Findings: Machinimating

This research has so far identified the taxonomy of machinima and machinimators who differ in their creative endeavours: ‘let’s play’ or ‘speed runs’ UGC, amateur and professional machinima producers. Findings reported on in this section highlight a further distinction between machinimators interviewed:

The online survey generated responses from both male and female, split 43:57%, with a bias towards an older age group, ie., 63% above 30 years (see Table 2). This response pattern is interesting since many computer games generally appeal to predominantly young, male audiences. The broader appeal of platforms such as Second Life© and Sims© as machinima environments is highlighted, with 61% of respondents creating machinima using them and the remainder using bespoke machinimating tools (such as Moviestorm©), a range of first person shooter (male oriented) and fantasy roleplay environments (see Table 3).

Table 2 'Machinimator Survey Respondents’ Age by Gender
Age* Male % Female % Total %
14-18 years 4.5 13.8 9.8
19-23 years 18.2 20.7 19.6
24-29 years 0 13.8 7.8
30-45 years 36.4 17.2 25.5
45+ years 40.9 34.5 37.3
100 100 100
*within gender
Table 3 'Machinimator Survey Respondents’ Preferred Machinimating Game by Gender
Machinimating Game* Male % Female % Total %
Sims© / The Movies© 13.6 48.3 33.3
Second Life© 18.2 34.5 27.5
Moviestorm© / iClone© / Muvizu© 22.7 6.9 13.7
Portal© / Team Fortress© / Source© / Half Life© 18.2 0 7.8
GTA© / Garage 9.1 0 3.9
World of Warcraft© 4.5 3.4 3.9
Halo© 4.5 0 2.0
Others 9.1 6.9 7.8
100 100 100
*within gender

Survey respondents’ answers, similar to interview respondents, indicate their use of the platforms for machinima to achieve creative works beyond purely gameplay. Interestingly, both male and female respondents report broadly similar focus in their creative endeavours across the range of questions asked, focussing on developing plots and characters for stories with some modification of game code to achieve this (see Table 4). These suggest higher order creative skills, underpinned by extent of experience respondents indicate they have with their games of choice (see Table 5).

Table 4 'Machinimator Survey Respondents’ Creative Focus by Gender
Creative Focus* Male % Female %
Develop plot beyond gameplay 90.9 92.6
New characters & stories 86.3 82.2
Modify game code to achieve creative focus 68.2 71.5
Storyline based directly on gameplay 31.8 33.3
Cut scenes 18.2 11.1
*within category responses
Table 5 'Machinimator Survey Respondents’ Experience with Game by Gender
Extent of Experience with Game Preferred for Machinimating* Male % Female % Total %
5+ years 40.9 55.2 49.0
2-5 years 31.8 31.0 31.4
13-24 months 4.5 3.4 3.9
6-12 months 9.1 6.9 7.8
<6 months 13.6 3.4 7.8
100 100 100
*within gender

Interview research participants, irrespective of their machinimating background, described their machinima practice primarily in terms of articulating their artistic or stylistic interests, using machinima as a means of realising creative expression in ways they would not otherwise be able to do:

“I do it for a fairly specific artistic reason… it's the place where quite a few other people have created things and I have an artistic interest in found objects and collage… so I use it pretty specifically for that reason.” (MA8, machinimator) “My approach to creativity has always been to absorb the ideas that I see around me, and look for new ways to apply those ideas. This isn’t the same as just copying other’s creative concepts, it’s about observing ideas, understanding what it is about those ideas that makes them work, then trying to apply those ideas in new ways.” (MP16, machinimator)
“…being able to do things that are utterly unattainable in real-life, almost completely unattainable. xxx and I did a version of my father's performance art piece in which he gave instructions to blow up a Cadillac in real life... and all these different people have these different acts to do around the blowing up of this Cadillac, repeatedly. Now that obviously was never performed in real life…” (MA4, artist)

Machinima is however a relatively unknown medium beyond those who actually use it and contribute to machinima fora. Despite its origins within gamesplaying communities, even those gamers that set out to extend their interests in a game environment by creating new works such as fan vids with its assets (including ‘lt’s play’) highlight the almost accidental discovery of machinima:

“I was a big fan of the Unreal Tournament© and I felt that it should at least be possible to create cut scene animations using the built-in characters. It was while searching the web that I found that not only was it theoretically possible but that many, many people had already thought of this idea, and there was even a name established for the technique: machinima.” (MP16, machinimator)

Once discovered, the scope of creative potential for machinima was highlighted, often alongside an acknowledgment of restrictions associated with previously used creative platforms. As well as film and art, practices identified include performance, visualisation and storytelling, and education:

