It’s no secret that Paste has a bit of a crush on Felicia Day. From her starring role in Joss Whedon’s straight-to-internet supervillain musical spectacular, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog, to her million-plus followers on Twitter, she’s an internet force to be reckoned with. She’s also a writer/co-producer/actress/etc. for a well-known and industry-defying web series called The Guild. Turns out, we might also have a crush on The Guild itself.
The Guild follows the sordid on- and off-line lives of a band of gaming misfits as they go from being anonymous avatars to being present in each others’ lives. Day’s character, a neurotic violinist named Cyd Sherman (or Codex, to everyone who plays the World of Warcraft-like online game), has put up with fellow guildies crashing on her couch, destroying her meager love life and leaving her leader when a rival guild rears its ugly Wil Wheaton-shaped head. The show deliviers in three- to eight-minute episodes once a week when a season is running, meaning an entire season lasts about an hour—and with such a short format and rabid fanbase, each moment delivers.
Whether you’ve followed the show or have never heard of it, here are five reasons The Guild is awesome and will probably continue to be in its fourth season, which kicks off tonight:
When The Guild first started shooting back in 2007, the cast, crew and creators all relied solely on PayPal donations from fans to keep the show going. Even into the second and third seasons, when the show garnered sponsorship from Sprint and distribution from XBox Live and Microsoft, the show continued to garner an immense online following that—much like its central characters’ friendship—spilled over into the physical realm; people came out of the woodwork to volunteer for the show, fans showed up in masses at panels and showings at conventions like Comic-Con and Blizzcon and the show won several awards, including Steamys and SXSW chops. The series has also won the love of other internet notables, like the Gregory Brothers (of Auto-Tune the News fame), who gave Season 3 an Auto-Tune treatment with this recap:
Day originally developed The Guild as a 30-minute pilot because that was the format she knew, but was unsuccessful in shopping the script around because it was deemed too niche for mainstream audiences. So Day went to the internet, where she found her audience. While some of the jokes are directly gaming-related and may fly over the heads of non-gamers (examples: “Ding!”, comments about baby DPS), the main themes of the show are recognizable to anybody who lives in the digital age. It’s all about social awkwardness, where anonymity and real life meet and what happens when they do.
Take, for example, the Guild dressed up as their avatars for Halloween in a special Season 3 Episode:
It’s important for the source material to be funny and to work well when developing short episodes, but it’s almost as important (and sometimes really difficult for independent web-series makers) to get quality actors to deliver the dialogue on-screen. The ensemble that Day and other producers scrabbled together are not only incredibly funny in their own individual rights, but they work together well—from snarky Amy Okuda as Guild dissenter Tinkerballa down to Sandeep Parikh’s obsessive, sheltered and socially-deficient gnome warlock Zaboo. Every character seems almost tailored to each actor/comedian’s strengths, which maximizes the potential for hilarity.
From the episodes to the gag reels, the music video to interviews with the press, you can see that everybody who works on The Guild does it because they enjoy doing it. They also take advantage of everything the internet has to offer to build a huge and supportive community of fans who they communicate with regularly via Twitter, e-mail and website postings. Although they no longer take fan donations to survive, they do have a wide range of merchandise for sale—including DVDs and comics—that feed back into supporting the show. Besides surviving through a sponsor-less first season, the cast and crew have continued to devote large chunks of their lives every year to produce a polished series and interact with fans in a meaningful way.
With three- to eight-minute episodes and 12-episode seasons, the entirety of The Guild currently runs about as long as a typical movie. On top of that, the show is available in its entirety online through a variety of sources, including WatchTheGuild.com, YouTube, MSN Video, Netflix and streaming via XBox Live. And they sell DVDs.