Machinima for Kids

Just as I love seeing existing content remixed into something else with noticeable difference from the original and yet still as enjoyable if not more, I'm also a massive fan of Machinima - The art of using video games as a platform for movie-making.

The way this is done can often vary. Some games include the ability to view the action from several "camera angles", where as others restrict the player's view purely to what they'd see in-game; the player's point-of-view. This limitation often results in a player or two acting as "cameramen", recording what they are seeing whilst the other players act out the film itself - be it a music video, a comedy, a drama or a documentary.

For example, the following machinima's the #1 rated video on, one of the most-popular machinima-sharing website on the Internet. Using the video game "Counter-Strike: Source", Xanatos and his group "The Janus Syndicate" have created a comedic spoof commercial simply by using a desktop computer, a game and some video-editing software.

mm3guy: What's your typical pipeline for getting a movie from an idea to something you can post on YouTube?

Xanatos: Usually we'll come up with a vague, overall idea for a project based off of a few splinter ideas. Or sometimes, in the case of the Gman Squad series, that originally started as an inside joke (we ran around in the pointless, not-at-all-played Half-Life Deathmatch Source, claiming to be a clan for it) but eventually we thought it would branch out quite well as an actual joke machinima series. Or many times, we'll take past, unused ideas and adapt them to something else. Like our old Team Fortress 2 western movie - about a year prior to making that, we originally wanted to do that same idea in Counter-Strike, but making it in TF2 was obviously the better choice. Lastly, Counter-Strike for Kids was truly a group collaboration effort in which we all wrote ideas for it and discussed what we thought the final product should be. I think we went through four or five different versions of it (with/without the Crackbone sequence, with/without the George Lopez bit at the end, etc). So we look for a full-fledged idea that we think can make a good final product, and then go out and shoot it. (Interview taken from

The Janus Syndicate aren't the only Machinima creators, of course, and many other genres have been explored in the art. Music videos, for example, have been created using the art of machinima - be it for commercial songs or simply songwriters looking for an alternative method to creating a music video. 

I remember at the start of the academic year, we looked at Henry Jenkins and his "Eight Traits of the New Media". One of those traits was how "innovative" new media was, and this cannot be emphasised enough when looking at the concept of machinima. 

Today, the introduction of new media technologies sparks social and aesthetic experimentation. Anthropologist Grant McCracken has described the present moment as one of cultural "plenitude," represented by an ever-expanding menu of cultural choices and options. McCracken argues that "plentitude" is emerging because the cultural conditions are ripe for change, because new media technologies have lowered barriers to entry into the cultural marketplace, and because those traditional institutions which held innovation in check have declined in influence (what he calls "the withering of the witherers".) The result has been the diversification of cultural production. Each new technology spawns a range of different uses, inspires a diversity of aesthetic responses, as it gets taken up and deployed by different communities of users. Such transformations broaden the means of self and collective expression. (

Instead of requiring a movie set, props, actors, lighting, sound, backstage crew amongst many other essential tools needed to make a normal live-action movie, professional and amateur filmmakers alike are turning to machinima as a cost-effective alternative. If you have access to a video game, you have access to a film set, you have access to props, you have access to characters and costumes - in short, you already have access to all those essential tools you'd need to make a movie.

It's thanks to the evolution of new media that this innovative art even came to existence. Video games weren't originally intended to be used to create films, they were designed to be played. And yet, new media and the people that use it have created new usages for these platforms, and thus, inspired others to use them in ways they hadn't thought possible before.

I loved remixing songs. Watch this space! I'll be working on a Machinima of my own. ;D

Living with iGod - My Psychogeography Project

Ever felt drawn to strange old warehouses or puzzled over why everyone looks like a robot on their way to work? With the aid of a few helpful exercises Mookychick shows you the semi-occult art of psychogeography - finding out how the environment you live in shapes the way you think. Becoming a psychogeographer is as easy as studying graffiti and poking your nose where it doesn't belong... - Magda Knight,

As part of our Digital Media module, our group split into several groups to work on "psychogeography" projects, and presented our findings back to the group using forms of New Digital Media such as blogs, videos or websites.

In particular, our groups utilised a psychological techinique called the "dérive", a concept developed by the French Situationalist Guy Debord who said:

In a dérive one or more persons during a certain period drop their relations, their work and leisure activities, and all their other usual motives for movement and action, and let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there. Chance is a less important factor in this activity than one might think: from a dérive point of view cities have psychogeographical contours, with constant currents, fixed points and vortexes that strongly discourage entry into or exit from certain zones.

In layman's terms, the psychogeographer would abandon all pre-expectations of a particular area or culture, and simply experience that area or culture.

Whilst I was certainly inspired by projects such as Iain Sinclair's "Orbital" and Simon Hoegsberg's "Thought Project", I was more interested in looking at different ways of life more so than exploring geographical locations or factors such as that location's population. 

