Stars: Josh Blaylock, Jimmy Wong, Johanna Braddy, Ellary Porterfield, Zachary Levi, Brian Firenzi, Harley Morenstein, Justine Ezarik, Freddie Wong | Written by Matthew Arnold, Will Campos, Brian Firenzi | Directed by Matthew Arnold, Brandon Laatsch, Freddie Wong
Another successfully funded Kickstarter project, this time from YouTube “star” Freddie Wong who co-created, co-wrote and stars – which was originally conceived as a web series, Video Game High School comes to iTunes and Netflix as a feature-length film set in the near future where video gaming is the world’s most popular competitive sport and players command as much respect, popularity and fame as sports and movie stars do today. A near future where traditional news programming is interrupted by frag alerts and gamerscore updates and where tandem hover-bikes and floating footballs are the norm. The film tells the story of BrianD (Blaylock), a high school student who, on live television, defeats “The Law”, the worlds foremost first-person shooter player – instantly gaining fame, notoriety and a place at a school that exists to hone players skills in order so that they can become professional gamers. Unfortunately for BrianD, his defeat of “The Law” was a sheer fluke; on top of that, “The Law” also attends VGHS and is determined to humiliate him and force him out of the school!
Originally released once a week, from May 11th through July 5th 2012, via the official website and Freddie Wong’s YouTube channel, Video Game High School successfully captures both the hardcore and nerdy sides of gaming; all the while both honoring and spoofing classic video game tropes – from Call of Duty style FPS’ to rhythm games, driving games and even Super Mario Bros! The makers of VGHS know their video games and it shows…
What also shows is how far Wong and co. have managed to stretch what is, in the grand scheme of video production, a rather meagre budget. Wong has plenty of experience with visual effects in his YouTube videos and he successfully builds on his prior experience with some rather fantastic VFX set pieces in Video Game High School - especially in the COD inspired FPS sequences. Whilst the visual effects are impressive for a web-funded production, what really shines throughout VGHS is the script. Penned by Matthew Arnold, Will Campos and Brian Firenzi (who also plays “The Law”), this is written by gamers, for gamers – with plenty of gags that only the hardest of hardcore gamers will pick up on.
Besides all the gaming in-jokes, Video Game High School also features a well-developed cast. Thankfully producing VGHS as a web series allowed the producers to spend time crafting relationships and characters, central to which is the very Harry Potter-esque relationship between BrianD, his best friend Ted (Jimmy Wong) and fellow high school newcomer Ki Swan (Ellary Porterfield). In fact the film has a lot in common with J.K. Rowling’s famous franchise, including the Draco-like high school nemesis “The Law” and the array of school teachers at VGHS including Harley Morenstein (Epic Meal Time) as the Snape-like oppressive school dean Ernie Calhoun, and even Chuck‘s Zachary Levi as Ace, Brian D’s stern but well-meaning FPS teacher, who’s very reminiscent of Harry Potter‘s Professor McGonagall.
Self-aware, a little crazy, but a whole heap of fun, Video Game High School is well worth a watch – especially if you’re an ardent gamer. The films is available to rent via Netflix and iTunes now.