GOLD, “the web series that does double damage,” is an interesting product. On one hand, it’s a niche within a niche within a niche. What do I mean by that? At its core, GOLD is about tabletop RPG gaming epitomized by Dungeons & Dragons, but it is also a web series with a distinct soap opera style—set in a world where people watch tabletop tournament gaming with an enthusiasm that ESPN 37 never managed to garner for televised Magic: The Gathering competitions. Have I reached a part of the Gamer Population Venn Diagram you proudly occupy? Then you will consume GOLD with glee, wistfully imagining what it would be like if one really could make a living playing an RPG competitively. Otherwise, you might watch it with mixed results…
GOLD’s production values are great. It’s well edited cinematically and the dialogue flows decently. The series is shot with outstanding lighting and technical attention—as good as any you could be watching on TV. Most of the American characters ring true and the questionable ones really only serve as foils to the main character, Jonathan Drake, and his long suffering quest to recover his gaming mojo. In a lot of ways, GOLD plays like the Knights of the Dinner Table brought to life. Considered in that context, it does a good job of providing what it sets out to do—present a satiric look at gamers and what life might be like if RPG tournaments were taken seriously.
But it has its weaker points. For instance, the team of roleplayers from the United Kingdom is downright painful. I realize the writer might want to show that RPGs are a global hobby, but the accents drove me nuts and the stereotypes were heavy handed. I have to imagine that was intentional and part of the humor because the cast isn’t merely volunteers; they are all veteran thespians with experience on the small and silver screens as well as stage. Even with solid acting chops and well-delivered lines, the male UK characters made me want to stab my screen with a pen.
The whole reason for the primary character’s departure from gaming felt contrived. Yes, I realize it’s a web series, that this isn’t CSI: FLGS, and there’s an aspect of self-deprecating humor to the series. However, I think the nature of the injury suffered at a competition seemed forced when something more realistic could have served equally well while not leaving me groaning. I definitely got into the various subplots, and the characters were certainly compelling. Who hasn’t had a table where the various personality conflicts caused friction? Those moments of authenticity give GOLD its strength. And then we would return to Drake’s self-destructive injury and the immersion was broken.
In the end, that attempt at both comedy and drama is tough. I think the series’ closing and opening theme is heartwrenching and absolutely perfect for it. GOLD’s kissing cousins, The Guild and The Gamers both do humor better, though. However, neither deals with the all-too-true and often neglected difficulties of a group broken apart by the forces of personality and life away from the table while seasoning the tale with quirky humor. In that respect, GOLD excels and gives us a story that may not be for everyone, but it’s certainly worth watching.