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The latest post in the aca-fan discussion of scholarship and gender is up here. Vidding, gaming, machanima, and more!

Since MovableType has deemed me a spam offender and threatens to report me, I'm mailed my comment to Henry and am posting it here!

Louisa and Robert: Amazing stuff here! You'll have to forgive my ignorance of vidding, machanima, and gaming (all I know of gaming is what I've learned from my friends on LJ). But I decided that the fact that I'm mostly going to be asking questions might actually help develop some discussion, and I'll learn more (as I've been trying to do for some time) about gaming and these areas of fanac for my media literacies class.

First, a small note: the link to the abstact of Robert's new essay does not seem to be active.

Robert, I'm afraid many of my questions will be to you because I've been lucky enough to hear Louisa present and talk about her work in other locales, and I know something about vidding from my immersion in the LOTR LJ community, so her main points make the most sense to me although I get lost when she gets into the Sims and some of the aesthetics issues.

First, this issue: I can watch a film and stop watching the film and the film goes on with out me. It doesn't need me. When I play a game, the game only proceeds as long as I play. The moment I stop, so does the game.

I gather that you are talking about the specific type of one person video games where a single player plays on a, what, console of computer? You are not talking about the multiple player games online, or the textually driven RolePlayingGames which are in effect interactive fiction created by the players (and which are found on both LiveJournal and Greatest Journal).

And you are also only talking about media fandoms (film, television) and not including book fans (understandable because media fandom traditionally has excluded book fandoms--but since my fandom source is a book and a film, I like keeping both in mind).

The definitions and limits are important to me because of the claim you make about the nature of a fan machanima "altering" the source text which seems to be presented as more "active" and presumably also masculine, which can happen with machanima but not with film or television.

Therefore, I have to believe that when we talk about the active relationship between gamers and viewers they are not the same thing. And it is my conclusion that the interactive component that comprises the basis of the video game medium led to the development of machinima.

Again, I'm not saying that a fan vid has no larger impact of the source material; they certainly do. What I'm saying is that machinima is literally a transformation of the source material (not just playing with it). To do that with film or TV you'd have to be there on set, which is what makes the two so fundamentally different in my mind.

Here is where my ignorance becomes clear!

You're saying that machanima transforms the source material. Could you clarify what you mean by that?

I am assuming that the source material in this case is a video game, of which multiple copies are sold? So a machanima alters a copy of single game the machanist owns? Is that correct, or does the machanima somehow affect all copies of the game? Or am I missing your point entirely?

I understand your point about vids not being the same (I'd say that from what little I know they are creative re/interpretations of the source text, and I agree with Louisa how it's possible for fans to value canon text and fan texts equally, in some cases even to value fan texts more highly!), but even if fans had access to the studios, etc., making one episode would hardly alter the text of all the other episodes: television series are such collaborative works. So I'm not quite seeing how the comparison works there (a video game seems a much more singular/limited text than a television series, but, again, I have never played a video game.)

But would access to studios be required for a media fan to achieve the same transformation? (You mention BSG--I'd remind everyong that male fans are the ones who "redid" BSG--it can certainly be read, as some ofd us read Peter Jackson's LOTR, as a derivative text, like fan fic, but done for money).

I'm wondering (as Henry talks about in CC) about how much more technology is available to the general consumer these days, and how that technology can lead to episodes being made by fans? I'm thinking here, especially of The Hidden Frontier.

I'm not necessarily saying that viewers would "mistake" this show for the "original" Star Trek (whatever that is! arguably HF may have better production values than TOS!)--but it seems to me that fan episodes may operate in an equivalent way to machanima, if I am understanding what you say correctly.

I am also unsure how a "change" that apparently seems motivated by the wish to be seen/viewed as "just like the original source text" (in production value) can be read as transformation? Where does the transformation come in (through plot, character changes? Are there any gay machanima?)

Here I'm thinking of how some book fandoms (Jane Austin) value "mimicry" not originality (i.e. the highest value is given works that do what Austin did). If you're talking about replicating production values, how is that different from replicating written style?

The fan values and goals seem to be the same even though the media of communication is different.

The Hidden Frontier I linked to above focuses on developing gay male characters in the Trek universe, but doing so believably within the Trek universe. I gather most of the work is done by men, but by gay men.

How would this sort of fan creativity fit into your scale of active/transformative fan activity? Careful attention is paid to replicating a great deal of the Trek universe, but the central focus on a gay male relationship can, arguably, be said to be completely transformative.

Still by males though!

In terms of book fans: I'm also thinking of fan attempts (controversial and hastily removed) to "rewrite" the book. One notorious Harry Potter case which I read about on fandom_wank had a fan "revising" one of Rowling's books to better reflect her shipping preference (I suspect it was Harry/Hermione, but don't remember the details). The revised work was posted online but soon withdrawn: apparently with the aid of technology, it was "edited" and thus changed (only one copy, but still--is that at all equivalent to the machanima's "altering" of a video game?)

