Quickfire round: Loaded

Four life-long friends become millionaires overnight as the closing money comes in from the sale of their gaming business. Unable to handle their new found wealth, and facing pressure from their new US mega-corp owners to make a soulless sequel of their hit game Cat Factory, hilarity (and woe) ensues.

Leon coaxes the group onto his privet yacht to get them to concentrate on their new game

This show was cancelled in 2017 after one season and, if you check the cast’s biographies online, it’s hardly mentioned as one of their top appearances. I can’t think why, as I really enjoyed it. Don’t be mistaken – it’s nothing like Mythic Quest, which sees day to day game development issues and is surprisingly good insight into the industry. The actual game development process takes a back seat in this show and instead we see how the four characters handle their wealth and relationships with family, friends, their new boss and, ultimately, each other.

There’s Ewan, a posh, gay programmer whom most people don’t know is a co-founder at the developer, Idyl Hands, because he’s always asked not to appear in photo shoots by Leon, who technically doesn’t do any work as he’s not a coder or an artist, but more a product evangelist. Watto, a recovering alcoholic and artist, appears perhaps least deserving of the £9.2 million each co-founder received in the deal (plus £26m in stock options). Finally there’s Josh, a nervous, nagging, woke guy who is obsessive and jealous about his girlfriend.

They each handle the money differently and their friendships are tested when they get pushed to produce another hit game. Watto becomes addicted to collecting things. Ewan decides to give an employee a £20k bonus to prove to her that he IS a co-founder, resulting in him having to do the same for this entire team after they find out. Leon, eager to show his teachers he amounted to something, buys a helicopter. And Josh… well, he’s open to trying some of the more expensive wines on the menu.

I had fun watching this, but the episodes (with an average 43 minute runtime) did seem a bit long for this type of comedy. If you like the sound of it and enjoy watching some classic British comedy, you won’t be disappointed.

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What I thought about: The Expanding Universe of Ashley Garcia

A light-weight family sitcom, this show has few surprises and isn’t all that funny. But a decent set of characters kept me watching.

Science smarts meets social smarts

What’s it about?
Ashley is a teenage genius. She already has a PhD, and has just secured a job working at the JPL (A NASA facility). To get there, she has to move out of her very reluctant mother’s house to live with her uncle, Victor, a retired professional American Football player and present-day school coach.

Let me introduce some other cast members: Brooke, Ashley’s childhood best friend (a typical teenager, sans PhD, but socially savvy). Stick, the football team’s equipment manager (a slightly awkward, slightly nerdy kid). And Tad, the team captain (and stereotypical jock character).

Ashley’s excited to start her job, but she’s also looking forward to catching up with a few lost bits of childhood that she sacrificed for her studies. She’s never had a group of girl friends before, she’s never kissed a guy, you get the idea.

What do I like about it?
The cast are decent, and it’s interesting to see how teenage sitcoms have changed since the days of Drake and Josh and Suite Life. There’s obviously more of a focus on Instagram and other social media, which the show handles quite well.

Victor, the uncle, is a funny character. He totally forgot his niece was was coming, and has had to quickly adapt from his one-night-stand adventures into becoming a responsible adult, looking after Ashley as she spends late nights out partying with her friends.

You do also get attached to some of the plot, and, no surprises, it’s got to do with the characters’ respective love interests.

What do I not like about it?
If it sounds like this review is a little flat, that’s because the show is, too. None of the jokes are laugh-out-loud funny, and nothing here is particularly deep. In that regard, it is kinda boring.

Remember this is a family sitcom and stuff needs to be kept at surface level a lot of the time.

Worth a watch?
I’ll be honest, I started watching this primarily because it’s shot in Dolby Vision and I just got a compatible TV. For those interested, HDR really shines in this show, with amazing specular highlights in lights, eyeballs, and jewellery.

You probably shouldn’t watch this show unless you like the premise and want something a bit light and family-oriented to stick on.

By the way…

  • This is another one of Netflix’s primarily Latinx-led shows. I haven’t found a bad one so far.
  • Wikipedia says the show was green-lit for 16 episode, but this season only has 8. Second season incoming?

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What I thought about: Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet

A light hearted comedy produced in collaboration with a real games studio, this is a show for anyone that is into video game culture and wants something easy going to enjoy.

It’s never the Creative Director’s fault

What’s it about?
Mythic Quest is the world’s most popular massively multiplayer online role-playing game (in the show, not IRL). The show explores the studio that develop the game, and we pick up just as they release the game’s latest expansion, Raven’s Quest.

The show charts the highs and lows of running an online video game. Often, the problems come from the top – there are large disagreements between the game’s creative director, lead engineer, executive producer and, worst of all, head of monetisation.

To give you an example – Poppy, the game’s lead engineer, has developed a new shovelling mechanic in the game. It took a lot of work, the shovel can alter the physical landscape within the game and her hope was for it to lead to new ways of playing the game. Ian (pronounced eye-an, for some reason) thinks it should be a weapon instead. The reworked shovel is released – and the game’s players promptly dig holes in the shape of a penis. Welcome to the internet, folks.

What do I like about it?
The show addresses a broad spectrum of online video game culture, and everything that is shown is done really quite well. There’s a streamer (someone who plays games live for others to watch) called Pootie Shoe who has a massive following and who rates games on a scale of 1 to 4 ‘b-holes’. There are games testers in the back of the office. There’s a community engagement manager living in the basement who, despite being on the receiving end of often harsh criticism from the game’s players, is almost unnervingly upbeat.

They also do an interesting thing right in the middle. Episode 5 is a completely separate story about a couple who develop their own indie game, A Dark Quiet Death. As their studio grows and they plan a sequel, their publisher asks for key mechanics in the game to be replaced. Arguing that this destroys the game’s identity, one of the couple quits. This standalone episode is beautifully paced and doubles as a love story. It was a brilliant surprise.

What do I not like about it?
Not much – this was another binge watch for me. I would say that the show is often not laugh-out-loud funny. That’s not to say the jokes don’t land, they’re just not those kinds of jokes.

Some parts of the show are anxiety-inducing, especially if you are rooting for a particular character. As is often the case in video game development, things go wrong. Lots of things. Also, the show switches between good stuff happening, and then really bad stuff. This cycle of letting your guard down only to be worried when the next disaster strikes can be little anxiety-inducing.

Worth a watch?
If you’re a gamer, developer, or even remotely part of the culture, then definitely. It’s pretty accurate, and I have a feeling those who work on video games will appreciate it even more. If you’re not any of those, give it a try anyway. You might enjoy it.

By the way…

  • This show is only available on Apple TV+. You get it free with any Apple device bought since last November, else it’s £4.99 a month.
  • The show’s development was assisted by Ubisoft Montreal, a real video game studio.

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