the awakening

The Awakening

Machinima is not only about using resources available in the game which’s engine is used to ‘shoot’ and produce a movie. Like for game-mod[ification]s, for machinima all resources available are put to use. That means all kinds of visual and audio material to be found scattered all over the Internet and in meatspace. That means for example hiring voice-talent. Furthermore, again analogous to mods, machinima most of the time are collaborative efforts. That means online and offline peers and friends help out and contribute—be it by providing material, or by offering skills and workforce/time, or both. And, again like mods, machinima often are artistic expressions, not bricolages, but collages, bringing together, rearranging, ascribing new meanings and metaphors, commenting and associating scores of aspects of popular- and cyberculture. The Awakening by April Hoffmann—which just recently won the bitfilm award 2005 in the category machinima—is a perfect example. Watch the three parts in the correct order, get grasped by the story, try to grasp the allusions and citations, and have a look at the credits, too. Machinima is neither a revolution nor a counterculture. At best it’s a subculture of cyberculture—one that perfectly fits in.


molyneux’ machinima movies

The MoviesThe Movies, a new game by game-designer legend Peter Molyneux of Black & White fame has hit the shelves just recently. The game allows the player to take over the part of a Hollywood mogul, to design a movie studio, shape movie-stars’ careers, and finally produce and shoot movies. This ultimate results are of course machinima—according to the strict sense of the latter’s definition. The release of The Movies has triggered an article by Jürgen Schmieder [in German], published in the Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) [the SZ is one of the more respected transregional daily newspapers in Germany; as ↑2R correctly has ↑observed and stated, the SZ’s coverage and comments of and on gaming culture and related issues have substantially improved during the last year, both in frequency and quality] which reflects a bit on the game and the phenomenon of machinima in general. Schmieder argues that machinima once was a revolution, but now no more is, and that both The Movies and machinima in general create a new hybrid out of movies and games. When hearing or reading “revolution” I always feel a bit uneasy, as it implies replacing one thing with a radically other one. For example, I do not take the Open Source movement[s] to be a revolution, but to be a manifestation of resistance. Open Source does not thrive to overthrow the current global economic system, but it strives to install changes in procedures and new policies within that very system. Likewise I do not take machinima to be a revolution—striving to destroy and replace ‘traditional movie making’. Whatever the latter may be, or did it ever really exist? In my view the phenomenon of machinima is a result of the cultural appropriation of computergames, heavily related to the demoscene.

I do not understand the concept of machinima to be a term for a genre of movies, merely referring to the technicalities of production. The Wikipedia-entry for machinima hits it right home:

Machinima (a portmanteau word for machine cinema and/or “machine” “animation”) is both a collection of associated production techniques and a film genre (film created by such production techniques).

As a production technique, the term concerns the rendering of computer-generated imagery (CGI) using low-end 3D engines (as opposed to high-end and complex 3D engines used by professionals) in video games (typically, engines in first person shooters games have been used). Consequently, the rendering can be done in real-time using PCs (either using the computer of the creator or the viewer), rather than with complex 3D engines using huge render farms.

As a film genre, the term refers to movies created by the techniques described above. Usually, machinimas are produced using tools (demo recording, camera angle, level editor, script editor, etc.) and resources (backgrounds, levels, characters, skins, etc.) available in a game.

Machinima is an example of emergent gameplay, a process of putting game tools to unexpected ends, and of artistic computer game modification. ↑[…]

The Movies in turn means the commodification of creating machinima in the form of a consumable commercial computergame. In my opinion the interesting things in respect to cyberculture will be the mods for The Movies—if there will be any.

See also
strong and dreamscream. For loads of machinima see—there’s an Interview with Stephen Wood, one of the designers of The Movies, too.
initially via entry at 2R


negotiation of ethnicity on the Internet

The Internet—the new global media, linking people transnationally, providing a public for the marginalised, fostering democracy—versus the internet—virtual irreality, detached from the real world, space for escape, leading to social isolation. From these extreme views research has moved to ethnographic analyses of what actually happens online. Especially young people around the world have adopted the internet as their medium, creating their own virtual spaces. The research project “↑The virtual second generation” [in German | parts in English] analyses how, why and with what consequences second generation Indians in Germany do this.