Now if when you say machanima transforms the source material, you mean something more along the lines of open-code software changes, then my comparisons are off.

I'd also like to note that when you talk about the cultural rhetoric prescribed to women has created this assumption in many women's minds and thus stands as the barrier to them using them, NOT their own limitations. that there is also a cultural rhetoric that makes men unable to see women's creation of and use of technologies--the barriers do not exist solely in women's minds. Could you talk about some of the scholarship you're using on women and technology or media technology? What I know of feminist scholarship on gender and technology is very much in line with what Louisa is saying: women's use of technology is often ignored because they're not supposed to be using it and what they use doesn't count, somehow.

Thank you for an an engaging and involving read!


( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 8th, 2007 01:06 am (UTC)
I got caught in the spam filter, too -- my first comment is here.
Jun. 8th, 2007 01:11 am (UTC)
Yes, you can be a passive person in an role-playing game by watching the action unfold not unlike in a movie.
Jun. 8th, 2007 01:17 am (UTC)
And the RPGs I know of in LJ can go on without you--I think Robert is talking about um video games, the ones a single player (or maybe two?) plays on a console or computer? But I'm not entirely sure.

I am so not a gamer in any sense of the word. I remember PacMan! And that's about it--all the video games went right by me (doctoral program I think), and I haven't gotten into any of the newer versions online these days because of timesuck.

Although I am thinking of Second Life for my new media literacies class!

Jun. 8th, 2007 01:24 am (UTC)
Same here.......
I'm in my late 30s and am old enough to remember the first video game, Pong, though I played PacMac as a kid.

I'm a big Dracula fan (and write very sympathetically about the Dracula character). Anyway, there's this new video game where the object is to keep Dracula from getting to Mina. I dunno, I think I'd like to play it in reverse:)
Jun. 8th, 2007 02:04 am (UTC)
Re: Same here.......
I'd forgotten about Pong! It was in the bars when I was in college, I think (I'm 51).
Jun. 8th, 2007 01:25 am (UTC)
Unfortunately, I don't think I've heard of Second life.
Jun. 8th, 2007 02:08 am (UTC)
Re: PS
I've only heard about it recently--it's open-ended, not plotted, so you can create your avatar and do all sorts of things--it's more a re/creation of "real life" (I've heard about teachers having classes in SL, etc.). I'm only starting to learn about it. One of the concerns I have about assigning it for class is that apparently one's computer needs to have some major "gamer's card" for the grapics to really work--and I doubt that many of our students will have it, and I'm not sure our campus computer labs have it, so it might have to be an option, rather than a requirement.

Jun. 8th, 2007 10:01 pm (UTC)
A campus lab should have those cards/that computer power.......
good luck with integrating the game into your class!
Jun. 8th, 2007 01:26 am (UTC)
By reverse, I mean that in my writing, Drac and Mina always end up together so the video game, while being vampire oriented was not as appealing to me as a sympathetic vampire fan.
Jun. 8th, 2007 02:05 am (UTC)
*nods* I figured as much--so you'd want to reverse/transform the video game! I'm a vampire fan but not that much into Dracula: I like all the women writers who began re/vising vampires (was just re-reading some of Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire Series today), like Yarbro, Huff, etc. (not Hamilton).

Jun. 8th, 2007 10:02 pm (UTC)
Yabro is my fav author.........
she's why I write vampire fiction now:)
Jun. 8th, 2007 03:08 am (UTC)
Just an aside (b/c your comment covers a lot of ground that mine did in terms of the active/passive/transformative issue): I don't think LJ RPG or book fandoms are really an issue here, simply because the discussion is about machinima and vids. You can't make a visual game artifact out of a textual RPG (not a table top :) nor can you make a vid (at least in its traditional form) out of books without visual accompanying form.

Which might be one among many reasons why The Sims HP machinima/vids are popular? And I've seen a number of slide show book trailers that "cast" various characters in HP stories.

But omn the whole, the discussion really can't be about nonvisual sources, simply b/c that's what the topic was....
Jun. 8th, 2007 03:41 am (UTC)
reposted to correct error
Well, true, and that's why I first mention fan-created episodes (not vids, but visual).

OTOH, if one going to make claims about certain types of fan creations altering source texts or being more active, I'm not so sure that you cannot bring in other types of texts. I'm still not sure exactly what machanima do to video games!

And I was really just trying, at the start of my response, to make sure what Robert was talking about (i.e. this specific type of game, not all the others out there) because he wasn't very clear to people who are not already familiar with it all.

The topic may have been a certain type of visual texts, but I thought we could make cross-genre comments/connections part of the discussion.
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )