“The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” – Gil Scott-Heron
Note: To avoid confusion, italics will differentiate the Guild (show) from the Guild (group of characters).
Two episodes into its third season, The Guild has become an Internet phenomenon. The show follows the comic misadventures of various gamers associated with The Knights of Good, a guild in a MMORPG [Massive Multi-player Online Role Playing Game]. While the game they play involves mythical creatures, fantastic quests, and cool costumes, the shows follows their day-to-day lives. In another nod to the MMORPG, the players do not address each other by their real names but by their online nicknames.
Codex and Zaboo share a mediated experience.
Each episode begins with Codex (played by Felicia Dey) facing the viewer and talking about her problems. It is reminiscent of the Video Confessional on “reality programming.” In this case, the webcam replaces the video camera. Following each Online Confessional, the Guild deals with some problem, major or minor, depending on how socialized each member is with the outside world.
While the Guild is a spot-on satire of MMORPG players, the show’s success may point to trends in the ever-changing world of New Media. This season, the Guild debuted on Xbox, then other video game platforms, eventually “going wide” on MSN Video.
I don’t have cable. I also don’t watch broadcast TV. I keep up with events and my favorite TV shows in other alternative ways. I belong to Netflix and I watch TV shows on Hulu and video clips on YouTube. The revolution won’t be televised because of some idealistic Luddite event will happen. The revolution won’t be televised because it doesn’t need to be. YouTube has proven fatal to politicians prone to verbal gaffes and insensitive statements. The Internet sprouts memes and parodies at lightning speed. We find ourselves, the viewing public, in a period of technological change and social flux. Don’t worry, it happens periodically. Apocalyptic rhetoric aside, the anxiety will lessen when things become more standardized. The latest fracas between Blu-ray and DVD HD is only one example.
If you don’t mind being a year behind, then Netflix offers many advantages to the standard cable package. Price, variety, and availability make it far superior to cable. Cable itself has superseded broadcast television, since television is technically broadcast via satellite dishes and antennae. However, even the year lag does not apply to all Netflix offerings. I recently viewed No Reservations: Season Six via the Watch Instantly feature prior to the DVD release.
Which brings us back in roundabout fashion to the Guild: Season Three. In the first episode, Codex and her Guild-mates are sitting outside the local GameStop shop. They await the release of the new expansion pack for their MMORPG. All is going well until a crew of black-shirted baddies cut in front of them. In a nod to RPG character-naming obviousness, they call themselves The Axis of Anarchy. Wil Wheaton plays their leader, a nice bit of pop cultural referencing because Wheaton is a long pop cultural footnote. Wheaton played Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation and wrote a weekly column called “Games of Our Lives” for the AV Club.
The omnipresence of the Internet and availability of alternate media sources will create new challenges to the traditional media of TV, radio, and film. But now are not the End Days, since people still read books and go to the movies. To paraphrase Mark Twain, “Reports of the death of television have been greatly exaggerated.”