Real Online (請登入線實) by John Hsu (徐漢強)
This Thursday, Friday and Saturday was Input II at Radio-Canada, an event that captures the best of the great pilgrimage of public television, Input (in Lugano, Switzerland, this year), and retransmits it to its Montreal-based artisans. One of the sessions on Friday was on fiction, and the meat of it was a 77" piece by John Hsu, that was originally aired by the Taiwan Public Television Service (English site). It is called "Real Online" or 請登入線實 in Chinese.
Real Online would probably sell better to a Fantasia 2008 audience than one of television buffs, but provided fodder to an animated post-screening discussion. Real Online introduces us to a cast of six main characters who lead real lives in Taipei, Taiwan, and online lives in the "Real Online" game (or 理想Online, which translates literally instead to "Wishes Online").
I've never seen such a thing being done on television (it was aired at midnight, they were told at Input), but similar video games-based series have been seen on YouTube before (where a pirated version of it also first came out), like Red vs. Blue, united under a genre called Machinima. Real Online is not a Machinima, because it does not use whole game-generated scenes / actors, but rather real-life settings, live actors decorated with elements familiar to MMORPG players (and especially World of Warcraft ones), such as item boxes, whisper chat levels, and of course, a character name floating above you w/ different color codes for enemies or NPCs), etc.
The story is divided in three intertwining parts, as we follow the loner character, then a gang of three real-life / online friends, and two youngsters with a point in common.
Don't be surprised by the quality of the photography or anything of the sort though, as it was shot and produced in about a month, with something like €40,000 (CAD60,000). To have been bought and shown by the public broadcaster is revealing that the gaming culture is a lot more mainstream as it is over here (definitely, we hope it shows at Fantasia!).
If my approximate Chinese serves me right, John Hsu Han-chiang (徐漢強) is with a Machinima production group called AFK PL@YERS.
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