Despite playful death threats from the competition (I’m talking to you, Yuri, you rascally rabbit, you), The Guild won ‘em all, taking home a cash prize and the option for a distribution deal from ON, bragging rights and yet-to-be revealed prizes from Yahoo!, and better bragging rights, a mantelpiece, and a yet-to-be revealed super-secret party invite from YouTube.
In the wake of the show’s Maverick-like wave of web video accolades, series creator, star, and “sun-deprived, alabaster-skinned, nerd fantasy,” Felicia Day has been busy on the media circuit. But before then, at SXSW, I got a chance to catch up with her and co-star Sandeep Parikh to talk about losing your life to role-playing games (I can totally relate, btw – the now defunct Dragon’s Gate stole 14 or so months of my teenage years) and how the show came to be:
I’m a fan of the show, but is it really that good that it should have won all these awards? Yes. Here are a few reasons why:
A Great Niche: Funny or Die, MyDamnChannel, Independent Comedy Network, Comedy.com, Ripe, etc. all produce hopeful hits targeted towards the mainstream advertiser’s sweet spot of 18 – 24 year-old males. It’s a saturated market, and each hit has to be bigger than the one before in order to be heard above the noise.
Shows like Wallstrip and networks like ON and Next New target video-deprived, niche communities (bad ass car owners, DIY fashionistas, budget amateur filmmakers) and rack up numbers by speaking to specific audiences. The video game industry is an $18 billion behemoth with obsessive participants, a burgeoning Major League of professionals, and millions of simultaneous users. I can’t think of a better niche to be in.
It’s Not Comedy: Check out the example above. The majority of online video creators are trying to break your funny bone, overlooking other genres that appear less palatable to the masses. The Guild is funny, but it does much more than pan for laughs and plan for the next punch line. It’s a lighthearted drama that tries to make you care about its characters.
Like the niches above – and as Big Fantastic says – drama is one of the least represented genres on the web, and The Guild is one show amid a small group of quality, character-driven options.
The Fourth Wall: Characters in The Guild periodically look straight at the screen, confessing dear diary details to their web cams. It’s a tactic used by many web series to convey a sense of intimacy, but unlike lonelygirl15, that’s not what the show relies on, and unlike Quarterlife, the confessionals don’t ooze angst-ridden condescendence.
The show breaks the fourth wall well – just enough so that we can feel connected with The Guild’s members, without living in their heads. It also makes sense in the series in more than a “ Hey, this is a videoblog!” kind of way. These are gamers, after all. It’s not such a stretch that after 10+ hours a day in front of the computer, they would start confiding in it.
Most Importantly, Great Production: Felicia has set foot on her fair share of Hollywood sets, and it shows. All-around, the production is top-notch. The shots look great, the camerawork is excellent, and the superb writing is such that (like I said before) MMO freaks will appreciate the inside jokes, but it doesn’t delve too far into the realm of gamer esoterica to make it unappealing to those who don’t know the name Leroy Jenkins.
All these elements come together and work web video in a way that no other show really does. Check out The Guild at www.watchtheguild.com to see what I mean.