I’m always excited to see how roleplayers are depicted in the media, and when a google search for historical comparative values of gold and platinum pieces led me to Gold: The Series, I watched all six episodes right then, right there. This web TV show boasts high production values, good music and a particularly nice opening credit sequence; the producers obviously sunk some money into the series and hope that their hard-spent loot will be rewarded. But what interests me, of course, is: is it good for the hobby? Is it accurate? Will it appeal to gamers? And will non-gamers have their prejudices about gamers confirmed… or shattered???
The story follows a group of players of the “Goblins & Gold” roleplaying game (why must people always use silly alliterative pseudonyms when we all know it’s Dungeons & Dragons? (ー_ー)) Jamie, an elderly gamer, has returned to his hometown after 15 years, and finds Martin, his old GM, still waiting to finish his Zombie King adventure, “that one last campaign.” During this promising first episode I couldn’t help feeling my chest tighten with emotion because every gamer has an unfinished campaign or two in their past; myself, I often dream about my unfinished 3e game from junior high, and still keep track of the players’ addresses and phone numbers hoping that one day we will be able to finish it. Jamie goes back to Martin’s house where they encounter the rest of the party: Brian, who is bald; Hicks, who works at a game store, and Danny, who despite her name is a girl. They gather their old characters (still preserved after 15 years — another good, realistic point) and resume the epic campaign!! Unfortunately, there is out-of-character bad blood between the players, and it all boils up in a steaming cauldron of gore on that fateful night…
For most of “Gold”, I had very mixed feelings. In terms of production values and “flash”, the show is very good. I admired the way that there is loud music throughout, particularly in (or slightly before) the emotional moments; I wish I had such good music in my own games, but it is hard to do moment-by-moment scoring while also rolling dice, etc. I don’t believe the old saying “All arts aspire to be music,” but music may be second best. I appreciate little touches, like the way the DM asks the players to turn off their cell phones. And there are some emotional moments — the line “You’re not the person who used to spend the night at my house… but neither am I” captures some of the complicated blend of feelings in the friendships forged during role-playing. The miniatures and gaming equipment are also convincing.
Unfortunately, there are problems with the show, and as it went on they began to grate on me. I am extremely flexible in terms of newbies making mistakes about D&D, but the script was tantalizingly — or frustratingly? — unclear on what type or edition of D&D they were playing. Based on one reference to Comeliness, they may be playing 1st edition, but references to “shifting” suggest they may be playing 4th; then again, another player dismisses 4th edition with harshly pointed words. Based on references to the Flaeness, they are in any case playing in Oerth… but it could be a homebrew Oerth… anyway, I have to give the makers a “thumbs down” for these inconsistencies. (And in what editions of D&D could four 10th-level characters handle an Ancient Undead Dragon? :/ ) These errors may have slipped in because of the other problem: the show focuses too little on D&D and too much on the out-of-character conflicts. I approve of the filmmakers stretching the definition of gaming by showing different types of gamers: instead of the bright, attractive young faces I associate with D&D, these gamers are middle-aged adults, and even jocks and football players (!). But one of the players actually throws another player down a flight of stairs IRL: is that really the way a person who roleplays a paladin would behave? (Granted, he is a fallen paladin.) Of course there are dysfunctional gaming groups in real life, in fact one of my best friends is currently being sued in a class action lawsuit for throwing dice in someone’s eye, but this focus on alcohol, violence and swearing distracted me from the real action at hand, the in-character action. One of the most important fight scenes in the game even takes place off-camera!! *_*
Clearly only the best DM in the world could bring such a group together, but sadly, Martin is not that GM. I was ready to give the series an “average” review when I got to the final episode, in which Martin does something which should be UNTHINKABLE for any DM or Gamemaster. Frankly I found the final episode offensive and I think that IRL the players would have stormed away from the table, the way I stormed away from my laptop, leaving it alone in the dorm lounge for two hours during which time it was unfortunately stolen (I am writing this from my desktop computer). “Gold” breaks new ground in the depiction of twilight-years gamers, and it is a very well-produced show, but I have to say — MARTIN IS NO GM. With the sixth episode twist, “Gold” jumps the shark and squanders what could have been a promising series.