Ponderance

(May 2003 - March 2007.) Tama's thoughts on the blogosphere, podcasting, popular culture, digital media and citizen journalism posted from a laptop computer somewhere in Perth's isolated, miniature, urban jungle ...

MTV, Machinima and the Second Coming of The Sims

Wednesday, September 29, 2004
MTV in the US has recently started a series called "Video Mods" which is reallly commerically-sponsored machinima (with post-production). The official blurb reads thus:
Yes, you can have your cake and eat it too: video games and music videos all in one morphed mix. MTV2's Video Mods transforms music videos by injecting a unique video game environment and featuring characters from one or even a few video games. On deck for the premiere episode of Video Mods: Lil' Jon's "Get Low" gets recreated by the video game Fight Club; Evanescence's "Everybody's Fool" reconstructed by BloodRayne 2; the Fountains of Wayne's hit "Stacey's Mom" featuring the Sims 2; and the Von Bondies video "Cmon Cmon" overhauled by Tribes: Vengeance. In upcoming episodes, MTV2 Video Mods tackles Black Eyed Peas, New Found Glory, The Darkness, Christina Milian, Ying Yang Twins and The Vines videos and games like SSX 3, Outlaw Golf 2, Jade Empire, Fight Night and Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude.
I've had a watch of the BloodRayne 2 Evanescence clip, and "Stacey's Mom" using The Sims 2 (both of which, and more, are here) and was impressed by their look, although these have pretty obviously been put through some commercial editing software after the initial captures from the games. The Sims 2 take on "Stacey's Mom" is particularly interesting in that it compares the original clip with The Sims 2 version, quite clearly illustrating both the flexibility of the new Sims but also the limitations of the Sims (Stacey could be anywhere between 12 and 25 as a Sim, it's very hard to tell). Eric Olsen over at Blogcritics took a look at these "Video Mods" and lamented:
Okay, as a non-video game player and music video skeptic I am not the target audience for this, but am I insane to think this is the most pointless, pandering nonsense in the history of pointless pandering nonsense? Do we need remade versions of videos with the characters and environments of video games? How is this anything but an extended commercial for the video game (and of course the song, but we're used to that)? And more pointedly, is this an entertainingcommercial for the video game?
Now, Eric does have a point, but he also misses a bigger point: yes, these are basically commercials for songs being remade by games as bigger commercials and marketed as television "content", however, the viewers of MTV watching these clips who have yet to experience the joy of Machinima may suddenly have that lightning bolt moment where they realise (a) that video games have complex dramatic and storytelling potential, (b) that for many of them they probably already own everything need to make such clips and (c) [the important bit:] just because MTV is remaking existing clips using these game engines, there is absolutely nothing suggesting that the viewer trying their hand at machinima should be doing anything so mundane. Indeed, I would suggest that the large MTV audience who may get a feel for machinima in their blood may seem a sudden increase in machinima being made.

Indeed, The Sims 2 with its embedded movie maker (you can export Sims gameplay as .avi at television quality) is also likely to see a whole new machinima culture expanding across the gaming/new media spectrum. I'm quite amused by the idea of Sims "reality TV" (or a reality game? or simulated SimReality?); check out the upcoming Artemis Sim-Ply Reality for the first reality game//show (at least, first I'm aware of). For a more detailed look at the machinima potential of The Sims 2 check out out the discussion threat at Machinima.com. If you're not sure what machinima actually is, check out an archive here, watch Red Vs Blue, and then join in the countdown until the 2004 Machinima Film Festival in New York.

Update [29 Sept 2004, 2:40pm]: It's annoying to find a post elswhere that says exactly what you've just said, except better; regardless, Rex Sorgatz at Filmoculous basically said what I just said but eariler, more eloquently and with more context here. It's also amusing to note that one of my (blogging) friends, Ren, seems to have become a Sims 2 addict about a day after the game's release (and her Sims seem, how shall we shall, frisky). I've even been sent a link to show that one of my students (in a course which includes an analysis of The Sims) has already been modeled as an Anli-Sim in The Sims 2, here!

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