The Machinima effect take two and adding some Steam to the mix

In launching The Drax Files recently, Draxtor Despres has caused some bloggers to re-open the question of promoting of Second Life through the use of machinima, with Ciaran Laval in particular asking could LL follow Draxtor’s lead and can resident-made machinima be used to promote Second Life?

These questions were actually the focus of some thought on my part back in 2011, when – having been prompted by a tweet from Crap Mariner, I mused on advertising SL: the machinima effect, and it seems worthwhile both revisiting those thoughts and updating them with a few further ideas and thoughts.

The video that prompted my original post on the subject may not be focused on Second Life, but it is ample proof of how machinima can be used to promote a product. What’s more it is fun.

Back in 2011, it prompted Crap to tweet: Linden Lab needs to make some ads like this for Second Life – something which caused me to reply: Or #LL should work with the machinima folk for suitable ads: say a competition; top 3 promoted on YT,, etc., which inturn prompted my original post on this idea,

Today, as Ciaran points out, and as I’ve covered for the last few years in this blog (albeit haphazardly), the University of Western Australia holds an annual MachinimUWA Challenge, which this year sees a prize pool of L$1.1 million for machinima makers submitting entries on the theme of “Reflections”.

MachinimUWA VI: showing the potential for machinima as a promotional tool

What makes MachinimUWA particularly relevant to this discussion is that not only does it showcase machinima as an art form, it actually promotes the University of Western Australia. The promotion may actually be very low-key, and a somewhat secondary consideration in terms of storytelling for those entering the competition, but it is there. This year, for example, entrants are required to film in “At least one of the 3 major spaces of Reflection at UWA … (The Reflection Pond, The Sunken Gardens, The Somerville Auditorium).” With the rules going on to note that entrants “may choose to film in any other area of the campus …  or … include all 3 locations.” Thus, the UWA’s in-world facilities form the nucleus of the competition in terms of providing the backdrop for whatever stories entrants opt to tell.

While the UWA approach may be subtle when it comes to promotion, there is no reason why – as Ciaran and I have both noted (and we’re far from the first to do so) – LL could not take a leaf from the UWA’s book and hold a similar style of competition directly aimed at producing machinima for use in the promotion of Second Life.

Such a competition, properly organised and with clearly stated rules, could do much to enhance the public perception of Second Life, encourage greater collaboration between LL and users, and given it would be a competition, avoid many of the pitfalls which have befallen other attempts by LL to engage the likes of SL bloggers on their behalf and which Ciaran points to in his articles.

Back in 2011, I suggested that such a competition could be focused on video “shorts”, around a minute in length. However, The Drax Files suggests that there is wider potential for such a competition and for LL to positively leverage user input. As I commented in reply to Ciaran’s most recent post on the matter:

Why can’t the Lab simply run a UWA-style competition through LEA (or directly)?

The brief: select from one of 3 time-lengths of video (say, 1:30, 2:30 and 4 mins), and produce a video which best promotes Second Life to people who have not used it. Said video can be shot entirely in SL, be mixed reality, be in the form of an advertisement style promo, short documentary or of mixed approach. Winners will be judged by an announced panel of LL personnel, users, and recognised machimima makers, again, a-la UWA’s MachinimUWA Challenge.

The issue of editorial bias can be overcome, competition-wise, by LL agreeing that a) they have the final say in which winning videos are actually used, and b) when used, they are used without further editing on LL’s part.

Offer a L$ prize in each category, cover the relevant needs for rights and copyright of material and state the focus of the contest will be for LL to use winning entries to promote SL through their YT channel, on the SL WhatIs page and through a proactive web-based campaign.

Obviously, the rules would have to be somewhat more in-depth than outlined in my reply to Ciaran; the usual notes on PG / General content, confirming to the SL ToS, etc., would need to be specified, for example. Also, it would perhaps be fairer of me to suggest that as well as receiving a L$ prize, winning entries will be published on the official SL YouTube channel and WhatIs page but the Lab has a final say as to which entries will also be used in any subsequent marketing campaigns such as, and dare I say it, with the forthcoming link-up with Steam.

