An Interview with Metagame, Part One
Metagame is a web series about a group of quirky role-playing gamers and the DM who suffers their psychological hang-ups and neuroses. I enjoyed the series so much, that I knew I just wanted to get an interview with its creator and the principal cast.
Metagame is written and directed mostly by Matthew David, and stars John Rael, Leeman Parker, Sophie Green, and Jen Brown in addition to David as Tom the DM. They graciously offered their time to answer my questions. This is part one of the interview, part two will be up on Thursday.
Metagame debuted on the web relatively quietly, with little pomp and fanfare heralding its presence. Tell us a bit about Metagame.
Matthew: We were slow getting out into the public. I was getting kinda despondent over the lack of responses I was getting [after emailing as many RPG and D&D sites as I could find] until out of the blue ENWorld’s Morrus put us on the front page. That was a good day.
Oddly enough, I stumbled upon the show by doing a YouTube search for D&D humor. I discovered your show simply because I needed something for Video Wednesday.
Matthew: I’m pleased the YouTube search gods were smiling on us that day.
What is Metagame really about?
Sophie: I think it’s about people who find a world to control when they perhaps don’t always fit in the normal/boring world. It’s about a group of friends who are facing themselves and each other.
Leeman: It’s about the whole role playing game lifestyle and the bizarre and odd personalities that choose to play. It’s also about a group of friends hanging out and having fun.
Matthew: The series is about insecurity! The game table provides the launching point for the characters, [and] the series is about them, their relationships with one another, the faces they present to the world and the insecurity which boils beneath. I thought it’d be a lot of fun to show that with a tabletop role-playing game as the backdrop.
Jennifer: It started as a way to flex our movie-making muscles. We had collaborated previously on other projects, and were looking for more things to do.
John: We’re actors who were sick of just ‘waiting’ to work so we decided to make our own. And in the digital age, this wasn’t very hard. We’ve all learned a hell of a lot about the process of film making.
Everybody’s got their fair share of jokes about player antics at the tabletop. It’s pretty much a staple of gamer culture. What compelled you to put the time, money and resources to turn yours into a web series?
Matthew: There are many reasons. First of all, when we started [Metagame] no one else was currently doing anything quite like it, and I thought someone should be. Second, I’d just finished taking a class on sketch writing for the internet at Second City, and a lesson I learned was to make something about a topic you have a lot of love and passion for. And I thought, “That’s D&D!” Write about what you know, right?
John: The subject matter is fairly ‘untapped’ by sketch comedy. There have been a million sketch/webseries about videogames, but hardly anything noteworthy about role playing games. It was also about the characters that Matt wrote. I wanted to play every character, shoot every scene, and edit every episode. Not to mention that I always want to work with Matt.
Leeman: I felt that Metagame had something different about it. It seemed to be more than just surface level jokes about nerds. The scripts were really funny and John and Matt told me that to play the character I just had to be myself, and I figured I could handle that.
Matthew: It’s been a great chance to work out our creative and technical muscles. I liked the chance to mix in some animation with live action and throw in a slowly evolving story while I was at it. It’s a project that’s challenged all of us and made us stronger on a lot of levels. Every episode has been a great learning process. I sometimes joke that Metagame is the film school that I never had.
Jennifer: I got really excited about it because I had just started learning to animate with Flash, mostly just for fun, and wanted to see just what I could do with it. You can kind of tell that the animations are pretty rough in the beginning episodes, but I hope they’re getting better.
John: No matter what happens, working on the series has been worth more than half a dozen classes in editing, lighting, photography, etc.
What’s up with those long-winded synopses that are in the show notes of every episode?
Matthew: Ha! I quickly realized that in each episode viewers generally arrive to the game world in media res, so I wanted to give the audience a chance to catch up with what was happening. They’re a way to get clued in to the “moment before.” I write them how I think Tom would write them if he was keeping a game journal. But mostly they’re for my own twisted amusement. I get a huge kick over writing a piece of an epic tale that might in no way, shape, or form be used in the episode itself.
How much of the material is improvised by you and how much of it is pre-written or based directly on your own experiences?
Leeman: I would like to say that it is improvised since that would make me sound like a very creative, on-the-spot type of guy, but it is all written. With that said, I am terrible at memorizing lines and so what I say is usually not exactly what is written, but it’s usually pretty close so I don’t get in too much trouble.
John: Pretty much all of it is scripted, however with my character Sean it’s extremely easy to turn a three word line into a full performance piece.
Jennifer: Most of the material is written by Matt. There are little bits improvised, mostly by John and Sophie, and Matt is always up for suggestions about what we think would be good.
Sophie: He’s really freakin brilliant. We all joined I think [because of] how clever his writing was. Also, Leeman and John read the lines with such creativity. Only thing I ever really improvised was my freak out in the kitchen in Episode 4, “TPK”. Fun times.
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