“I’ve submitted to many film and animation festivals, although these tend to be ones which specifically welcome machinima submissions… my films, as a supporting feature to the main film, have given me the opportunity to introduce and take questions, as well as to meet ‘proper’ film makers!” (MP16, machinimator)
“… part of the reason why I went to Second Life© [virtual environment] was because of the fact that our timeframes for making those crazy industrial videos was getting so short, I couldn't do it with 3D Studio Max© [animation software] so I had to do it in real time, I had to be able to turn around a character animation in a day, where I couldn't do it in less than three using 3D Studio Max©.” (MA3, artist)
“I teach medieval literature, film studies and creative writing and machinima is perfect for my creative passions that I can't enact in my professional works. So recitation, art and image, language, music but also teaching, especially early literary texts…” (MP3, artist) “I like writing stories for children… we have all kinds of fantasy creatures, they are very easy to do in the sense that you believe in them straight away.” (MP2, artist)

Artists clearly anticipate their creative endeavour to stand out from the medium used and therefore despite its existence for many years, with numerous examples freely and widely available online, it is used by artists somewhat reluctantly. This is the result both of the distinctive finished quality of machinima and technological barriers to its creative value in use:

“If I was starting today, I might not make the same choices. Digital video has improved beyond recognition, compositing and effects software has improved beyond recognition. If I was starting out today, I might not do live action because computer graphics are so much closer now. Having said that, machinima still offers…. I’ve been thinking very carefully about the choice of media in the last few months and my feelings are that machinima still offers enough advantages that it is still a very credible alternative and better in many ways.” (MP9, machinimator)
“…there's limitations in machinima… the limitation for us was humanoid, or humans which aren't all that good in Second Life©… because of that reason I don't find them, let's say satisfactory, I don't find them satisfying, I don't find them pleasing to the eye and I don't find I'm 'sold' on the characters as humanoids.” (MP2, artist)
“… we can all arrive and go in there and be and participate. But then at the same time we have issues with the technology itself. Somebody loses their signal, we crash a SIM, like what we are doing is too big – which is pretty typical of one of our performances. I remember very well xxx did a beautiful piece... and it was at a time when the entirety of Second Life© crashed and we were trying to film and do a live performance with a lot of people [but] the machinima from it is wonderful.” (MA3, artist)
And gamesplayers also acknowledge a learning curve for making machinima beyond gameplay, as these machinimators comment: “…that's a whole huge range of field that has to do with performance art and documentation of that and then that becoming another artefact of the process of performance. So conceptually, that's another whole step in terms of making an entertainment film.” (MP1, machinimator)
“There are just so many facets of production akin to any real-life film that must be mastered: sound, sound effects, visuals, visual effects, voice overs, of course all of the vast production assets and details that also go into something...” (MP5, machinimator)

Yet the medium itself is considered to extend creativity and this is seen as having potential to lead to the emergence of new artforms. These artists comment on the creative context for their work, the very fact that machinima is an ‘unrecognised’ form being important for creativity:

“I see that there is a very big positive of being locked out of the marketplace based on the history of former art and technology in that when you have a marketplace you are creating to fill that, and when you are locked out of the marketplace you can make anything you damn well please.” (MA3, artist)
“If we go back to the history of Fluxists internationally and in New York, we had the great.. everybody... abstract expressionism was the rage in New York and the uptown galleries were full of these super, blue-chip artists who were making the top dollar. And they were completely uninterested uptown in anything that any of the new people were doing downtown. Like they couldn't do... they didn't want their abstract expressionism, they didn't want their ... anything they were doing they weren't interested in because they had their artists who were making big money and the scene was locked down. So those artists downtown got to do anything and everything at all and so we gave rise to all kinds of crazy things like Happenings, Intermedia, Fluxists and what we know now as Performance Art and all these other really wild, wonderful experimentations – they couldn't exist if they had had a marketplace.” (MA4, artist)

Others comment on their work itself, identifying the novel aspects of the art form:

“I like the ideas that the audience in the cinema could actually interfere with what was happening on the silver screen and machinima gave me that possibility… I do live projects with interaction, with audience being able to interact to the screens which are screens in movie theatres. I've done screens in galleries. On live analogue television.” (MP10, machinimator)
“[Its] a bit of a renegade and useful because when you do show it people kind of perk up… if you have a reputation then they wonder why you are showing it and if you don't have a reputation then they're confronted by something pretty new for them. And as I say that would be outside of people who are interested in tech and art. Obviously people who are interested in tech and art, have a very sophisticated understanding of it.” (MA8, artist)

With barriers to creativity seen as being potentially low, however, machinima also generates its own kind of problems, especially in bringing quality work to the fore that may be used to support its emergence as a recognised artform:

