About this research

Machinima: investigating cultural impacts aims to generate a comprehensive framework for understanding the ways in which machinima adds cultural value to creative and cultural sectors. Machinima (‘machine-animation-cinema’) is the making of original content using 3D computer games engines and gameplay recorded in real time. Machinima creators (‘machinimators’) draw on a multiplicity of computer video games but this type of co-created and participatory content was originally popularised by the growth in fantasy and simulated role-play environments such as Halo©, World of Warcraft©, Grand Theft Auto© and The Sims©.

Community activity

As a form of highly creative content blending of artistic and film-making skills with gameplay and computer technologies competences, machinima has attracted a wide range of participants from home-based enthusiasts, to amateur film-makers, to established digital artists in film, animation and arts sectors. Increasing activity within the community of machinimators has impacted on our understanding of the role of computer games beyond gaming, digital interactive performance and social participation genres, and influenced developments in creative and cultural industries and new media platforms. Despite its now massive (2.3B and counting) following and popularity primarily among gamers, machinima remains a largely internet-based phenomenon which few outside the online communities and digital arts scenes have heard about albeit many will have first hand experience of it.

Origins and growth

The first machinima film is widely recognized as being Diary of a Camper (see Wikipedia article), recorded and produced in 1996 by a group of gamers calling themselves The Rangers. Since then, machinimators have created and distributed tens of thousands of fan vids, parodies, satires, reenactments and original content through online fora in an increasingly complex ecology of technologies and new media. Its influence has been widespread, impacting digital arts, film, new media platforms and even politics through the user-generated co-created and produced content, some of which has been used as ‘pre-production’ for big budget Hollywood films.

Project objectives

This research aims to:

The project runs until 31 July 2014 and over the coming months the research team comprising Dr Tracy Harwood and Mr Mike Uwins will be talking to key stakeholders from the breadth of creative and cultural industries, as well as the community of machinima practice, building on previous research. The breadth of opinion proposed for inclusion in this study is a key aspect of its contribution to understanding the impact of machinima – and we intend that this project website will provide an important ‘state of the art’ dataset and point of reference for future researchers, as well as insight into the immediate and future ways that machinima is impacting on the shifts in our cultural values.

The project builds on research that has been ongoing since Dr Harwood directed the First European Machinima Festival in 2007, co-sponsored by De Montfort University and the Academy of Machinima Arts & Sciences. Whilst the mantle of AMAS has since been picked up by others in the machinima community, such as the ground-breaking MachinExpo Festival, De Montfort University’s Institute of Creative Technologies has remained involved by contributing to a range of publications, keynotes and panels around the world. This project is an exciting opportunity for the researchers to work with its stakeholders to evaluate the next step in its evolution.

Get involved

If you would like to get involved in one of our online discussion groups, participate in an interview, or be a part of a focus group, please do get in touch with Mike Uwins, Research Assistant at michael.uwins@dmu.ac.uk or Dr Tracy Harwood, Senior Research Fellow and Principal Investigator at tharwood@dmu.ac.uk. Alternatively, the team will be calling for participants shortly, so do keep an eye on the project blog.