Video games brought into live action—with the help of a little well placed VFX— have been an ongoing theme in online video for year, some even making a multi-season hit web series (The Legend of Neil) around it. Some are taking advantage of the trend to make a name for themselves. Little Rock, Arkansas-filmmaker Andrew McMurry is just 18 years old but already partnered up with YouTube’s mega-network Machinima with his growing channel of more than 36,000 subscribers and over 3.5 million views.

McMurry’s first breakout with the Real Life series was a minute-long Real Life Super Marios Brothers (watch it below) that playfully took the live actor, McMurry’s brother Seth, through a magically appearing landscape of pipes, koopas and bricks. It notched a respectable 1,000,000 views on YouTube, and counting. Rather than a beat for beat copy of the Nintendo hit, there’s a twist—one of the mystery boxes deploys a 9mm handgun for this real life Mario to unload on the game. McMurry made use of some Mario theme music freely available at Super Mario Brothers fan site, and sounds from The Mushroom Kingdom.

“My idea was to create very short, creative videos that center around things that people these days search for, so I created a couple of videos that involve a good amount of VFX, posted them to some forums, and got a couple of hundred views!,” McMurry told us. “I continued going by my motto and made a good amount of VFX shorts, which, over time, gave me about 1,000 subscribers.”

The initial response from fans was enough for McMurry to take his budding VFX skills into a stab at real-life versions of popular video games. “I was/am motivated by the work of YouTubers such as corridordigital and freddiew, they were the ones that got me really thinking about YouTube.”

Much like his inspirations of Freddie Wong and the Corridor Digital boys, McMurry has been tinkering with After Effects for several years now. “I started messing around with it at about age 12 and I’m still learning at age 18,” he added. “Recently I’ve started developing some interest in 3D. I’ve had Cinema 4D for a few months now and I’m trying to teach myself how to use it like I did with After Effects. I edit my clips together using Premiere Pro, because its workflow resembles After Effects in a way.”

Could this be the entry point for career in traditional filmmaking? “It depends where YouTube takes me,” McMurry answered. “If someone reaches out to me and offers me a chance to do some top notch stuff, then yes, of course I would accept it! With that being said, I enjoy just doing short videos for YouTube more than I ever thought I would. Being able to put up a video and get immediate response from the world is amazing. If my audience keeps growing, I’d love for YouTube to be my full-time job.”

For now, this is a channel to watch—and not just for the polished VFX play—but for watching one of the next generation of filmmakers hones his skills before our eyes. He also promises more of these ‘Real Life’ gaming videos in the meantime. “You can definitely expect more ‘real life’ videos,” he confirmed. “People seem to really enjoy them. I have a couple of ideas in mind for upcoming projects, but I don’t want to spoil the surprise for you.”

Real Life Super Mario Bros.

Retro Warfare