media. The last two chapters in this section examine machinima as a teaching tool on university courses. In "World of Chaucer: adaptation, pedagogy and interdisciplinarity", Graham Barwell and Christopher Moore discuss the pedagogical and learning aspects of a successful teaching trial in which students from two different Arts and Humanities disciplines – English Literature and Digital Communications – were brought together to produce a machinima adaptation of a story from Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales using World of Warcraft (2004). The discussion not only outlines the results of their trial but also discusses their problems, solutions and suggested best practices. Barwell and Moore also demonstrate the role machinima-making can play in the acquisition of digital literacy skills as well as in supporting interdisciplinary collaboration in higher education. In the last chapter, "The Pedagogy of Craft: teaching Culture Analysis with machinima", Jenna Ng and James Barrett advocate the idea of machinima production as craft via three frameworks – creativity, knowledge and dexterity – and argue how machinima offers opportunities to learn practical skill sets. In particular, Ng and Barrett use the Cultural Analysis course taught in Umeå University in Sweden as their primary example, in which undergraduate students study "how normative roles are assigned and mediated in culture according to hegemonic discourse, including gender, generation, age, class, family, occupation, sexuality, religion, and ethnicity". In the course's re-design, one component on digital culture and theory was diverted to the making of a machinima film to show the students' understanding and crafting of argument instead of having them write essays. The authors thus argue for using machinima as a pedagogical tool which can educate the learning of visual and digital literacies, as well as production skills in film, music video, theatre, design, and performance, lessons not possible for traditional theory-based humanities teaching.

Finally, the collection is book-ended first by a preface from Henry Lowood, curator of video games at Stanford University and pioneer scholar of machinima, and finally by an interview with Isabelle Arvers, French machinimist, educator, critic and journalist. Lowood lays out the significance of machinima specifically as a "born-digital, adolescent medium", pointing out that our concern should not only be to critically engage with machinima as a medium worthy of study, but also be in looking at ways forward, to take "positions about the promise and potential of a new media format". Arvers presents a similar take on machinima in her work, as Jenna Ng's interview with her covers her projects using and teaching machinima in different contexts, from inspiring creativity in teenagers to advergaming to exploring communication and marketing trends at cocktail functions with corporate executives. These two "bookends" thus also demonstrate the core concern of this collection – to explore the diversity of machinima today – as well as point the directions, trends and projects in which machinima is currently and may in the future be engaged.

In the Interstices

The collection is also a multi-media text in that it incorporates not only print text but also digital media. This is done by incorporating a Quick Response (QR) code in every chapter which links to a unique mobile website (the home website is at http://m.understandingmachinima.com). The mobile website features all the digital content associated in each chapter, such as machinima videos, hyperlinks, online pdfs, Flickr images and so on. Capital alphabetical letters in superscript indicate the places in the text where such digital content should be referred. The specificity of the website's mobility is a crucial part of its design: dimensions of text were designed to fit a mobile screen; the most minimal of text and images were taken into account to decrease download time; space and text were apportioned to ensure the most comfortable small-screen reading experience; colors, font sizes and types were all chosen with the reader's comfort in mind etc. The intention in building these mobile websites was not to tack the website onto the text as a supplement, which is usually how it is done. Rather, the digital content forms an integral part of the text, so that the book is essentially a dialogue between its print content and its online digital content. The mobility of the website is thus necessary to facilitate the fluency and volubility of this exchange, whereby reading the text is no longer confined to the bound book, but instead moves easily between the page and the mobile screen, between the hand and the eye, where each can integrate with, enhance and complement the other.