“I’ve heard machinima described as the punk movement for filmmaking, because its about just picking up your guitar (computer) and getting on with it. Anyone can make machinima, which is also the problem – how many punk bands became one hit wonders, and how many of those had a hit because they were part of the punk movement rather than any particular musical merit?” (MP16, machinimator)
“A lot of machinima on YouTube looks pretty ridiculous because the quality is poor and it makes no sense to an outsider. Creators of it don’t see that, because it reminds them of their emotional rather than visual experience. This is the biggest problem in making machinima mainstream: more people not taking notice of the social life within the game but seeing it through the eyes of a cameraman will bring it to people’s attention… The general public have got to look at a machinima animation and recognise what they see – they don’t now.” (MP3, artist)

Respondents therefore identify the need to be open-minded in developing the appropriate personal skills to create machinima, learning to develop a creative empathy with the medium and adjust their style accordingly:

“It just started off very practically [but] when I took snapshots or screen grabs… the avatar would slightly move or do something or somebody would drop something on my head. So I was just like 'oh, hang on', if I do machinima from the avatar’s motions… so I have done a lot better after I realised that machinima would do that for me. There's all kinds of glitches, it's just continual from my experience and I actually really enjoy those and integrate those into the work. So for me the barriers are really rich kind of content.” (MA8, artist)

as well as a certain patience in acquiring the requisite technical skills to ensure quality of work, some of which are specific to the medium:

“…because machinima is mostly an art form which uses a whole bunch of other art forms, tools and kind of scrunches them together and then hammers on the bits that don’t fit, you tend to end up with production processes that are a bloody nightmare. That slows everything down.” (MP9, machinimator)
“… its a dedication of something a little bit outside of your normal scope.” (MP3, artist)
“I'm still struggling with a number of things, like you mentioned lip-sync. I have used different techniques so far but I'm not really happy with things yet.” (MA2, artist)
“It was a very technical process, and the learning curve seemed overwhelming. The problem was that while Unreal© [game] was a great 3D engine with lovely visuals and character animations, it didn’t have built-in features for film making (camera controls, having a character follow a predetermined sequence, etc)… there were camera mods available, but to use them involved typing numbers in to position them, rather than to visually set up a shot…” (MP16, machinimator)

Survey questions also asked respondents about the specific skills they have developed through their machinimating endeavours (table 5), as well as motivations and aspirations for their work (tables 6 and 7).

Table 6 Machinimator Survey Respondents’ Skills Developed by Gender
Skills Developed* Male % Female % Total %
Production 21.3 24.5 23.2
Editing 19.4 16.8 17.9
Filmmaking 17.6 14.8 16.0
Directing 14.8 15.5 15.2
Acting 10.2 6.5 8.0
Marketing 3.7 5.8 4.9
Gamesplay 2.8 5.8 4.6
Animation 4.6 3.2 3.8
Code writing 2.8 3.2 3.0
Writing 0.9 1.9 1.5
Other technical skills 0.9 1.3 1.1
Sound design 0.9 0.6 0.8
100 100 100
* within gender
Table 7 Machinimator Survey Respondents’ Motivations for Machinimating by Gender
Motivations* Male % Female % Total %
To develop my production skills 100 100 100
Getting feedback from others 95.2 96.6 96.0
To grow my network of online followers 81.8 92.5 87.7
Because I am a fan of the game 75.0 96.2 87.0
To try and get paid for my work 63.6 64.3 64.0
*within category responses
Table 7 Machinimator Survey Respondents’ Future Aspirations for Machinima Works by Gender
Future aspirations* Male % Female % Total%
I want to use it as a portfolio for my creativity 31.8 44.8 39.2
I want to use it to develop my personal skills 31.8 13.8 21.6
I want to make it my career 9.1 13.8 11.8
I want to use it to give me extra income 9.1 3.4 5.9
I don’t have any future aspirations for my machinima 9.1 3.4 5.9
Its purely for entertainment/hobby 4.5 6.9 5.9
Cause related 4.5 6.9 5.9
I want to use it to generate followers 0 6.9 3.9
100 100 100
*within gender

With the emphasis on creative skills such as production and editing, it is perhaps not surprising that many desire feedback from audiences in order to improve these skills. Findings highlight that machinima is seen by respondents as an opportunity for showcasing their creativity. This is exemplified by one artist’s comments:

“I get a little bit surprised when the mainstream art world, you know the museum and gallery crowd pick up [my] work but… on the other hand there's a part of me that shouldn't because it's very artist or art historically grounded and follows a tight line of the development of performance art since 2005.” (MA3, artist)

and, as the table highlights, creativity may potentially link to a strategy for income generation using skills acquired through machinima activities, albeit all respondents recognised a need to further develop their skills. Distribution of machinima necessitates a wide use of third party platforms such as streaming and sharing services and networks, and respondents indicated those platforms they found most useful for posting and amplifying their machinima (see tables 8 and 9), summarised by one machinimator:

