Ever wonder what sort of person plays an online game for hours and hours every day? You'll get a nice cross-section of this segment of geek life in The Guild, a webseries (free on YouTube, pretty cheap on dvd on Amazon.com) about six varied, dysfunctional people united through their guild ("The Knights of Good") in an unnamed sword-and-sorcery MMORPG. (That's "massive multiplayer online roleplaying game" for the uninitiated.)

Codex (Felecia Day) is a neurotic mess. Recently dumped by her boyfriend (another one who decided he was gay while dating her) and her therapist (for playing the game too much), her days seem divided between webcam entries (which open every episode of The Guild) and hours online, playing with people she's never met in real life. She's insecure, nervous, and uncertain -- and less than thrilled when fellow Guild member Zaboo (Sandeep Parikh) turns up at her doorstep, tells her that he's in love with her (from their in-game chats) and has been cyberstalking her (plus Photoshopped picture of them "together" using his image and her DMV photo) -- and them moves himself into her apartment.

Zaboo's action leads Codex to get the rest of the Knights of Good together to deal with their problems -- and things don't get better in person. Vork (Jeff Lewis), the group leader, takes his responsibilities as guild leader incredibly seriously -- and he's also amazingly cheap, hoarding food and bringing individually sliced cheese to a restaurant to avoid paying for a cheeseburger. Clara (Robin Thorsen) is a stay-at-home mom and party animal -- who has a tendency to forget that her three young children exist. Bladezz (Vincent Caso) is an arrogant teenager who makes every sexual innuendo possible. And Tinkerballa (Amy Okuda) is a selfish, rude woman who is very happy taking advantage of others. The four of them aren't so much friends as people with a common obsession, making them less than helpful or supportive of one another.

So far there are four seasons of The Guild. The first season has Codex dealing with Zaboo's obsessive love -- and Zaboo's smothering mother (Viji Nathan). Season two brings the Knights of Good away from their computers when the game server is down for four hours (gasp!), leading to significant problems between the folks. Season three had the Knights of Guild not just dealing with the events of the last season, but also battling the Axis of Anarchy, a rival (and much more evil) game guild led by Fawkes (Wil Wheaton) and including Venom (Teal Sherer), a dark and morbid player very willing to exploit her being in a wheelchair. And season four explored Codex' relationship with Fawkes and the Knights of Good competing to design their new guild hall. There are also online "specials" of The Guild, such as them going Trick-or-Treating, the music video "Do You Wanna Date My Avatar" (shown below), Christmas specials, a Bollywood musical number, and even the show selling out through merchandising!

As a gamer, I am quite impressed with The Guild. The never-seen MMORPG has standard traits familiar to most gamers, and (for better or worse) we've all seen variants of the obsessed players shown here. Even better, we may like the characters -- but we see how deeply flawed they are and remain through the series. There's seldom a discovery of inner goodness or bond of loyalty between them; instead, they remain consistently self-obsessed, trapped in their own aspects of the world of the game. Felecia Day is a terrific narrator and guide in this world, trying to be nice and good yet continually over her head. The rest of the cast is excellent, making the characters entertaining. And the dialogue and situations are nicely twisted, such as Vork driving around looking for free WiFi, Zaboo trying to hang himself with his ethernet cable, or the latest way Clara lets her kids fend for themselves.

The Guild is a laugh-out-loud journey with six people for whom computer gaming is the center of their lives. It's twisted, it's disturbingly accurate in some ways, and it will keep you wanting more. (I'm hoping season 5 is available soon.) So spend some online gold and raise a fake weapon to the Knights of Good!

Overall grade: A-

Reviewed by James Lynch

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