halo.jpgThere’s a phenomenon sweeping the web. While it’s not new, it’s only now starting to garner real attention. Machinimas, or movies created using in-game footage from today’s graphically advanced gaming platforms and Web 2.0 social games (like Second Life) are gaining popularity amongst the general public. Machinimas have been around in one form or another since the time of the original Quake videogame from ID Software Studios. But these largely consumer-made mini-cinemas are now starting to show up in the main stream. Remember the Toyota Tacoma/Worlds of Warcraft commercial? That wasn’t a mash up; it was a Machinima.

While the creators of Machinima Theater are largely employed in the video game or actual film or production industries, the software to make these niche-movies is widely available to anyone willing to learn to use it. But the phenomenon is also gaining speed; from websites to actual Machinistas gathering and sharing their productions with each other (even giving out awards) to real mainstream companies tapping the new genre to peddle their wares. Remember the Toyota Tacoma/Worlds of Warcraft commercial? Or any number of GameFly bits? That’s what I’m talking about.

Most Machinimas are created from one game and one game only, depending on the creator’s preference. But crossovers are becoming more and more common. So how do you make one? The most commonly used program is an Australian one called “Fraps”, but there are others. “The Movies,” a virtual studio management package developed by Lionhead studios, was used to create a Machinima called “French Democracy,” hailed by Machinima gurus as one of the first of it’s genre to address a political theme (The recent riots in France, in this case).

With mainstream commercials and increasingly complex storylines and editing, Machinimas are fast turning from a niche fad to a possibly far-reaching style of filmmaking. In a time when creating your own feature film requires massive amounts of capital, equipment, and know-how, many younger Machinima enthusiasts see their creations as a shortcut to proper filmmaking. Whether or not Hollywood starts an MMORPG account, there’s no denying that Machinima style creations both official and fan-created are gaining popularity fast. Still, it’s hard to predict where any of this is going.

Aside from the fact that subject matter is at least slightly limited by the genre of game being used for material, there’s the bigger problem of getting game companies to lend their intellectual property to a third party’s artistic vision. A machinima creator may slave over a truly fantastic production, only to find out that his game-film has been crushed by the developer’s legal actions.


But as games become more and more like movies every day, and movies begin to take both their cues and their actual inspirations from games themselves (Remember DOOM? Me neither. But there was a wheelchair-bound, undead half-man/half pit bull zombie alien in it, and that’s got to count for something) expect to see a lot more of this exciting (if a bit nerd-like) form of cinema.

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Image Credit: GameSpy