If you’re a MMORPG player, have ever known a MMORPG player, or just known anyone who just might spend a little bit too much time playing video games, then The Guild is for you. The award-winning show consists of ten brief webisodes, and chronicles the trials of a MMORPG guild that decides to meet in person to defeat a real life problem. Wackiness ensues.
Photo by from watchtheguild.com
Written by and starring Felicia Day (who recently starred as Penny in Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along-Blog), the show is a great example of what happens when entertainment moves from big-budget Hollywood to donor-funded internet productions. Just about everything you could want to know about making the show is available linked from their website, like the fact that Felicia has been an avid gamer her whole life, and decided to make The Guild when she noticed that she was turning down professional opportunities to raid Molten Core. With her alt.
I had a chance to speak with Felicia Day and her costar Sandeep Parikh (writer of the NSFW Legend of Zelda parody, The Legend of Neil) about their show, about MMOs, and about the future of modern entertainment. Read on to discover how writers are getting frustrated with Hollywood, how Felicia Day addicted her fellow cast members to WoW, and how MMOs are changing the face of the gaming community as a whole. She puts her finger on why MMOs and other ways of gaming together are resonating so well with the gaming community: “Being in a walled garden isn’t enough anymore.” Don’t think for a moment that the meeker characters you may have seen Felicia Day portray recently reflect her personality at all: she has a tremendous force of personality, and fights to be recognized for independent work like The Guild.
Photo from watchtheguild.com
Katiegreen I understand that The Guild was originally envisioned as a television show, but that the producers turned you down, saying it was a niche audience. Did you feel like they just don’t really understand gamers?
Felicia: I think that they don’t. Television kind of evolved in Hollywood, and they don’t know a lot about real people. Or other subcultures, and they try to make media that appeals to everyone. I think they limit themselves, and they water their storylines down to please everyone. So, there’s a lot of criticism against if you ever make anything niche in Hollywood, so that’s why we moved to the web to do it, and I think that was the right choice.
Katiegreen Based on the numbers of viewers you’ve gotten, and you’re experience in Hollywood, do you think this show would have succeeded in Hollywood atmosphere?
Felicia: Oh, in a Hollywood atmosphere, Codex would probably have a mainstream boyfriend, and a Mom, and a really bad job . . .
Sandeep: And a wacky neighbor!
Felicia: And a wacky neighbor who tried to get her not to play video games. So it might have succeeded, but it would have been a much different incarnation of the show.
Felicia: I don’t know, you can never be psyched about it, but I think the story, if you watch all the episodes together, I think it’s a pretty coherent storyline. It just doesn’t look like what most people do on TV. I don’t know if that would be good or bad.
Katiegreen So you guys have talked to a lot of media outlets, it looks like, both in the gaming media and outside the gaming media. Do you feel like talking to those journalists, outside of the gaming media, that they understand real people better than Hollywood?
Felicia: The thing about online mainstream media is that they don’t really review or write up anything independent. They don’t care about anything independent. They only write up things that are made inside the system. Like the Emmys? No independent things are ever going to get an Emmy nomination. It’s not considered legitimate, or even worth their time to look at, unless it’s done through mainstream avenues. I think that it’s very hard, even if they’re talking about Dr. Horrible, they don’t mention The Guild, because they don’t care about it. They don’t consider it a real credit. They think that people don’t know about it. I think it’s kind of sad. I always have to push to keep The Guild next to my name, rather than just Buffy.
Katiegreen I know that I came across The Guild because I was familiar with Dr. Horrible. I saw about The Guild and said, “That sounds awesome.” Did you guys see a peak in viewership when that was announced and the connection was made?
Felicia: There was definitely a bump, it definitely reinvigorated the show. I mean, we had already had hundreds of thousands of hits up until then, so we were very popular with our audience. But it got a huge boost, especially press attention, and things like that. A lot more people came to know the show through it, so I was really lucky to have been involved in it.
Katiegreen So, I wanted to get your opinion on some gaming questions. It’s widely known that you’ve spent a lot of time, Felicia, playing video games—that you had to quit WoW cold turkey. Did the rest of the people who were involved in the show have a similar experience with online gaming?
Sandeep: Just the opposite.
Felicia: No, just the opposite, most of them were not online gamers. Like, Sandeep.
Sandeep: But now we’re addicted, that’s the problem.
Katiegreen Oh really?
Sandeep: Before we didn’t play, and now we all play. Jeff Lewis has become Vork: he became his character. Vincent became BLADEZZ for a little while. He was never that ridiculous.
