Yours truly spent nine glorious Thursdays completely immersed in the Video Game High School web series created by Matthew Arnold, Brandon Laatsch and Freddie Wong. In case you somehow missed my ever-present gushing over the show, it basically followed a loser named Brian D who through luck and skill managed to get become enrolled in the prestigious Video Game High School. Since the series takes place in a world where professional gaming is the equivalent of professional sports, this is Brian's ticket to fame and fortune.
He's hindered along the way by his nemesis the Law, a big man on campus whose attempt to humiliate Brian on live TV ended in his own defeat and Brian's introduction to the school. Through the course of the show, the Law almost manages to break his upstart rival, but Brian's unorthodox style and loyal friends help him finally triumph.
The series was bankrolled through a wildly popular Kickstarter campaign. Now that the first season has come and gone, the producers are already on their way to the next one. Despite being hospitalized with a bizarre foot infection in Belize filming another project, Freddie Wong found a few minutes to answer some questions.
"We're in the middle of all the boring nitty gritty stuff of film production in terms of figuring out schedules and getting stuff together, but Matt and the writers have already begun work outlining out the second season, and it's something we're really excited about," said Wong. "We definitely want to have a Kickstarter component as well, but first we're going to take care of all our Season 1 Kickstarter people. Plans are to go bigger and better with everything. Additionally, based on feedback, we're looking to increase each of the episode lengths to around 20 minutes."
The first season featured an amazing set and astounding visual effects. These ranged from simple CGI that allowed the Law to expel a cat from his mouth in a dream sequence to an unbelievable driving competition between Ted Wong and the Drift King.
That particular scene, set to the awesomeness of the Protomen's "Light Up the Night" that was generously donated by the band, had the help of Monster Energy to film. The company was one of the show's sponsors, and that helped them create shots that were way outside the crowd-sourced budget. Luckily, Monster has race cars and driving teams at their disposal, and the scene was quickly put together by filming the race with a tripod duct taped to Wong's hood and controlled through the sun roof.
Though racers, rhythm games, and fighters made appearances in the series, the focus was on co-operative first person shooters. This seemed pretty appropriate as approximately 156 percent of modern gaming involves that genre, but here's to hoping that some other areas of gaming will get explored in the next round.
"Real Time Strategy is a big one," says Arnold. "We were really thrilled about fighting originally, but don't think it will play a major role next season. We have some stranger ones we want to touch on. At the end of the day, nothing about VGHS was made reference first. We are telling a story, not a trying to fit as many game references as possible to please hardcore gamers."
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The good news is that it looks like all the crew will be back for the second season. The first takes place over a course of only two weeks of class, so there is still plenty of room to explore. Johanna Braddy has already confirmed via Twitter her return to the role of Jenny Matrix, and Brian Firenzi, who doubles as a writer, will definitely have screen time as the Law.
In the end VGHS was another example of how dedicated groups of young filmmakers can harness the power and accessibility of the Internet to make movie magic that Hollywood would never dare take a chance on. The average artist has never had more power.
"It's the ultimate creator's playground and the freedom we had online is unparalleled," said Wong. "It let us tell the story the way we wanted to tell it, and it allowed us access to our audience in a way you never used to be able to if we're talking about traditional film or TV. I really think online distributed, audience supported shows is the direction entertainment will start to go."
A DVD of the first season is expected within two months. Until then look for the episodes free on RocketJump.com. When season 2's start date is announced, look here first for the news!