It was only a few months ago that I was stuck at home sick on a Saturday night and scrolling through my Netflix queue to find something I could watch while waiting for the large amount of over-the-counter drugs in my body to start taking effect. After wading through old TV series and movies I’d only added out of a morbid interest, I realized that I had added The Guild to my queue, but had never actually taken the time to watch it. Sure, I knew of its popularity on the internet and I was aware of how it had shaken things up in the web series space, but I’d never actually bothered to see what it was all about.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect. But once I settled down with a blanket and a box of tissues and hit play, I was completely blown away. making it all the way through season four in one sitting before finally settling down for sleep sometime around 3 am.
It was not at all what I expected. When I’d first read the description on Netflix, I had mistakenly assumed that it would be some sort of hokey and cliched look at gamers and how nerdy and useless they were to society. I was expecting something shallow and plain. What I got was a near emotional tour de force that impacted me in a very unique way.
If you’re not familiar with it, The Guild is a show written by Felicia Day about a guild of MMO players who, at the request of the intrepid Codex (Day), meet up in real life and end up forming reluctant, yet ultimately close friendships with each other. Throughout the show’s six seasons, they all go through different hardships and learning experiences in life that see them using the game and their friends in The Knights of Good to empower themselves and learn more about their own strengths and weaknesses.
If there’s anything that can be said about The Guild, it’s that the show is anything but ordinary. And that’s a good thing. Every part of it, from the webcam confessionals allowing you to hear Codex’s thoughts to the in-game footage taking place in the Guild Hall, is so perfectly handled and carefully crafted that it lends a lot of weight to the story and the characters in it. There are no cliched tropes or overused ideas here, because anything familiar they do touch on has its own subtle nuances that give it so much more depth than what is seen on the surface. It’s funny, it’s heartbreaking, and it’s ultimately inspiring in its message and execution.
Furthermore, it hit on a side of me that I had personally been struggling with at the time. Codex herself is a very shy person who struggles with insecurity and is constantly battling her awkward demeanor. But, it’s through her struggles that she tries harder and harder to become a stronger person, using the game to empower herself and to take charge of her own life. Being that I’ve had my own struggles in the past with being assertive and using video games as a means to help find my own self and sense of expression, her character connected with me in an almost painfully familiar way. So much so, in fact, that I couldn’t help but be somewhat inspired by many of the triumphs that Codex was able to enjoy.
And while Codex is essentially the main character of the show, the other five guild members are no less important to the overall arc itself. Pacing and character building is so well spread out that we see triumphs and struggles not only with Codex, but with all of the other characters on the show as well. There’s the jovial and flirty Clara who uses video games to escape from her real life; the dour Tink whose tough exterior masks her own insecurities; Zaboo, a guy who struggles with his own lacking sense of masculinity; the anal-retentive Vork; and Bladezz, a teenage guy who’s desperately trying to achieve his ideal status of “cool”.
Each of the characters are so well-written and delivered that we get a very real and tangible sense of them, allowing us to really feel like we’re a part of The Knights of Good and not just watching them. We know their strengths, sympathize with their weaknesses, and ultimately feel accomplished alongside them when they’re able to overcome the odds.
Sure, it’s a comedic show that takes an interesting look at video games and the people that play them. But to me, The Guild is something a bit more than that; it’s a very real and interesting take on our subculture and the diverse groups of people in it. It’s a show rife with nuance and brimming with heart. And while it didn’t make my illness go away, it definitely did make me think about myself and the influence games have on my life in a way that I hadn’t before.
Of course, this piece isn’t a review of The Guild, it’s a review of the companion book that goes alongside with The Guild itself. But in order to fully appreciate the book, you have to know (and ultimately have to experience) the show itself.
The Official Companion to The Guild is one of the more interesting reads I’ve had in a long time. Filled with stills, production shots, concept art, confessionals, and commentary from each of the actors and the bigwigs on the production staff, the book truly gives you an all-access look at the making of The Guild and its evolution throughout its years of filming. You’ll learn about how each of the actors fell into their roles, how each of the characters were conceived and portrayed, how the props were made, what sort of hardships the crew endured throughout production, and how Felicia’s vision came to fruition in one of the more successful web series the internet has ever seen. It’s a fascinating read that I actually found myself reading cover to cover like a great novel.
And while it will be hard to fully understand and appreciate everything in the book without having watched the show, there’s still a lot to be learned from all of the insight that Felicia and the rest of the crew bring to the book. Ideas like character development, dealing with harsh internet criticism, and shooting a very ambitious project on a limited budget all make it a worthwhile read not only for fans of the show, but for film buffs and people with their own projects and ambitions as well.
If you haven’t yet watched The Guild, there’s no better time to start than now. And once you’ve finally sat down to take part in it, I can’t recommend this book enough. It offers a great inside look at one of the most important shows in the gaming sphere and serves as an invaluable accessory to further your understanding of the show and its message.