“you reach a larger audience in YouTube, although quite a lot of people have more conservative tastes. Vimeo tends to be viewed by an artistic community, a smaller community.” (MP3, machinimator)
Table 8 Machinimator Survey Respondents’ Best Distribution Mechanisms Used for Machinima by Gender
Best distribution mechanisms* Male % Female % Total %
YouTube – own subscription channel 76.2 81.5 79.2
Vimeo 18.8 23.1 20.7
Another video streaming channel 0 22.2 13.3
YouTube – 25.0 0 12.5
Game’s developer/publisher’s community 20.0 0 10.0
*within gender
Table 9 Machinimators Survey Respondents’ Best Distribution Mechanisms Used for Machinima by Gender
Use of social media* Male % Female % Total %
For promotion 77.3 75.9 76.5
For providing feedback to audience comments 52.4 53.5 53.1
For generating advertising income 4.8 20.6 14.0
*within category responses

These findings indicate a keen awareness of the audiences for their work, with some recognition that more could be achieved. However, whilst ad revenue is a generally recognised model of monetising UGC, findings suggest that respondents do not primarily invest energy in increasing traffic to their work per se, rather audience development is more focussed on stimulating interest in their creativity for personal development goals, including seeking truth in expression of the artform. As one artist comments:

“I sometimes am a little afraid to put things on YouTube, for instance one of the films I will be showing at the Gower conference involves incest, between a brother and a sister. Its one of the tales, how can you avoid it? So... an American audience may be terribly shocked by that because I do have a wonderful shot of the brother approaching the sister in her bed and.. you can't leave that out when you are trying to be faithful to the original text and those kind of issues were talked about quite frankly in the Middle Ages. So, I put it on Vimeo.” (MP3, artist)

Table 10 highlights that most respondents have a very clear understanding of who their audience is and how their work is appreciated.

Table 10 Machinimator Survey Respondents’ Audience for Machinima by Gender
Audience* Male % Female % Total %
I have a loyal fan base of followers that includes people I don’t know personally 50.0 37.9 43.1
Links to my work are passed among my followers 22.7 41.4 33.3
My audience is mainly my personal friends who comment on my work 13.6 13.8 13.7
I don’t know who my audience is 9.1 3.4 5.9
I don’t communicate with my audience 4.5 3.4 3.9
*within category responses

For others, audience is about reaching out through the work:

“I made a film about some of the Australians who took part in WW2… that film was picked up by the sons of the pilots… through them contacting me, I could then pass on these people's contacts to the sons of other pilots who flew in these stories. So by using the games medium to tell these stories and people pick up on it, its attracting people who had nothing to do with gaming, nothing to do with machinima, but they found these stories on line through the machinima that I made.” (MP8, machinimator)

Audience engagement and development is a particular focus of machinimators. One of the main challenges is in communiticating the creative values to an unfamiliar audience especially if that audience is accessing the work in more mainstream (offline) environments:

“My target audience is anyone with an interest in visual art. Ideally, they won’t be familiar with machinima because the novelty factor alone can generate interest.” (MP16, machinimator)
“I like the idea that the audience in the cinema could actually interfere with what was happening on the silver screen… there were many people in the audience that had no clue what they were watching. Most of them actually thought they were watching pre-recorded animations, which wasn't the case. It was actually happening live, it was organised and produced in a live environment with live performances… the audience kind of also becomes part of the community, if only just for a few seconds or an hour or a few hours.” (MP10, machinimator)
“[Its] a kind of immersive interactive audience thing, where we play with an audience in live-time and interact with them.” (MA3, artist)

The term itself is noted to be challenging in developing audience’s understanding of the artistic form at a conceptual level, albeit this is a universal challenge for all contemporary art movements. These comments reflect the challenges:

“I actually call them happenings now, rather than performances, because we tend to not focus on specific scripts although we do get together before and try and figure out if there is any way to control the artistic chaos.” (MA8, artist)
“I see everybody here in this discussion as being participants in this grand experiment, that is the same ongoing experiment since people were taking charcoal and putting things on cave walls in the hopes of manifesting perhaps something from the next hunt. We don't know how that starts out... or beads to decorate a body, or body painting, or totems, fertility symbols and this urge in people kind to create and live creatively and express themselves creatively and impart information in these different creative ways is eternal and universal.” (MA4, artist)

In addition to technical and artistic skills development, distribution is also identified by respondents as a particular challenge faced in machinima creative endeavours (see table 11).

