This Spartan Life is an award-winning talk show created by Bong + Dern Productions and produced and directed by Chris Burke, who hosts the show under the pseudonym Damian Lacedaemion. Premiering in summer 2005 and distributed over the Internet, the show is created using the machinima technique of recording the video and audio from a multiplayer Xbox Live or system link (for the solid gold elite dancers segments) game session of Bungie Studios' first-person shooter video game Halo 2. The approximately half-hour episodes are released in smaller parts, called modules. Guests, such as Bungie Studios' audio director Martin O'Donnell are interviewed via Xbox Live within the online multiplayer worlds of Halo 2.
Some of the comedy in the show arises from holding serious interviews in a chaotic game world, highlighted via game glitches, combat with unruly guests, and the presence of other players who outwardly appear to be unaware that the show is being filmed at all. These players fire upon other players, camera operators, and even the host and his guests.
In addition to regular shows, special content has been created for Spiketv.com and the 2006 Machinima Festival. A premium edition of Halo 3 is expected to include exclusive This Spartan Life content.
This Spartan Life consists of episodes separated into five or six modules of varying lengths. These modules are the core of the show; they vary from episode to episode. However, there are some common threads. Every show starts with a talk-show standard, the monologue, during which Damian lays out the show ahead, as well as a small comedy bit. This is the only "stable" segment of the show, besides the Solid Gold Elite Dancers, as it has appeared in every episode. The Solid Gold Elite Dancers segment is a dance segment (usually), set to music by Glomag, the pseudonym of the creator Chris Burke, and in Episode Three was a full-fledged music video. The segment "Body Count", which has appeared in two out of three episodes, is a debate and a war between the contestants as they make their points while fighting each other. The Travelogue segment is a glitch montage, which is set to music, and is one of the most popular segments, as the show's original fans were glitchers. The rest of the segment are usually the interviews, with the guest of the show.
This Spartan Life has a full cast of characters, each with their own unique qualities, which serve to move the show along. As is typical in machinima, the characters have very strong personalities and are heavily characterized in order to make up for the weakness of machinima: the inability to act. The host, Damian Lacedaemion, is a personable soldier in grey with a smiley face emblem adorning his armor. He leads the show with his carefree manner, and when his guests come under fire, he often has to fall back on his soldiering skills to save them. He tries to rise to a "higher level of discourse" and is the center of the civil nature of the show. Damian has a shotgun, named Phil, which can talk, and prefers to be used exclusively by Damian and will fight anyone attempting to use him without authorization. The show's DJ, DJ Octobit, is named in a reference to the 8-bit music he plays in the show. He creates the music for the show on his DJ console, which looks like a strange round pedestal. He never speaks, yet he has defended Damian on several occasions. In the first episode he is referred to as Doctor Octobit, but later his name was changed to DJ Octobit. The show also features the Solid Gold Elite Dancers, who are the show's equivalent of a talent segment; they usually dance to music by Glomag, the alias of Chris Burke, and a segment in the show is reserved for them. Their dances are usually excellently choreographed, as their characters move in near perfect synchronization.
The show also has a number of less frequently appearing characters. Damian's assistant, Fyb3roptik, has only appeared in the last episode, but has an interesting habit of shooting at Damian every time he appears. The running gag is a fan favorite, hence its continued appearances. Also included is Gunnery Sergeant Spillane, voiced by John Keith, who also writes the show. He has only appeared once, to run the bodyguard competition. Peaches and Sherry, the camera operators, occasionally comment on what is going on, but otherwise have a small role in the show. The gamers of Xbox Live are also an important part of the show, as they appear in every episode and provide the chaotic backdrop for the show.
The idea of This Spartan Life was first conceived in late 2004, at Bong + Dern Productions when there was a drop in the amount of audio work for the company. Both Halo players, Chris Burke and John Dylan Keith began to develop the idea of a Halo-based machinima series. The creator, Chris Burke, wanted to create a sort of social environment for nonviolent interaction, but he had little success, mainly because "very few people were willing to stop shooting". After discovering the true potential to hold an intelligent conversation in the game, he was inspired to create a talk show, originally to be called The Spartan 117 Dialogs, the name of which would have come from the official code for the Master Chief, protagonist of the Halo video game series. However, before episode one was released the name was changed to This Spartan Life, and all releases have been under that name. The show, while fairly popular, saw a spike in popularity with the release of its fifth blog, which centered on network neutrality. The blog became widespread and was shown to the United States Congress. This Spartan Life experienced a surge in media attention, as shown by This Spartan LifeTemplate:'s press page.
This Spartan Life videos are released on the site, in both QuickTime and Windows Media Video formats. As is common in Halo machinima, the show is made on Xbox Live or using interconnected Xboxes, and the final footage is edited in Final Cut Pro. The guests are either interviewed on Xbox Live, or in Bong + Dern's sound booth. Most shows are made, at least in part, on Xbox Live; however, not all of the show segments can be filmed exclusively on Xbox Live, due to issues of in-game latency ("lag"), which would otherwise prevent the coordination seen in the Solid Gold Elite Dancers. However, on the online segments, gamers from the This Spartan Life community are used instead of experienced actors. The cameras are created using the "gun-drop glitch", which causes them to lose their weapons, thus providing a less obstructed screen. The guests for the show are usually interviewed in Bong + Dern's sound booth.
This Spartan Life has been mentioned by Attack of the Show!, Wired Magazine, and Google Current. The strange nature of the show has garnered many positive reviews. The show won an award for Best Machinima Series at the 2005 Machinima Film Festival. and was nominated for the same award in 2006, but did not win. The show was featured at Festival Nemo in France. Special videos have been created for Spiketv.com and the 2006 Machinima Festival. A premium "Legendary" edition of Halo 3 is expected to include exclusive This Spartan Life content. The show has gathered a large online community of both new media advocates and gamers.