In Gold, we witness an American team striving for top prize in the world championship of a fantasy role-playing game known as Goblins & Gold. The Yanks have one goal: to snatch victory from the jaws of their gold-hogging archrivals, the Brits.
Gold offers up an interesting pastiche of premises, including the scrappy-underdog-within-a-sports-competition theme, and the spectacle of nerd in-fighting within an already marginalized geekdom. Many stock sports movie characters are introduced, including cocky MVP Richard; straight-shooting Jonathan Drake, the former national team leader who has suffering a crushing “injury” and is attempting to rally in time for the big contest; and the requisite villain competitor, Oliver Crane, who can likely be relied upon to wield mad skills and impeccable British enunciation. (For those nerds who are culturally banned from possessing any previous knowledge of sports movie archetypes, it’s your typical Han Solo/Luke/Vader set-up.) It is the apparent incongruity of sports and nerds that provides some decidedly wry and ironic moments — one might say it’s Rocky, but with a game master in lieu of that Burgess Meredith guy.
Comparisons between Gold and that other highly successful gamer-centric serial are inevitable, if not entirely fair. For starters, Gold goes offline, with much of the premise promising to address the dying art of unplugged role-playing and how the characters will deal with the increased irrelevance of their sport. Judging this series on its own merits, Gold‘s pilot episode does falter occasionally, but overall provides ample amusing moments. (Witness the sport agent who has amended his office plaque with a Post-it note reading, “Walk-Ins Welcome!”, or the rogue Richard trying to bounce a gaming groupie out of his boudoir.) With longer-than-usual webisodes (the premiere ep runs for 11 minutes), there is of course a greater risk of getting bogged down by material that doesn’t flow — and Episode 1 does feel slow in parts — but on the flip side, the series also makes good use of the extra time to flesh out its characters and provide a level of detail that shorter webisodes can’t. Also deserving honorable mention is the series’ comprehensive web site, which offers an invaluable primer about the characters, plot and episode chronology.
It will be worth watching to see how Gold‘s offline vs. online theme in particular is explored in subsequent episodes, for herein lies a universal fear: Table-top gaming is hardly the first offline hobby to be threatened with extinction. The decline of vinyl records, and books (not the e-kind), and the playing of guitars with actual strings attached, have all elicited comparable waves of protest by die-hard, old-school fans.
You don’t have to be a gamer to appreciate Gold‘s more successful elements of sports satire or the theme of offline irrelevance, and the looming introduction of the villainous Brits seems compelling enough to stay tuned. (No, they do not make an appearance in the first installment, though the trailer provides a tantalizing glimpse of them.) Gold is off to a solid start.
This review, along with more details about the show, can be found at NewTeeVee Station.