Outed

Hi. My name is Rhonda. I’m forty-one years old, and I make Sims 2 machinima.

There. I said it. In public. And you know what? The sky didn’t fall. My family didn’t disown me and my dog is still sitting in my lap. My IQ level didn’t drop and by golly, I’m still an adult.

Why did I say all that? Because over the past few months, I’ve run into several people just like me, who appreciate the potential of machinima and enjoy creating it, yet keep their guilty pleasure a secret because they’re “too old” by conventional gaming standards. These people include teachers, managers, meat cutters, DJs, graphic and interior designers, men, women, and folks with all sorts of temperaments and backgrounds. Like me, they’ve hidden their interests from real-life friends and their ages from the machinima community. We’re oddballs in both worlds, yet the lure of creative storytelling is much stronger than our embarrassment.

In my everyday world, the subject of machinima rarely comes up. But when it does, I feel like I’m being “outed” every time I admit being involved with it. The facial expressions people suddenly develop are priceless. Most are polite, in a “let’s don’t upset the crazy person” kind of way. Some are outright detractors and one or two have actually snickered out loud.

I understand the skepticism. Really, I do. Machinima does seem like a childish and pointless time waster—at first glance. I won’t defend its merits in this post or explain all the reasons I love it. But I will throw the scoffers a bone: machinima is not for everyone.

Neither is sushi.

The primary audience for machinima is young females between the ages of twelve and twenty. Therefore it stands to reason that any adult who dabbles in this hobby must have serious age regression issues. Right?

Let’s revisit the first sentence of the above paragraph: “The primary audience […] is young females between the ages of twelve and twenty.” Okay—who did I just describe? None other than the very people who made “Twilight” a worldwide phenomenon and Stephanie Meyer a household name.

Yet no one accuses Stephanie Meyer of having regression issues. She’s an author—a storyteller—and everyone knows that reaching today’s generation of kids is a noble and commendable achievement, even if we have to use vampires and werewolves to do it.

If I sound condescending toward Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series, I certainly don’t intend it that way. My point is that authors of children’s books and young adult (YA) literature never come under fire for being childish themselves no matter what characters or tactics they use. So why is machinima such a point of ridicule by so many? Isn’t it just an alternate form of storytelling, one that the audience can actually participate in themselves? What’s so “childish” about creating entertainment that children can enjoy? Not to mention the fact that well-done machinimas appeal to all ages, not just kids.

I have a feeling that machinima-esque productions will become more and more prevalent in the entertainment and advertising fields. How many young machinima directors of today will be tomorrow’s Steven Spielbergs? And how many will go on, using the storytelling skills they learned by making countless crappy machinimas, to write enduring literary classics and produce C-gen or even live action movies our grandkids will treasure?

So if I have serious regression issues, or if I’m childish for enjoying machinima, then so be it. I’m sure Lewis Carroll (Alice In Wonderland,) Roald Dahl (Willy Wonka), Lyman Frank Baum (Wizard Of Oz), JK Rowling, and of course Stephanie Meyer had to endure some good (and not so good)-natured ribbing, too.

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7 responses to “Outed

  1. Sound the trumpets, pound the drums, march march march back into the brave new world of childhood! Didn’t the literati sneer at comic books, years ago? But an original Spiderman is now worth how many millions of dollars? Cheap, colorful graphics, simple story lines, punchy dialogue (Spiff! Bam!), comical (what else?) situations and images, i.e., corny or even cliched, but…but…why were they so engrossing? Why did millions of boys buy Batman comic books and adults read Dick Tracy and…someone help me, I never had access to comic books in my childhood, but I dimly remember seeing a few in a library somewhere. I need to do some googling before I can articulate a response to your post, Rhonda. Let’s just say I’m 49 and I never really grew up. Giving up Barbie dolls in sixth grade was the most painful part of leaving kid stuff behind. Okay, living in isolation on a farm, 25 students per class at school, I had all the time in the world and nothing much better to do than daydream and watch stories unfold in my head while I pulled weeds or washed dishes. While other kids were on task, paying attention, catching the ball (I always ducked), I was reading fairy tales, then Harlequin romances, then Zane Grey novels, and….well, let’s just say if computers had been invented yet and I had access to Sims, I’d never have finished high school. I’d just be Simming. Rhonda, you’re totally not alone, and the success of Peter Pan reminds us that growing up is kinda mundane. I mean, everyone does it. At least bodily. Most of us grow stuffy and dull in the process and overly concerned with what others think of us. I say let’s grab the toys and run with them and go play while until the chores and bills and other adult responsibilites call us back. Write on, or film on, Rhonda! Dream on!

  2. Archetypes. The crudely simple, colorful graphics of comic books (and perhaps to an extent, machinima) tap into those deep-rooted images that Jung called ancestral memories or archetypes. The modern novel may have dispensed with wordy 19th C prose, but all those words on a platter can be dry, obscure, not very engaging, or interesting only to academics. For me the most memorable stories are the simplest. Samson, pulling the pillars of the temple down after Delilah cut his hair. Daniel in the lion’s den. Little David facing the giant. Layers and layers of meanings go along with each story. One thing machinima has taught me, thanks to you, Rhonda: we novelists love to hear ourselves and bask in our own words (well, I’m guilty, even if others aren’t), but when I see what you do with Stonehaven, I suddenly see why Julian’s fascination with Richard Dawkins is irrelevant to the story. Those little excursions into Navajo history, the backstory about Julian’s alcoholic mother and her many abusive boyfriends — just not needed for the audience of a machinima video. I’m not explaining this right, but I’ve been rethinking my novel and how I write it and what I keep in or take out or add, all in light of your assembly of images in the Left on Stonehaven video-in-progress. I’ll never be able to thank you enough for all that you’ve taught me, Rhonda. I’ve already experienced the sneering and nay-saying you mention in your “Outed” post, but it’s easy to ignore them when there are people like you who love storytelling in all its rich and varied forms.

  3. I’m soon to be a 54yr old child single father of twins (Allan & Allyse) My family loves the videos that I’ve made but sadly enough unlike Rhonda…my dog has left me!

    Gary

  4. Yay, I’m 41 too! I write fantasy. My husband believes I’m not mature. But why should fictioin be free of Faerie or art be of only a particular sort in order to be respected? It’s arbitrary that Cezanne is considered a master, but Jack Kirby is not–except by comic book fans. 😉

    Great post!

  5. Rhonda, I never did quite explain how your machinima video (in progress) gave me new perspective, new insights into my novel. You show Cecelia staring (a little dreamily) at Julian as he bursts out the door (after his fainting vision). Somehow as the days go by and I replay the scene in my head while weeding (hours, in the hot sun), I see Cecelia as the one who seeks out Julian and tries to help him — a reversal of the way I first wrote it, where Cecelia (the lonely brainiac) disdains Julian’s attentions and tries to keep him at bay. Now I’m thinking Julian can’t see past her glasses and tightly braided hair and the awful school uniform. Cecelia the scientist will be curious about this weird new kid, after all, and once she gets wind of remote viewing, she might be determined to put his mind at ease and prove to him that it’s all a product of a frantic imagination. (Of course she’ll find out otherwise when they locate Romany….)

    So, to sum it up, your filming affects my thinking, but I see that as a good thing, not a sign that I’m too impressionable. “Community.” All fiction and art involve creations and responses and interactions….

  6. Hi Gary and Amanda – great to hear from you! Gary did your dog leave this world, or just you?

  7. Hi Carol,
    Wow, so Rhonda’s film effects your creation and your creation effects hers. It’s like this circular creative living thing. Way cool!

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