The House of Machinima: Inside Gaming
With a staggering 2 billion views monthly, the Machinima network of in-house and partner channels has become a prominent hub for the gaming community. One of the first MCNs to break out, Machinima has been producing content since the mid-2000s, and has grown past its initial machinima (lower-case “m,” indicating a hybrid of “machine” and “cinema”) output into a vast programming network of live action, animation, news shows, and more.
Due to the company’s strong presence in the YouTube community, not to mention its forward-thinking entertainment division, I recently took a trip to Machinima HQ in sunny West Hollywood to watch some of its various in-house talents at work.
In this, the first of two profiles of Machinima in-house content creators, I spend the morning with the wild and winsome team behind “Inside Gaming,” one of the web’s most celebrated gaming channels and Machinima’s flagship show.
Entering the “Inside Gaming” offices, I immediately take note that it’s a pop culture nerd’s sanctuary. With Halo helmets, Batman paraphernalia, and Hobbits abound, there’s a little something for every fandom in IG HQ. I even spy the visage of George Romero peeking out from one of the walls, proving that this group isn’t just well-versed in surface nerdity, but that their knowledge runs deep into the underground. I feel an instant connection. These are my kind of people.
I have made my entrance in the midst of the “Inside Gaming” team’s morning pitch session, wherein they are discussing the merits of a recently released game about goats, which will ultimately become the topic of that day’s video. It’s a dizzying and excitable process that showcases that these guys are really passionate about their show, but also the world of gaming on which they report.
“Years ago, I started this company when it was only three people,” Adam Kovic (who not only hosts, but is also senior producer), tells me of “Inside Gaming”’s beginnings. “Around that time, before there was even YouTube, [Machinima] wanted a weekly news show about ‘Halo.’ I was just an editor, so we contracted out to a third party, a director, and he was doing a bi-weekly show. But they wanted it to be weekly, so they asked me to step up. It was called “Inside Halo.” I would do it, and then he would do it, and back and forth. He eventually got tired of doing the show, so I took over completely. Then I got tired of reporting on just Halo, so I branched out into all gaming and gaming culture. On February 22nd, 2009, we switched over to “Inside Gaming.” In 2010, it became a daily show, and in 2013 it became its own channel. It’s been progressing, in that order.”
When Kovic mentions that “Inside Gaming”’s tenure in the digital space technically existed in a pre-YouTube environment, I question whether the rise of the now-dominant platform’s introduction caused the IG team to change its approach to content creation, but the seasoned host is quick to dispel this notion.
“It’s changed nothing,” Kovic says. “It’s always been my voice, my attitude, my editing style. As the team has grown, we’ve brought on people who have the same tastes as us, so it’s been pretty similar. We want to produce the same kind of content. Really, it’s been just a new place to upload stuff. YouTube is just a platform. I would be doing it the same way if I worked in television or if I worked in radio, it would be my voice, whether it’s actually my voice or not.”
“We don’t change the content, we don’t change the attitude,” adds Bruce Greene, Kovic’s fellow host and IG’s production lead. “We do, however, change the delivery. For YouTube, we know certain things will work, such as a specific kind of thumbnail or title. Once we get involved with the Xbox, PS4, Hulu, and other platforms, we’ll do our analytics and find out what works there, and change how we deliver it accordingly. The content stays the same. That’s what we make, that’s what we do, and it seems to have an audience.”
When it comes to audience, “Inside Gaming” is certainly not lacking. The channel engages many viewers on a daily basis, and that has less to do with the show’s platform and more about its delivery. Kovic and Green make for riveting and entertaining hosts, and the show itself features extremely well-curated content. Just as I witnessed during the pitch meeting, the meat of IG’s show is based around prominent and topical news in the gaming sphere, and is very well-researched by the team.
“It’s all about sampling the internet,” says Lawrence Sonntag, the show’s contributing editor. “If there’s a big discussion happening on the internet, I follow-up to see if there’s anything interesting to say. Really, any story I include in our document to discuss in the meeting, I have to think, ‘Is there anything interesting, knowing Adam and Bruce’s personalities, we can say or add to this story?’”
“The way of Machinima today is more pop culture, topical events, and news that will interest the gaming community,” adds Joel Rubin, senior manager of programming. “Over the course of the week of ‘Inside Gaming,’ we’ll have some sort of news that appeals to anybody who has ever picked up a game. We don’t want to be everything to everybody; we just want to be everything to gamers.”
“The one thing people tend to overlook about YouTube channels is that it doesn’t necessarily matter about the content of the channel so much as the personalities behind it,” says Kovic. “A lot of people will look at a gameplay channel and think, ‘Oh, they’re just playing a lot of ‘Minecraft,’’ but they’re also attaching themselves to that person. YouTube is like that more than any other medium right now. People get invested in the personalities. It doesn’t matter what we play, people will watch us do it over and over, and we’re still trying to grasp that idea. We tell people all the time, ‘There are billions of people on this planet, so a percentage of them will watch you do something.’ As long as you’re consistent and a personality that people feel they can connect with.”
“One of our viewers compared us to ‘Mystery Science Theatre 3000,’ and it’s a comparison I had never thought about before, but it’s actually perfect,” adds Greene. “If we were watching a movie with anyone from the IG team, we’d all sit around and BS about that movie. We’d be funny and we’d have fun. It’s the same thing with video games. Our goal with the game play is to take the very best moments of ‘MST3K’ and cut down a two-hour movie into 10 minutes. It may seem like a simple formula, but for us it’s just about having fun.”
For their viewers, there is little question that fun is the modus operandi. The IG crew’s enthusiasm is infectious, and even in the short time that I spent with them, is an energy that will stick with me for a long while. In their capacity as Machinima’s flagship show, “Inside Gaming” leaves a lot for their successors to live up to, and remains one of the most groundbreaking gaming channels on the web. Yet, at their core, they are much like the very games they venerate, asking you to click play, engage…
…and have the time of your life.
Enjoyed this profile of “Inside Gaming”? Check out some of our others, as we continue to go behind the faces of online video. For those of you into gaming, you might check out Michael Varrati’s piece on the 11-year-old Rooster Teeth.Tags: adam kovic, bruce greene, Creator Profile, gaming, halo, inside gaming, Machinima, MCN, Xbox, youtube, YouTube Creators