via entry at ethno::log


top 20 g33k novelz

The influence of literary fiction and movies is not to neglect when trying to understand cyberculture, the cultural appropriation of ICTs, or parts of that. Currently The Guardian‘s technology blog has a top twenty list of geek novels, constrcuted by a vote open to all citizens of geekdom. An interesting thread of comments has developed, too. And if you still do not know what to present yourself for Christmas …
via entry at infocult


digital literacy divide

Tony Salvador and John Sherry, triple-A members as well as researchers at Intel, have just recently published an article called Taking the Internet to the people (Salvador & Sherry 2005), telling us about some of their findings after four years traveling the world to see how computers are used. See Kerim Friedman‘s fine entry on it at Savage Minds, which thankfully points to the related weblog worldchanging.
initially via entry at ethno::log


picasso’s skeleton

Sketched SkeletonThe 1956 documentary movie Le Mystère Picasso by director Henri-Georges Clouzot mediated a new way of experiencing contemporary fine art. For the camera Pablo Picasso painted live on vertically erect canvasses and the painting process was filmed from behind the canvasses, so that the artist himself couldn’t get in the way of the viewer. One of the stunning things to watch is that Picasso does not at all hesitate to paint over things already at the canvas, which the viewer already deems to be perfect. He simply extinguishes beautiful drawings by painting over them in a seemingly blunt fashion. Was it not for the camera’s presence these elements would be lost once and for all—except for Picasso’s mind. This flash-animation of a skeleton coming to life, drawn live [.swf | 7.2KB] very much reminds me of the Mystère. Another example of what kind of experiences, in this case of artistic expression, the ‘new media’ are able to mediate. Some more info at Drawn!.
via entry at boingboing


ban on killergames in germany

The so-called big coalition between Germany’s major parties, the SPD and the CDU/CSU has published its freshly minted coalition agreement [in German | .pdf | 619KB]. 2R points us to the agreement’s line 5147 [in the vicinity of which the upcoming German government’s goals and strategies for protecting the youth are outlined] where we can read one of the goals set: “Verbot von “Killerspielen”” [ban on “killergames”]. The term is no more specified in the whole paper, but I fear the worst: No more chess!


computergames, Islam, and politics

Vít Šisler is one of the interesting people I learned to know at the Cyberspace 2005 conference and with whom I will stay in close contact on every account. Vít is a young Prague-based lawyer whose primary research interests are Islam and Islamic law in cyberspace. Exotic bricolage already, isn’t it? According to his own testimony he woke up one morning and realized that he spoke Arabic. Not by means of a miracle, but as an after-effect of his long-time sojourns in the Middle East. So he decided to enlarge his wisdom by studying again—Arabic Studies. When I had talked to Vit for ten minutes I told him that he may not have realized it, but that he in fact was an anthropologist in disguise ;o) A full-fledged cyberanthropologist, to be precise. Islam and Islamic law in cyberspace is all fine, but besides that he has a deep interest in persuasive computergames, that is games which actually carry ideas, norms, values, even ideologies. That’s obvious with games like America’s Army, but hardly anyone knows about the according examples from the Middle East. Just like Bollywood for a long time virtually was unknown to the ‘western’ discourse and public on cinema and the movies, Middle Eastern computergames till now exist somehow hidden from ‘our’ gaze—that’s true for the gaze of the public, as well as for academia’s gaze. For an introduction have a look at Vít’s paper Videogames and Politics [in English]. And then I desperately wait for the next two papers he promised to me: “[…] one is ‘Digital Intifada’ about Syrian pro-palestinian games, second is ‘In Videogames You Shoot Arabs or Aliens’ which is an interwiev with the designer of those games….” Hell, am I glad to have made the late-night way to Brno.
via face-to-face and e-mail conversation with Vít Šisler



Nothing is impossible in Havanna

My old pal from the glory days of us being anthropology students, all-time-beauty Joanna Michna has done it again. After her ethnological documentary movie on Colombia’s Balineros now there is another one by her to be broadcasted soon on German national television’s high-quality channel arte: Mecániqueros—Nothing is impossible in Havanna. Havanna’s mecániqueros are young private entrepreneurs in the land of socialism in actual practice. They develope cranky, whimsical, sometimes seemingly bizarre business ideas like a restaurant at the living room at home, or light switches made of deodorant cans. Deftly they act in the hidden, walking the line on the brink to illegality, managing to stay on the safe side. The movie shows Ariél and his friends, the Tricksters in Castro’s realm. They live by mecánicas, ruses and subterfuges to dig things up which are deemed to not be available. Havanna’s Mecániqueros know each other—what one of them digs up maybe converted into cash or whatever by another one.

The movie’s official website [in German] features more information, a making of and the complete script of the movie [in German | .pdf | 63KB].

The movie will be broadcasted on arte on Saturday, 12 November 2005, 21:35h, and rebroadcasted on 13 November, 14:50h and on 19. November, 11:15h.

via e-mail from Joanna Michna—you know where you shall send the free DVD containing the director’s cut, don’t you, pal? ;o)