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Interview

4 Reasons ‘Video Game High School’ Is the Next Frontier of Entertainment

4 Reasons ‘Video Game High School’ Is the Next Frontier of Entertainment
Photo Source: Courtesy Rocket Jump

If the Web series genre is the new frontier, Freddie Wong is both pioneer and prophet.

“I remember reading essays in film school about the first cinema,” says Wong. “People were like, ‘This will never replace opera and live theater—this is a joke, a novelty.’ Television, when it first came out, was the same: ‘This will never replace cinema. What is this crap?’ ”

For Wong, an executive producer of the high-flying, outrageously popular “Video Game High School,” Web series have reached that same juncture. The naysayers who think cat videos are what the entire medium has to offer? That’s just history repeating itself.

“To me, in terms of the technology, we’re at this turning point,” he says. “This is the introduction of television, the introduction of cinema; [it’s] a new form that has a lot of the same trappings of the old one, but a lot of interesting things are happening here.”

Wong has been creating action-comedy videos as part of Rocket Jump—a studio specializing in original Web content—since 2006. After building an impressive following (their YouTube channel has over 7 million subscribers), Wong, Matthew Arnold, Will Campos, and Brian Firenzi craved ways to take a more ambitious project to the next level.

“In November 2011, nobody knew what Kickstarter was,” says Wong. The online crowdfunding tool turned out to be the answer to his questions: “How do we make something that is of higher production value than what we’ve been doing, that tells a long-form story, that has character development and all that stuff that you would expect from the more traditional side of things? But how do we do it online, and how do we put it out for free, and how do we make sure we’re not just eating ramen for the rest of our lives in order to afford it?”

Rocket Jump’s followers smashed the original funding goal for “Video Game High School,” which launched its third and final season Oct. 13. Of the new episodes, Wong says thanks to continued crowdsourcing, “We’re able to push the envelope with what we’re doing, both on a technical and artistic level, which is the most that any filmmaker can ask for.”

Like Hogwarts with video games instead of magic, the series draws inspiration from ’90s-era teen dramas and the growing legitimacy of professional gaming, following a group of misfit students through a world where video games are as big as soccer. Wong, who also plays a teacher on the show, says the actors must resist the urge “to be zany and goofy for goofy’s sake,” and stay grounded in emotional truth. “The idea was to encompass the entire high school experience,” he says. “We’re introducing some of the more serious conflicts that you see.”

That’s the thing about the confident wackiness of “Video Game High School”: If you’re looking for reasons Web series are the future of entertainment, look no further than a series that takes itself—and its evermore popular genre—seriously. It’s not all fun and games.

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