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Machinima Review - Rebel vs Thug


"Rebel vs Thug" is a music video machinima piece created by Ken Thain in 2002 using Quake II/id Software with music by Fine Arts Militia. It was made using the QuakeMAX open source engine and Quake II models.

Since I couldn't find much information on "Rebel vs Thug," I'm not quite sure what Ken Thain's objective or process was in making this machinima. But because I'm not too familiar with Quake, or machinima piece's using the Quake engine, I figured I best familiarize myself with it now. From the reading, we know that soon after Quake was launched in 1996, editing and modifying became much more accessible (although not necessarily easier than DOOM) and people could customize avatars, textures and levels. Being that I've never played or modified Quake, I'm not sure how much time and skill was necessary to create "Rebel vs Thug," but Thain had the potential tools (PC and software) to create this machinima from mid 1996 and he completed it in 2002.

Ken Thain devised these two factions, rebel and thug, with their distinguishing models, spiky green or bluish alien-like dudes and darker-skinned baggy pants dudes. Basically the rebels and thugs are just running around and shooting each other. I think the thugs are bombarding the rebel's base for some unknown reason and in the end, succeed in securing the rebel's main center. I'm not sure if there's some greater message to this machinima but it seems to lack environmental variety for four minutes and lack of a substantial storyline, which is just fine but just not progressive in its content. Perhaps he was experimenting or perhaps he just wanted a basic A vs B plot.

In terms of this piece being "interesting" well, the first time I watched it, I moved on after about 20 seconds because I didn't find it aesthetically pleasing and already after 20 seconds I thought it was redundant and quite uninteresting. But when I gave it a second chance, I thought about why I found it to be so ineffective. "Rebel vs Thug" could become much more interesting and luring if the actions were synchronized with the music. It would add much more difficulty but be rewarding in the end. If Thain indicated an incentive for the factions to oppose each other, or gave reason for the Thugs to break into the Rebels' lair, it would add so much more to the purpose. Because it's made with computer game technology, I expect more out of machinima pieces like this. If these two improvements were implemented into the machinima, then I'm sure more than just Quake players would be interested in this piece as a machinima and in turn, want to play Quake.

As far as "Rebel vs Thug" being "art," well, I don't see why not. It's a video with a story, personalized characters and staged scenes with the medium being Quake. I think people get hung up on the video game aspect of machinima because they find it difficult to see video games as art. I completely agree with what Henry Lowood states in the reading, "Perhaps we should not bother too long with the question "are games art?" Instead, we should ask if high-performance play is capable of transforming our notion of how art is created."


Comments (1)

Andy Cox:

I like your commentary on this piece. In terms of production value, the movie is a cut above but, as you say, it has the same basic A v B plot.

Is it art? Which is to say, by one definition of art: using aesthetic means, did it help me to look at the world differently, challenge my acceptance of the status quo, or reveal underlying ideologies? Not really.

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