The decision to incorporate QR codes in this way stemmed from two motivations. The first is so that the collection itself reflects the medial dialogue of machinima which, as mentioned, is spun between video games, virtual worlds, digital cinema, the World Wide Web and other digital media. Indeed, this is one of its most fascinating elements – the inter-connectedness of things and its thingness in the ebb and flow of those connections. To baldly transfer the study of machinima onto a printed page, straitjacketed into black text on a cream page, seemed to me a shameless robbery of its beauty. The second motivation is a little more prosaic: machinima is a born-digital media – it is already all online – and it would be a pity to cut out its videos – the primary objects of study – simply because of restrictions posed by the materiality of a print text. It would also be restrictive to confine scholarship to just page and paper, ignoring a huge wealth of online material, and most of them freely available. I am aware that this latter issue connects to numerous larger questions: for example, the role of the digital humanities in terms of how digital technologies interweave, connect to and interact with the teaching, learning, research and scholarship of humanities subjects; or the linkage of physical objects (such as a print book) to networks (in other words, perhaps, the fruition of the Internet of Things, whereby physical objects could be co-opted into a digital information network, each with its own IP address, its routeable pathway for giving and distributing information), just to name a couple. Again, I see the same sense of medial flow which first struck me while looking at the bare-branched trees outside my window in the winter storm. Understanding Machinima takes its design in that larger question of placement in this flow of media and information: what if I could make a book simultaneously physical and digital, shifting between printed page and video clips, online images, interactive maps, hyperlinks? What if I could add digital dimensions to a physical research output so as not to substitute the latter but to augment it? What if I could include print texts into the media ecology of the digital, rather than setting them up in opposing binaries (online journals versus print journals, books versus ebooks, articles versus websites etc)? I started to turn over in my mind the possibility of creating a text which could not only organically integrate digital and physical content so that one flowed to and from the other, cross-referring each other and allowing for interactivity, but which could take into account mobility and the portability of digital devices. By such integration, the physical could use the modalities of the digital to stay fluid and changeable in keeping with the latter's immateriality, while still retaining the ease of use and reading that comes with the former. The result is the design of the present collection.

Machinima now

Lowood and Nitsche suggest that machinima is "a moving target" (Lowood and Nitsche 2011, vii). Its implied temporality is its presentness; its form lies in its non-form. Machinima is moving because its potential is constantly being pushed and explored: the Machinima Expo, an annual online celebration of the best machinima and produced by Rick Grove, Pooky Amsterdam, and Kate Fosk, is a dramatic showcase of how much machinima has changed over the years and an effective platform for its discussion and debates, reminiscent, to me at least, of an annual conference gathering of a field. Machinima is also borne along by the sheer velocity of media developments. For instance, Second Life is now being made available on Steam (an online game platform with instant access to over 2,000 games and sharing possibilities with over 4 million gamers) (Linden Lab 2012) and this will invariably affect the development of machinima as well.iii The nature of machinima is also changing in terms of how it is being embraced by mainstream media corporations. Hatfilms, "a fresh, young, creative team made up of film production and marketing graduates", makes machinima in the latest games (as of writing) such as Minecraft, and counts Micosoft, Sony Ericsson, Oxeye Game Studio, Lionhead Studios as part of their clientele. In such a pair-up, their machinima has effectively become co-opted into a deliberate marketing strategy, something completely counter to comparable media industry trends where publishers and music companies still fire off warning legal letters at the slightest hint of any appropriation of their copyrighted material.iv Indeed, Hatfilms's winning approach lies as much in the setting and recognition of the game world among fans as it does in the deliberate grafting of their signature laddish jokes and expressions into the game's sub-culture (a typical line in Minecraft (a sandbox game in which things are built with square blocks): "hit him with your blockey fist!"), albeit a culture targeted towards a typically younger and male-dominated audience. Pulled in all these directions, machinima has much to cut its teeth on, and it will be happening sooner rather than later.

In this sense, even as machinima itself evolves, it also changes games in this medial dialogue in terms of the conception, articulation and manifestation of the game as a media form which co-opts culture. Jaron Lanier writes somewhat scathingly of what he considers "second-order expression", as opposed to "first-order expression", which he explains as "when someone presents a whole, a work that integrates its own worldview and aesthetic. It is something genuinely new in the world". Second-order expression, on the other hand, "is made of fragmentary reactions to first-order expression. … A mashup in which a scene from [Blade Runner] is accompanied by the anonymous masher's favourite song is not in the same league [as the movie]."v (Lanier 122) Lanier does not specify machinima as being one or the other, but one might suspect that placing a sequence of Halo 4 battles to casual banter between three English blokes about how one of them pressed the wrong button (and including a sing-song rendition of "die die die die die die die") would probably relegate it to the latter. Yet that would again assume that machinima is a discrete media form, a product that can be held up on norms and judgments of taste, aesthetic and quality. Instead, as I have suggested, it might also be useful to see machinima as a conduit through which we can run sense making schema about our fluencies between different realities, different ways of living, different modes of behaviors. This is not so much about the intertwining of physical and virtual worlds as it is about the dialogue between them – the interstices rather than the object – and that conversation could be anything from media to culture to wrongly pressed buttons. The randomness of creativity has long eluded a formula, yet in machinima and in the creativity it engenders we find some of that randomness and, indeed, madness – games which become tools which become expressive instruments which become art palettes – because it is not in any restrictive discrete form but free flows in the inter-connectedness of things and media. The future of machinima is the continuation of this dialogue not only with unpredictability, but also indescribable excitement.


