“You can make a good movie out of anything.” -Bob “Moviebob” Chipman
With season two coming out, I thought it would be a good idea to remind you not to bother with watching this.
At first I was excited at the idea of a feature length something from Freddie and Brandon. The concept sounded awesome with a private high school for the instruction of playing video games. This idea is silly on its face and downright implausible, my problem with it is the way the series seems to go out of the way to make it more impossible. To wit, our story: Our Hero, Brian, is playing his Call of Duty: Modern Warfare clone of the day (Firefield) when he gets an extremely lucky break of one kill on a player (The Law) who happened to join his game and is supposedly the best. Okay, not a bad starting idea but this does not translate well to VGHS’s world. If you have played any game of this sort in your day, a player capable of an X/0 K/D ratio in a full match is either without a life or cheating, but we are told The Law does this regularly. Brian through force of his sheer ineptitude gets the one-in-a-million chance to attend the titular VGHS (without explaining how this is paid for, mind you), meets a wacky sidekick (who happens to be the son of an overbearing father played by Freddie himself), the girl of his dreams (Jenny) and a host of bullies in a cliché and not at all convincing world.
By the way, there are eight writers in this series, which sounds like it contributed most of the problems (for reference, The Avengers had two).
Video Game High School (the school, not the series) is a high school where all the courses in math, sciences and soforth replaced with video game related ones, like First person shooting, Driving Games, etcetera with the sports teams replaced with specific video games. In addition, all students are ranked on an arbitrary (and poorly explained) system, where if you get too low in the list you get expelled. I suppose this replaces grades but how is it determined if it’s too low is never properly explained either. Then again, who’s funding this school anyway!?
The main story is how Brian copes and advances with his new high school life. At first it sounds like a dream but it quickly drains into “this does not make sense”. Ignore the fantastical setting and replace the video games with varsity sports and you have Saved by the Bell as re-imagined by gamers. That was not hyperbolic either. I really think that if the writers had to leave video games out of the story it would still be terrible. Brian ends up doing terrible in all his matches making him quite a boring character to watch. I would have preferred something more like Takumi Fujiwara where there’s a hidden kick ass somewhere inside him. Instead he gets clobbered, close to expelled, clobbered again, gets in a physical fist fight, actually gets expelled, takes over an arcade overnight and must have Jenny (still girlfriend of The Law) snap him out of it by playing the DDR Rip Off. Which seaways me nicely into the next piece. I have yet to meet a gamer completely embarrassed by the idea of playing DDR (or related). Sorry, they just don’t exist. But it’s on full display here where Brian wants to bond with Jenny over it, but is constantly embarrassed by the idea he plays it as opposed to being the tough guy playing Firefield. Don’t buy it. In the end he sorta wins a match against the law and ends up getting the girl.
Let’s talk about Firefield for a moment here. It’s the shooter video game that is played by the main characters, using the players as their own avatars in the game. The only thing that does not make sense is how you’re supposed to play it with a typical PC setup.
There’s also a B story involving Ted which is funny since I cannot see Freddie having children. That’s not a blatant insult, it’s just a simple observation based on the writing of this series. Ted is under pressure from his father (Freddie, playing himself obviously) to become the best at Guitar-I mean-Rock-I mean-“”, when he’s conflicted and would rather play Drift, your generic realistic car racing game. That could have made for an interesting story on it’s own there. Anyway, Ted meets a girl at a party (Ki, using a white actor but I can excuse this one) and his opening gambit to court the girl is “Wanna watch me play video games?” Any girl worth her salt would have thrown their drink in his face and told him to piss off, but she not only goes along with it, but acts coy about it. I had to rewind a bit to ask “Did this just happen?” and apparently not only did it happen, but I could not put my face into my hands fast enough. The girl seems to like creating games more than playing them which I can totally respect and if VGHS also instructed game design and programming I would totally believe it could exist as a college. Anyway, the chemistry between them seems to be of Ted’s tear between his Dad’s wish and his own with Ki providing the moral support and by moral support I mean coyly signing him up for the VGHS Drift team instead of “”. He gets mad, they do not break up and I wonder what was the point of this all. Freddie does not even come around to support his son which, again, goes back to my thought of not seeing Freddie have kids.
If there is one thing that I have to give in the series favor is that the acting is fairly good. Josh Blaylock (Brian) puts in a good enough performance that you want to punch him in the face (ala Kamina from Gurren Lagann) and seems totally game for how absurd the whole concept is. Ellary Porterfield (Ki) has coy down to a friggin’ science, Johanna Braddy (Jenny) is sincere despite the horrible dialog she has to spit while Jimmy Wong (Ted) acts like the socially awkward nerd expected of him. But obviously the scene stealer is Harley Morenstien as the Dean Ernie Calhoun. I mean, how do you translate Epic Meal Time himself (really) into the VGHS world? You let him be Epic Meal Time. He pulverizes with his commanding voice and towering presence (almost 2m tall), though what he’s given to say makes very little sense.
Which brings me to the entire problem of the series. I am under the impression that all of the writers have never felt love before. Two girls are on the writing staff, but I question if they were paying any attention. The relationships just do not work and that is not a chemistry issue with the acting, it is a genuine misunderstanding of how a healthy relationship is supposed to work. There are so many secrets and betrayals that really all the leads should be at each other’s throats. People genuinely do not act with real human emotions and if this is the future of human relationships (outside the context of this series) I fear our future.