Do-It-Yourself Learning Through Machinima
From Swathe Machinima’s “Murder on the Booty Bay Express”
By Chris Jaech
Machinima is the art of using of video game footage to tell a story. Your average machinimator is just a big fan of a certain game (any game really) who is handy with video editing software and can write a decent script. After all, machinima can be extremely cheap (or even cost free!) to make. I know from experience, having been half of a two person team responsible for the production of four World of Warcraft machinima. A machinimator uses video-capture software (like FRAPS) to film scenes in a game, then edits the footage together and adds voiceovers, music, and sound effects if appropriate.
If you’ve never heard of machinima before, you owe it to yourself to search “[your favorite game here] machinima” on YouTube. It’s difficult to explain the vast diversity in the types of machinima that are out there. There are music videos, experimental videos, and videos that—like regular movies—tell funny or dramatic stories. Parody machinima are plentiful.
Part of the beauty of making machinima is that you can do almost anything you want with the medium and, no matter how abstract your project is, it will still have a built-in audience due to its association with whatever game the machinima uses as its stage. Making machinima can be a lot of work, but it’s also a lot of fun.
That’s also one of the major strengths of games-based learning (GBL). if done right, GBL can not only make hard work palatable, but actually entertaining. The most obvious implications of that when it comes to machinima are that it can be used to teach Language Arts through script writing, video 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 as an easy and cost-effective way of walking students through the filmmaking process in general, from pre-production to post. One educator describes making machinima in Second Life for use as training videos on climate change in developing countries for Indian farmers, the advantage being that there is no equipment to rent or actors to hire, so it is much cheaper to produce than a live action video.
I’m sure that there are even more GBL applications out there for this easily overlooked component of gaming culture. Now some creative educator just has to think of them.