Freddie Wong and Matthew Arnold, the co-creators and directors of the YouTube series Video Game High School sat down with the crew and cast of the first and upcoming season to catch me up on all things YouTubey, video gamey, and VGHS-y.
Nerdist: Now that you all have moved into your new office, what potential do you see for expansion?
Freddie Wong: The big thing this year is that we don’t want to get stuck doing just one thing. We want to be able to do a whole range of long-form ideas, everything from feature film length type of stuff to web series like VGHS and continuing that as well, so it allows us to expand and diversify our collection of offerings.
Nerdist: Was the idea to release VHGS as a feature on Netflix a plan all along?
Freddie: [When we were making VGHS] we never really thought about selling it, we more thought about how long each segment should be… but the plan was one continuous piece, and each episode obviously has its own thing, but we think it actually plays better as a movie.
Matthew Arnold: No matter what, we wanted it to feel like it was a single story.
Nerdist: Going forward with VGHS and beyond, are you thinking of using that same format?
Freddie: The format has changed for season 2. It’s now television and more length per episode; so we have six anywhere from 24 minute to 38 minute episodes and we’re putting them all online just like season 1. And a lot of that is due to that fact that we want to expand out our offerings in terms of being able to go into characters and into various story lines that we couldn’t do with the previous season, but also because the fan response has been so strong for longer episodes and more content. I think everyone is used to watching TV length stuff, and it can even be on their computers or smartphones, so we said, “let’s go for it” and make something that’s essentially as long as anything you’d see on Netflix .
Matt: With the first one, the story was essentially like a “Karate Kid” type movie, and the sequels to Karate Kid… you can’t redo a hero’s journey. No offense to Brian D, but he did his story, and that was actually one of the hardest things to figure out, because he already did his thing: he fit in at the school, and we have all these other characters that we love. And the best way to have a format so we can do stories for all these characters is TV: you have episodes that revolve around different characters. You can make a story that’s a bit looser and not a traditional sports movie story, which is what the first one was.
Nerdist: This series was a sort of landmark in new media with web series making a jump to Netflix- do you think that will be happening a lot more?
Freddie: I think in new media we’re going to see more long form stuff in different places, so it’s more about how are people watching things. Not just YouTube, Hulu, Netflix; people are watching things on their X-Boxes, PlayStations, Smart TVs, apps on phones…. So for us as creators, it’s less about what platform we’re on and where it’s going to go, and more about focusing on the content. If it’s good, it’ll work wherever. A platform is just a delivery method. So we’re just trying to focus on making things people want to see.
Nerdist: What sort of games and characters inspired you as actors and that you brought to the story?
Freddie: Matt and I play a lot of video games, but what we like about is the non serious fun of it; just the language of it is hilarious. Games, for us, (are) more fun than serious business, and we try to bring that fun into the show. That’s why the show is very goofy and sort of cheesy. It’s not like we’re sitting in camo playing Battlefield screaming at each other.
Nerdist: How many of your actors are gamers
Ellary Porterfield (Ki) : I’m an unabashed non-gamer. But it takes a lot of explanation from the guys on the set, a lot of the time; they kept saying “Allory, it’s F-P-S!” And one of the lines I had was to say, “Brian, Brian, Brian!” and I didn’t realize it was a reference to something.
Harley Morenstein (Dean Calhoun): Metal Gear Solid.
Matthew: Right, and so I just asked them to give the line to me, but I had no idea what I was doing.
Nerdist: Has being in the series raised your interest in gaming at all?
Matthew: I think I’m too far gone!
Freddie: I think the whole video game industry is set up to get people like you, new gamers. Because they already have us!
Nerdist: What are some of your favorite games, everyone?
Chase Williamson (Actor, S2): Any game with strategy I just don’t enjoy… at all. I only like games where you cause meaningless destruction. My favorite game of all time is the Jaws game for PS2, where it’s Grand Theft Auto, but you’re a shark, and you swim around and eat people and attack boats and you can like, thrash people around with the toggle and get into fights with dolphins. It’s awesome.
Nerdist: That sounds metal.
Harley: You know that in fights with sharks and dolphins, dolphins always win, right?
Chase: Not in Jaws.
[VGHS]: FTL, Kerbal Space Program! (cheers)
Nerdist: Any insight you can give us to the new series?
Freddie: Of course more action, and there’s a fun dynamic with Jenny’s mom as the coach and she does NOT want her players dating! There are a lot of fun and different character arcs that we get to explore.
Nerdist: Are there any other channels on YouTube you all like?
Freddie: Epic Meal Time is pretty cool. I appreciate that now they’re actually teaching people to make food. We think the Nerdist Channel is awesome! The Bravest Warriors is an awesome series by the guys who did Adventure time. How To Basic is existential genius.
Harley: I spend a lot of time on Vine. Nicholas Margolas and Jordan Mirk are great!
Nerdist: Last question: favorite subreddit?
Freddie: r/mechanic advice is awesome because you can ask any car related question and get answers from real mechanics about things like whether or not you really need to replace a part, or whether you’re going to end up getting duped.
Harley: I don’t want to share my favorite subreddits!
Freddie: r/lego, r/personalfinance, r/nosleep.
Thanks to everyone at VGHS for taking the time to chat with me. Hey, internet! What are you all looking forward to in the upcoming season of VGHS? What were your S1 highlights? Leave a quemment or tweet about it!