The lights are on
In the world of Video Game High School, games are the most popular sport in history, and schools train students to play games. The first episode of season 2 of this web series scored over 1.3 million views in its first weekend. We chatted with the creators about their inspirations for the show.
We talked with series creators Freddie Wong, Matthew Arnold, and Dez Dolly about how the web series Video Game High School is slowly evolving into a TV-like show.
Where did you guys get the idea for Video Game High School? Freddie Wong: At the time, I was working on a bad direct-to-DVD thriller with my friend Chris and Will and they threw out the concept as a title: “Video Game High School.” Matt and I eventually started kicking around what that world might look like – a world where pro gaming is the biggest spectator sport and schools exist to train kids to become pro gamers. Both Matt and I are pretty hardcore game guys to begin with, but we knew from the beginning that we were not going to take our concept completely seriously and that we were going to have fun with it.
Matthew Arnold: Freddie and I latched onto it and started brainstorming how it could be an actual show. We spent a couple weeks with those guys and other friends until we had a basic outline. It actually sat around for almost a year, until we finally decided it was time to do it. After that point, it turned into a pretty different show as myself, Freddie, Will, and Brian actually began to write it.
What made you guys decide launch the first season as a kickstarter project? Wong: Kickstarter, at the time, was a relatively unknown site, and the creation of that campaign was more an experiment than anything else. I had a friend who funded a small documentary (something like $5K) through Kickstarter, which is how I knew about it. It seemed like a cool way to get people involved on a deeper level with the show and also help enable us make the show in the first place.
Arnold: We were trying to make something larger than it had any right being, and we had very little money. People were not interested in spending money on a web series, but we had amazing fans.
What's new for season two? Arnold: The first season was very much a low budget feature. It was separated into small episodes to fit the web series format. It was also, first and foremost, Brian’s story. With Season 2 we wanted to make a real TV show. We wanted to explore stories with the other characters, and delve into the world of VGHS in far crazier and more fun ways.
Dez Dolly: We shot a portion of season two in 48 frames per second and are releasing the mixed frame rate episodes on a special player on our site, RocketJump. Matt and Freddie were adamant about using high frame rate technology in an organic way. We heard critiques of Peter Jackson’s use of 48fps in The Hobbit as looking “video-gamey,” so we decided to use that to our advantage. We felt applying 48fps capture and playback for all of the “in-game” sequences was a natural way of pushing the technological limits, and deliver something new to fans, without obstructing the story in any way.
You guys have also lengthened the episodes to over 20 minutes for season 2. Why is that? Are you hoping VGHS will end up on TV at some point? Wong: The fan demand for longer episodes resounded throughout the first season, and the moment we realized that we could basically set our own rules for episode lengths, we jumped right to TV-length episodes. It allows us the breathing room and space to tell more stories from within the universe, as opposed to the first season, which was driven solely by Brian’s plot.
What inspires the show? Do you have any cool homages for season 2? Wong: We draw a lot of influences from a lot of places: comics, art, and of course, video games and other movies. Season 2 felt like a live-action anime when we were shooting it.
Arnold: The show is definitely a melting pot of all the things we love. I think we reference old films as much as we do video games. I think our style is a lot of Hong Kong action films, old teen comedies, and for me especially, classic screwball comedies. Preston Sturges, Billy Wilder, Ernst Lubitsch – those are my idols. That and more than a little anime.
What’s the craziest thing that happened on the set? Dolly: We were filming on location a few hours north of LA, and there was a blizzard. We were snowed into our hotel and had to shut down the production. We poured some hot cocoa and went sledding with the crew. Good times.
Arnold: A little secret of the film industry: Sets are boring like 90% of the time – especially for the cast. You may shoot one scene in a day, meaning you have a lot of downtime. People will always find ways to keep themselves entertained. So yes. They played games. Video games, Frisbee, catch – whatever you can do.
Web shows have grown a lot in the last few years. Do you think that web series will ever overtake film or television?Wong: I think online video makes a pretty good case for already overtaking television. Moreover, I think it’s less web series overtaking anything, but more traditional media evolving to live on the web. Luckily for us, we’re already over here.
Check out season 2 of Video Game High School here.
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