Do you guys play video games? I definitely do not, at least not since I was nine and we had Donkey Kong for Super Nintendo. I could not beat that game, nor could I figure out how to operate any other game we bought for the system. I also once was on medieval/fantasy withdrawal late one night and downloaded World of Warcraft in the hopes that would solve the problem. I made a vicious orc named Debbie and was ready to go! …then some wolf took two steps towards me and I immediately panicked and uninstalled the game. Needless to say, video games and I are not BFFs, however I seem to be surrounded by them. After months of Netflix constantly bugging me to watch VIDEO GAME HIGH SCHOOL, I finally broke down and watched the show. Holy hell, I loved it.
A Little Background
VGHS was from Rocket Jump Studios, written by Matthew Arnold, Will Campos, and Brian Firenzi. It was directed by Arnold, Brandon Laatsch, and Freddie Wong. The series is set at a high school where the worlds best teenage gamers attend to study and work to become the best “athletes” in various gaming. The show feels very 90s/old school in the vein of BOY MEETS WORLD in terms of tone/structure and just the right amount of COMMUNITY-style meta humor.The show focuses on BRIAN, his two best friends, TED and KI, and his love interest, JENNY. Brian also has an archnemesis in the character LAW.
If you have not seen through season one, you may not want to read the following breakdown. We will be looking at Season Two, Episode Two: YOU CAN’T STOP A SANDWICH. Some of the relationships in the series are altered in Season Two, but for the most part this episode stands well on its own.
One of the great things about this show, is that while it is about Brian, the other characters,Ted, Ki, and Jenny, often are always given their own storylines and in the case of this episode they are equal in protagonist status to Brian. VGHS is a little different because it aired online as opposed to network television and therefore has no commercial breaks. They also are not limited to a strict 21 and a half minute episode. Instead, episode lengths vary from 28 to 45 minutes over the three seasons it ran, and the writers made good use of the extended time to give everyone full storylines.
In this episode we have three storylines:
A STORY: Brian is struggling to find time and even eat as he is forced to work janitorial to pay for school.
B STORY: Ted looks for the respect of his fellow drifters as he sets out to fill the “Fizzy River” and battles The Duchess.
C STORY: Ki searches for a new major and finds her place in school as the dorm’s new RA.
Most of the episode is spent on the B and C storylines, but I am giving Brian top billing here because he is the series primary protagonist and because his storyline book ends the episode. Here is how the acts and beats breakdown:
C: Law imagines he is getting hassled by Brian and Ted when they are actually being kind. Out of anger, he sets the dorm on fire by overcooking snacks in the microwave.
A: Captain Jenny provides the Varsity team with donuts as they practice through brunch. Coach Matrix puts the entire team on a new, strict diet. (Creates Brian’s current state of mind)
B: In drifting class, Ted gives the wrong answer. His classmate teases him and Ted is embarrassed. (Ted’s emotional state)
B: Two classmates arrive to tell of how they were attempting to steal soda from the school cafeteria with the drifter’s secret key, only to be caught and robbed by “The Duchess.” Seeing an opportunity to redeem himself, Ted announces that he will take the key and refill the supply. (Ted’s Inciting Incident and Episode Goal/Decision)
A: The principal tells Brian that his scholarship has been revoked and if he would like to stay in school he needs to pay up. Brian begins working as the school janitor during what little time he has outside of class and practice. (Brian’s Inciting Incident and Decision)
C: Ki sits in on an RTS class. She gives advice to help a classmate defeat Shane Pizza, and asks if she can join the major. Shane has the group take a vote, and they vote Ki out. (Ki’s emotional state)
B: Ted breaks into the cafeteria. His father, Freddie walks in so he hides in a nearby box. (Progress)
B: Freddie is distracted by a young woman, allowing Ted to get out. The girl kisses Ted and leaves. Ted is distraught as he feels the bag with soda. He believes he just cheated on Ki. (Reversal)
C: Shane finds Ki in Ted’s dorm room (which she has taken as her own room). He decides that she is now the floor RA. (Ki’s Inciting Incident)
C: Ki sees Law harassing other students in the common area. She kicks him out and all the other students are grateful. Ki feels fulfilled. (Ki’s Decision)
A: Brian attempts to squeeze in lunch before class. Coach slaps the food out of his hand and demands he do laps with the rest of the team. (Reversal)
B: Ted recounts what happened in the cafeteria to his teacher, D.K. The Duchess arrives and reveals that when she was kissing Ted she was swiping their beloved key. D.K. is hurt by Ted’s betrayal and Ted is back to being looked down on by his classmates. (Midpoint – Introduces THE DUCHESS)
C: Ki gets her first message in the “suggestion box.” It is from Law requesting that she kick Ted out of his and Brian’s room since he never technically had permission to move in. Ki panics, she has no idea how she is going to do this without hurting her boyfriend. (Midpoint)
A: Brian has not had any time to eat and starts to see everyone around his as food during practice. His poor focus and gameplay forces Coach to kick him out. (Midpoint)
C: Ted has a panic attack from reading an eviction notice for the dorms. Seeing this reaction, Ki tears up the paper and tells him it was a joke. (Second Reversal)
B: Ted challenges The Duchess to a race with Brian on his team. If he wins he gets the key back, if she wins Ted has to join The Duchess’s team. The Duchess agrees. (Push to Climax)
C: Ki spends hours negotiating a roommate contract with Law for Brian, Ted, and Law to all live together. Instead of signing the contract at the end, Law reveals he has been messing with her the whole time and has no intention of agreeing to Ted staying. (False Climax/Low Point)
C: Ki sees a full suggestion box. The sight reinvigorates her towards the cause. (Push to Climax)
C: Ki points out that there are ample opportunities for Law to mess with Ted and Brian if Ted stays. Law is thrilled and Ki assists him in destroying the dorm room and everything Ted and Brian own. (Climax)
B: Ted is about to lose in his race against The Duchess, so Brian sacrifices his own game-life instead. (Emotional Set Back)
B: Ted wins the race. He returns to the drifters and D.K. with the key as a hero. (Climax/Resolution)
C: Law is sufficiently satisfied with the state of the dorm but says again he will not sign. Frustrated beyond reason, Ki punches Law in the face and he finally signs the roommate agreement, saying “Complaint Resolved.” (Resolution)
A: Varsity Team finds Brian practicing in his janitor gear early in the morning, and has healthy bagels for the team. Coach lets him rejoin the team. (Climax)
A: Brian mentions he hasn’t slept or eaten in a while to the Coach. Coach dismisses this as they practice, but Jenny slips Brian a bagel. (Resolution)
As always, this probably read terribly boring but you can see the fun of the show in the situations. The jokes they place on top of these beats build smoothly because of the over the top scenario of setting this series in a high school for gamers.
In my FRESH OFF THE BOAT Breakdown, I split the episode into three acts. I believe with half hours it is sometimes easier to see it as two. The first act is all set up, the second act is pay offs and punchlines for everything that was already established. If there were a strong break in the series (remember, this aired online so no commercials making finding act breaks a littler tougher to spot) it is the scene with Law vs. Ki where I delineated the end of Act One. The first thing we saw in the episode was a beat with Law, also Ki’s not being able to find a purpose in the high school makes her emotional arc the strongest in this episode. Law’s wanting Ki to kick out Ted is a very visceral turning point as the bromance of Ted and Brian is one of the most important relationships in every episode of the series. Like I said earlier, Brian is the protagonist of the series but in this episode Ted and Ki’s storylines technically carry more weight. If we are going by screen time and number of beats, Ki would be our A Story, and Brian would be C.
I hope this breakdown was easy to follow. As I post more of these I will do a lot less explaining and focus simply on showing you what the beats are and how they break down with as many different series examples as possible. If you guys have a particular show you would like covered or more explanation on anything, let me know in the comments!