Films based on the likes of Tomb Raider and Final Fantasy have become Hollywood staples, but clever geeks are crafting their own movies out of video games in a more concrete sense. Dubbed “machinima,” this techie pastime mines the programming guts of games like Quake and Doom to produce cheapo CGI animations. But one of the most successful manifestations is consumer-tech. The Blood Gulch Chronicles, an online comedy serial by Texas-based team RedvsBlue, was created by acting out scenes in the Xbox sci-fi shooter Halo: The team plays networked-style and uses one character’s p.o.v. as a “camera,” then edits taped footage. Thanks to Halo’s massive following and RedvsBlue’s crisp, smart-assed style, the series has garnered a devoted Internet viewership.
Created mainly from Halo’s non-narrative death-match mode, set in an anonymous canyon with two teams of visored, body-armored soldiers based at either end, Blood Gulch uses little gunfire. Rather, the humor is generated from the soldiers’ shooting the shit with one another while waiting for something to happen. Halo in-jokes are the wittiest bits. Soldiers fight over who gets the sniper rifle (with cool scope); one guy muddles through a tutorial for the Scorpion tank. But when strung together as a 90-minute feature, the episodes wear thin. Too many MIT-frat-boy wisecracks reveal themselves as college-improv crutches, notably the overuse of shock words like “frickin’,” “bitch,” and “fucktard” as unimaginative punchlines. Herein lies an all-too-familiar film-school conundrum: When handed visual technology with infinite possibilities, why do dudes persist in making Clerks-meets-Star Wars?