Machinima: using video games for storytelling

Be an X-Box Hero (with stars in your eyes)*

machinima in the classroomMeet machinima. The word’s a portmanteau of “machine” and “cinema”. It’s a unique form of storytelling that appears in video games, and students creating or mixing clips of video games to create new stories. And for educators, it presents a fabulous opportunity to channel students’ love of video games into producing personally relevant artifacts that demonstrate learning.

Machinima film festival, anyone?

How could machinima work in your classroom?

Re-interpret the classics

Hoping to get students inspired about poems, books and reading? Ask them to interpret some of the classic works in your curriculum through a machinima lens. Check out this unbelievable rendering of WB Yeats’ The Stolen Child, made in the popular online virtual world of Second Life:

Dig deeper into the juicy parts of history

(Spoiler: it’s all juicy.) Honestly sometimes history in textbooks needs, well, it needs a bit of a push, really, to come alive. A team of students produced this Minecraft depiction of the Revolutionary War.

Create how-to videos or showcase principles in action

Universal precautions against infectious disease! They’re massively important, yet not entirely engaging. Except when acted out by World of Warcraft characters over a techno beat!

It’s got a great beat and you can math to it

Minecraft is all about blocks and shapes, so cue up those geometry exercises! Students at Grand Oak Elementary School, in Huntersville NC, demonstrated their learning around the mathematical concept of area by narrating video tours of their Minecraft worlds, complete with how they calculated the size of their livestock pens.

Free-range storytelling

Students at Flood Brook School, in Londonderry VT, used Minecraft to create small and compelling digital stories like the one below.


Get started with machinima

To help your students unlock the power of machinima storytelling, you basically need a way to record whichever game your students are playing, from their screens. It’s just basic screencasting, done with whichever tool fits your platform. You can decide how the narration will work best. Students can explain what they’ve built or are doing in-game as they go, or you can have them draft a script beforehand. Students can edit the resulting footage in their favorite video editor just like any other movie.

How can you see using machinima in your classroom?





*Come for the 80s song references! (Stay for the 21st century edtech tips).

Audrey Homan

Audrey Homan is a Vermont-based digital media producer, and producer of The 21st Century Classroom podcast. She's worked in non-profit communications for more than a decade, and in her spare time writes tiny video games and mucks about with augmented reality and arduinos, ably assisted by five dogs. Interviewing students and yelling in PHP are the best parts of her job.

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