I watched the first episode of Dead Pixels last night and was absolutely blown away. So much so, that I then binge watched the whole series on All 4 (procrastinating instead of writing). Now, I really fear it may only hit a niche market, but I am definitely in that niche. I really want this one to come back again. Of all the modern sit-coms about at the moment, it delves into very real human issues caused by the internet age.
So, I have a bit of a confession. Back in the day I spent my time on the space MMORPG (Mass multiplayer online roleplaying game) Eve Online. It means I still have friends in real life who I have actually never met, but I still chat to regularly on social media. We have been through a lot together: evacuations under fire that felt like the last days of Saigon, battling against extreme odds, ganking unsuspecting noobs for their expensive gear worth money in the real world; long philosophical conversations about the purpose of government, whilst shooting at a virtual rock for five hours to get its virtual minerals to sell on a virtual market (grinding). I have former comrades that are gun toting, trump voting, republicans; LGBT Russians; an old aussie hippy (who was one of the most merciless of my corp mates slaying hundreds of other gamers whilst extolling the virtues of Transcendental Meditation to me), and so many more. Together, as we battled against the game and other players, we went through our real life dramas and shared them. Marriages, divorce, childbirth, deaths, periods of unemployment, success and failure; we shared it all together - all whilst blowing up some ships in space. And you know, I consider them real friends; they had my back and I had theirs in a virtual but very real manner. It is this incredibly modern experience that Dead Pixels explores and pulls off brilliantly.
Meg and Nicky (Alexa Davies and Will Merrick) have made a pact: they are going to complete the MMORPG Kingdom Scrolls together and have invested two years of their life into the game. They live together with their long suffering non gaming flatmate Alison, played by the brilliant Charlotte Ritchie, who delivers bemused normality at her friends obsession. Alexa Davies delivers some of the strongest lines ‘Have you ever shat in a bucket?’ that literally had me weeping for joy, but the rest of the cast give fabulous performances. The will-they-won’t-they dynamic between Merick and Davies is so very believable. To add, I do know of a man who played whilst sitting on a commode with headphones and microphone... no, not me.
They are joined online by Usman (Sargon Yelda) a US gamer whose marriage, children, and rather important job are an afterthought compared to his obsession with Kingdom Scrolls. The trio form a formidable unit that is disrupted by the arrival of noob Russell (David Mumeni): naive, enthusiastic, eager to please, and simple-minded. Russell is initially invited into the game by Meg because, in her own words, she wants ‘him to demolish my entire downtown area,’ in real-life. It is an attraction that doesn’t last long. At the point the other three cynically batter Russell’s virtual character to death for his expensive in-game items, I was totally sold on the series (that’s the only spoiler I am giving you). There are elements of some of my favourite comedies here (Red Dwarf BTL, Marion and Geoff, and Game On all sprang to mind whilst watching), all jumbled up in brand new box of delights.
Dead Pixels holds a really sharp mirror up against the online world. Yes, it is sanitised; it really really would have to be, MMORPG can seem like immoral sewers of scum and villainy (they are). However, it deals with issues like love, friendship, obsession, and addiction. The cast is brilliant; sharp, witty, but vulnerable and very very human, and they make the fabulous writing really sparkle. Jon Brown who has created the show has pulled off an impressive feat in recreating a gamers world without patronising it. If you have ever dabbled in an MMORPG Dead Pixels will make you LOL, but the universal issues that the show addresses should give it much wider appeal. I certainly hope so; this deserves to be a hit!!
Big hat tip to the graphics guys as well for a very believable game environment.
Dead Pixels is on E4 on Thursdays at 9.30pm, or watch the whole series now on All4.