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Talk Show Uses Xbox Game for Its Stage

Stephen Bryant

Talk shows are usually relaxing programs set in comfortable, air-conditioned television studios, where the guests recline in plush habiliments under the reverent gaze of a live studio audience.

They're not usually hosted by a 7-foot-tall cyborg in a spacesuit, and set on an alien world where other cyborgs run rampant and try to shoot the guests.

"This Spartan Life" is a 30-minute talk show set and filmed entirely within Microsoft's extremely popular MMOG (massively multiplayer online game) for the Xbox, "Halo 2."

The show is produced by a four-person crew of media professionals and distributed online via the show's Web site.

In its few months of existence, "This Spartan Life" has attracted a small but devoted group of fans ranging from squeaky-voiced teenage gamers to media artists, video game producers, cultural critics, everyday comedy fans and even the Xbox production team itself.

Though the show's set is virtual, the guests and entertainment are real. Thus far, "This Spartan Life" has interviewed artist and filmmaker Peggy Awash and interactive guru Bob Stein.

The show also features original 8-bit music from Bit Shifter, Bubblyfish, Nullsleep and Glomag.

Even more entertaining: Since the show is filmed in-game, the host and interviewees sometimes come under attack from Halo players playing the "real" game.

The result is that viewers of the show are at once struck by both the absurdity of appropriating the personas of 7-foot-tall gun-wielding cyborgs, and the power of a fully realized virtual world.

MMOG platforms have been used for "secondary intent" content production before—the Second Life gaming platform was developed for that reason, for example, and there is a large online market for selling virtual gold and objects for real-world compensation.

But "This Spartan Life" is one of the few examples of in-game content production that may demonstrate the long-term viability of exporting virtual entertainment into the real world.

To learn more about the show, its creators, and the future of in-game content production, Publish.com visited the Manhattan studios of "This Spartan Life."

Chris Burke, 46, is the real-life person behind the host of the talk show, Damian Lacedaemion.

Burke refers to what he does with Halo as machinima, or cinema filmed inside a game engine.

The genre has many popular practitioners, including Red vs. Blue (which also uses Halo), Grunts, and The Ill Clan.

Burke opened the door to his 12th floor studio, which he also uses for his full-time audio production job.

Read the full story on Publish.com: Talk Show Uses Online Xbox Game Halo for Its Stage

Copyright © 2005 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. Originally appearing in PC Magazine.





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