Table 11 Machinimator Survey Respondents’ Challenges Faced in Machinimating by Gender
Challenges faced* Male % Female % Total %
Finding / creating game content relevant to the story I want to tell 59.1 55.1 56.9
Acquiring new technical skills 63.6 44.8 52.9
Acquiring new artistic skills 59.1 31.0 43.2
Understanding the game’s copyright restrictions 27.3 44.8 37.2
The terms of the end user license agreement for the game 18.2 48.2 35.3
Marketing skills 40.8 27.5 33.3
Building a social network of interested followers for the work 22.7 34.4 29.4
Understanding the rules of my social networks for machinima distribution 9.1 13.8 11.7
*within category responses

Tied to this, as identified in the above table, is the importance that machinimators put on their understanding of games developers’ / publishers’ distribution guidelines (the EULA and copyright restrictions). This aspect was further examined (see also Table 12) and whilst all survey respondents felt they had some understanding, relatively few felt they had a full understanding of copyright aspects in relation to their machinima work. In interviews with machinimators, TOS were identified as being very much at the forefront of their thinking about machinima and its usefulness as a creative medium for their work because of their desire to showcase and distribute their creativity:

“The new TOS in Second Life©, it could be a spoiler. Luckily all our work (and we recorded a lot) is from before the new TOS… There is no safe ground unless the company explicitly says you can use this for anything you want… other big game companies like Blizzard, Microsoft, they've all changed their stance, they are pretty much saying you can't do anything commerical at all…” (MP8, machinimator)
“… if we want to sell the series then we can't because we don't own it completely, it's a co-ownership. Linden Labs owns part of it and we own half of it and of course both of us are free to do with it... I do think that Linden Lab, you know, they won't go and sell your work – well I wish they would, that'd be good!” (MP1, machinimator)

Moreover, an understanding of EULAs and TOS impacts directly on creative expression, with a consequence that interpreted restrictions result in machinimators moving their creative endeavours to games environments and even non-games environments that are more conducive to the kinds of work they want to explore. For some machinimators this is seen as a loss to their cultural endeavour:

“I think that the practice of working with game engine worlds and telling stories in those worlds and repurposing them is still enormously powerful but the way the law has shifted and the way everyone’s attitudes have shifted its an unfortunate ghetto and a dead end for anyone that goes into it because you are also limited in terms of what you can do with those assets.” (MP9, machinimator)
“We're losing the whole game culture, the origins where it all came from. Its driving people away, at least the professionals are being driven away.” (MP8, machinimator)

Yet interpretations are perceived and there is much discussion within communities of practice as to how EULAs and TOS may be read. Ultimately, this leads machinimators to comment:

“I'd love to see it in court but we just don't have that money, we just said 'okay don't risk it', I'll go and film in iClone© or I'll go and film with Blender© or I'll go and film with something else…” (MP8, machinimator)

However, another machinimator takes a more proactive approach to becoming familiar with legal aspects, commenting:

“…the legal aspects have been a big concern… I’ve had less problems with it than other people, which is a combination of having a certain natural talent for law and being paranoid as hell about anything involving the phrase ‘the following definition shall apply through the course of this contract’. [how have you dealt with that?] by a combination of actually reading the EULA, occasionally ignoring the EULA and then working on the premise that if its being featured on Boing Boing then no one wants the bad press from killing it. Occasionally phoning up the rather surprised games developer’s legal department… that got us quite a long way in the early days. Just choosing games companies that I was reasonably sure weren’t going to be complete dicks was a fairly significant approach and, in the case of [my film], choosing a game that actually had a machinima license.” (MP9, machinimator)
Table 12 Machinimator Survey Respondents’ Understanding of Games Developers / Publishers’ Copyright for Machinima by Gender
Understanding of Copyright* Male % Female % Total %
Limited understanding 22.7 17.2 19.6
Reasonable understanding 59.1 62.1 60.8
Full understanding 18.2 20.7 19.6
100 100 100
*within gender

Machinimators highlighted how careful they were not to contravene their interpretations of EULAs, TOS and guidelines in any of the creative elements of their work, impacting not just on the use of the game but also the use of components that facilitate its development and distribution:

“I use a manuscript that I purchased at a medieval conference in Western Michigan university… I use my own artwork. I am very, very eager to step around any kind of copyright issues.” (MP3 artist)
“I always contact the creator and ask for explicit permission (which has never been declined) and make sure they are credited within the movie. Many 3D modellers have been so pleased with the end result that they’ve offered their services to develop customised props in future films.” (MP16, machinimator)
“I was working on a conceptual reimagining of A Clockwork Orange. It was a short piece comprising of a number of dark images, and I took a short-cut by simply using the original (iconic) soundtrack. It was taken down from YouTube in under 24 hours. I reached out to the owners of the property to ask if they would consider waiving a licence fee in order that I could use it in my not-for-profit film. They wouldn’t. This forced me to go back and do the job properly… I went completely back to the drawing board and wrote a complete script, which I then shot in its entirety. The final piece was called Clockwork, and was my first award-winning film, as well as being my first non-comedy work.” (MP16, machinimator)

In terms of distribution, machinimators highlighted some specific issues with their work as an internet consumed artistic form, intimating that although current content sharing platforms are useful, they have their limitations insofar as contemporary creative work is concerned:

