When people think of Kickstarter now, their minds automatically go to the “Veronica Mars” movie or Zach Braff’s next directorial effort. While these big money projects have gotten headlines for their fundraising, they’re not necessarily trailblazers in the crowd-sourcing arena.
In 2011, Freddie Wong, Matt Arnold, Will Campos and Brian Firenzi came up with an idea for a web TV series where students attend an elite school training the highest level of athletes. The difference being that these athletes didn’t play sports, they played video games. Instead of baseball and football teams, students try out for first person shooter (FPS) and rhythm gaming (think “Guitar Hero) teams, with scenes from the field taking place inside the virtual world. Thus, “Video Game High School” was born.
The project was funded through Kickstarter, with the creators shooting for $75,000. By the one-month fundraising deadline, the project had raised over $273,000. The first season of “VGHS” went on to snag over 55 million views before landing on Netflix, which of course brings us to Season 2.
The second time out, the team behind the show were able to pull together more than $800,000 from Kickstarter funding. Additionally it was partially funded and co-produced by Collective Digital Studio and landed a sponsorship from Dodge. It’s the web show made good.
The second season finds the hero of the story, BrianD (Josh Blaylock), as a member of the junior varsity FPS team, captained by his girlfriend, Jenny Matrix (Johanna Braddy). Meanwhile, Season 1 villain The Law (Brian Firenzi) has fallen from grace and been kicked off of the varsity team.
Meanwhile, BrianD’s friends Ted (Jimmy Wong) and Ki Swan (Ellary Porterfield) have joined the drift racing and rhythm gaming teams, respectively.
Zap2it had the chance to sit down with the cast and creators of the show to talk about the success of the show and what to expect from from the new season.
Season 2 of the show picks up just a few days after the end of the first. Tryouts for the school’s teams are over and now it’s onto the real gaming, school vs. school. That doesn’t mean the personal drama has dried up, though.
BrianD is in love after a very short amount of time in school, and still trying to find his way as an unlikely star on his team. That’s complicated with the object of his affection, Jenny, being his teammate and captain. “Even though it’s only been a week,” Braddy jokes, “There’s really something there, and [Jenny’s] just trying to handle these emotions.”
That’s the easy part though, as Braddy explains, “All the while she’s trying to handle being captain of JV and then her mother (Cynthia Watros) ends up being the coach and they don’t have the best relationship, so they’re butting heads.”
Meanwhile, the Season 1 villain, varsity FPS star The Law, has experienced a fall from grace, as he’s been booted from the team. Wong says, “We didn’t want to just do the same villain, so The Law is more dealing with his own crises. He’s, like, a borderline alcoholic just wandering around depressed.”
It’s not all bad news for The Law though, as he will also find a little bit of love in the midst of his meltdown. So maybe there’s a happy ending for him, after all.
Then there’s BrianD’s sidekicks. Ted is integrated into the drift racing world and, while that might seem cool, “It’s not as bada** as you might expect.” On the bright side, other styles of racing games will be represented, including the promise of a “Mario Kart”-like showdown.
Ki, on the other hand, does not fit in with the rhythm gaming set. She drops from the program in what Porterfield called an “existential crisis.” “She’s basically just trying to find her place,” the actress explains.
As for production of the show, one of the biggest changes is the shift to half-hour TV length episodes. The first season consisted of nine episode of varying length, with most running around ten minutes. Why the change? As Wong puts it, “Basically it was a combination of fan response and a desire for us to expand out this universe … You can’t really do it in ten minutes.”
That doesn’t mean they’re looking to go the route of “Burning Love.” The faux-reality web show started online before episodes ended up running on E!. “For us, we can do a lot of cool stuff online that you can’t do on TV,” Arnold says.
One of those things is shooting their action sequences at 48 frames per second, a la “The Hobbit.” TV’s aren’t capable of playing that frame rate just yet, but a special player on the show’s website can.
There’s also the fact that being completely self-contained means no one besides the creative team has control over the show’s content. Besides, as Arnold puts it, their formula may be the future of entertainment. “Our end game is never internet to get to other media. The way we see it, other media is coming to the internet,” he says.
Even with Season 2 just debuting, the crew is already plotting out what comes next. “Video Game High School” can be viewed at 48 frames per second on Rocket Jump’s website.
Check out the trailer for Season 2 below and while you’re at it, catch up on Season 1.