censorship’s bloody spell

BloodSpell censored

Although the matter meanwhile has been settled for good—more or less—I nevertheless will recount a portion of it, as it delivers some insights into various issues, namely the computergames and violence debate and the perception of machinima by insiders of the movement and by outsiders.

“BloodSpell” is a feature-length machinima-movie by Strange Company based on the computergame “Neverwinter Nights”. It is released on the Internet piecemeal in the shape of five to seven minutes long episodes every two weeks or so. Until today all in all seven episodes can be downloaded, the eigth being on the verge of release.

It is a story of a world where men and women carry magic in their blood, and spilling it can unleash terrible power. Where these “Blooded” hide in fetid slums from the Church of the Angels, commanded by their divine masters to “cleanse” the Blood Magic. Where choices are fraught, alliances rarely safe, and blood is all. A young monk named Jered flees the Church when his own Blood Magic is released. Now he must survive the pursuit of the Church, the gladiatorial pits of the Blooded underground, and the hidden truths of the ancient struggle. The choices he makes will tip the balance of the war between Church and Blooded, and change his world forever. (↑about BloodSpell)

Now, Strange Company has been invited to screen “BloodSpell” at this year’s Games Convention (GC) in Leipzig, Germany, taking place from 24th through 28th August 2006. Subsequently they were asked to only show “peaceful and violence-free scenes”, or the movie not at all. The rationale behind this, as related by Hugh Hancock is quite interesting: “They feel that German journalists are looking for violent scenes in video games, and wish to show Machinima as “a positive example of what players do with games.” The implication, of course, is that BloodSpell is not one of those positive things.” As I am absolutely not into the Fantasy-genre—I once was as a teenager, a long time ago—I only watched episodes one and eight. What stands out are storytelling and the machinimatics, the soundtrack and the originality, but not the occasional shooting of people by means of crossbows, or the sometimes spilled blood. And I really embraced looks and animation of the robots and female characters in episode eight :-) “BloodSpell” is all but a gore-feast—quite to the contrary, what I have seen could righteously be called dialogue-heavy.

Hancock, “BloodSpell”‘s writer, director, and executive producer, founder of machinima.com and “guru of the machinima movement”, who has worked for the BBC and Electronic Arts—just to name a few—goes on to describe his view of machinima that way:

[…] I’m angry that the reason we make Machinima—the chance to tell stories—is being treated as a mere by-product, something that can be chopped, changed or censored at will. […]

As far as I’m concerned, Machinima is filmmaking. That’s it. It’s not a quirky Internet movement that journalists can get an easy by-line from. It’s not something neat that kids can do with those nasty computer games to “express themselves” (whenever I hear that phrase, it seems to come with the association that the end product will be crap, but who cares, right?). It’s a way to tell quality stories that will matter to other people.

We’re making Machinima so that we can tell the stories we couldn’t tell any other way. We’re making Machinima so that we can tell stories free of interference or censorship.

Meanwhile the GC seemingly came around and “BloodSpell” will be shown to the press today—uncensored, but not on public days. Nevertheless the statements by members of the BloodSpell crew are interesting and carry some weight. Especially the one by ihatesheep I chose as a closing quotation to this entry. Referring to the politically and in many other respects heavily charged discussion around the Grand Theft Auto (GTA) series of computergames, he has written a memorable sentence: “If playing GTA is all it takes for your child to go out and murder prostitutes, then there are far, far bigger problems that you probably need to address.”

“BloodSpell” developer wiki and blog