Over the past 24 hours, I have seen a night elf and a dwarf compete in a “dance-off.” I have seen an Arab guerilla force overwhelm American soldiers in an Iraq-like setting. I have seen Princess Leia gyrating to “My Humps” for the benefit of Han Solo. I have seen fighter planes conversing in French. Yes, I’ve been watching machinima.
Machinima, perhaps the worst-named genre ever, is the blanket term for movies made with characters and graphics from videogames. The typical machinima comes to life when two teenage boys move their Halo 2 fighters around, record the scene using computer software, dub “funny” dialogue over it, and post the result on YouTube. At first glance, machinima seems like a cultural freak show along the lines of fan fiction. But a small bit of digging reveals examples that are well-crafted and clever, including the long-running series Red vs. Blue, and The French Democracy, a response to that country’s 2006 riots. Machinima is currently the province of amateurs—full of surprising, pointless creations. That may change quickly, as machinima is ripe for mainstream adoption. The Super Bowl this year featured a Coke ad that was a homage to Grand Theft Auto, and with video games firmly established as the lingua franca of teens everywhere, more machinima-esque shows and movies are sure to follow.
Click here for a video slide show of machinima, before it’s overexposed.