Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Mods Machinima and Interactive Fiction

Tomorrow we will be running a short course in HUMlab for which I will be emerging from father leave to help lead. Its title is Mods Machinima and Interactive Fiction and I have been putting together some notes for the sessions tomorrow. Here they are, and if anyone is interested in coming along to HUMlab at 13:15, just turn up (its under the UB library...Umea university):

Moddar och Machinima och Interactive Fiction

Text and the Tools for Story: Digital Culture and its Implications.

Show video:
The Shining (remixed)

What is the difference here?
With digital texts and tools huge numbers of people are now able to peel back the skin of their favorite story or game and 'tinker under the hood' so to speak. We are able to use a game like Sims2 to make a movie calling on practices from animation, gaming, film and theatre. This combines both modding:

"Mod or modification is a term generally applied to computer games, especially first-person shooters and real-time strategy games. Mods are made by the general public, and can be entirely new games in themselves. They can include new items, weapons, characters, enemies, models, modes, textures, levels, story lines and game modes. They also usually take place in unique locations. They can be single-player or multiplayer. Mods that add new content to the underlying game are often called partial conversions, while mods that create an entirely new game are called total conversions." (

With remix or mashups:

"Mashup is originally a Jamaican term used to describe breaking something. Later it became used to describe an event (usually dancehall reggae) that has been done so well that it has been taken to another level. The term has been used in hip-hop especially in cities such as New York that has a high Jamaican population.
Mashup can mean:
Mashup (music), a musical genre of songs that consist entirely of parts of other songs
Mashup (web application hybrid), a website or web application that combines content from more than one source
Mashup (video), a video that is edited from more than one source to appear as one."


This is not always legal and like podcasting, P2P file sharing, and various remix cultures there has been some copyright issues around Machinima. But most games companies are happy to allow Machinima to be made using their products as it promotes them. However the music industry is not so happy about their music being used without license in machinima films.


The concept of Interactive Fiction is most often associated with Infocom style text adventures and later user driven forms of digital story telling. I understand the interactive part of these stories but their design lends more to the fixed elements of "narrative architecture" to use Henry Jenkins phrase, than the more open interactivity of modding and machinima story making. With modding and machinima we are altering, manipulating, but I suppose equally acknowledging, the narrative architecture of the raw materials of story; the game engines, the audio tacks, the human voice etc. How much more interactive can a story get than making it yourself. Combined with the interactive mechanics of machinima is its place in fan cultures. Through machinima fans can act out the stories from their favorite games and modify them as they do it. In this way the story becomes a part of life:

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