“I use nudity in them and sexual issues: the tales reference them. They're Gower… what can I say? So, I am waiting eagerly to see how people will recieve these, whether or not they will find nudity to be objectionable, but I've never been censored, I've never been flagged on YouTube. I feel that my films have been tasteful but suggestive.” (MP3, artist)
“xxx did a project about two avatars in a cage in a park and that was broadcast in a museum in Amsterdam, real life… people were responding to that extremely I have to say. People were giving the avatars clothes and food and I even did that too, but I started filming it and… its on YouTube. People were warning me all the time that they will get that off and it will be censored, and people were very, very angry about it, about naked avatars. All through the years I've encountered that, I find that there's a big difference between America and the rest of the world…” (MP1, machinimator)

Others comment on the explicitly restrictive practices of streaming and sharing services, intimating that machinimators may be open to damaging treatment in the distribution of their works:

“This particular company was issuing take-down notices and you had to contact them for it. You were getting threatened, we got many theatening messages... 'If you want to question this vote feel free, go ahead but if you are found to be in the wrong, you do that three times and your account gets taken down'. So while we were fairly confident that this company didn't have the rights… it wasn't worth the risk, so again we lost to the big corporates just taking all our videos down.” (MP8, machinimator)
“So there's this constant sense of... I wouldn't call it nervousness, but just awareness that I'm pretty dependent on a corporation or a company that I know nothing about and have no impact on.” (MA8, artist)

And potentially more serious implications for the art form:

“There's nobody stopping Google pulling the plug and all the content will be gone. I think a lot of people do not realise the dangers of all this cultural heritage in the possession of just one corporation.” (MP10, machinimator)

Yet machinimators feel their work has a resonance beyond the current generation of streaming technologies:

“It could be that in ten years that the platforms for making, or putting things up on the internet will be vastly different so we should start thinking about how we are going to think of restoring and archiving our materials.” (MP3, artist)
“I really prefer to have all my own gear and have all my own equipment but I don't have enough money at the moment to have a static IP and my own webserver, so we're not quite there yet. I would definitely like to… working on the whole ephemerality issue.” (MA4, artist)

In reflecting upon a piece of machinima they were most delighted with, survey respondents again highlighted their focus on creativity and skills development, with critical acclaim being important in gaining recognition for their work (table 13). Interview respondents comment:

“I'm really honoured to be in such an august community of people that are out there…” (MA4, artist)
“Having views and some recognition gives energy to go further.” (MA10, machinimator)
“I never viewed myself as a creative until I started to get good feedback from people who viewed my works as works of art.” (MP8, machinimator)

and others seek critique explicitly to inform creative development of their work:

“I do a lot is user group critiques and use my social network for focus groups although increasingly I am a fan of anonymous user testing as well… so I tend to badger my friends and colleagues on a fairly regular basis. Just this week I was working on a new horror series and so I chucked out on FacebookTM that I need some ideas for a face which is pretty horrific and immediately recognizable as human and could not easily be done using conventional makeup and I got something like 40 responses.” (MP9, machinimator)

Such critical evaluation is also noted as being both formal and informal among interview respondents:

“There are a couple of ‘invitation only’ communities which I am part of. Its always a compliment to be asked to join these.” (MP10, machinimator)
“It can get nasty because once you've put your work out there, you're usually proud, you've worked hard, you want to show the world.” (MP1, machinimator)
Table 13 Machinimator Survey Respondents’ Reflections on their Machinima by Gender
This is my best machinima because…* Male % Female % Total %
It is my most creative work 95.2 100 97.9
Its making taught me important new skills 80.9 88.5 85.1
Through the work, I met new people with similar interests 55.0 65.4 60.9
The work has received critical acclaim by a person / body I respect (eg., film festival, art gallery) 61.9 56.0 58.7
It has been distributed the widest among my followers 64.0 33.3 46.1
It has gained me the most new followers 28.6 50.0 40.4
the work has made me money 19.1 12.0 15.2
*within category responses

What’s interesting in these responses is the emphasis on community and collaboration, with respondents intimating the role of other machinimators in the development of their work. Again, this aspect is teased further in responses to questions about the ways in which machinimators collaborate through exchange of skills and assets (for skills and assets) and to generate income in tables 14 and 15.

