Ensemble acting meets Internet Culture in “The Guild”

Typically, the stereotypes associated with online gamers are anything but flattering – attributes involving living in a basement, practicing bad hygiene and being devoid of any real social skills tend to come to mind.

These are the very stereotypes that Josh Whedon alum actress and avid World of Warcraft gamer Felicia Day set out to dispel with “The Guild,” her award winning youtube series about the online and offline lives of “The Knights of Good,” a group of people who play together in a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (typically referred to as an MMORPG, or an MMO for short). Day stars as “Codex” – real name Cyd Sherman – a shy, awkward member of the much aligned population of girl gamers, who finds herself on the receiving end of unwanted romantic advances from “Zaboo” (Sandeep Parikh), another member of her guild who has repeatedly mistaken her online friendliness as romantic flirtation, and decides to bring their “relationship” to the “physical realm” – with hilariously disastrous results.

Other guild members include guild leader Vork (Jeff Lewis), an obsessive compulsive cheapskate who still receives – and cashes – his dead grandfather’s social security checks, ditzy spell caster Clara (Robin Thorsen), a stay at home mother who often neglects the care of her three young children in favor of the game, high school kid Bladezz (Vincent Caso), a trouble maker who frequently hits on the female members of the guild and was once banned from the game for trolling (think flashing, scrolling macros) and Tinkerballa (Amy Okunda), the foul mouthed hunter who keeps her personal life as separated from the game as possible, and has a need to be constantly stimulated by video games, often defaulting to her Nintendo DS while not playing online. When Bladezz game world antics land the guild in hot water and a previously MIA love struck Zaboo shows up unannounced on her doorstep, Codex suggests the members meet in real life to figure things out – and later comes to realize why the online and offline worlds usually operate on completely different playing fields.

The success of web series such as “The Miley and Mandy Show” and “Lonelygirl15,” has gotten anyone with a webcam and enough free time on their hands thinking that web show stardom is as simple as clicking “upload.” Day originally wrote the show as a sitcom but later decided to debut it online, assuming that the premise wouldn’t appear to television networks. The low budget camera work and the understated appearance in first season would make it seem easy to dismiss to the casual browser. However, the interactions between the seemingly oddly assembled ensemble, often bitingly sarcastic and peppered with pop culture references, are what sets “The Guild” apart.

Each episode lasts an average of 3 to 6 minutes, and begins with Codex making an entry into her video diary, usually about the events about to take place. Similar in tone to cult favorites such as “Arrested Development” and “The Office,” the show is fueled by dry comedic antics. And while its intended audiences is definitely the seasoned online gamer, it remains relatable to anyone with a working knowledge of online nerd culture, acronyms and stereotypes.

A true diamond in the rough, the show has taken home several awards, such as the Yahoo! Video award, the YouTube Video award along with the South By Southwest Greenlight award for Best Original Production, and was hailed as one of “The Net’s Best Serial Shows” in the February 2009 issue of Rolling Stone. The third season debuted exclusively on MSN Video, Xbox Live and Zune starting on August 25, and so far has retained the quirky spark that kept fans clamoring for the F5 button. That comes as no surprise, however. If the teaser music video “(Do You Wanna) Date My Avatar” Is any indication, “The Guild” has more than enough life points to go the distance.


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