Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Final Frontiers: Space and Steam Punk as Machinima

(pictured above Sonicity, and Lowe Runo, Kara Trapdoor)

I was invited on a late night tour of machinimatopher Asil Ares's NeoVictoria sim. The official grand opening will be sometime this summer. It is a perfect example of building community through machinima and role play, underscored with a funky steam punk theme I so love! So I slipped into one of my steam punk outfits (minus the hat). It was a great way to close out the night, especially when I was searching for inspiration for my bi-weekly blog.

I have been on this content creation kick lately in Second Life. I have been a builder, fashion designer, sound artist and when I have time I dabble in machinima. I have about 100 or more machinima works to my credit, but only a few I have invested serious time into creating. I am foremost a writer and researcher these days. My machinima skills are typically applied to my educational projects. In the past year, I have taken a step back from all my media work to examine the role of machinima in virtual communities such as Second Life. I have dedicated nearly a whole chapter to the subject in my recently released book, Second Life, Machinima, and the Other Society (

Let's examine how machinima fulfills the role of community in a virtual society. You don't have to be a professor to accept this challenge. LOL. First of all, you do believe your machinima work has value beyond self-gratification. I know that, as artists, each of us offers a piece of ourselves through our creations. I have been continually impressed with how many Machinima Artist Guild (MAG) members have competed in educational machinima contests, the most recent being that sponsored by the National Space Society and the University of Western Australia.

Kudos to all those who entered; for all were winners in my estimate. I reported on the story for The Best of SL Magazine, and it will be published in the July issue. Here's a few photos. Those from the outside looking inward at the work of the machinimatophers represented there, as well as the collegiality among the filmmakers, would be impressed with the professionalism and the spirit of community exhibited at the event.

Second Life, like no other forum, allows machinimatophers to share similar experiences and interact with one another. We all know the best locations to film (well most of them), and during special contests like the recent NSS one, we run into each other at times. Machinimatophers, whether apart of MAG or not, represent an important SL community. I had an opportunity to get to know machinimatopher Asil last night.

What an amazing person is my first observation. Asil is someone who has spent a considerable amount of time creating a machinima community focusing on steam punk - more specifically it is a neoVictorian sim that is set up for role play and machinima filming.

Asil even dedicated a parcel to MAG last night (note our illustrious founder pictured above). The NING site is sported on a big screen. I won't bother to go into the details, but Asil understands that an immersive experience can help to create MAGNUM machinima. Even if you do not care for role play sims, you might consider how SL allows us to move outside of ourselves and experiment with our dreams, fantasies and to reenact or recreate history - or even toy with our notions of future. Machinima can do the same, and role play allows us to experiment with various scenarios. It goes beyond acting, to investing some time into learning how you might respond in a particular situation. The NeoVictorian community represents only one of many communities in SL. There are similar communities, but not quite like this one that is designed for machinimatophers. Machinima allows one to archive role play (sort of like the filming of action game runs of the past, but far more meaningful). Machinima helps storytellers to act through various plots with a cast of characters that come to life as the story unfolds interactively among community members. Participants interact and respond, not merely act out lines.

Magnum machinima is part of a remix culture that embraces the future by understanding how it is shaped by the past - its technologies and its practices. I always like to remind readers that author Mark Twain was good friends with inventor Nikola Tesla, as was Charles Babbage and Charles Dickens. Magnum machinima is born from a spirit of community that taps into human creativity. Asil is offering a highly creative space for machinimatophers and a chance for the SL community to participate in the filmmaking process. At the very least, it is an opportunity for all to have good fun. I smell a contest in the near future.

NeoVictoria Residences and CCS Maze in Machinima

NeoVictoria SkyMall and CCS Arena in Machinima

For more info:

So whether we are talking about capturing the spirit of space exploration (as articulated by the NSS) in a traditional sense, or unleashing our imagination to create spaces that allow us to remix history with the future, machinimatophers are leading the way in breaking down the barriers between the filmmaker and the communities of which they are part.

Asil is contributing toward a community that links viewers with makers. This is something that rarely happens in RL media, or other non-residential game platforms.

And the winner of the MAGNUM Community Award, if there were one (LOL) is Asil! That makes ASIL a professional in my book! Indeed, I will definitely add to Asil to the list of machinimatophers that MAG Founder Lowe Runo and I will interview for our book, Machinima: The Art and Practice (2011).

Finally, I recommend that you keep an eye on Jayjay Zifanwe, owner of the University of Western Australia sim, who supports the link between machinima and community in some very significant ways. Indeed, the UWA-BOSL Amphitheatre is a venue that is open to machinimatophers who are working on non-profit projects and need a large scale venue for screenings.

- Soni :)