Deren, Maya. 1960. "Cinematography: The Creative Use of Reality." Daedalus 89(1), "The Visual Arts Today": 150-167.

Greenaway, Peter. 2010. "Opening speech" at 48 Hour Film Project Machinima, September 23. 36 min. machinima video captured in SL. Transcribed by author. Accessed January 8, 2012. http://vimeo.com/groups/14869/videos/15253336.

Jenkins, Henry. 2006. Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. New York: NYU Press.

Keathley, Christian. 2000. "The Cinephiliac Moment." Framework: the Journal of Cinema and Media 42. Accessed November 20, 2012 http://www.frameworkonline.com/Issue42/42ck.html.

Kracauer, Siegfried. 1997. Theory of Film: The Redemption of Physical Reality. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Lowood, Henry. 2005. "Real-Time Performance: Machinima and Game Studies", The International Digital Media & Arts Association Journal 3(1): 10-17.

____________. 2006. "High-performance play: the making of machinima". Journal of Media Practice 7(1): 25-42.

____________. 2008. "Found Technology: Players as Innovators in the Making of Machinima". In Digital Youth, Innovation and the Unexpected, edited by Tara McPherson, 165-196. Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press.

____________ and Michael Nitsche (eds). 2011. The Machinima Reader. Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press.

MacNeice, Louis. 1935. "Snow". Accessed November 20, 2012. http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/snow/.

Nitsche, Michael. 2007. "Claiming Its Space: Machinima." Dichtung-Digital. Accessed November 20, 2012. http://www.dichtung-digital.de/2007/nitsche.htm.

Rojo, Susan, Matteo Bittanti and Henry Lowood. 2011. Special issue on machinima in Journal of Visual Culture. 10(1).

Silverman, Jason. 2005. "Machinima Marches Towards Amusing." Wired November 11, 2005. Accessed November 20, 2012 http://www.wired.com/culture/lifestyle/news/2005/11/69550.

Linden Lab. 2012. "Second Life is Expanding to Steam." Second Life Featured News August 16, 2012. Accessed November 20, 2012 http://community.secondlife.com/t5/Featured-News/Second-Life-is- Expanding-to-Steam/ba-p/1637751


French Democracy, The. 2005. Alex "Koulamata" Chan.

Push. 2009. Lainy Voom.

Rusted Gears. 2011. Bryn Oh.

SurreaL. 2010. Pia Klaar.

TimeTraveller™. 2009. Skawennati Fragnito.


Blow Up. 1966. Dir. Michelangelo Antonioni. USA.

Inception. 2010. Dir. Christopher Nolan. USA/UK.

Matrix, The. 1999. Dir. Larry and Andy Wachowski. USA.

My Avatar and Me. 2010. Dir. Bente Milton and Mikkel Stolt. Denmark.

Second Bodies. 2009. Dir. Sandra Danilovic. USA.

Other moving image media

"The Real Deal" Toyota GT86 advertisement.

Art and performances

dead-in-iraq. 2002-2011. Online gaming intervention. Joseph DeLappe.

RMB City. 2010. Second Life environment. Cao Fei ("China Tracy").

Salt Satyagraha Online - Gandhi's March to Dandi in Second Life, The. 2008. Live performance in Second Life. Joseph DeLappe.

Sheik Attack. 1999. Digital video. Eddo Stern.

Twitter Torture. 2009. Live performance in Second Life. Joseph DeLappe.

Velvet-Strike. 2002. Game intervention. Anne-Marie Schleiner, Brody Condon, and Joan Leandre.


iClone. 2006. Reallusion.

MovieStorm. 2008. MovieStorm Ltd.

World of Warcraft. 2004. Blizzard Entertainment.


i I am indebted to James Barrett for pointing this out to me.

ii I am indebted to Sarah Higley for these thoughts.

iii Again, I am indebted to Sarah Higley for pointing this out to me.

iv The same thing happened with Red vs Blue.

v It should be noted that Lanier is hanging on to a specific concept of authorship here, viz the Romantic lone genius idea that is being seriously challenged in the multi-author framework of digital authorship. Lanier also sidesteps the issue that Blade Runner (the film) was adapted from a book, whose author was obsessed with Gnostic and Platonic ideas of human life. My thanks to James Barrett for pointing this out to me.