Table 14 Machinimator Survey Respondents’ Exchange of Skills & Assets by Gender
Exchange of Skills & Assets* Male % Female % Total %
Music (writing / playing / vocals / production) 28.6 42.3 36.2
Voice acting 33.3 31.0 32.0
Set design 14.3 27.6 22.0
Character acting / puppeteering 22.7 19.2 20.8
Script writing 14.3 14.3 14.3
Sound design 9.5 11.1 10.4
*within category responses
Table 15 Machinimator Survey Respondents’ Bought / Paid For Machinima Related Skills by Gender
Bought / Paid for skills* Male % Female % Total %
Sound design 90.5 88.9 89.6
Script writing 85.7 85.7 85.7
Character acting / puppeteering 77.3 80.8 79.2
Set design 85.7 72.4 78.0
Voice acting 66.7 69.0 68.0
Music (writing / playing / vocals / production) 71.4 57.7 63.8
*within category responses

The nature of collaboration and coalescence through a broader community of practice that transcends particular games environments, as well as national boundaries, is discussed by interview respondents. Such collaboration goes beyond critical evaluation and represents artistic and performative contribution to productions:

“There are tremendous assets which are available here and its finding people who can work, who can make, who can build, who can animate… what is beautiful about working in Second Life© is that often through not only the people here but through the vast and awesome machinima community, we are certainly able to find those people.” (MP5, machinimator)
“For me, what pleases me most in machinima is sharing in real time with different artists creating in the world, fashion designers, visual artists, scipters, animators... this group of people from all around the world which in one way have a part in the creation of a machinima.” (MP16, machinimator)

Working through network enabling technologies does present challenges which require considerable forethought to manage in order to maintain quality and stability within the community:

“I was putting forwards as a director / writer, putting forwards the idea of having a team very similar to the real-world. As time went by, we found out a couple of things. First of all, it's incredibly difficult to organise people that are volunteers within Second Life©: they have different schedules, different times because of the countries and the zones they live in.” (MP2, artist)
“I’ve had to rely on voice actors who have recorded their audio and sent it back to me. This is usually a very unsatisfactory process because I’m not there to provide immediate feedback on their performance (‘more emotion!’). However, even more challenging is that I’m not there to check the sound quality at the point of recording, and usually its full of hisses, popping, etc.” (MP16, machinimator)
“We work very closely together and we play and work to our strengths and have developed an understanding and of course when you work with a group of people whom you respect, care for and even come to love – you want to communicate in the best ways possible.” (MP5, machinimator)

Tables 14 and 15 above also suggest a wide range of personal skills that have commercial value and income generating possibilities for machinimators directly associated with the machinimating community. Table 16 also highlights the breadth of creative industries that benefit financially from activities through their provision of resources for machinimating.

Table 16 Machinimator Survey Respondents’ Bought / Paid For Resources by Gender
Bought / Paid for resources* Male % Female % Total %
Editing and production software 86.4 82.8 84.3<
Hardware (computers, peripheral devices) 72.7 62.1 66.7
Games for assets 54.5 51.7 52.9
Tuition and workshops 27.3 17.2 21.6
Other (books, online materials, etc) 9.1 17.2 13.7
Nothing 0 6.9 3.9
*within category responses

What’s interesting here is that machinima evidently directly benefits not just the games developers through sales of their products (which may be used as assets within machinima works) but also a plethora of hardware, software and educational / training providers, both on and offline. Interview respondents comment on their expenditure:

“You have got limits to how many avatars can go in one SIM, before it brings down the lag for filming, so you need space. If you buy a SIM, that's pretty damn expensive and we actually use a SIM and the monthly fee is quite high. We've spent thousands and thousands of pounds on sets, equipment, software, land, everything. It's a bit of an illusion being such low prices.” (MP3, artist)
“I spend lots on different avatars for various roleplays and, you know, props – that is the most expensive thing.” (MA2, artist)
“I paid amount to a programmer and she's been my programmer on almost all my installations or performances – and her rates are ridiculously low compared to real life.” (MA8, artist)

and in return some reap financially derived rewards directly from their machinima:

“As a result of films that I’ve entered into competitions I’ve won quite a lot of hardware and software, which has reduced my expenditure considerably!” (MP16, machinimator)

When part of a professional portfolio of income generating activities, one respondent highlights the pleasure of using his creative talents:

“Imagine getting paid to do what you love doing. It doesn't become a job. That's the reason I am a professional, I do it full time. A combination of animation and video work. I call it animation because no one understands machinima, when I am trying to sell products.” (MP8, machinimator)

However, most financial benefits are derived indirectly, with respondents highlighting the ways in which they generate income from their skills:

“Clients say 'I want animation for this...' and whether its some kind of cut scene or the work I do with xxx, a lot of work is for educational use. They say 'we want it for this' and we make it and give it to them and they keep it and use it wherever they want to use it.” (MP8, machinimator)
“We were selling the editioned DVDs, that was happening for a while, that was getting us some money.” (MA3, artist)
“The most important thing for me is to use the machinima within the job that I am doing. So when I teach German or anything or run teacher training courses… I produce machinima to use them for specific purposes there.” (MA2, educator)

Frustrations were also noted on the lack of imagination apparent in models of income generation for or from machinima, particularly related to creative practice:

“I think they're rather banal models at the moment, like... ads on YouTube. This is one thing that I think is a real challenge because I think there's a real lack of imagination in regards to income generation because in many ways the old axiom of 'information wants to be free' has lead to the long tail.” (MA3, artist)
“Anyone who can work a spreadsheet and do some basic addition can tell that YouTube is a terrible terrible route to monetising anything video based, particularly if you have a massive IP incumbent… So, unfortunately, game based machinima its not dead but its wicked limited.” (MP9, machinimator)
“There's certainly a market for artists' videos and its a very prevalent form of art making but machinima still has that cartoon quality that certain people can get away with but generally, it's not like… there's a market for photography, there's a market for oil painting, there's just not a market for machinima within a fine art context.” (MA8, artist)

However, opportunities exist using the skills machinimators have developed over many years as artists and filmmakers.

