I discovered Felicia Day because of Supernatural after she appeared as Charlie Bradbury in season 7's “The Girl with the Dungeons and Dragons Tattoo.” I loved her character instantly, and when I sat down to find out more about the actress, I was stunned to learn that she was a big deal in geek culture. I felt embarrassed that I hadn't heard of her prior to her stint on the show. It was as if my geek card had been revoked and I had to get it back pronto! Overtime, I found myself following her career, her Twitter account, and looking forward to her next appearance as Charlie.
Day's taken the internet and turned it into a powerful tool to share directly with the fans with her website and YouTube channel Geek&Sundry. She's gathered some of the best geek minds she can find and linked them together with various video logs on everything from video games to genre writing to board games. It's an open discussion on everything geeky, and she's managed to build an empire. In many ways, I find her to be absolutely inspiring for doing this. It's quite the unique venture, and it's drawn many fans in geek culture and made it something more.
As I did my Christmas shopping, I discovered that her webseries, The Guild, had been put out onto a complete megaset DVD set. I had a fangirl moment and quickly raced to put it on my Christmas list. Lo and behold, Santa heard my wish and I was awarded my own copy of the whole series to watch with glee.
I hadn't seen it prior to this and I went in rather blind, but I knew I'd enjoy it since Day wrote and starred in it. I admit it. I have a bit of a girl crush---and there is nothing wrong with that at all. After all, she's made the geek girl not only acceptable but tres chic!
Eagerly, I stuck the first season into my Blu Ray player and sat back to discover what made this webseries so popular. From the first moment, I liked what I saw. It was funny, it had strange geek references, and an odd but loveable cast of characters ranging from the overeager Zaboo to the cheap Vork.
It all starts with Codex (Felicia Day) being fired and dumped by both her boyfriend and her therapist. To make things even more hectic, Zaboo comes to her home, telling her that he loves her. They're from the same Guild, The Knights of Good, and Zaboo knows everything about Codex---hence how he knew where she lived. Despite her protests that he leave, he entrenches himself in her apartment, and Codex is left with little recourse but to assemble the rest of the Guild in person for the first time ever. They all live in the same community, so why not get together offline and outside of game?
Each member arrives, warily sizing one another up and they realize just what an odd mixture they have in their group. Vork is a balding middle aged unemployed man with a mile long list of eccentricities. Clara is a stay at home mom that spends most of her time avoiding her children. Tink is an Asian girl currently attending school as premed. Bladezz is a high school student, surprised that he's fallen in with so many old people. Zaboo, the reason they're meeting, is an Indian boy that lives with his mom in an unhealthy and codependent relationship. Codex is a recently dumped an unemployed girl. The group is an odd mixture---and yet once they get to know one another out of game we see something beautiful start to form: real and honest friendship.
What The Guild does so well is show us how truly universal geek culture or any interest can really be. In the case of this show, gamers are typically thought of as belonging to the teenage boy demographic. It's not something girls play or adults are into---and yet here The Guild shatters that preconceived notion completely. They're from all walks of life and they all share one common interest: The Game. It's the nexus for why they've even met online---and now that they've met offline they can now start to build upon those game friendships.
The Guild meeting doesn't get Zaboo to leave Codex's home, and we see hilarity ensue as the Guild tries to assimilate to their new reality. Zaboo tries to win Codex over with failure. Clara's husband is exasperated by her irresponsible and obsessive gaming addiction. Tink is standoffish and tries to keep everyone at arm's length with biting remarks and brush offs. Vork tries to hold onto his leadership role---all while by living as cheaply as possible. Bladezz spends his time defending his modeling career and fighting with his younger and annoying sister that keeps invading his space.
It isn't until Zaboo's mother enters the scene, demanding that her son come home, that the Guild has reason to rally around one another. She is forceful, frightening, and will not take no for an answer. It isn't until the Guild rallies behind him, demanding that he be allowed to be on his own---and bathe himself no less—-that she's willing to back down. Their first out of game “boss” defeated, they realize as a group that they can do anything.
Unfortunately for Codex, that means her problem isn't solved. Zaboo is still in her home, encroaching on her space.
That's until she can convince him to move in with Vork.
