"No screenshot, but trust me, it happened."
So, this weekend was a big weekend. An epic weekend. A weekend to end all weekends. Announcements were made, questions asked and answered, celebrations commenced and pictures were taken. Jeffster! performed. Wait, what?
That’s right. This weekend was Comic-Con.
You thought I was going to go somewhere else with that, didn’t you?
Yes, this weekend was the annual San Diego nerd prom, which I did not attend but avidly followed because if nerds know how to do anything, it’s blow up the internet. There were the usual vague Lost spoilers (long-dead characters returning!), an adoring crowd at the Chuck panel run by Alan Sepinwall, and lots of sexy double entendres from Torchwood’s John Barrowman. If at all possible, I am totally going next year.
Inspired by Comic-Con, though, I spent this weekend watching a show I’ve heard about for a long time but never got around to watching – Felicia Day’s internet webisode minishow The Guild. The show is about a gaming guild, The Knights of Good, whose internet relationships begin to bleed into their physical lives. Each episode is only about five minutes long, and crammed full of World of Warcraft references, deeply awkward comedy, and low budget video. Xbox sponsored The Guild’s second season, so the budget and the video quality dramatically improve, but not so much that it looks like an episode of 24. Other than high def quality and the sudden presence of PCs rather than Macs, The Guild seems to have remained its nerdy, in-joking, socially inept self.
I don’t play World of Warcraft, so a significant chunk of my viewing experience was the persistent knowledge that I was incapable of appreciating what were probably very funny jokes. Some of it’s not too difficult to make out – when The Guild manages to take down one of their members’ mother in the season one finale (“Boss Fight”), Felicia Day’s character Codex gets stuck with the now-homeless Guildie. “Worst. Loot. Ever,” she complains to her webcam. But many of the jokes require a vocabulary that takes hundreds of hours of gaming, or at least some determined googling, to grasp. QQ! Tank’d! Let’s make the pull, DPS, nasty crit, aggro, I need to be buffed, grinding, etc. etc.
What’s impressive about The Guild is that even though the specific references don’t always land for me, it’s still hilarious. Much more than a show about a particular game, The Guild depicts collapsing boundaries between a virtual life and a life in the real world. The problem of what happens when relationships inside an online community completely overtake the physical world is equally applicable to any number of all-encompassing virtual groups, and the jokes about addiction, social ineptitude, confused value systems, and stealing WiFi are aimed at a much broader audience. Perhaps my favorite moment is when the game’s servers go down, and the Guild’s leader Vork yells, “It’s like phantom limb pain!”
One question is definitely up for debate – is it fair to call The Guild television? As a video series built for the internet, about the internet (although you can buy it on DVD and download it on Xbox Live), labeling The Guild as “television” seems to miss the point. It’s certainly not a movie, and it is episodic, which I would argue as one of the important defining TV characteristics, but is it too short? Does its original medium make it a significantly different creature than Law and Order or The Simpsons? Or is this just television from a new source?
No, seriously, I’m not sure. Take a look for yourself: