Machinima has a rich and storied history that extends beyond video games and YouTube. One of the most notable creative efforts in the world of gaming videos, machinima combines storytelling, gameplay, and cinematic skill.
Machinima isn’t as common as Let’s Plays or Walkthroughs (likely because they take more time and effort to script, capture, and produce), but it does have a unique kind of viral potential because it often involves creators combining fandom, technique, and an original story or take on a popular game.
Referring to the use of existing computer graphics and animation to create new video content, machinima is a kind of filmmaking wherein creators use video game content and graphics engines to create stories and narratives with game footage or graphics. Machinima can also be created with the intention of documenting gameplay.
It’s helpful to think of it as somewhere between found footage and completely original animation. In most cases, settings, characters, and specific actions already exist within the game that’s being captured.
Gamers record parts of the game or gameplay that match their creative vision, then manipulate the footage in order to create something new. Some creators might use storyboards to plan for and capture exact angles, some might include original scores or voiceovers, some might add original animation, and some might do all of the above.
Much like any creative endeavor, there are dozens of ways that creators can go about making machinima videos. Techniques and quality vary greatly, as do tone and intention. Some videos are humorous where others are dramatic, and some closely match the tone of the game they’re captured from while others are a significant departure.
Machinimas might feel like extra cut scenes, entire short films that expand the world of the universe, or some kind of commentary on the game or the world outside of the game.
To learn more about other types of YouTube gaming videos (including walkthroughs, Let’s Plays, and more), see our article here.
Machinima occupies a unique space in the creative community surrounding video games. It’s part narrative, part skill, and a whole lot of creative effort. It’s not just entertainment, either. It serves something of an anthropological purpose, too.
As Henry Lowood wrote in UCLA’s Journal of Cinema and Media Studies,
My research on the early history of machinima-animated movies made with computer game software convinced me that high-performance play is capable of transforming artistic practice and altered my thinking about archives of game software, particularly with respect to the importance of recording and preserving gameplay.
Here are some popular machinima examples from YouTube that demonstrate talent and creative effort in gaming and storytelling.
Machinima gaming videos have a unique opportunity to touch audiences and to travel throughout gaming and fandom communities. It often involves popular gaming and popular culture properties that viewers feel close to and enthusiastic about. People enjoy viewing and sharing content that’s related to their favorite pop culture and entertainment staples, particularly when it adds something new to the fan canon and conversation.
Machinima also travels outside of gaming circles because it isn’t strictly about gameplay in the way that Let’s Plays and walkthroughs are. It holds a broader appeal for audiences who may not typically watch gaming videos (even if they play games).
This presents an opportunity for brands to get involved with wildly popular and creative productions. Whether by way of sponsorships, collaborations, or some kind of product placement, or influencer marketing campaign, brands can get leverage the popularity of creators and this distinctive video type to reach audiences in an innovative and effective way.