It's here where The Guild starts to really become about the friendships being forged and what it means to be in a Guild. It's a beautiful transformation wrapped in geek culture and hilarious situation. As friends, they have great intentions for one another. Codex moves into a new building, and Clara tries to help her feel at home by throwing a massive party---especially after her neighbor the “hot” stunt guy turns out to be a tease and living with another woman. Zaboo and Vork settle in nicely---albeit with their own issues---such as Vork's extreme frugality. Bladezz starts to work to win Tink's favor---only to end up in massive debt getting her expensive gifts. They're navigating an unusual on and offline relationship network, but it's working. They're not isolated in their own game caves anymore. They're actually starting to build a strange support system---one that they'll need to rely upon for the remainder of the series.
As the Knights of Good move forward, they are excited for the new expansion and wait outside at the front of the line at the local Game Stop. It isn't until another Guild---the Axis of Anarchy led by Wil Wheaton's character Fawkes---that there's any trouble. They become rival Guilds, with the Axis thwarting the Knights of Good on and offline.
The Knights really need no help in this department. Codex suffers a computer melt down when hers literally starts on fire. Bladezz is chased to Vork's after an Axis member ends up dating his mom. He also has to work at the local Cheesybeards to pay off his mounting debts. Bladezz also tells the neighbor how to block Vork's piggybacking on their WiFi, chasing their leader out into his van to find hotspots. Clara's husband has had it and tells her she has to choose the game or him or else. Her solution to this is rather inventive: invite said husband to play with The Knights of Good! Tink leaves all together---to join the Axis of Anarchy.
It would seem that their meeting offline has done nothing but wreak havoc and create mischief!
But it all comes down to a showdown between The Knights of Good and Axis of Anarchy with Fawkes and Codex the last players standing. Who wins determines the fate of their respective Guilds.
Once this crisis has passed, the Guild moves into building their own Guild hall within the game. It becomes quite the competition, and Vork is determined, as restored leader, to win it and build the hall he envisions. That doesn't mean that Tink and Clara will let him win without a fight. As Vork has manipulated the commodities market---advice taken from Zaboo's mother---he ends up in trouble at the end for the efforts.
The only good that comes from it is an invite to the gaming convention. The Guild will really have a prime opportunity to bond as friends here as they're shoved into a small hotel room for the duration of the weekend. It brings great hilarity---as Zaboo sets up an elaborate seat saving network that becomes the most powerful group at the convention. Vork also gets to meet one of his idols---all while managing Bladezz's growing popularity as the Cheesy beard pirate. Tink's real identity is revealed---along with her actual college major. And Codex spends her time dodging the strange dog costumed person stalking her through the convention halls.
But the gaming convention also brings them into close contact with the creator of their game. He is as neurotic as Codex, if not more so, and he takes any and all criticism hard. It drives him to nearly sell the game to a company that would strip it down for the mass market. In the end, after some coaxing not to go through with it, he hires Codex on at his game HQ.
This turn of events may seem unrealistic on many levels---after all it's rare that a fan meets their idol and ends up hired on to work for them---but here it works. This is a beautiful vehicle to explore how pursuing your passions can actually lead somewhere in life. After all, for Codex, gaming is her passion. To work at a place that creates her game is the ideal dream job come true---well mostly. It does come with its own complications, and as she deals with those, we see that while getting that dream job may be a wonderful thing, it will still take work. The Guild plays with this theme extremely well, giving us that nudge to find our own passion and to pursue it, all without being obvious. It's only when we look underneath the hilarious situations and struggles Codex endures that we see this subtle message.
As The Guild builds to its conclusion, we see the virtues of friendship become the focus. Those in the gaming company want nothing more than to get their boss, Floyd, to release the next expansion. The Knights of Good want Codex to succeed at her new job---even if all their interference does little to help in that regard.
What makes The Guild gold, though, is that we see a great message tacked in amongst the bizarre comedy(Vork protesting his permaban from the game while perched on a dragon statue for instance). Codex, exasperated by Floyd's OCD tendencies to read and catalog every single nasty comment ever made against his game, tells him point blank, “If you stop making things because of haters, you're not only letting them bully you, you're letting them bully every single person that loves what you do.”
