A few days ago I received a private email from Odara. Like me, she has become frustrated by the dearth of quality machinima in an utterly saturated market. All around the Web, articles proliferate about machinima’s potential and machinima’s future, articles written by educated adults, often professional filmmakers. Stanford University has held seminars about the legalities of machinima and mainstream film festivals have recognized it as an official category. So where the heck IS all the watchable machinima?
Because machinima emerged from the gaming communities, most of the early directors were hardcore gamers with little interest in any type of creative enterprise outside their platforms. Most of their storylines came built into the games, so it was simply a matter of filming them while they happened. Later, open-ended gameplay like The Sims and Second Life attracted a different type of machinima director—someone who enjoyed those artificial worlds but preferred to create their own happy endings rather than rely on out-of-the-box storylines.
At one time, a handful of skilled adult filmmakers adopted The Sims 2 as their platform and started producing very high-quality, watchable machinima. Some of it still lingers on the Web; much of it was banned when Google bought YouTube and implemented a stringent copyright policy. Because of this, and because EA Games took The Sims 3 in a direction that decreased its appeal as a machinima platform, virtually all of those directors dispersed into other filmmaking communities and no longer produce machinima.
Yet the fascination remains for many, especially teens and young adults. Unfortunately, the skills that make one a technical master of machinima aren’t necessarily conducive to good storytelling. So, as many of you know, I began to wonder what might happen if true machinima artisans and talented writers came face to face for the first time. What would they glean from each other? And what kind of literary/machinima hybrid would result?
In a few days, I’ll release my first production based on this premise. Will it be watchable? Early feedback suggests it will. I have utter confidence in the storytelling, thanks to Carol Kean letting me borrow her characters and plot. And while I wouldn’t tout myself as a “master” machinima director, I have certainly invested much time and energy learning the craft. So I don’t think I’m a hack, either. I would love to start a revolution in the machinima universe. No more insipid characters! No more shallow plots! Let’s put some real meat on machinima bones and see what kind of interest we generate.
The downside is that this will take time and strategy. “Build it and they will come”. . .yes, that would be nice. But it’s not likely, especially since machinima has begun to carry some negative connotations. So here’s the plan: continue to produce the highest quality machinima within our skill set. Experiment with Moviestorm so that commercial applications are possible. Pay painstaking attention to detail when it comes to our plotting and characterization and introduce as many talented writers to the concept as possible.
My official Sims 2 Machinima website has been on the back burner for quite a while. But I do own the rights to that domain, so this extended parking period hasn’t been entirely detrimental to its cause. When it’s developed, the purpose of that website will be to isolate and promote the most promising machinima directors in the Sims 2 community. At one time, I planned to make the site open for every director to register their work, but now I’m reconsidering. I think it should showcase the best of the best—machinimas selected by a panel of mature, objective admins whose primary interest is furthering the cause of machinima, not hosting a social club. This means only a handful of directors will list—at first. But as serious machinima begins a comeback and published novels become associated with machinima trailers, I believe there’s a good chance that we’ll start to see a real influx of quality work and very watchable productions.