According to Lowood, “Machinima can in part be understood as a replacement of one game structure with another, as the ‘free movement of play’ alters the game from playing to win to playing to make a movie.” Is the assertion here that all machinima examples emerge from games that are competitive in form, that is, that agôn is the form of all pre-machinima contexts? If this were the case — it isn’t: though Minecraft is not an inherently competitive game, much machinima has been created by Minecraft players — what could be said about competitive games that lend themselves to this extrinsic mode of play? I posit that one such mode would be speedrunning, an emergent form of gameplay where players “…[complete] a game or game level as quickly as possible and [document] record runs via replay movies.” (7) In speedrunning, the characteristic of the original game — be it chance, competition, sandbox — is supplanted with a new agônistic purpose: to demonstrate to their community player-performers’ dominance over the affordances and constraints of gameplay. The competition is extrinsic to the computer game itself; the forum is the speedrun multiplayer arena. Described by McGonigal as “extroverted play,” (McGonigal) machinima is itself a performance, which Lowood further unpacks as “…playing for others to see.” (Lowood. 10) To quote Caillois, “for nonparticipants, every agôn is a spectacle.” (Caillois. 22)
Although Machinima’s roots are in competitive first-person shooters, Lowood posits that its creators “…subverted the game system altogether, turning it into a performance technology. Machinima meant narrative or experimental movie-making, not competition.” (Lowood. 10) Through this week’s readings I came across the q3osc project from Stanford University’s Centre for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA). According to the project’s founder, Robert Hamilton, q3osc is “an interactive musical performance environment” (Hamilton) which uses a modded Quake 3 game to control a sound synthesizer. As with Quake 3, q3osc supports multiplayer participation, facilitating online group musical performance. Hamilton states that “virtual environments in popular three-dimensional video games can offer game-players an immersive multimedia experience within which performative aspects of gameplay can and often do rival the most enactive and expressive gestural attributes of instrumental musical performance.” (Hamilton. 1) I found this week’s topic particularly stimulating, as some of my own works as a computer music composer have diffused the boundary(s) between player and performer, such as Stethoscope Hero (Palumbo. 2014) a networked multiplayer musical video game for laptop ensemble performed in Canada and the UK. I am particularly excited by performance potential demonstrated by machinima works, and look forward to exploring this further!
Caillois, Roger. Man, Play, and Games. [New York]: Free Press of Glencoe, 1961.
Hamilton, Robert. Q3osc Or: How I Learned to Stop worrying and Love the Bomb Game. Ann Arbor, MI: Scholarly Publishing Office, University of Michigan Library, n.d.. Internet resource.
Hamilton, Robert. “Q3osc: Ccrma.stanford.edu:~rob/q3osc/.” Q3osc: Ccrma.stanford.edu:~rob/q3osc/. Centre For Computer Research in Music and Acoustics, 4 June 2008. Web. 01 Apr. 2015.
Lowood, Henry. “Real-Time Performance: Machinima and Game Studies.” IDMAa: International Digital Media and Arts Association, 08 Mar. 2013. Web. 01 Apr. 2015.
McGonigal, Jane (2005). Gamers Love Performance. Workshop on Extroverted Gameplay. Digital Games Association (Vancouver)
Palumbo, Michael. “Stethoscope Hero.” Network Music Festival, Birmingham. September 28, 2014. Performance.