Follow the thoughts of Dr. Gordon Freeman, a 27 year old physicist and neurotic individual.
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Cast

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Ross Scott Ross Scott ...  Dr. Gordon Freeman 72 episodes, 2007-2015
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Follow the thoughts of Dr. Gordon Freeman, a 27 year old physicist and neurotic individual.

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Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

3 December 2007 (USA) See more »

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Featured in Brain Summit (2019) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Beyond Machinima
7 October 2015 | by nicovalloneSee all my reviews

The thing about video games is that producers only have so much money and time to spend. Every decision they make is a tradeoff. Half-life was revolutionary in its time for being the only first-person shooter to feature not only an overwhelming atmosphere and well-built world, but also a seamless experience and plot that paved the way for modern cinematic first person shooter experiences. In exchange, it left its main character a shell.

Half life gave complete and total control to the player at all times, with no cutscenes or extraneous immersion-breaking elements. It was the first video game to be a proper experience, with the main character a stand-in for whoever was playing the game; Gordon Freeman is silent, faceless during gameplay, and always in the control of the player. This innovative holistic approach to changing the very nature of video games is what defines Half-life's success. So it goes for the medium, so it goes for the artist.

Scott produced the first episode of Freeman's Mind in 2007, in the growing realm of machinima: cinema produced in video game engines. In short, it's taking the characterless player stand-in of Gordon Freeman and giving him a voice, and indeed, a mind. Because of Half-life's focus on atmosphere and seamless experience, this format of narrating the thoughts of the player character as they go through the game works incredibly well.

Elements of the game that players originally might not have noticed or thought about get brought up in detail, but the true strength of this series lies in Freeman's character. While the persona Scott populates Freeman with is inextricably linked to Half-life, the character stands on it's own two feet and does not rely upon the game to be interesting. As a result, even narratively dull or repetitive sections of the game become interesting as Freeman narrates his thoughts, makes observations, recites anecdotes, reflects on the world he has been placed in, and makes witty remarks. The character is unique and chaotic, and the dissonance with the relative nonchalance that he develops over time and the extreme nature of the scenarios he is placed in makes for absurdly powerful comedy.

Scott doesn't rush Freeman through the game. He strolls along as a normal human being would, running only when it's contextually appropriate. Freeman's thoughts, narrated, flow naturally and easily given the scenarios he is placed in, and various idiosyncrasies develop within the character that endear him to the audience. His attempts to reason out absurd game behavior, his enthusiasm for weaponry and drugs, and the unique dark humor he develops through deadly encounter after deadly encounter is what kept viewers returning to the series for eight years. Freeman felt like a real, dysfunctional, hilarious personality. The entire show remained believable purely because of this fact. Not every episode was flawless, but the strength of the show still shines through even in its rare weak moments.

There lies an undertone of absurdity in every action Freeman takes and every motivation he holds, which keeps the show on its toes and transforms the series into a complete creative outlet where nothing ever gets stale or repetitive. Each episode, crafted over weeks, maintains the aesthetic and visual integrity of the original Half-life while being enhanced with motion blur, additional sound effects and editing, and excellent camera-work to take the beauty of the game further. Freeman's mind is a classic, with artistic cohesion and a level of truthfulness that remains constant and reliable throughout the entire series' eight-year run.

All of this plays so well into the Half-life game design that it's almost as though this show was fated to exist. Because Scott remains in complete control over the character at all times, the narration is seamless by default, with no opportunities for immersion-breaking cutscenes or sequences where control is taken away from him. The atmosphere and world is so well-built and put together throughout the game that Freeman's character feels right at home, and has enough material to draw on to broaden and deepen each viewer's immersion into the universe to lengths unprecedented in the genre. Scott breaks the game somewhat by allowing Freeman to do pull-ups to get around obstacles to enhance Freeman's humanity, but all this plays into the level design and crafted game experience devised by Valve, taking it to greater heights.

Freeman's humanity and absurdity allows the viewer to truly identify with him throughout the entire story. I've been unable to truly express exactly how real and nuanced he feels, more so than any other character I've ever witnessed in any medium. It might just be that Scott had the luxury of only needing to work on one character, with only himself as a foil, and had years and years to develop him, but that doesn't detract from Freeman's strength as a character.

Freeman's mind is a cornerstone of machinima, and various other 'mind' series have sprung up around it. It was a unique combination of Scott's excellent character building, Valve's excellent seamless experience, and the symbiotic relationship between the two that places this series as one of my personal favorite experiences of all time.

I'm running out of words with which I can express my love of this series, but if I've managed to give anyone any kind of insight into how amazing this work of episodic content is, I feel like I've succeeded. To anyone who has gotten this far, humor me by watching the first five episodes at least. If it speaks to you, you'll know it speaks to you.

TL;DR: Freeman's Mind is hilarious, innovative, and real. It works with its medium in a way that you've never seen before. Give it a shot, you will not regret it.


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