Social Networks describe the channels of distribution for a varied range of machinima products, intended for an equally diverse audience of non-game oriented viewers. Such channels are not moderated by the games developer but by the community of viewers whose ‘moderation’ is indirect through comments and sharing activities across the network of social media (including YouTube, Vimeo, Koinup, etc).
The range of subjects traversed by machinimators using these channels includes political and social commentary, comedy, satire, general arts, entertainment, music video and documentaries. Game-play / game culture does not provide the central theme for machinima found here… although there are examples where iconic game-worlds have been used as production tools, and yet the final product has maintained its appeal to the non-gamer. This has been achieved through skilled development of the script and dialogue (e.g. World of Workcraft). There are therefore no restrictions on the choice of production method. Examples can be found at Machinima Expo - "the world's only virtual machinima film festival".
Machinima distributed through these channels will be intended to entertain, stimulate and provoke audiences but their direct involvement and / or interaction is not a requirement. To this end, material found here has more in common with gallery-based digital art, film and even TV - namely cinematic and video-based works, to be viewed passively.
The primary outlets and hubs are currently the video sharing networks Youtube and Vimeo, supported by various umbrella sites which form ‘embedded’ collections or galleries of works stored on their servers (e.g. Machinima.com). In either case compressed, rendered frames are uploaded and can be and shared either privately or publicly by community members. It should be noted, however, that restrictions on upload may be imposed by the channel owner in order to comply with copyright / ownership / decency laws. As such, machinima works distributed via popular channels in this quadrant are subject to indiscriminate censorship (Cornblatt, 2011).
Recognized social networks such as Facebook and Twitter will also contribute to these channels - with the ability to ‘like’, ‘share’ and ‘retweet’ posts providing opportunities to achieve further reach, their main use is to stimulate interest in and drive critical discussion with viewers. In rare cases, mainstream media will also provide such channels (e.g. Comedy Central’s South Park episode ‘Make Love Not Warcraft’ and UK Channel 4’s series ‘SuperMes’)
The extended possibilities of individual social media platforms to monetize viewing audiences (through overlaid advertising) may further support the development of commercial distribution networks for machinimators. These depend upon the extent of producers’ personal social networks and their ability to market their products. Where most successful, viewers are encouraged to become subscribers to personal channels created as sub-sets of the social media platform albeit the machinimator may generate little direct value beyond the miniscule revenue generated from overlaid advertising (based on numbers of viewers).