Put simply, machinima is the use of video game technology in the pursuit of cinema – be it shorts, feature-length films or recurring series. The first examples of such an art form surfaced in the late 80s and early 90s and made use of games such as Doom and Quake.
Once the phenomena started making use of other engines and games the term machinima was coined, combining “machine” and “cinema” into one misspelled term. The videos never really went away, evolving with each leap in hardware and software technology. Here is just a small selection of some of the best video game machinima on the net.
Freeman’s Mind [Half-Life]
For such a gung-ho protagonist; Half-Life’s Gordon Freeman is surprisingly quiet. Despite the fact that the hero is regularly interacting with scientists and security guards he never actually utters a word.
Freeman’s Mind attempts to fill in the blanks by providing a voiceover of Gordon’s supposed inner-monologue. The series of 38 videos follow Freeman on his quest through the Black Mesa complex with hilarious results.
I particularly like this machinima as it gives you a chance to relive your favourite Half-Life encounters with a humorous and clever twist.
Apartment Hunting [Quake]
Sometimes to really appreciate a movement you have to go back to its origins, and whilst this particular video is credited as the “first” machinima, I’ve chosen to include something from the ILL clan instead here.
They allegedly participated in the infamous Second Life CSI episode, which you’ve probably seen (and probably also qualifies as some sort of machinima). Apartment Hunting might look blocky and rough around the edges now but it still has charm and deserves recognition for the effort it must have taken to produce.
The Craft of War: BLIND [World of Warcraft]
If you’re looking for a technically impressive, well-edited and tightly orchestrated machinima then look no further than this specimen created using Blizzard’s hit MMO World of Warcraft.
WoW has been used heavily for machinima in the past, probably most notably in the “Make Love, Not Warcraft” episode of South Park. BLIND is a highly polished production that’s a must-watch for all Warcraft or machinima fans.
Civil Protection [Half-Life 2]
Civil Protection follows the not-so-average life of two Combine guards from Half-Life 2’s City 17. The comedy blends zany witticisms and well-shot footage to create a mini series that’s well-worth following.
The voice acting is particularly strong here, and it’s probably not surprising as the author is also responsible for Freeman’s Mind, above. The Half-Life 2 engine has long stood tall in the modding community, opening up new opportunities for games, mods and films like this.
The Gmod Idiot Box [Half-Life2/Garry’s Mod]
What can only be described as Robot Chicken meets Half-Life 2, The Gmod Idiot Box is a particularly silly yet entertaining machinima series. The videos take on the form of a clip show, jumping in and out of scenarios and often paying homage to pop culture and memes.
Garry’s Mod has of course been responsible for plenty of similar efforts, and The Gmod Idiot Box is one of the more consistent machinimas that utilise the mod. If you fancy giving it a go yourself it’s cheap as chips on Steam and comes with everything you need to waste a whole afternoon (or weekend).
Prelude to Victory [Half-Life 2/Day of Defeat: Source]
This video is a little different to the rest in that it was made by publishers Valve in order to promote Half-Life 2 mod Day of Defeat: Source. That means the production values, post processing and action itself is guaranteed to be very tight indeed.
Opening with a news report, the short portrays a clash between Allied and Axis forces using models, maps and weapons all found in the game.
Hopefully the dedicated community that has spent so long creating these creations will live on for future generations of games. Another successful game that has received plenty of machinima treatment is Grand Theft Auto IV, which we’ve already touched on in an earlier article.
If you have any favourites that we haven’t mentioned here, make sure you let us know in the comments!