Video Gamers Create Online Movies

Lionhead Studios has released a new tool that allows video game players to create their own machinima--movies made by manipulating the characters in video games--and then export their work and upload it to the Web.

In the past, only the most hard-core video game players created machinima. Even so, marketers already have started placing ads against machinima. On the streaming video site Heavy.com, for instance, a machinima called "Pimp My Weapon," made from Sony's game "God of War," got six million streams in its first week.

The Lionhead tool, "The Movies," positions the player as a Hollywood studio owner. In addition to the business management aspect of the game, players can shoot their own movies--designing costumes, choosing sets, adding subtitles, and dubbing audio. The finished product can be uploaded to a community site run by Lionhead, sent to friends, or posted online.

Machinima have been growing in popularity with consumers this year--but, until recently, were the purview of game designers, who used the characters and engines they created to make comedic shorts. The medium really began taking off with "Red vs. Blue," a machinima created using the extremely popular video game "Halo" by a group of gaming enthusiasts working under the name Rooster Teeth Productions.

"It's been around since around '97 as a little cottage industry. Some of the game makers and developers would make goofy things out of their games, and that sort of spread out to people making things at home on their PlayStations and Xboxes," said David Carson, the co-CEO of Heavy.com. "It really got popularized by Rooster Teeth with their production of 'Red vs. Blue'--It's this very bizarre sort of 'Waiting for Godot' meets 'Curb Your Enthusiasm.'"

Carson added that machinima have slipped under the entertainment establishment, but have capitalized on the growing popularity of video games. "Nobody in Hollywood would've ever considered, 'Oh my God, this is great entertainment,' but people online say it is, and millions of people are watching it," he said. "The appeal is, it's all based out of video games. Anything that's a derivative of that game, people pay attention to it."

Carson applauded "The Movies'" attempt to bring the ability to create machinima to more people. "I think it's awesome to see real people making things just for themselves," he said. "When you put those up against entertainment that people have spent a bunch of money on, often you see stuff that people made in their living room being more popular."

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