Summary:

You don’t necessarily need to be familiar with the subject matter of a spoof, if the execution of said spoof is good enough. Which is to say that even if you’re not a raging video game nerd,Hey Ash, Whatcha Playin’ is a delight.

Hey Ash, Whatcha Playin_ BioShock

Today, I have proof that you don’t necessarily need to be familiar with the subject matter of a spoof for it to be good — if the execution of said spoof is good enough, that is. Which is to say that even if you’re not a raging video game nerd, the comedy series Hey Ash, Whatcha Playin’ (sometimes known as HAWP) is a delight.

The series premise is simple: Brother and sister Anthony and Ashly Burch (with occasional help from their father) base each episode loosely around a different video game, with their choices of titles ranging from hardcore gamer favorites like Bioshock to good ol’ classics like The Sims.

Once they pick their video game, they have their fun. Sometimes, the approach is full-on parody, such as with the Rock Band episode. Sometimes, it’s more social commentary, such as when Ash “celebrates Fumito Ueada’s contributions to feminism” while playing the game Ico. (Despite the fact that you might not know what Fumito Ueada or Ico are — I certainly don’t — that episode’s focus on sexism in gaming makes it pretty accessible for complete video game neophytes.)

Because of the heavy use of insider gaming references, HAWP hasn’t really spread beyond the video game community online, but guys, even if you’ve never played a game of Super Mario in your life, it’s worth checking out.

HAWP is amazing for two reasons. While Anthony’s no slouch when it comes to comedy, Ashly is a natural talent with amazing timing and reactions, not to mention a knack for impersonations. She’s a clear star — who already has a fanbase big enough to fund a feature film starring her — who deserves greater attention.

The other key to the show’s success is the lightning-fast editing, which not only prevents any episode from exceeding three minutes but brings its own character and voice to the series. That, plus the show’s slightly sadistic sense of humor, keep things fresh and engaging.

HAWP in its original incarnations ran on video game community Destructoid.com (where Anthony was an editor before getting a job as a writer for Gearbox Software) as well as other random video platforms like Viddler. It’s now currently hosted on GameTrailers.com and is shot and edited by Justin Yngelmo.

My one major complaint is that GameTrailers.com is kind of awfully designed, to the point where I feel that no actual human being can actually enjoy the experience of using that site. But you can get the first season on DVD. The Amazon.com description promises that it “works as a coaster.”

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