“My dream job would to be to work in one of the big games companies, filming the 'cut scenes' for games on the XBoxTM and PlaystationTM.” (MP8, machinimator)
“Machinima is to a large extent the future of film making or fusion techniques using a lot of machinima techniques. Motion capture is not getting worse any time soon, AI is getting steadily better, facial capture is getting steadily better and its, you know, virtually every Hollywood film is now made using a significant chunk of the machinima tool set.” (MP9, machinimator)

Comments are also noted on its breadth of application not only within creative industries but also the public sector and general business as a mainstream communications tool:

“The uses are un-ending. In one case an image, either taken with a photograph, or painted or drawn, videoed, filmed or machinima, can be used for the spread of information, for advertising or teaching, or politics, or aesthetics, or ideas, or conceptual art. Its absolutely open-ended and every single use of it is valid.” (MA4, artist)

including from specific types of machinima content that may be described as reusable objects:

“Procedural content generation is coming on leaps and bounds and the growth of the independent gaming scene means there are enormous libraries of 3D content being made available on a commercial basis because, unlike web series creators, machinima creators, independent game developers tend to want to get paid.” (MP9, machinimator)

A further significant opportunity for machinima is seen in education, not just in gaming related studies, arts and film, but across a broad range of subject areas:

“I've been talking to quite a few arts and film schools and they have taken it on board and one of the greatest things I've found is that they are actually making animation of films that they are going to make in real life, because it makes a moving story board – and that's very, very exciting. So that brings it really into the art schools, into the universities and they can see that this is a good tool for showing exactly what they would like to do.” (MP3, artist)
“We have a lot of teachers, international teachers from Poland, Czech Republic, UK, Germany and Turkey and they all try out machinima in the language classroom and all different kinds, lets say grammar or inter-cultural issues and things like that. This is a big community so to speak and machinima making… well, film-making for language classes has always been very important. But the point with machinima is that they are easy to produce and at low cost and our aim there is to have students make their own films and create their own films, which is easy to do in virtual worlds. (MA2, educator)
“The future of machinima for educators is that is everybody will probably make them as a way of learning or a way of expressing what they are learning – as an assessment tool, to record what they are learning to progress over a couple of years.” (MA1, educator)

For contemporary artists using a range of new media, there is also scope for application to convey new experiences and integrating those with other formats of their work:

“Generally when we are doing performance that generates a machinima, we are already out in the world doing something, like some museum somewhere…” (MA3, artist)
“We're making a childrens' book that is using augmented reality – now if you want to make that in real life, you have to make an animation for it – its going to take you a lot of time and a lot of money to do proper animation. So machinima has got new grounds to go.” (MP1, machinimator)
“We had people come to see us performing it live there, screen on the wall live… in the audience for that were two or three of the original Fluxus artists who were collaborators and associates of my father's from the sixties, when this piece was created. And they were there watching us in Second Life©, creating it live, screening it onto a wall – watching us work our computers in doing that, as well as all the people around the world who were also participating with us from Second Life©. At the same time, a machinima was made of the performance in Second Life© that we have then screened around the world as its own unique production – performance as well as documentation. It is its own entertainment piece or performative piece, because documentation of live performance art becomes performative.” (MA4, artist)

Thus, from some machinimators’ perspectives, the future of machinima reflects the dynamic nature of the medium’s values in use, recognised not as machinima per se but its values embedded within some creative practice:

“I only show in art galleries and the art community doesn't... well, if I'm in the right gallery and talking to the right segment of that community, then there's an understanding of what I'm doing or maybe even an appreciation of what I'm doing or maybe even an appreciation for the difficulty of it… the art world does not tend to value machinima – and that's a gross generalisation... I'm not suggesting that certainly individual artists aren't really interested and excited about the work.” (MA8 artist)
“We're really passing it off as animation – that is where its all about for us.” (MP3, artist)

Whilst others intimate that it has unique creative values, albeit a little understood descriptive term:

“As long as there are 3D games and multiuser games, I feel that machinima will continue in some sort. I feel it must have a different name – machinima is too much for anybody to pronounce…” (MP3, educator)

Machinimator respondents in this research relate to a wide range of cultural values including personal, artistic, community related and financial values. These are summarised as follows:

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