This web series plays off a trope as old as time (or Harry Potter): boy discovers hidden talent, boy gets accepted into an elite academy, life is hard at elite academy, and there are plenty of Malfoys.
Except instead of magic, Brian has video game skills that get him invited to Video Game High School, where a fierce ranking system and a tradition of dueling between the students can lead to instant expulsion.
To complicate matters, Brian develops a crush on Jenny Matrix, the girlfriend of his rival. This is one of those moments where (were I reading this review) I’d be feeling a rising tide of suspicion. Boy must defeat bad guy to steal girlfriend? That’s a classically disempowering set up for the hapless girlfriend who usually just watches in awe from the wings. But Matrix comes off strong, capable, and self-determined: she makes her own choices and is compelling in her own right. At our first glimpse of Matrix, she’s poised for a head-to-head blindfolded videogame shootout. She blasts her opponent and shouts, “Not even close, son!”
Her talent at first-person shooters has garnered her renown and a spot as the captain of the junior varsity team, which is the very team that Brian aspires to join. Her skills are even sharp enough to put her in the running for a place on the varsity team—if she nails the tryouts, she will be the first sophomore at VGHS to claim that honor. Add in high expectations from a domineering mother and a secret love for something much less “prestigious” than first-person shooters, and she has all the makings of a badass, relatable character.
Brian has to deal with his bully, who happens to be with the girl of his dreams, but his struggles don’t necessarily lead to a girlfriend drop.
First-person shooters get most of the attention and provide most of the fodder for jokes, but there are some hilarious subplots about rhythm gaming and arcade classics as well. The supporting characters are well-developed and charming, and there is a father/son conflict that was surprisingly gripping despite the campy approach and goofy one-liners. The special effects are pretty impressive, and there’s a whole series of behind-the-scenes teasers that reveal how the production team set up certain shots.
For anyone who enjoys video games, geek romance, and things exploding, this is certainly a web series worth checking out.