Machinima: A New Narrative Medium for the Y-[tube] Generation

One of my friends on facebook, Paul 'Fire' Preibisch, shared this funny WOW machinima "a group of dragon slayers seek out a new way to spend their time on" on, an innovative media sharing platform for gamers.

What is Machinima? Do you do Understand what it's all about?
Last month, I presented the possible Cultural implications of Machinima for the Y-[tube] Generation at the First Israeli Popular Culture Conference: Rules of Disorder Shifting Boundaries, Emerging Realities and New Identities, Cinematec Tel Aviv May 15, 2008. Follwoing requests from my fellow DiGRA ISRAEL Members who did not attended the conference I would like to share with you my view on the theme.

So here goes

Video games have become one of the main building blocks of our children's world (Gazit, in press). Ellis (1983) argues that children usually play in groups, and when they don't, they share their experiences socially. Playing video games should be examined in social and cultural spheres that might be more important than the game itself.
This presentation focuses on game-based movie-making of the Y-[tube] generation (children 13-17 years of ages and adults 18-28 years of age). Machinima is movie-making by using virtual worlds and videogames engines, which has gained popularity among players (Cefrey, 2008). The Machinima makers demonstrate a higher level of active participation compared to the majority of Bonk’s (2008) YouTube survey participants, preferring passive observation rather than creating their own YouTube videos.

Developments in 3D real time game engines, Massive Multiplayer On-line Role Playing Games (MMORPGs) platforms, high-band communications, and the emergence of game-based movie-makers communities, have paved the way to the extensive application of the Mashinima medium. Lowood (2008) suggests that players are learning to use game-based movie-making in order to express ideas and opinions important in their lives, ranging from politics and conflicts of real life to those of virtual worlds and game communities. Creating Machinima movies requires, apart from film making skills, the ability to convey new meaning by collaborating with other actors on the scene, similar to regular movie-making (Hancock & Inqram, 2007). Moreover, hacking the game engine in order to create a “game mood”, a new game space and objects, requires programming skills. I argue that the new Machinima medium affords a new kind of literacy, which is a combination of cognitive, communication, artistic and visual skills. Moreover, there are commercial implications as the MTV's virtual world's music video competition shows (Sherman, 2007). Bardzell et al., (2006) classified Machinima to four types according to the platforms used: Pure Machinima platforms, Hybrid Games, Pure Games and Modded Games.
Some of the cultural themes reflected in the Machinima created inside massively multiplayer on-line games (MMOGs), such as World of World Craft, RuneScape, Habbo Hotel, and virtual worlds, such as Second Life, will be presented. From MTV’s music Mashinima mock ups, to original self expression stories. For example, the Machinima “make love not war” on Blizzard's World of Warcraft, represents in a funny and creative way the cultural gap between the children's world and the adult’s world. The ability to use ones imagination and see and experience from many different vantage points in MMORPGs, provides a new set of tools for imaginative and innovative thinking (Thomas & Brown, 2007). The Israeli Machinima “Status Quo” made by Nir Matarasso and Gur Bentwich on the Unreal1 engine, is an example of the creative expression of their political views which highlights the absurdity of the Israeli-Palestine Conflict.

To conclude, I argue that the Machinima is a new narrative medium in which players develop a new kind of literacy and that this new medium deserves systematic examination for assessing its full cultural and cognitive implications.


Bardzell, J., Bardzell, S., Briggs, C., Makice, K., Ryan, W., Weldon, M., (2006). Machinima Prototyping: An Approach to Evaluation. Proceedings of the 4th Nordic Conference on Human-computer interaction: changing roles, vol. 189, (pp. 433-436), Oslo, Norway.

Bonk, C. J. (2008). YouTube anchors and enders: The use of shared online video content as a macrocontext for learning. Paper presented at the American Educational Research Association (AERA) 2008 Annual Meeting, New York, NY.

Cefrey, H. (2008). Career Building Through Machinima: Using Video Games to Make Movies. Rosen Publishing Group.

Ellis, G. J. (1983). Youth in the electronic environment: An introduction. Youth and report for the NSF of workshops. The impact of three dimensional immersive VE on modern pedagogy.

Gazit, E. (in press). A window on digital games interactions in home settings. Handbook of Research on Effective Electronic Gaming in Education. IGI Global Press.

Hancock, H., & Ingram, J. (2007). Machinima For Dummies. Wiley Publishing Inc.

Lowood, H. (2008). Found Technology: Players as Innovators in the Making of Machinima.

McPherson. T. (ED.) Digital Youth, Innovation, and the Unexpected. (pp. 165-196). The John D. and Catherine T.MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Media and Learning. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Sherman, C. (2007). MTV and Metacafe Launch Virtual Music Video Competition. Virtual Worlds News blogpost (31.11. 2007). Available on-line: (Retrived 18 April 2008).

Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2007). The Play of Imagination: Extending the Literary Mind, Games and Culture, 2, 149-172.


I wish to thank DiGRA ISRAEL members Nir Miretzky and Jacqui Basil for their thoughtful comments.

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