Interviews & Critical Reflection

Interview with Mad Villager Machinima

If you could introduce yourself and explain who you are and what you do.

Hello there.  My name is John.  I’m a 20 year old college student in the United States.  In regards to this interview, I am a filmmaker that utilizes the video game medium to tell my stories.  The process of filmmaking using pre-rendered 3D graphics (such as within a video game) is called ‘machinima’. 

1. Why do you create Machinima? (i.e. what drives you to this format in particular? Why not regular film for example)           
First and foremost, I utilize machinima because it is much more convenient than traditional filmmaking.  When making a normal film, one would require many people coming from different filmmaking backgrounds.  A director is needed to lead the entire production, the writer to make the story, the director of photography to drive the visual style, the audio expert to work on sounds, electrical crew, visual crew...the list goes on and on. 

With machinima, I am able to do most (if not all) these aspects by myself.  This makes it easier as a filmmaker because I am able to create on-screen the exact vision within my mind.  Though I am a film actor working my way up in the world, I use machinima as a hobby, as a way of telling stories within the video games I enjoy.

2. Do you believe this is a direct influence from the game(s) you play? If so, why?            

Partially, yes.  The format I’ve been using thus far is the video game “Halo”, copyright of Microsoft Game Studios and created by Bungie, LLC.  It is a first-person shooter in which the player is this one of a kind future soldier that battles aliens to save humanity.  That is the very, very basic synopsis for the game.  Most of my machinima videos have been designed to help the viewer get better at Halo.  Its the sort of thing where there is a host to a show, and he is talking to you, fully recognizing that there is an audience.  There are also silly little skits thrown in. 

            Anyway, I use Halo to make machinima because the target audience are the players of said video game.  It is quite effective to use the characters from a video game you know and use them to discuss topics regarding the game itself. 

3. Could you explain what you are working on at the moment – In the case of Mad Thoughts of the Day or Mad Map Tours; what are they, who are they for etc.            
At the moment, I am in pre-production of the newest Mad Thought of The Day.  This episode, I will be discussing with viewers the ideas surrounding female gamers.  Most of the time, when a female speaks online or lets other gamers know shes a girl, one of a few things are bound to happen.  Either the other gamers belittle the female, thinking she cant’ play video games for the sole reason that shes a girl, or they attempt to hit on the girl.  Both are unacceptable.  I want my audience to remember that a gamer is a gamer, that they play video games to have fun, not to be hit on by immature individuals.

4. Are there any reasons why you chose to go down a certain route with your productions (i.e. why did you decide to help to Halo community as opposed to make something ‘serious’)
 I found that writing ‘serious’ scripts is not quite yet my strong suit.  Helping the Halo community is the first route I’ve taken because it is entertaining and beneficial for those who watch my videos.  I enjoy video games, but what keeps me playing a game, Halo in particular, is the multiplayer community.  I feel that, as I continue to practice screenwriting, I will be able to create screenplays I would be proud to present.

5. In your role as a Machinimator, do you have the mindset of a gamer (i.e. will the public receive this well?) or the film-maker (i.e. just doing this for yourself) – Why?
I try to approach machinima with both mindsets.  Surely, I must be able to present this in such an artistic manner that my work would be recognized as original and interesting.  I consider machinima to be art, that I’m expressing myself through a new form of media.  Efforts are made to present the best possible video to the public.  On the other hand, I also look at machinima as a gamer.  As I’m making the video, I sit back and examine it.  Would I enjoy watching this video?  Are the elements I’ve used from the video game believable and falling in line with how the game presents itself to the gamer?  I want my videos to be entertaining.  As a gamer, if I don’t enjoy my video, I know my viewers wouldn’t either.

6. Could you explain the process you take in creating a Machinima, from start to finish and it’s eventual distribution on or Youtube.
 As with all types of filmmaking, the process begins with pre-production.  This involves outlining the story, screenwriting, revision, storyboarding, etc.  Once I have the script, I then move on to line recordings.  I would read the line in different ways, perhaps encountering a new voice or idea.  Its also entertaining recording my friend’s lines // outtakes.  Once the entire script has been recorded and each individual line labelled, I move on to recording game footage. I record game footage by location within the game.  For instance, I record within the video game “Halo 3”.  I load up the particular multiplayer map // location I wish to record the scene in, setup my characters, and I setup the various angles / shots I have planned out beforehand.  Shots are usually recorded line by line, depending on the length of the scene.

Once I have all the footage I want for my machinima, I go into post-production.  This involves editing the footage and matching the lines recorded with the characters within the game.  Personally, I’m fond of Adobe Premiere Pro CS3 for editing and Adobe After Effects CS3 for special shots / effects.  As a rule of thumb, editing roughly a minute of footage, with all the color correcting and compositing and the like, takes an hour. 

After the hours and hours of editing and rendering, I’m ready to upload the video for distribution.  As an official Director for Machinima, INC, I’m able to upload my video to their website for distribution within its network.   Processing on their end takes a few days, but once it is online the video gets tens of thousands of views.


7. Is there any part of you that feels accepted/unaccepted in real life because of the interests you have? (If so, why do you think that is?)
Gamers tend to be stereotyped into nerdy guys with no social lives and a lack of confidence outside the realm of the digital.  I’ve fought this stereotype and strived to be judged by the person I am, not the hobbies I enjoy.  To that end, I’ve been accepted amongst my peers, many of whom are avid gamers themselves.  To some, what I do is ‘nerdy’ or ‘geek-like’.  I could care less about the criticism.  After all, its a hobby that I enjoy, and to top it off I am being paid to enjoy it. 

