Pioneers in Machinima: The Grassroots of Virtual Production

by Tracy Gaynor Harwood (De Montfort University), Ben Grussi

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It provides a documentation-based (mostly interviews) perspective on several topics in the history of machinima. As a historian, I found the detailed discussion of the book's topics, plus the new source material, to be quite interesting.

Dr Henry Lowood
Harold C. Hohbach Curator for History of Science & Technology; Film & Media Collections
Stanford University Libraries

The importance of this book lies in the fact that it restores our awareness the essential people and films of the early machinima movement. There is no other book like it on machinima history. It is definitive.
I love the fact that Ben and Tracy have made us all aware of the real impact the early pioneers of machinima had on the form. The drama, the brilliance, the innovation and the wild success; they are all beautifully described. Pioneers of Machinima is gripping history.
A deep-dive into machinima history from the point of view of its creators and the community. This book is as memorable as the history it describes. As someone who was there at the beginning of the machinima movement, I honestly thought I knew a lot about machinima history. Boy, was I wrong. Pioneers of Machinima is a fascinating detailed history of a form that never quite fitted in with the mainstream. Their work redefines the root history of machinima with all of the drama, excitement and camaraderie. Brilliant!
There is no better guide to understanding the impulse and drive behindearly machinima creation. Pioneers of Machinima is detailed and comprehensive, non-academic history of a time that was wild and exciting.
I think Ben and Tracy have talked to just about everyone who was a mover and shaker during the early days of machinima. “Pioneers of Machinima” completely re-creates those amazing moments as machinima grew into a multi-million-dollar business, but left the original community behind.
An intelligent and very readable account of the founding of the machinima movement, it’s amazing growth and flame-out with Machinima, Inc. With extensive quotes from those who were there from the beginning along with detailed (and often funny) accounts of the important films and filmmakers, “Pioneers of Machinima” is the definitive history of early machinima.
I just loved this book. The chapter on Rooster Teeth and Red vs Blue is worth the price of the entire book. I had no idea of some of the amazing history of this group of machinima rockstars. Funny, dramatic, sad, insightful and ultimately inspiring, “Pioneers of Machinima” is the definitive history of early machinima and its community.

Ricky Grove
Managing Editor

“Pioneers of Machinima” surfaces and celebrates the history of a medium whose early days were almost entirely hidden from view. Well researched and engaging, the book focuses on the creators whose passion, ingenuity and humor brought a new medium to life while also foreshadowing the profound impact the ability to produce, post, and share videos online would have on a generation of kids born into games.

Katie Salen Tekinbas
Professor, Department of Informatics
University of California, Irvine

This important new work focuses on the pioneers in machinima, considered to be the grassroots and beginnings of virtual production. Machinima’s impacts are identified by the community, supplemented by Harwood and Grussi’s research and experience over a period of 25 years – from game, film and filmmaking to digital arts practice, creative technologies developments and related research and theory.

Machinima is the first digital cultural practice to have emerged from the internet into a mainstream creative genre. Its latest transformation is evident through the increasing convergence of games and film where real-time virtual production as a professional creative practice is resulting in new forms of machine-generated interactive experiences.

Using the most culturally significant machinima works (machine-cinema) as lenses to trace its history and impacts, ‘Pioneers in Machinima: The Grassroots of Virtual Production’ provides in-depth testimony by filmmakers and others involved in its emergence. The extensive reference to source materials and interviews bring the story of its impacts up to date through the critical reflections of the early pioneers.

This book will be of interest to machinima researchers and practitioners, including game culture, media theorists, students of film studies and game studies, digital artists and those interested in how creative technologies have influenced communities of practice over time.

Key Terms

List of Figures and Tables

Prologue: An interview with Kim Libreri, Creative Technology Officer at Epic Games

Chapter 1 Introduction

Chapter 2 In the beginning: Diary of a Camper

Chapter 3 Machinima! [.com]

Chapter 4 Rooster Teeth Bites

Chapter 5 The French Democracy in Action

Chapter 6 Stolen Life Lives On

Chapter 7 Begin Again?

Chapter 8 Conclusion



Dr Tracy G. Harwood is Professor of Digital Culture at the Institute of Creative Technologies, De Montfort University, Leicester, UK. She was director of the First European Machinima Festival in 2007 and has been researching the socio-cultural impacts of machinima ever since. She has keynoted and spoken at machinima and digital arts events around the world, highlighting the impacts of machinima in practice. In 2014, she was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (England) to evaluate its cultural values (see: Her research into machinima has been published in leading digital arts, visual culture and marketing journals including Leonardo, Digital Creativity, Journal of Visual Culture, Journal of Marketing Management, Journal of Consumer Behaviour, and others.

Ben Grussi was part of the original core community whose earliest engagement with machinima began long before the term was coined. Like many that became part of the machinima community, its force pushed Ben in an entirely unplanned and unexpected direction. With a series of roles in the community over twelve years, Ben’s knowledge of all things machinima has earned him the distinction of once being described as its own Wikipedia! Most notably, Ben was the primary curator of machinima creative work from its earliest days. This text draws on his deep knowledge of and insight into the games, film, people, and events, from within the world of machinima as it emerged and evolved.

machinima, digital art, creative technologies, digital culture

See also

Bibliographic Information

Book Title

Pioneers in Machinima: The Grassroots of Virtual Production





Number of pages


Physical size



44 B&W

Publication date

September 2021