I know it's been a long while since I posted one of these. I'm probably going to write a post on the AVR mod, and in a lot of ways this video is crucial to my perspective on that issue.
I wonder if Blizzard imagined, when they decided to hold the Ataris Music Video contest, that they would get the best WoW video ever made. The #1 video on my countdown is Slashdance's masterpiece, Frame of Mind.
First off, this is a superb music video. All too often, music videos either ignore the lyrics, or follow them too literally. It's hard to get the right abstraction, and that is something this video does perfectly. It nails the song, but does so in a way that was not intended by the original artists.
In particular, from 1:17 to 1:24, the lines We threw out all convictions/and traded them for substance, video and song match up beautifully. A lot of videos stand alone, or you could imagine the video with a different song. But here the song makes the video better, and the video makes the song better.
In many ways, this is the best machinima because it is not machinima. Most machinima treats the game world as though it was a stage, with the character models being used as the actors. It is not really that different from television or movies, save that CG models are used in place of flesh-and-blood actors. This video is different. It is something that could not be replicated in a movie.
To see what I mean, consider the main character of the video. It is not Sedrin the Night Elf Priest. The protagonist is the player of Sedrin, and we learn about the player as his actions are reflected in the virtual world. This video exists in the boundary space between reality and game, and that's what makes it so compelling.
The video also resonates with a lot of players. Every single player has made a character, and starting off the video with that instantly allows us to identify with the protagonist. As well, there is some tension between loot and friendship, and most players can identify with that and the sentiments expressed in the video.
It is a somewhat common story. A man makes the choice in his youth to pursuit wealth and accomplishment, and with the passage of time realizes that he made the wrong choice. The genius is in translating familiar WoW elements to that story, and using those elements to signal emotion. Using the first few levels (instantly recognizable to anyone who's ever rolled a Night Elf) to stand in for youth, the passage of time reflected as running through the zones as you level up, raid healing as moment of epiphany, the Deserter debuff (particularly elegant in my opinion), and the destroying of gear.
The final concept, and what really puts this video head and shoulders above all other videos, is the idea of the user interface representing the elements that stand between people, that prevent them from connecting at a human level. Somehow, I'm not surprised that a raid healer came up with this metaphor. It succinctly encapsulates the difference between game and world, between real and virtual, and was nothing less than a stroke of brilliance.
Quite simply, Slashdance's Frame of Mind is the best WoW video ever made.
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