Friday, January 14, 2011

New Season of "Gold" Lives Up to Its Namesake

Though I am a fan of role playing games and sf/f fiction, it was difficult for me to get the proper suspended disbelief mindset to truly appreciate the first season of "Gold -- The Webseries that Does Double Damage." I even titled my review "The Series that Does Half Damage" as a reflection of how incredible -- by which I mean non-credible -- I found the narrative of the story. I just couldn't buy into the background world rules.

It wasn't that the concept of "professional role players" was new, Steven Barnes and Larry Niven wrote an excellent series of novels that contained an incarnation of the concept. I think it was the representation of what professional gaming looked like that rubbed me as somehow false. Though the show wasn't able to cloud my most skeptical critical eye, I still found myself deeply engaged by the acting and the character based interactions of the actual story taking place.

By the time I first watched the series, they had already announced that they would be streaming a sequel at the end of 2010. I eagerly awaited the sequel, hoping that it would expand upon the strengths of the original series while leaving the more problematic aspects behind. My hopes have been more than exceeded with the new season "Night of the Zombie King."

The first season of "Gold" was the tale of a "fallen athlete" trying to pull his life back together to compete on the national stage, and as such it felt somewhat hollow at times. "Night of the Zombie King" starts with a much more mundane premise. A group of friends get together to relive their days of gaming glory and fun. "Zombie King's" premise is one has verisimilitude and nostalgic power for those of us who have been gaming for decades, and who have fond memories of playing games with friends. Where attempting to emotionally related to a professional gamer is an act of pure fiction, empathizing with someone awkwardly re-connecting with old friends comes naturally.

"Night of the Zombie King" is in all ways an improvement on the first season. As before, the actors in the series provide solid performances, but David Nett and company have found a way to make the game a more natural part of the story's environment. Additionally, by making the interpersonal conflicts of the story less grandiose, "Night of the Zombie King" has managed to make the relationships more emotionally powerful.

"Night of the Zombie King" has the same kind of mournful celebratory quality of a film like Fandango. People who thought they would never see each other again meet to finish telling an interactive story they once started together. Watching each episode brings to mind memories of the adventures I have had with my friends over the years. I can still see vividly the time one of my favorite characters faced "Beast-Man" from "The Masters of the Universe" toy line in a friends home brew adventure, the time a player character was intentionally swallowed by the Tarrasque because it was easier to hit the creature from inside its stomach, or the time a friend's superhero character (a character who thought it was the archangel Gabriel) in an attempt to intimidate a small time thug managed to manifest his aura of fear so strongly it cowed all of Europe.

These are the reasons we game, and "Night of the Zombie King" is about those moments.

BTW, if you watch the interview for their DVD, you'll see that it was filmed at my local game store.

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