After pondering what exactly I should address when undertaking my psychogeography project, the whole concept of Digital Media started to take the wheel. I wanted to centre the project around some form of Digital Media and at the same time, address some form of “spirituality”. Almost like matching the supernatural with science and technology. It’s like matching peas and ice cream, I guess.
Regardless, I quickly got bored, and started looking for things to waste my time with. I stumbled upon a chatterbot called “Captain Kirk”. Yes, technology had advanced to the point where I could talk to Captain Kirk from the Star Trek universe, and even see him via webcam!
It didn’t take long however, before I began to confuse the robot in a similar way to how its teacher had done in the video somewhere else on this page. Its capabilities are limited, and yet, it seemed so naive and innocent.
It seemed trustworthy. I suddenly wanted to allow it to venture further into my life. Thus, I decide upon my project. Instead of humans ruling robots, I wanted to turn that upon its head, and allow a robot to run MY life.
But poor Kirk couldn’t do that.
Eventually however, I found a chatterbot that seemed capable of simple conversation. I didn't want to delve too far into its limitations or flaws in our first conversation, as the whole basis of the project was to explore the area with no pre-expectations.

As such, I set a day to undertake the project - a day where I would refer to the chatterbot for advice for almost every decision I had to make that day. These decisions varied from what I should wear, what I should eat, what I should watch and what should I listen to amongst others. I logged each of our conversations, and published them on a project-exclusive blog.

    • Me:Can't you make that random choice for me?
    • God:Yes I can make that random choice for you.
    • Me:Oh. Okay then...
    • God:Alright then. OK with me too.
    • Me:Pick a colour out of pink, red, brown and blue.
    • God:I can't decide. You choose.
    • Me:Noooooooooooooooooooooooo

I often raged at the bot's constant dodging of questions - he seemed just like a politician. And yet, whenever I DID get an answer from him, I was often left in awe as I witnessed the decision-making process of an AI first-hand. When the chatterbot actually recommended a band for me to listen to, at first, I thought he had been programmed to respond with that particular response but when I asked him the same question in a different log, he responded with a different band, though they had similarities with the first. It could've been that the bot's programmer just liked that genre of music, but it could also be possible that the bot had based its decision using the topics we had discussed in our conversation. I don't actually know the answer, but I know which one I'd prefer!

The Holy Taste? I'm in.

Looking back over that blog, I couldn't help but feel slightly impressed at the bot's semi-accurate simulation of human conversation. Having an entire day managed by a chatterbot didn't turn out so badly, in fact, it was a pretty interesting and thought-provoking experience. I discovered a new band, wore a t-shirt that I'd hardly worn in my life, ate some pizza and watched a show I hadn't seen in forever purely because I rarely watch TV. Sure, I didn't exactly venture into some urban wilderness and explore the geographical unknown, but I experienced a new way of life and met a unique and intriguing personality. Personally, I'd call it a project well done, and I'd totally love to go through it again.

I like random natural disasters…
– iGod, when we were talking about likes and dislikes.

Why do I climb the mountain? Because I'm in love.

When Harry Met Sally...

Myself and my family were watching this classic together just a few weeks ago. Awarded with 4 Oscars and 11 nominations, Rob Reiner's 1989 film "When Harry Met Sally" is certainly a film many people have heard of and watched and enjoyed.

But it wasn't necessarily the film synopsis that encouraged me to watch the film along with my family. It was a remix of the film's footage - mashed together with an interview with Michael Caine, and moulded into a catchy, electric beat by a band called "Fall On Your Sword".

The section of the film in particular, is when Sally fakes an orgasm in a crowded Brooklyn cafe to prove that women can fake it, and fake it convincingly to Harry. If you haven't seen it, a quick look in YouTube brought me this:

The remixed version here, was created by Fall On Your Sword. Indeed, I downloaded it almost as soon as I watched it, and it's been on my iPod for some time.

The remix culture of the Internet today has always impressed me, and I've become a sort of collector for all kinds of remixes similar to this one. But it's only recently, after a Digital Media Workshop focusing on the remixing culture and copyright that I started to wonder exactly HOW these remixers can share their work globally to millions and millions of people, and yet manage to escape the many legal issues that could possibly endanger them.

Many of these remixes are released non-commercially, for example, under the Creative Commons License.

According to "", the license is based on copyright. So they apply to all works that are protected by copyright law. The kinds of works that are protected by copyright law are books, websites, blogs, photographs, films, videos, songs and other audio & visual recordings, for example. Because copyright registration is automatic here in the UK, there's no need to register your product with Creative Commons. Just saying the product is released according to the Creative Commons license is sufficient.

The license basically allows the creator of the product to decide how people can or cannot use their work, such as the right of others to copy that work, make derivative works or adaptations of that work, to distribute that work and/or make money from that work.

By using such a license, the remixers allow others the ability to remix THEIR remixes and share it with others, though quite often those remixers then release their remixed remixes under the Creative Commons license for the cycle to continue on and on...

