Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Halo 3's Fan Fiction

Fan fiction always depressed me as the realm of the hopelessly geeky. The only thing worse than actually producing fan fiction, I reasoned, was watching it. Tuesday's lecture not only changed my perspective on the practice, but reminded me of my own twisted history with fan fiction.

For a brief...two year...period in high school, I was an avid fan of the machinima web series, Red vs. Blue ( Machinima is a form of animation that uses video games as a means of producing their visuals. Red vs. Blue relied on a bug in the code of the original Halo first person shooter video game for the Microsoft Xbox - which caused avatars to appear to look up when they lowered their weapons - in order to craft an episodic comedy about two rival armies, stationed in one of Halo's multiplayer maps. It turns out I wasn't their only fan. The series became so popular that Microsoft actually bought the creative franchise - which was produced using their own coding - and allowed the Red vs. Blue writers to market the series through the company. For Halo 2, Microsoft intentionally left the bug from the first game in, so that Red vs. Blue could continue in the Halo 2 engine. For the recently released Halo 3, they went about 1,000 steps further. Now every gamer can craft their own machinima series in the game engine, as every single game played on a player's Xbox360 is saved their hard drive, and can be later viewed from any angle and any avatar's perspective. Videos can be uploaded and shared across the Microsoft XboxLive network or even over the internet. Moreover, they included a special "Forge" feature in which gamers can add any object, weapon, or vehicle to any map, and produce all kinds of new game types, and, more importantly, machinima movie sets.

Jenkins quotes Grant McCracken, "Corporations must decide whether they are, literally, in or out. Will they make themselves an island or will they enter the mix?" Although the television industry is seemingly waffling over how much control to give its fan-fiction producers, the video game industry looks to be far more supportive of this 21st century genre.

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