Machinima is a relatively new genre based on a simple idea: take a video game and use it to make an animated movie or online series. Of course, it requires a lot of skill with such games to know how to work the graphics in a cinematic way, but the end results can be quite entertaining.
Probably the most triumphant example of a machinima series is the long-running show Red vs. Blue, developed by Rooster Teeth Productions with the popular Halo video game series. It is currently within its eighth season, and has been consistently given high marks for its inventive uses of the Halo games, its non-stop humor, and its memorable characters.
The protagonists of Red vs. Blue are a group of would-be soldiers who are initially based in a box canyon and split into Red and Blue Teams. They’re meant to be constantly fighting as teams against each other, but for the most part, all they do is sit around and bicker. This premise is funny enough, but when more serious elements like the Freelancers, aliens, and a malevolent AI called O’Malley are added to the mix, the show becomes both more dramatically powerful and more hilarious over time.
This show does story arcs very well, sometimes branching them out across whole seasons. The first five seasons are known collectively as Red vs. Blue: The Blood Gulch Chronicles. From then on, each season has its own unique title and underlying plot, carrying such story-suggestive names as Reconstruction, Recreation, and Revelation. And since Season 4, there’s also been a miniseries between each season to explore different aspects of the show and highlight less story-involved moments with the two teams.
For all the warfare and military tropes that the show plays around with, I think the real humor comes out of the actual cast, who don’t seem to treat their job like real soldiers. If anything, they’re more like jaded video gamers who are way out of their league, which makes their interaction with the more professional Freelancers and all the very real threats hilarious. It also makes any actual achievements on the battlefield a real treat to watch.
If you’re a serious gamer or Halo fan, this series will be an absolute delight. And even if you’re not, its humor is still a good reason to watch. New episodes can be seen Monday nights on Rooster Teeth’s website here.
Bibliography: Red vs. Blue (online machinima series). Created by Burnie Burns, Matt Hullum, Geoff Ramsey, Gustavo Sorola, and Jason Saldaña. Directed by Burnie Burns and Gavin Free. Rooster Teeth Productions, April 1, 2003 – Present.