"The show is not about the game," says Felicia Day, The Guild's creator and star, "it's about the characters." In The Guild, the characters go by their online names, even when they're not playing. Day's character is called Codex. She's a healer who prefaces each episode with a webcam monologue, setting up the joke with a self-martyring, self-deprecating mini self-analysis, as if to say no matter what happens next, it's somehow her fault. Codex's shy vulnerability alone makes the show worth watching.
As Day says, even though the show is ostensibly about WoW, the characters are what make it work. Characters like Zaboo, the obsessive Warlock with a heart of gold, who stalks Day's Codex, hunting her down at her home and moving in. I asked Sandeep Parikh, the actor who plays Zaboo, what makes a good comedic character.
"I think if people can identify with the character in terms of their wants and desires, then the comedy comes easy," Parikh says. "Zaboo wants Codex. Everyone gets it. Now we can make ridiculous jokes about how he goes about doing so (i.e. stripping to boxer briefs, rubbing his hairy chest and asking if she wants to go on a magic carpet ride)."
Vincent Caso, who plays Bladezz, The Guild's sarcastic Rogue, says good characters should compliment each other. "Good comedy in a show comes from good teamwork." Bladezz, a young, conceited, horny teenager, represents some of the strongest gamer clichés, but even he has extra layers and hidden vulnerabilities.
"I definitely didn't want to make fun of MMO players," says Day, although her show, at first glance, does exactly that, updating Aristotle for the modern age. It's through the mockery and self-immolation, however, that the true message comes through: The Guild is all of us. "I wanted [The Guild] to be a spoof of some of the things that hardcore gamers like myself know as universal. Hollywood sees the average gamer as a 14-year-old punk, or a lazy dude in his 20s who lives in his mom's basement, and any gamer knows it goes way deeper than that. I have sympathy for all my characters, and I hope that makes people laugh with them, rather than at them."
Day's acting credits include stints on Monk, various films and a recurring role as vampire slayer trainee, Vi, on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but it's safe to say her multiple-award-winning web comedy is setting a new trend for entertainment media and is her breakout hit. The secret to comedy, according to Day, is finding "what's universal in all of us. Comedy is an expression of an individual's mind-view, a window into a neurotic psyche."
The Guild, with its webcam-using, game-slinging characters may be an evolution in comedy, but it's not exactly non-traditional. Each three or four minute episode plays like a sitcom in miniature, Friends for geeks. To dig a little deeper, get closer to the new world order in comedy, I talked to two men who make videos starring action figures.