Felicia: I defiantly started playing more, being involved in the show.
Sandeep: It’s because we had to do research
Felicia: It’s now tax deductible to buy video games.
Katiegreen: Now, I just looked this up this morning: according to mmogchart.com, there are currently 13 MMOs with at least 200,000 players each, most notably WoW, which boasts 10 million accounts. Now, there’s defiantly overlap between people have multiple accounts, but that’s still a lot of people what impact do you think that these people are having on the gaming community as a whole? How do you think MMOs are changing the face of all gaming?
Felicia: I think MMOs are taking the place of other entertainment that people do. It’s socially fulfilling, it’s intellectually fulfilling to a certain extent. It certainly is living a story rather than watching a story. I think it’s a new way of interacting with other people, and creating a community.
Sandeep: It seems like console games are imitating MMOs. There are a lot of console games that look for a way to put the game online, as well as just making it a console game.
Katiegreen: Right, I’ve noticed with Xbox Live, games are integrating a lot of online traits into single player games.
Felicia: People want that interaction. Being in a walled garden isn’t enough anymore.
Katiegreen: Another thing that has brought people together along with MMOs is Voice Over IP. And one thing that Voice Over IP has done is ‘outted’ that “mythical girl on the internet.” I know your site says a significant number of your donors were female, is that right?
Felicia: A third.
Katiegreen: So a big portion of your viewers and donors are female. Do you think that the gaming community is finally coming to grips with that, that there are girls out there?
Felicia: I think that there’s the stereotype, since defiantly there were more guy gamers before. But I think that there’s a big shift, especially you have social games that are more colorful, less guts and blood, those kinds of games, like WoW, it’s opened the door for a lot more girls to game. But there have always been more gamers. Voice has definitely made it more prominent. But as I said, as people stop watching TV and movies, they’re looking for entertainment in other places. I think online gaming and online interaction is the place that people are going.
Katiegreen: I know with WoW and with all games, there’s constantly an influx of young gamers. If you’re ever in a trade chat, you can hear people that are 13 that haven’t reached a level of maturity, that talk about “Oh, yeah, girls are stupid,” or “Girls don’t play games,” and shouting “Fag!” or doing inappropriate things. Do you think this is hindering the maturity level and potential growth of the community?
Sandeep: I think there are going to be irresponsible people no matter what they are, in a lot of ways. I was playing WoW the other day with someone who was perfectly nice, and every time I sign on he greeted me, and I said “Hey, how old are you, just out of curiosity.” He said, “Well, how old are you?” I said, “Well, I’m 28 years old.” He said, “I’m eight.”
Felicia: That’s what I love about the internet. It doesn’t matter what age or race you are, it transcends that. I think that the guild that I build in my show is racially diverse, it’s ethnically diverse, it’s culturally diverse, and it’s age diverse. And you know, that’s just people getting along with each other. Yeah you have differences, but you have a commonality. It’s how life should be more.
Sandeep: If this was a Hollywood show, we’d all be white. Prince of Persia would have to be white in Hollywood.
Felicia: Or it’s really obvious, “This is the just the manufactured African American friend, who is a successful publisher.” It’s just so boring.
Sandeep: Which is what I’d be in the show.
Felicia: Right, with a love interest in a white girl. With people calling attention to it: “Oh, there’s a biracial relationship.”
Katiegreen: So, what do you see is the future as MMOs as a social medium? Do you see them growing and developing, more people getting involved in them?
Felicia: Sure, I think the community is going to be constantly growing. The worlds are becoming more sophisticated, and they start to appeal to more diverse groups of people, like women come along, and more people stop watching television, because it’s just not offering something that’s new and fresh and interesting. I think the more web video, with that kind of interactivity, like active fandom, is going to grow, and it’s evolving, constantly.
Sandeep: It’s like a snowball rolling downhill. My five year old little nieces and nephews are playing games constantly. I don’t even know what they are. They’re playing a game where they get a pony, and then they go online and then they dress them up and chat with other kinds, and show each other their ponies. I don’t know what the hell the game is, but video games are already a part of their lives. It’s just inevitable.
Katiegreen: On a final side note, I know I was really impressed when I found out that you used to raid MC, Felicia. I thought, “Man, I feel ashamed now.”
Felicia: I used to raid AQ. You can feel even more ashamed. *laughs*
Katiegreen: *laughs* Oh man. Well, thank you guys so much. I wish you guys all the best with Season 2 and your future endeavors.
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