8. Why do you feel it is important to take your fondness for a character/ or series to so far?
If a filmmaker does not enjoy the particular project they are working on, surely they won’t put as much effort and creativity into it.  One must enjoy their hobbies; otherwise they ought to invest in another pastime.  Taking a fondness for a particular character or series is important because it is what drives the creative mind to make more productions. 

9. What qualities, if any, do you identify with in your chosen character/ series?
The majority of my machinima has been from my point of view, that is to say that the character on screen is myself talking to the viewer themselves.  I designed my “Mad Thought of The Day” series to be a show that entertains and assists gamers at the same time.  With other characters, some are inspired by an earlier me, one who finds difficulty in doing normal tasks within the video game (referred to in gaming vernacular as a “newbie”, “noob”, and other similar variations). 


10. Why do you play video games?
Video games are a form of entertainment.  Like television or film, they allow me to ‘escape reality’ for a while and just be entertained.  Some games allow me to be awed and inspired by the visual design, others allow me to challenge my brain with intellectual puzzles. 

At its core, my reason for gaming is to have fun.

11. What does gaming offer you in particular over other mediums?

Gaming is unique in that it is an interactive form of media entertainment.  With movies or TV shows, you watch the story unfold in front of you.  With video games, you take the role of a character within the story.  You control the actions, you carry out the tasks, you experience what the characters experience.  If a video game is to be successful, it must engulf the gamer in enthralling storytelling.  When you’re the character, you feel that much more connected to what is going on around you and you get more bang for your buck, so to speak.

An important aspect of more recent video games is the multiplayer replay value.  If a game is simply single player, you would play through the game for the story and be done with it.  Sure, you had fun, but there wouldn’t be too much of a point to revisit it.  With multiplayer, the experience of gaming is shared with a friend.  What was once a solo activity can now be enjoyed as a group. 

In regards to the multiplayer aspect of “Halo 3”, I game with the same group of gamers.  We form a team and compete against other teams over the internet.  The experience is different each time.  We create strategies to defeat the opposing team, make jokes online, and overall just hang out through the video game.  Online gaming offers people to stay in touch and enjoy the same game with friends from around the world.  Gaming has allowed me to meet others who share my interests.

12. What is your favourite Video Game and Video Game character? Why?

My favorite video game character (and by extension, video game) would be “Solid Snake” from the video game series “Metal Gear Solid”.  I’m drawn to this series for many reasons.  A strong reason is because the main character is this secret agent style man, codenamed “Solid Snake”, who is sent in various missions to save the world.  What makes this character better than others is the balance of strength and vulnerability, the balance of wit, comedy, and being ‘badass’.  “Metal Gear Solid” as a series excels in storytelling, with deep characters, a top-notch visual style, and a story that is unrivalled in gaming.  It is as much a spy movie as it is a game.  

13. What do you think about video game culture today? (I.e. the types of people that play games)

Video game culture has become more and dominant in the entertainment industry.  There is an abundance of gaming publications, websites, businesses, and the storytelling aspect has even spread to other forms of media, such as novels, comics, and films.  Because of that, it has become easier for people to accept and embrace their inner gamer.  So many people play video games, and they all have different backgrounds and ‘gamer types’.  Some are gamers only for sports games, some are casual gamers who play with family members, others take gaming to the professional competitive level. 

14. What, if anything, do you think video gaming will become in the future?
I feel that gaming is close to its so called ‘potential’ in society today.  In the future, I’m hoping that gaming will transcend being a simple hobby and be accepted by all as an entertaining form of interactive media.

15. What do you think about gaming social stigma? (i.e. Do you believe this has broken down today? Why?)
Because of the exposure that gaming has had, I believe that gaming social stigma has partially broken down.  People enjoy video games, but gaming still carries old stereotypes, similar to other hobbies.  While it may be ‘cool’ to play video games with a group of people, it can also be considered ‘undesirable’ to have to resort to games as one’s only outlet for creativity and fun.  It is important for us gamers to remember that games are about having fun.  The amount of fun to be had, and the extremes to which they take that fun, may be judged differently by others.

16. What do you think about people who taking gaming to ‘extreme levels’ i.e. Roleplaying (dressing up as characters) or becoming a Professional Gamer (i.e. a potential career path) Why?
I’m happy for people who have found their hobby to be something ‘more’.  Take those who dress up as video game characters.  Cosplay (Costume – play ) allows the gamer to act, to portray the character in new and entertaining way.  Its fun for them, isn’t it?  So why would I bother them.  The only problem is when the video game becomes more ‘real’ to the gamer than reality.  Its important to remember that video games are a hobby, not all of life. 

With professional gamers, I feel that they should be treated similarly to others who are paid to be competitive within their hobby, such as professional athletes.  I know a good handful of gamers who have taken gaming to the professional level, and if anything, I envy their skill within the game.  Some people are just more talented at ‘hand-eye’ coordination and ‘twitch response’.  However, I don’t find myself ever going down this particular path.  I’m good at multiplayer games, but I don’t want to dedicate that much of a time commitment to bettering myself and gaining recognition.  There are those out there who have halted their education because of the time needed to practice with a team.  If gamers can use their winnings as a way for paying the bills, then good for them.  It’s just not for me. 


I’ll stick to playing games for fun, making films with them when I can, and just enjoying my hobby for what it is: a hobby.


Thanks for the interview! 

Be sure to check out and

For machinima & live action short films!