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discovering games as expressive media

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    FreePixel looks at video games as part of the moving image culture. Games are not movies. But games use moving image tradition in their presentation. That is why FreePixel offers a critical look at games and their expressive qualities that grow from the use of the moving image.


    [April 26th, 2012]

    Education and Machinima

    Posted by Michael

    Almost a year ago I was supposed to say something at the Machinima Expo – about teaching Machinima. It did not pan out that way (was still an enjoyable conversation though). But as I recently stumbled over the announcement of the next Expo (trailer by Tom Jantol) I collected some notes for that I decided to post them anyway.

    The Global Kids initiative working with machinima in ‘o8 (grabbed from here)

    Given that it took us long enough to release the Machinima Reader, I started with Matthew Thomas Payne’s “Everything I Need to Know about Filmmaking I Learned from Playing Video Games: The Educational Promise of Machinima”

    Machinima has unique formal characteristics that make it especially well-suited for media education. First, the art form bridges common student-teacher interest areas and profits from shared popular cultural references, such as video game culture and online fandom. Machinima-making platforms and programs also offer budding video directors the virtual equivalents of the creative tools used by real-world production companies—camera, lighting, props—and at a fraction of the price of any live-action equivalent. Furthermore, producing digital narratives in this manner entails the creative processes of worldly film and video production. In fact, the two are so coterminous at a decision-making level that media educators could use machinima to teach film and video preproduction, production, and postproduction skills to students who are already conversant with popular visual culture and basic computer technologies.

    With a pretty high hanging goal:

    The goal of putting machinima in classrooms is not to churn out virtual Steven Spielbergs, Ingmar Bergmans, or Orson Welles; the goal of putting machinima in classrooms is to help students recognize, analyze, and replicate the poetics of a Spielberg, Bergman, or Welles before gaining the confidence and cognitive acuity to manufacture their own signature style, while becoming sharper consumers and citizens.

    This might lay out the potential, but where are we in practice?

    The Global Kids initiative above used SL machinima in a number of videos (like their Race to Equality). It is not really Spielberg or Bergman territory we are in here but it does not have to be. Here, machinima is much more part of the process and what the students learn is not so much the fine art of filmmaking but working together and communicating their message. One gets a sense of that in their own, rather informal, reflections on “What have you learned?” But its value remains generally accepted, it seems. There is even a site called “Machinima Toolkit 4 Educators” and university contests.

    The same kind of working experience shines through in other texts on machinima in education and in other production environments. Barwell/ Moore/ Walker  studied World of Warcraft machinima production with their students in Australia and were interested in how machinima allowed them to bridge interdisciplinary divides among them. It seems that worked our overall, as one feedback was

    I think it definitely is useful in interdisciplinary settings as it forces everyone to come to a common ground and then work from there. The beauty of machinima is it doesn’t favour any one particular academic discipline… it was great to see how each individual interpreted and manipulated the setting they were given.

    But at the same time, other educators praise the fact that machinima can be done by individual students. Like Steve Thorne from the UK mentions:

    It is quite self contained. Students do not need to look for friends to be actors. They don’t have trouble uploading film or filling out risk assessments. It saves a lot of time and it’s a good process that works well.

    His statement comes from the case study collection for educational usage of Moviestorm.

    So, there is no single answer – and like so many things in machinima, the options depend on the tool and the approach to that tool that one uses. But before this deteriorates into a too general “good for all” – there are still other approaches. Speaking from our work at Georgia Tech, the task is less to use Machinima to teach something else, but instead more a critical view to machinima itself. Projects from the students are forays into possibly new ways of doing machinima, whether this is for camera handling, or character control. Here, machinima is not a stepping stone, but it is the topic itself.
    Far be it from me to suggest that such an approach is better or worse than the idea of using machinima in an education setting as a tool for teamwork or filmmaking basics. But it is an alternative that does not necessarily look beyond machinima itself but instead focuses on this format in particular as topic in itself.


    Comment from Ricky Grove
    Time: April 26, 2012, 11:23 am

    Thanks, Michael. Very interesting summary of education in machinima. I”ll be sure to post this at our site to spread the word.

    I’m also hoping to promote the new site to machinima filmmakers as I think the combination would work well.

    Comment from CD
    Time: April 28, 2012, 3:07 am

    Thank you for the interesting article.
    Issue 2 of Fallopian magazine was a special about Machinima & Education and maybe of interest for you.

    Comment from Michael
    Time: April 29, 2012, 5:54 pm

    CD: thanks for the pointer, I was shamefully unaware of the Fallopian magazine.

    Pingback from Do-It-Yourself Learning Through Machinima | The Ludus Project
    Time: September 7, 2012, 5:31 pm

    […] editing, and other computer literacy skills, and of course as a group project it could be a good teamwork builder.  That same link also suggests that it might be possible to use machinima in film schools simply […]

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