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discovering games as expressive media

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  • [About]

    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.

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    [May 14th, 2011]

    Georgia Tech at the Center for Puppetry Arts

    Posted by Michael

    Over the last term, Ali Mazalek’s, Claudia Rebola’s and my own class here at Georgia Tech worked toward a final shared piece involving digital puppetry. After some test runs, the resulting “Pictures at an Exhibition”  performance will be one short segment in the Experimental Puppetry show at the Center for Puppetry Arts. May 18-22 2011.

    Read more »

    [May 13th, 2011]

    The Oracle is live

    Posted by Michael

    Jeffrey Jacobson from PublicVR and a whole team of animators, experts, and coders (cudos to Friedrich Kirschner) have wrapped up the Egyptian Oracle project and it officially premiered at the Boston Cyberarts Festival. The project will be installed from June 13th at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.
    The project was funded by the NEA and provides a mixture of digital puppetry and live guidance through the virtual construction of a typical Egyptian temple site. The show includes some audience involvement and is mainly geared to museum visitors, so this is less about spectacular effects or grand narratives but instead on education.
    For those of us interested in tech specs: the very first version of their temple was running in VRML – it seems you can still download that file from their web site. But the final version runs in Unity with some custom-made puppetry controls. The two main characters in the show are the guide (who is a real person standing in front of the projection screen) and a priest (who is a virtual avatar in the 3D world). This second character is controlled live by a puppeteer.
    There is more information on the project online and even some links to further publications at the bottom of that page. Eventually, there should be a proper video on the project, too.
    For full disclosure: I was involved in some advisory role but the project was spearheaded by Jeffrey and his team.
    Sure, it is not a machinima per se but with live digital puppetry and real-time 3D environments involved it is relevant enough. Admittedly, I am getting more and more entangled in puppets and digital performances. In fact, May 19-22 2011 we will have a short experimental digital puppetry piece at the Center for Puppetry Arts here in Atlanta as part of their Experimental Puppetry Theater show.

    [May 4th, 2011]

    SL’s Month of Machinima

    Posted by Michael

    So the abbreviations SL’s MOM might be somewhat misleading but the Linden Endowment of the Arts (LEA, of course) has declared May the kick off month for their Month of Machinima (MOM) showcase in Second Life. There is a mini trailer here (which should evolve into a more comprehensive YouTube channel for the program).

    As this seems to be the first official LEA event, it will be interesting to follow the development. The idea, however is promising:

    The objective of the event is to promote Second Life machinima, encourage the creation of new work, and showcase existing work to the community and beyond. It serves as an opportunity to introduce Residents to the machinima art form and to support the machinima community to continue to create these films for everyone to enjoy. MoM is a recurring event, continuing each month with juried screenings of community-created machinima.

    I remain somewhat distanced from the excitement surrounding SL but Chantal Harvey is committee member of LEA and that is a good sign and the SL blogosphere has some write ups of the initial meeting that happened at the LEA theater.

    There is more information on conditions and formats here. For May there is no specific theme – next month it will be “Mixed Reality.” As another concession to the first round, the length is limited to 3 minutes for May but increased to 6 minutes the following month.

    [May 1st, 2011]

    Journal of Visual Culture on Machinima

    Posted by Michael

    The latest edition of the Journal of Visual Culture is “The Machinima Issue:”

    It is indeed a very impressive one, if I may say so (being in it). Great to see so many machinima artists included here! Even better: the issue is available without subscription until June 15 – so go and get it here before the offer expires.

    [April 25th, 2011]

    Homegrown or not

    Posted by Michael

    I got distracted by other stuff. Material stuff … maybe it was a sign of machinima burn-out after finally putting in the last effort into the Machinima Reader. Anyway, for some reason I found Arduinos and hardware hacks more engaging than polygon worlds. It is also a question of homegrown stuff and my distaste for “too procedural” machinima a la xtranormal.

    Maybe we have become too close to the computer and left too much to the machine?

    Read more »

    [March 30th, 2011]

    Moviesandbox on Kickstarter

    Posted by fiezi

    flickr kickstart support

    Moviesandbox is now at version 0.5 pre-release, and to mark that occasion, I started a Kickstarter campaign to get the development speed up and a nice and shiny version 1.0 out the door this summer!
    You can support Moviesandbox through Kickstarter at http://kck.st/fLxdrX or by simply downloading the newest version and giving me some feedback on the moviesandbox forums!

    You find more information on Moviesandbox on moviesandbox.net or check out the software in action on vimeo!

    [March 17th, 2011]

    reminder: call for book chapters on game mod design and theory

    Posted by Erik

    I also want a chapter or two on machinima and machinima related tools for game engines:

    call for book chapters: Game Mod Design Theory and Criticism

    This will be both a practical and reflective book on game-mods, designing, playing and evaluating the quality, success and effectiveness of game engines for modding, individual game mod levels, related tools and techniques, and the social and cultural issues related to the design and use of game mods. The type of book chapter content I am looking for:

    • An overview of what is possible and what is commendable or admirable with
    • Critiques of game mods and game mod/engine technologies (and reviews of mods as creative and critical and reflective extensions of games and game audiences).
    • The ethical and social implications using commercial game engines and the content supplied.
    • A comparison of game mod technologies.
    • Case studies (Unreal, Source, Panda 3d, Blender 3D, Neverwinter Nights, Marathon, XNA, Oblivion, Cobalt, Crystal Space, WoW, Halo, Far Cry and Crysis etc, Sims, Jedi Academy, Ogre 3D) etc.
    • Feature art and aesthetics.
    • Machinima features hindered and helped by mods.
    • Review of terrible experiences trying to build game mods.
    • A feature list to help people choose the right game engine for their mod.
    • Some sample chapters on how to get started, tips, quick step tutorials as simple 3D, animation, lighting, behaviors, interface customization.
    • The social and cultural implications of using and designing game mods (issues with violent content, cultural empathy, copyright, educational issues and so on).

