Geek 101: The Guild
Almost a full decade ago, a struggling actor and her small team premiered a web series that has both directly and indirectly altered so many geek lives, and the face of our culture as a whole. The Guild, at its start, was an underfunded pipe dream of a now incredibly well-known actress, writer, and comedian, Felicia Day. The web series stars Day, Amy Okuda, Sandeep Parikh, Jeff Lewis, Robin Thorsen, Vincent Caso, and Will Wheaton. It focuses on a guild called The Knights of Good, which exists within The Game, a fictional MMO inspired by real life MMORPG, World of Warcraft.
The full story of how the web series came to be is long and hard, and begins with Felicia Day. A struggling actor attempting to make it in Hollywood, she found herself increasingly addicted to World of Warcraft. A gamer since childhood, it was no new interest for her. Felicia Day describes the time before she started filming The Guild as “when my gaming life started tipping out of control. I started working full-time in World of Warcraft… Every morning before I left the house (IF I left, which I frequently didn’t), I would log online… I stopped going to acting classes. I stopped performing improv… I ate, slept, and lived World of Warcraft… It was easy to ignore how destructive my behavior was becoming because there were SO MANY other people doing the same thing… We rationalized it for one another.” This excerpt is from her recent memoir, You’re Never Weird on the Internet, which explores her experience in more depth. However, this dark time in her history led her to creating The Guild.
Felicia wasn’t an experienced writer when she started The Guild. Her only attempts were from childhood, and she didn’t revisit creative writing until later in life, when she pushed herself. She took a writing class and was invited to a support group of sorts, which led to the concept for The Guild. Her new friends helped her work on it, and she found actors – other unknowns in LA trying to find their fame – willing to participate, despite her being unable to pay them. She scavenged for materials in actual dumpsters in order to build sets. The group filmed scenes wherever they could find space, including Felicia’s home. In July of 2007, the first episode was released.
The web series follows five quirky gamers living in the same town. The plot is kickstarted when Cyd Sherman, usually referred to by her gamer tag “Codex”, suggests the group meet up in real life. She is struggling to curb her addiction to their online game and play it less, with encouragement from her therapist. The show starts with one guild member disappearing from the game for 39 hours (a long time for a hardcore gamer to not log in.) This member then appears at Codex’s doorstep in the real world. Next, another guild member is temporarily banned due to crude language. From there the group’s hijinks evolve and get more convoluted.
Cyd Sherman, played by Felicia Day, is a violinist and gamer. She is addicted to The Game, and her online reality is a way to escape her real life lack of a job, a relationship, and friends. Her in-game character, Codex, is the group’s priest/healer, and is the main protagonist for The Guild. Anxious, shy, self-conscious, and prone to panic, Cyd turns to her guild, The Knights of Good. Meeting them in reality is her last-ditch effort to improve her life.
Sujan Balakrishnan Goldberg, played by Sandeep Parikh, is known almost exclusively by his in-game avatar’s name: Zaboo. He is a hopeless romantic, a mama’s boy, a runaway, and the guild’s warlock. At the beginning of the series, he is utterly infatuated with Codex and willing to do almost anything to win her love. He’s also an excellent hacker and able to obsessively stalk almost anyone, to the point he is able to find floor plans to Codex’s old apartments.
Herman Holden, played by Jeff Lewis, is the guild’s leader and warrior. He asks to be called Vork because he “simply responds to it better.” Well-coordinated and organized, Vork manages everything in the guild to an almost impossible degree. He lives in the home of his grandfather, who he used to look after, and steals internet from his neighbors… and other things. He uses their electricity plus lives in their dog shed, after slowly moving his fence until their dog shed was on his property.
Played by Amy Okuda, April Lou’s real name isn’t discovered until the last season of the show. Her in-game character is the guild’s ranger. April herself is an incredibly secretive woman, who is unashamed of using her looks to manipulate men – and gay women, from time to time. She’s in a pre-med program at the beginning of the series, though she does hardly any work herself. Most of it, and any other miscellaneous things she needs done, are completed by her suitors, who she is using. She’s a cold woman, and not easily swayed.
Clara Beane, played by Robin Thorsen, uses her real name as her in-game character’s name, which is not a common choice. She plays the guild’s mage, and in reality is a stay at home mom with several children and a hardworking husband. Most of her time is spent online in-game, meaning her children are nearly independent. She never really grew out of her crazy partier ways from college and high school, and thus, she’s an excitable, ditzy woman.
Simon Kemplar, played by Vincent Caso, is the youngest guild member who is still in high school. He’s incredibly immature, loud and crude, and hits on almost any attractive woman he comes across, making him susceptible to Tinkerballa’s manipulative ways at the beginning of the series. His sexual comments and jokes are a stable of his character and personality.
But Wait, There’s More!
In addition to the series, the group filmed bonus videos, including three music videos: “I’m the One That’s Cool”, about the struggle of being a geek in our culture, “Do You Want To Date My Avatar”, about the idea of falling in love with someone over an online game, and “Game On”, a “Bollywood-themed gamer’s anthem” in which Zaboo tries to get Codex to play The Game more. There’s also a Christmas video in which the guild recites a parody of “Twas the Night Before Christmas”, and a Halloween video where the guild goes trick or treating.
Inspired by the show, Dark Horse Comics released three The Guild comic books that are prequels to the series. They are written by Felicia Day and illustrated by Jim Rugg. Later, another series of five comics was released, one for each guild member, with each comic illustrated by a different artist. Finally, one last comic was published that occurs after the fourth season.
Due to its popularity, there’s also a pretty impressive line of merchandise available for the web series, including companion books, statues, and shirts, all available on their website.
Why You Should Try The Guild
If you’ve ever played an MMORPG before, be it World of Warcraft, Guild Wars, Lord of the Rings Online, or somewhere in between, The Guild is definitely worth a try. Despite its initial makeshift quality, it becomes endearing quickly and is an incredibly honest and genuine telling of what it’s like to be a gamer (an addicted one, at that.) Not to mention, it’s hilariously awkward and features guest roles by popular actors such as Will Wheaton and Nathan Fillion. The web series kickstarted Felicia Day’s career, and she went on to found the geek hub, Geek and Sundry, an organization that supports geeks of all kinds with YouTube videos, interviews, news articles, an event called International Tabletop Day, and so much more. It was also the first web series to be added to Netflix. The Guild is a little piece of geek history, and a fantastic journey from start to finish.