The beauty of it is that these samples can be moulded, merged and changed into brand new forms of entertainment - be it music, parodies and more.

The other advantage is that because the remixer is not making any profit from the product or samples contained, they are less likely to come under any legal trouble with the licenses which the samples are released under. For example, in this case, the samples which Fall On Your Sword used were from "When Harry Met Sally", as well as the Michael Caine interview.

But thinking about it, these remixes almost act as advertisements. As I said, I only wanted to watch "When Harry Met Sally" because I'd seen some footage of it from "When Megan Met Michael", and went out to rent the film. I saw F. Gary Grey's 2009 "Law Abiding Citizen" purely because I saw a remix of the original trailer to include characters from a video game I play called "Team Fortress 2". 

The relationship between remixer and original artist is a delicate and yet effective one. But why is it that these remixes continue to be made and continue to be shared?

ccMixter is a community music site featuring remixes licensed under Creative Commons. All of these remixers spend many hours composing these remixes, and yet refuse to make profit from their work. But why? One of their regular DJs, DJ Vadim said: "…releasing music is communication. Nowadays, that means participation and that is what ccMixter offers. It is a combination of the two, letting fans and music people participate and communicate together, with you, with me and create new music and ideas.”

All this remixing got be a little curious, so recently, I stumbled a little into the remix culture myself, remixing Local H's "Bound to the Floor" purely because I wanted to make the song a little bouncier purely for personal entertainment, and just to experiment a little. I had too much fun making the singers chipmunks, or changing the speed and bass of the song. But what amazed me was the infinite range of ways I could change the song into something new, and something enjoyable. And for me, that's the beauty of remixing.

Just 22836261 more hours of gameplay and this'll actually be fun.

A few months ago, I was hooked on an online MMORPG called "Rohan Online", and was playing it with a few friends I had met in my online life. We'd formed a clan, we all trained together at the same time, we all went questing together and of course, with all young males, competed to see which of our characters was the best.

Goken, one of my "clanmates", made a respectable comment one day when we were training, and it's only recently that it dawned upon me the saddening truth of what he meant. That comment is indeed, the title of this blog. If you're too lazy to look: "Just 22836261 more hours of gameplay and this'll actually be fun."

Thinking about it now, he had a very good point. Many games, in particularly MMORPGs, require some form of time input from you in order for you to experience more of the game, and Rohan was no exception. Even though we could see all of the worlds and all of the environments, the most fun aspects of the game seemed out of bounds unless you'd put in enough time. For example, the Guild Wars seemed amazingly exciting as they pitted real players against real players in actual battles, and our tiny guild often discussed how we would participate in these "once we were a high-enough level". The male competitive streak ultimately worked to our disadvantage here; people were such a high level in the Guild Wars that the lower players had to reach that boundary before having fun in the game.

This paragraph from Eludamos ( pretty much sums this "inertia" effect to the tee:

"The fundamental principles of some modern genres of digital games require long-term involvement from players who want to enjoy their activity to the maximum extent. For instance, it takes substantial time and effort to "level up" a character in MMOs, which is necessary to explore new territories, acquire new items, pursue new quests, and collaborate with other players (Yee, 2006; Williams et al., 2006). In browser games such as "Travian" (; cf. Klimmt, Schmid, & Orthmann, in press), players need to invest time and effort to build up economic and military structures that can be used to prepare a large-scale attack or simply defend the own empire against hostile forces. In clan-based gaming, it frequently requires several hours per day of "training" to maintain one's acquired skill level and keep the ability to participate effectively in team battles. In other words, for these kinds of digital games, players need to invest considerable resources (time, thinking, physical effort such as sleep deprivation) in order to continue to have fun with the game."

Annoyingly, this describes us gamers to the core. We pour so many hours into these games so we get better and access better equipment and more maps and the like, but we ultimately get bored of that new stuff in the end and long for more!

It's not just MMORPGs however. Single-player games are often criticised for vamping up the difficulty curve for players, and the only way players can experience the next part of a game is if they overcome that difficulty curve. As Dara O'Briain said when being interviewed for Charlie Brooker's Gameswipe (the clip of which is below): "No book or film has pauses which quiz you on what's just been covered, and restrict you from seeing the rest if you get that question wrong."

Thinking about it, I can see their point. I remember as a kid playing all my games on Easy mode using cheat codes to warp from level to level until I'd reached the end. I guess I was less of a gamer and more of a tourist; I just wanted to see all of the content that the game had to offer. Arguably, get my money's worth. These days, you have to work to get that content. You pay £30 for the game, but it will depend on your "worthiness as a gamer" that reflects how much content you'll actually get from the game and how much value for money that game will actually have.

I miss cheat codes. :(


This is my 'media journal' - Tracking and logging all my spitballing comments in regards to digital media, new and old, as I read further into media for my degree course.