August 10, 2005
Clive Thompson, that squid-loving journalist who often writes about games, collision detection blogger and sometimes GTxA commenter, has a well-written new piece in last Sunday’s NYTimes magazine called “The XBox Auteurs“. Be sure to read it before it expires to the archive. The article spends most of its time profiling Rooster Teeth, a group of machinima-makers in Austin who have been producing the ongoing Halo-shot series, Red vs. Blue; read the FAQ here. Clive really likes…
…the idea that faceless, anonymous soldiers in a video game have interior lives. It’s a ”Rosencrantz and Guildenstern” conceit; ”Red vs. Blue” is what the game characters talk about when we’re not around to play with them. As it turns out, they’re a bunch of neurotics straight out of ”Seinfeld.” One recruit reveals that he chain-smokes inside his airtight armor; a sergeant tells a soldier his battle instructions are to ”scream like a woman.” And, in a sardonic gloss on the game’s endless carnage, none of the soldiers have the vaguest clue why they’re fighting.
Rooster Teeth is producing Red vs Blue Season 3 now. As with any series, TV/movie/web/what-have-you, sometimes earlier episodes are better; they don’t offer all past episodes for free download, but the archive is currently offering episodes 7-11 from Season 2, which are pretty good. It’s all available on DVD, of course.
They’ve also started a new machinima series shot in The Sims 2, called The Strangerhood, commissioned by EA. It’s odd, to say the least. Interestingly, one could look at it as a prototype for the look and feel of more elaborate interactive drama (minus the interactive part, of course); we’re shown Sims characters speaking with real voices. But the way it’s written and directed so far, it sort of lacks the Southpark-esque minimalist charm of Red vs Blue, and instead comes off closer to a regular suburbia TV show, or intentional parody of one, and to me, doesn’t have the same appeal. Maybe it’s just the bizarre writing. Definitely worth checking out though.