As many of you know by now I am a big fan of Freddie Wong and Brandon Laatsch so you can only imagine how excited I was when the YouTube duo announced they were working on a feature-length web series.
What it is: Video Game High School (VGHS) is a 9 episode web series that takes place in the near future and tells the tale of Brian D., the underdog who has by luck made his way into the most prestigious high school around: Video Game High School. VGHS is exactly what it sounds like, and is essentially the dream school of every teenager who has ever even partially enjoyed gaming. The series is directed by both Brandon and Freddie as well as Matthew Arnold. The series features cameos from many familiar faces including fellow YouTube stars such as Harley Morenstein in addition to Zachary Levi who is best known for his role on Chuck as Chuck. While the series has quite a few cameos the actual stars of the series are Josh Blaylock as Brian and Jimmy Wong and Johanna Braddy as Brian’s best friends.
What I thought about it: I am going to be completely honest here; VGHS didn’t start out all too well. While the series had a lot of what makes the Freddie channel awesome such as amazing visual effects and action sequences, the acting and writing felt really poorly done and the story just felt clunky. From the first episode I found myself disliking all of the leads. None of them felt real and everything they did felt scripted. The series felt a lot like what it was: a low resources, small budget production. Because of my disinterest it was a little hard to become involved in their conflicts and care about what they did. For those first three or four episodes I kept watching simply because of my love of the concept and because of my faith in Freddie and Brandon.
As I continued on with series I found that my faith in the VFX duo had paid off. The further I progressed into the series the more and more the characters started to grow on me and the situation became interesting enough for to feel motivated to check in weekly to see what would happen next, not just out love of the concept. Admittedly even after the characters had grown on me they still weren’t the deepest or best developed characters of all time but they were intriguing enough to keep the series going. In the beginning Brian felt young and immature but at the end of the series it felt like he had grown and matured over time.
As is required in any and every underdog tale is that bad top-dog our hero needs to overcome. It just can’t be an underdog tale if there isn’t that pedestal our protagonist can’t snag out from under the antagonist. VGHS’s antagonist takes his form as “the Law”, the best video game player out there and the captain of the Varsity FPS team at VGHS, making him the ideal villain for the series. The Law is played by Brian Firenzi who just so happens to also be one of the writers and creators. While he might be kind of cookie cutter he is very entertaining and consistently one of the strongest characters. The Law is funny, entertaining, despicable and he makes Brian that much better. The Law is constantly antagonizing and pushing Brian D. and because of that he is forcing him to become the best he can be. By being the worst to our hero he brings out the best in him which is exactly what a villain should do and the fact that he is able to do so in a witty and awesome way is just fantastic. As I mentioned already, Brian D. got better and really developed as the series progressed and I think a lot of that development is due to The Law.
As one could expect from a web series titles Video Game High School you can bet that there will be some scenes of video games being played. Being directed by VFX and action masters such as Freddie and Brandon you also know that those scenes aren’t just going to be shots of people sitting and staring at a screen but rather something a little bit more kick ass. One of the best parts of the show is when the games start to get played. FPSs lead to intense shoot outs and the drift games lead to some really intense practical races. The video games provide all the real excitement to the series. It’s not only the action sequences which show us that this is essentially a video game show. In addition to the shoot outs the entire script is littered with game references and little throwbacks that really show that this is a show about people playing games, created by gamers, for gamers.
VGHS is not a web series for everyone. To get through the early episodes you have to love the idea of going to FPS class before heading over to RPGs 101. If you love video games than the awesome effects and action can make up for the cheesiness early on and carry you into the much more awesome later season. The Freddie duo has once again left me impressed.
I give season 1 of VGHS a 4/5 and I am excitedly looking to season 2. You gamers and fans of Freddie will absolutely love the series.
Check out episode one below and the rest of series over on freddiew’s YouTube channel which you can check out here!