This latter point – assuming the Steam link-up is still going ahead, as things have been terribly quiet on that front – could be enormously beneficial to Linden Lab’s attempts to woo potential users from the Steam community. Video is very much a part and parcel of game promotion on the Steam website, both through dedicated machinima forums, and more particularly through community hubs. As such, LL would be foolish not to consider the use of video through any Second Life community hub provided within Steam – and frankly, their own video efforts in promoting the platform really don’t pass muster, even allowing for recent improvements in approach and presentation.

How much better, therefore, to allow Second Life to be promoted to Steam users by those who are most enthusiastic supporters and advocates of the platform – SL users themselves?

Steam provides a means for video promotion of games. Assuming the link-up between it and SL does still go ahead, resident-produced machinima specifically aimed at promoting SL could be of tremendous benefit to Linden Lab's efforts to woe Steam users
Steam provides a means for video promotion of games. Assuming the link-up between it and SL does still go ahead, resident-produced machinima specifically aimed at promoting SL could be of tremendous benefit to Linden Lab’s efforts to woe Steam users

The key points of any competition-style approach would be everyone would know up-front what is expected and how the material will be used. A broad-spectrum judging panel avoids claims of “FIC” (and actually shouldn’t be that hard to pull together), etc., well-defined rules would enable entrants to understand what is expected of them and what may happen to their material (i.e. at least posting on through LL’s YT channel, with the potential for use in follow-up ad campaigns such as with Steam or elsewhere).

As I noted back in 2011, such an approach  / competition could have at least three benefits:

  • It engages the Lab directly with a talented section of the community who are capable of producing material that promotes the finest attributes of Second Life
  • It relieves the Lab of the burden of attempting to produce something themselves, while allowing them to determine what should be used through their own advertising / promotional channels (You Tube, the SL Facebook pages, etc.)
  • It provides a clear demonstration that Second Life is a collaborative platform, where user creativity is fully supported and encouraged by the Lab.

The Drax Files has spotlighted one way in which Second Life can be very positively promoted without the need for LL to involve themselves in the minutiae of machinima production. There are others, and the time would now seem right for someone at LL to at least consider the idea of working collaboratively with the community and machinima makers to promote Second Life and encourage new users into the platform.

So how about it, Rod, Don, Lee? Any takers?

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5 thoughts on “The Machinima effect take two and adding some Steam to the mix

  1. ..thx so much for pursuing this topic! So important to have this discussion! There are indeed marvelous endeavors out there like UWA as well as dedicated individuals [must name Iono Allen, Celestial Elf and Miles – please folks don’t get mad if your name is not here] who use Machinima to show the best of SL. However I realized after contemplating starting a new narrative series in the scifi/mystery genre first [it will come – no worries fans – just pushed back a bit], that the missing link with using Machinima is the EXPLANATION of what SL really is and can be and how the physical world extends into the digital world for the subjects of the documentary clips! You can hit uninitiated folks over the head with awesome content and explain while you show them that it is done by you and me and you can rez prims in front of them BUT unless you SHOW the direct connection with video, music, the right flow and let the subjects tell a personal story about how SL relates to THEIR lives you WILL get the eye-rolling from friends/family/colleagues/etc [and sometimes compassionate sighing – the kind of sighing one gets when you share a serious medical issue]. Why? Well, simply they are either influenced by the [perceived] stigma or dismiss cartoonish visuals as escapist fare/games. I have maintained that there are tons of folks out there NOT influenced by the reporting during the hype and the negative press, so there are seriously MANY untapped groups of people who could totally enjoy SL. I have now realized that I must continue this public service until either a) my wife or b) the pressure to make ends meet stop me from it! Or they deport me…who knows :)…


  2. Watch The World is still my favorite. Possibly the best enticement to prim building in SL. It was done in 2008 and is as fresh and up to date now as it was then.


    1. Shug!! THANX for bringing these back to my memory! Robbie was one of the biggest and most important people in my SL early on – watch this:


    2. Thanks for finding this, Shug. I’ve updated the link to embed the video. I loved this when I first saw it, and I still do now. It’s a fabulous demonstration of SL creativity “unfettered and in full career!”


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