It's something that not only Floyd needs to hear---but a message to everyone who creates anything. Create. Don't worry about what the world out there will say---be it on the internet or elsewhere. There will be those who love what you do completely and those who hate what you do utterly and you can't allow for either side to direct what you do. You just have to create.
After all, as we watch Floyd struggle with the criticism his game's received, we realize that he's his own worst enemy. If anything, he's his own worst critic as he flips back and forth from loving a newly created area to hating it seemingly in the blink of an eye. It's a meta touch for all creators---be they writers, actors, or painters. You can't listen to that inner critic so intensely anymore than can we let others to heavily influence our work.
After she's fired---after all she's exposed as being a part of Vork's Guild---she reiterates this to the angry crowd flocking to the HQ and Vork's protest. Codex tells them, “You guys know who's inside there? All the people who make the game you supposedly love---but when you're asshats online and like right here, guess what, they don't want to make things for you anymore.”
After she tells the crowd this, Floyd comes out to confront the angry mass himself. He tells them that they should tell him to his face what they'd post online---and instead of getting all the negative comments, he's told by everyone in the group that they love his work, that they play the game for hours, and that it's helped them through various difficulties.
Codex wraps up the series by telling us that she's gained friendship because of this Guild and that it is what got her through some dark times. That, in the end, the Guild has one another is really what's important. It's not the game they play as much---it's their relationships to one another that really matter. It's the support system they've gained.
I'm not a gamer. Not really. I'd be considered casual mostly. I grew up playing Nintendo games---mostly Super Mario. (Although, I do own a Super NES). And yet, I can totally relate with what The Guild's explored here. I think, if we were to change Guild to fandom and game to show, we'd have what I feel about the Supernatural Family. I got into the show in isolation. I found it with my mom, but after I watched it mostly alone to get caught up and didn't look at any forums or discussions. I didn't get involved until I had been watching for a few months.
But, as I did come out of my shell and made some friends within the fandom, I found I had a new support system that I could go to with problems or just to squee about our show or to have deep discussions about plots and characters. We were brought together by a mutual love for something, but we weren't simply only fixated on that in our chats on Twitter or on websites.
Some of these people have become good friends that I look forward to seeing at conventions. The season where The Guild goes to a convention shows just how crazy and wacky they can be(well a bit exaggerated perhaps), but how fun, too. I love seeing some of the people I chat with in person at these conventions because it's the one time I get to talk in person with them and others who get my passion for not just Supernatural, but for all things geek.
I may not have found The Guild if not for Supernatural, too. But now that I have, it's definitely one of those things I'll treasure for the positive message of friendship. It's one of the things that makes getting into something like a fandom so special---be it a game or a TV show or movie or book series. It doesn't matter. What matters is that it brings us together. What matters is it gives each of us an outlet to explore our passions and ourselves in ways we might not have otherwise.
What I also loved about The Guild was how many geek references and cameos we had in it. Wil Wheaton gets to appear for a few seasons. Simon Helberg of The Big Bang Theory makes an appearance. The REAL Stan Lee gets to appear. The party that Vork and Bladezz more or less crashes has Zachary Levi from Chuck. Even Supernatural got a shout out by Zaboo!
We also get to see how much fun it is to be into something others would deem a waste of time. After all, a lot of the time geeks and geek culture are frowned upon as being frivolous and stupid. It's as if sports are somehow okay to invest time into (and this is from a sports fan as well), but anything that remotely turns geeky is silly, stupid, or pointless. The Guild proves that while it can poke fun at this aspect, it also shows us that it's more than okay to be involved in something like this---that there's no shame in having fun.
When I attended Supernatural Vancouver Convention 2013, Felicia Day was one of the guests, and I think her quote, “I'm going to stand before you and love what I love,” applies not only to geek culture at large, or for my love of various geeky pursuits such as Supernatural---but to The Guild itself. This show tells us, without being over the top preachy, that we are okay. That we can love what we love. It's okay to be quirky or weird or a bit odd. It's okay to be us---to accept who we really are. This show explores the idea that we may hide in fantasy---as the characters do in The Game---and yet we're really those personas we create all along. We just have to believe in ourselves just as much.
There's nothing more beautiful than that.
Oh, and it's wicked funny. There's that going for The Guild, too.
Go forth and watch it!