Here we are at the end of the first season of Video Game High School, and after nine episodes it remains one of the true gifts the Internet has offered those of us who worship at the joystick altar. It's a crowdsourcing success, it celebrates the geek, it punishes the bully and if you played a drinking game involving spotting the game references in the sports show, The Pwn Zone, that plays throughout the episode, you would probably die.
Hell, making a good movie based on a video game seems to be so impossible that Gabe Newell wants to do Half Life himself rather than watch Hollywood turn in something like Doom or be associated with the industry that gave Uwe Boll millions of dollars to piss in our PS3s. As far as a show or movie celebrating gamer culture? Forget it.
What did we have before VGHS? The Wizard, a movie that was admittedly awesome but tied being good at video games into being either autistic or a preening douchebag with a powerglove and bad hair. Even then some writer was too lazy to figure out that a blind person could probably get 50,000 on Double Dragon. Then there are shows like NCIS and Life that managed to understand video games about as well as I understand the history of Chile. The difference, of course, is that if someone was going to pay me to write about the history of Chile, I'd actually, you know, learn it, whereas in Hollywood that approach is seen as elitist when it comes to games.
So what's left over? Felicia Day's The Guild and Matthew Arnold, Brandon Laatsch and Freddie Wong's Video Game High School, tiny lights in the darkness that all can send hope towards.
The final episode is...well, it was predictable. There's no getting around that. No one that has followed the journey of Brian D. (Joshua Blaylock) from unknown gamer to his shot at VGHS Varsity Squad could have had any doubt that in the end he would triumph, defeat his rival the Law (Brian Firenzi), win his way back into school and get the girl.
Well, not that last one. Though Brian and Jenny Matrix (Johanna Braddy) do share an incredibly sweet kiss at the end of the episode, Matrix makes it clear that as Junior Varsity captain over Brian, it wouldn't be proper for them to enter a relationship, which Brian sadly agrees to. It's a perfect, bittersweet moment to take a film out on, but I wonder if the creators didn't make a mistake here.
What's the best ending of any movie ever? It's Kill Bill, Vol. 1. If you said otherwise, you're wrong. No film has ever ended on such a taunt cliffhanger, and I remember sitting in the Alamo Drafthouse with a packed theater of people screaming, "No freakin' way!" It was an ending that made you both want to see the next entry as soon as possible and to rewatch what you just saw to try and analyze, guess and deduce the future. Kill Bill, Vol. 2 had less of a chance of failing after that than a Valve title with the number three in it. That's what happens when you manage to gotcha your audience so hard they have to change pants.
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Considering that Arnold and co. will probably be using Kickstarter for season 2, I think it would have been a better idea to leave something to the imagination. Not that the final battle between the two opposing first-person shooter teams wasn't incredible. It was. It spoke more about war amongst adolescents than Ender's Game ever could, and was fun to boot.
The final scene between the Law and Brian is a masterfully crafted confrontation that looks deep into what makes a man like the Law so charming and so dangerous. He is supremely egotistical, utterly without morals, thrives on the failure of others, feeds on authority, and yet there is almost nothing that can be done about it because aside from all that, he is a tactical and technical genius that no conventional player can rival. He is, in short, cinema's perfect monster. His explosive end makes it that much sweeter, no matter how far away you might have seen it coming.
Where do we go from here? Hopefully next season will explore Ted (Jimmy Wong) and Ki's (Ellary Porterfield) stories a bit more in depth. Though they suit up with Brian in the beginning and celebrate with him afterwards, we never see them in their own battles. That's understandable. How the show managed its amazing racing scene from episode 4 on their budget in the first place is still a mystery to me, and the confrontation between Ki and Ted's megalomaniacal rhythm gamer father isn't something you want to have shoved in on the side.
Whatever the next stage is, you can bet that Art Attack will be here to comment on it.