Micro-Essay #2 – On Performance in Machinima – Geoffroy Gravel

In his article Real-Time Performance: Machinima and Game Studies, Henry Lowood examines the role of player performance in the production of machinima movies. Machinima movies consist of in-game footage captured and edited so as to create a film-like narrative foreign to the one intended by the game’s developers. Lowood defines machinima as “high-performance play” because it requires its creators to possess three types of performative skills. First, one needs to have an extensive technological knowledge to manipulate the systems of games in order to capture interesting and appropriate footage. A large proportion of machinima footage is captured in “mods” that have been elaborated by technically knowledgeable players . Secondly, machinima requires a player to have impressive gaming skills as much of the excitement surrounding these productions relies on the in-game exploits performed by the players. Finally, gamers who produce machinima movies have to perform in the more traditional sense of the word. Simply put, these players must be creative in their approach so as to genuinely entertain the audience of their projects.

The series This Spartan Life is an example of machinima pertinent to Lowood’s description of “high-performance play”. All three types of performances addressed in Lowood’s article are skillfully applied in this series that makes use of Halo games to construct its narrative. The technological skills used in This Spartan Life mostly consist of the mastery of a glitch that allows the creators to remove the weapons and arms of their characters from the screen. This allows them to capture footage that looks more cinematic and gives the impression that the series was not even filmed in a first-person perspective. The gamers that contribute to the production of This Spartan Life are experienced Halo players. They perform impressive actions that require timing, skill and probably much practice. These actions generate a part of the excitement that surrounds the series. Finally, the producers of This Spartan Life bring entertainment to their audiences in many different ways. Not only do they provide humoristic content such as hilarious dances from Halo characters or jokes of various kinds, they provide informative content that is relevant to the interests of their audiences. Episode 7 of the series, for instance, features an interview with Tiffiniy Cheng from the Fight for the Future organization which fights for freedom of content on the internet. Obviously, this issue is relevant to gamers who take part in online communities that could be silenced by overtly severe internet regulation.

Thankfully, This Spartan Life is actually encouraged by the corporate figures of Microsoft. The series is now featured on X-Box Live and some of its content was even included in a special edition of Halo. The production of machinima movies encourages the creation of gamer communities that can generate interesting, entertaining, creative and informative content for their peers. Video game companies should see such content as beneficial to the product that they brought to the market as it generates excitement for their games and allows for creative artistic productions to see the light of day.

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