Friday, January 25, 2013

What am I even watching??

     You ever get that feeling when you're watching something that you cannot quite describe and you really wanna hate it? I mean, you really wanna hate this... "thing" you're seeing, something that can only be described as WTF... or Video Game High School

Unfortunately you (or more specifically I) could not hate this web-series turned straight-to-...Netflix movie. In fact, dammit, it's pretty entertaining. Video Game High School is strange; it seems to try too hard to be cool, suffers vastly by overacting, and yet the movie manages to be legitimately fun, quirky and holy balls, a teeny bit charming. There are points that when I try my hardest to ignore this "thing", I wind up hearing an actual good line and I end up busting a gut in laughter.... 

WHAT. THE. F--K. Yeah, I shall call it WTF for now. Its the only way I can emote at the moment.

    I then realized that Video Game High School, as predictable as it is (and it's pretty damn predictable), draws it's strengths from how fun and formulaic it is. Who hasn't been the kid who has been terrible at games and set out to prove that they can hold their own. Hello? Super Smash Bros. anybody? And then, surprise, all those nights practicing in front of a CRT TV pays off, right? I digress, WTF is an easy setup. It appeals to the modern gaming masses (with a cast I've never heard of with exception to Freddie Wong but is nonetheless likeable) and with a story that's incredibly easy to follow while simply being as fun as it wants with no apology. How? Because it follows the basic rules of a hero's journey. 

So I tried using Joseph Campbell's straight-forward definition of a Hero's Journey to follow this WTF and it's no surprise that it works. We have our classic gamer (a title I hate by the way) who is bullied (by, I sh-t you not, two dummies with a flying bicycle), but is nonetheless propelled into adventure by sheer dumb luck. He defeats the best gamer (UGH) at Video Game High School and is whisked off into this new world of HIGH SCHOOL... but with VIDEO GAMES THEMES and gratuitous amounts of Monster Energy Drink (clearly it's been awhile since I've been to any high school). 

Now I've seen video game parody shows before. Hell, Spark-Flow even made one, so you should check it out! Legit, enjoyable game parodies are few in number and the majority are ripe with yelling, trolling, jokes you've seen on Family Guy, and stupidness (Google Level Up). There are some really good ones out there though, really. I mean that. And as proud as I am of Button Mashers, (damn proud mind you) it's not immune to critique like anything else. But, Video Game High School does a lot things right. Humor for one. It's not always funny (to me anyway) but it caught me by surprise MANY TIMES ("I will never love you..."). Great editing for another. I dont care what anyone says, YouTube is a great way to train to be a professional filmmaker and editor and Freddie Wong proves just that. Camera moves and audio cues are on point throughout this whole WTF.

But honestly, there'd be no movie without Brian (the hero)'s journey into herohood: (1) Brian receives his invitation into a strangely genre-specific high school as he (2) garners assistance from his new but clearly half-assed, but experienced friends. (3) He departs from lucky-wimp-world to celebrity-world showing his peers he has some resourcefulness through (4) his trials and slow triumphs against his obvious betters. (5) Brian slowly approaches the strength and confidence of simply being himself through his consistent conflict with his ultimate rival, (6) but finds crisis when his dumb luck finally fizzles out. However, Brian discovers solace in the (7) treasure of a growing relationship, truly accepting himself and his skills and earning the respect as a true (dammit) gamer, (8) which results in a few of his greatest victories. (9) Brian finally returns to the world of of being the school's worst gamer but is happy knowing he has earned the admiration of the entire school, thus embracing a (10) new life of gaming fun and a hot new girlfriend. Yeaaah, it's simple. Sometimes simple is good and it doesn't pretend to be anything else. I mean, crap it has 80's music people!

That is how Video Game High School pulls off being an enjoyable piece of filmmaking. It follows the basics while being whatever the f--k it wants to be. And it just so happens to be kinda fun.

So. Check it out on Netflix when you can or just check out the YouTube link on the Hero's Journey presented by TedTalk. 

I now leave you all the greatest DUMB SONIC RUNNING animation I have ever seent. 
Later Days!

-- Christopher Wade

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