    The publisher will be ETC Press, an academic, open source, multimedia, publishing imprint affiliated with the Entertainment Technology Center (ETC) at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and in partnership with Lulu.com The book will be published under a Creative Commons license. For more details about ETC Press refer to http://www.etc.cmu.edu.

    Time Line

    • March 18 2011 Please send me a title and 300 word abstract, the earlier the better! Please email your submission to gamemodbook AT gmail DOT com · March 25 2011 you should have heard back from me.
    • June 10 2011 draft chapters to me.
    • And after many drafts and checks and proofs later…by the end of 2011 (optimistically speaking), publication!

    Editor:
    Associate Professor Erik Champion
    Auckland School of Design, Albany Village Campus
    College of Creative Arts
    Massey University
    Auckland New Zealand
    email: nzerik AT gmail DOT com OR e dot champion AT massey DOT ac DOT nz for general questions.
    Send submissions to gamemodbook AT gmail DOT com

    [February 15th, 2011]

    Journal of Gaming and Virtual Worlds

    Posted by Erik

    Journal of Gaming and Virtual Worlds volume 2 issue 3 now introduce a section of machinima reviews and it looks like it will become a regular feature.

    In this issue the Machinima Reviews Editor, Phylis Johnson, gives a quick overview of differing definitions of Machinima (and yes Michael features) and then there are 3 machinima reviews:

    DAGON: A VIRTUAL NIGHTMARE

    ACROSS THE UNIVERSE

    VICTIM OF SOCIETY

    Firstly, commendations to the journal for introducing the section. I hope many readers of free pixel get the chance to contribute or review. Secondly, some of the reviews contain some ah interesting opinions as to what machinima is or should be (especially “good machinima”). As Michael is quoted in the article and as I am sure he has a copy of the journal, I hope he might offer his own insights into the reviews. And sorry but the reviews themselves don’t appear to be online!

    [December 24th, 2010]

    call for book chapters: Game Mod Design Theory and Criticism

    Posted by Erik

    This will be both a practical and reflective book on game-mods, designing, playing and evaluating the quality, success and effectiveness of game engines for modding, individual game mod levels, related tools and techniques, and the social and cultural issues related to the design and use of game mods. The type of book chapter content I am looking for:

    • An overview of what is possible and what is commendable or admirable with
    • Critiques of game mods and game mod/engine technologies (and reviews of mods as creative and critical and reflective extensions of games and game audiences).
    • The ethical and social implications using commercial game engines and the content supplied.
    • A comparison of game mod technologies.
    • Case studies (Unreal, Source, Panda 3d, Blender 3D, Neverwinter Nights, Marathon, XNA, Oblivion, Cobalt, Crystal Space, WoW, Halo, Far Cry and Crysis etc, Sims, Jedi Academy, Ogre 3D) etc.
    • Feature art and aesthetics.
    • Machinima features hindered and helped by mods.
    • Review of terrible experiences trying to build game mods.
    • A feature list to help people choose the right game engine for their mod.
    • Some sample chapters on how to get started, tips, quick step tutorials as simple 3D, animation, lighting, behaviors, interface customization.
    • The social and cultural implications of using and designing game mods (issues with violent content, cultural empathy, copyright, educational issues and so on).

    The publisher will be ETC Press, an academic, open source, multimedia, publishing imprint affiliated with the Entertainment Technology Center (ETC) at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and in partnership with Lulu.com The book will be published under a Creative Commons license. For more details about ETC Press refer to http://www.etc.cmu.edu.

    Time Line

    • March 18 2011 Please send me a title and 300 word abstract, the earlier the better! Please email your submission to gamemodbook AT gmail DOT com · March 25 2011 you should have heard back from me.
    • June 10 2011 draft chapters to me.
    • And after many drafts and checks and proofs later…by the end of 2011 (optimistically speaking), publication!

    Editor:
    Associate Professor Erik Champion
    Auckland School of Design, Albany Village Campus
    College of Creative Arts
    Massey University
    Auckland New Zealand
    email: nzerik AT gmail DOT com OR e dot champion AT massey DOT ac DOT nz for general questions.
    Send submissions to gamemodbook AT gmail DOT com

    [December 8th, 2010]

    Call of Duty Black Ops = Machinima?

    Posted by Michael

    I have not played it but looking at this video it is amazing to see that you can make it through a whole level of Black Ops without firing a single shot.

    The game has literally turned into a kind of site-specific theater extravaganza. It even is shaken up with some cut-scenes, lighting effects, slow motion camera, fake film granularity… So is navigating a level enough for a game? Too much for a machinima?

    Seems that the borderlines have gone by now.