Machinima: digital performance and emergent authorship

Carroll John Cameron David
2005 DiGRA '05 - Proceedings of the 2005 DiGRA International Conference: Changing Views: Worlds in Play

This workshop investigates the emergent online dramatic form of "machinima", the co-option of video game engines or off-the-shelf software for dramatic production in a rapidly developing digital performance form. Workshop participants will engage with short examples of popular machinima productions. There will be discussion and demonstration of the machinima production process. The nexus between dramatic conventions, gameplay and traditional video production techniques will be explored. Participants will work with a short piece of a machinima, in the form of a scene created using the Sims 2 game. Participants will improvise, script and perform dialogue to provide meaning for the action. This workshop applies the insights of process drama, a field well developed in educational settings, to the development of machinima. It includes demonstration and participation in dramatic role, focusing on how the conventions of Role Distance and Role Protection apply to this developing field of digital game-based performance.


Epistemic games & applied drama: Converging conventions for serious play

Cameron David Carroll John Wotzko Rebecca
2011 DiGRA '11 - Proceedings of the 2011 DiGRA International Conference: Think Design Play

This paper describes a way to bridge the remaining conceptual gap between the conventions of digital games and those of non-theatrical drama forms, particularly when both fields are applied to non-entertainment settings. The approaches and literature surrounding both David Williamson Shaffer’s work in epistemic games and Dorothy Heathcote’s work in applied drama are compared. The teaching strategies in both approaches use a range of dramatic techniques that engage students in learning tasks which involve solving problems, and producing working content as if the students were professionals in a particular field of expertise. The similarities between the two pedagogies allow designers of serious digital games to borrow from frameworks in applied drama to further develop authentic learning experiences. A case study examines the application of these two pedagogies in the design of a Web-based game engine for the delivery of training scenarios.


Encoding liveness: Performance and real-time rendering in machinima

Cameron David Carroll John
2009 DiGRA '09 - Proceedings of the 2009 DiGRA International Conference: Breaking New Ground: Innovation in Games, Play, Practice and Theory

Machinima is the appropriation of software-generated 3D virtual environments, typically video games, for filmmaking and dramatic productions. The creation and distribution technology of machinima tends to hide the nature of the performer, provoking consideration of a definition of ‘liveness’ that can accommodate the real-time rendering of screen content by game software in response to human input, or – at the extreme – as if there is human input in accordance with performance parameters coded by humans. This paper considers the continuum of creative modes that machinima makers work on, and the differing aesthetic/technical decisions affecting the level of liveness in the finished production. Machinima films derive from captured gameplay, puppet-like live improvisational work, cinematic or televisual on-camera performances, and totally scripted performances produced using coded commands. Often, the real-time rendering capability of the game software is only critical at the point of image capture, but once the footage has been saved as a video file it is editing and post-production that becomes the focus of much machinima production. Even live improvisational pieces – whether performed in a real or virtual venue - are generally better known via their capture and distribution as video clips to a wider post-performance audience. This paper also explores machinima making as a community of practice, that is a specific group with a local culture, operating through shared practices, linked to each other through a shared repertoire of resources. Digital performance communities of practice emerging from video games and machinima production can be seen as having levels of engagement with a range of other communities, most obviously the gameplaying, game modifying, CGI animation and filmmaking communities. Consideration is given to how, from a dramatic viewpoint, the performers within a machinima production are also operating in much the same way as in-role improvisation occurs within the community of practice associated with process drama - a strongly framed environment defined by a ‘digital pre-text’ - the common digital environment that provides the agreed fictional context for the dramatic action to unfold in.