Across the nation people are watching a touching animated story on the screen. The story is hilarious, full of memorable characters that are instantly quotable. The visuals are astounding, unique yet also warmly familiar. In the spirit of adventure, the story is action packed, full of dastardly villains and heroes fighting to the death. But surprise surprise, I’m not talking about “Up” the recent Disney Pixar film, I’m talking about the blood drenched online series, Meet the Team, that accompany the video game Team Fortress 2.
Team Fortress 2, or TF2 as it is in know in geek circles is a squad based online shooter created by the video game company Valve Software. The best way to describe the game would be HALO in the animated style of The Incredibles with the pitch-black comedy of Tarantino film. Two teams fight to achieve different objectives while shooting off as many wisecracks as missiles and blowing each other in majestically animated globules of meat and bone. Where other games have let the fans create their own machinima series around their games, TF2 publisher Valve has embraced machinima culture by creating their own episodic series.
If you can think back to some of the greatest ensemble action films, there is always a line of dialogue or a scene that establishes a character. Think of the lines like “ he’s a man trained to ignore pain, ignore weather, to live off the land” from Rambo or the introduction of Aragorn from the Lord of the Rings. If you can imagine those scenes then you have a general idea of how astoundingly cool and varying the episodes are. The most recent short entitled “Meet The Spy” manages to squeeze in suspense, comedy, violence, passionate sex, a twisting narrative, and even some romance all in two minutes.
Created by Valve’s Erik Wolpaw and his team of writers and animators, the clips were initially created as way to audition voice actors and test game technology, the episodes cycle through off a variety of storytelling styles. The demolition man video features a “black Scottish Cyclops” (yeah I don’t get it either, but it’s hilarious) and the Sniper, the favorite of gamers around the world is presented as having serious family issues (who would have thought). These are just some of the ways the episodes hits the video game genre and the action movie genre with a fresh double kill headshot of originality.
The episodes usually accompany a new update to the game, so while they are completely original and of the highest quality, they are viral marketing. According to the most recent figures, they are working extremely well. In figures recently given to NewTeeVee, Jason Holtman, Valve’s director of business development revealed that the amount of concurrent players online doubled (from 32,000 to 68,000) after the “Meet the Spy” video hit the web. (More stats here)
There are currently two episodes left (“Meet the Medic” and “Meet the Pyro”), but according to Valve, there is a growing demand for longer episodes, even a feature length movie. And after watching even one of the episodes of the series, perhaps Valve may be the Pixar of gaming. The artistic quality is so consistent, the scripting so sharp, and the characters so memorable, this is one team that looks to be heading up towards bigger and brighter things.
Tim Goessling is a writer for Tubefilter News, you can read more of his writing at his blog, www.thislalife.com