Mythic Quest: Raven's Banquet is the game studio sitcom you didn't know you needed

Sharp workplace comedy from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia creators is the antidote for Hollywood's terrible video game film adaptations

I think we’re largely in agreement at this point that it’s generally a bad idea to try to turn videos games into movies. Virtually all attempts at adaptations have failed miserably — as evidenced by Rotten Tomatoes’ running tally of such films, in which only two out of 42 manage an overall fresh rating.

But that doesn’t mean the world of games and film are a complete mismatch.


Documentaries focused on the development of video games — such as Thank You for Playing and the award-winning, Canadian-made Indie Game: The Movie — have fared substantially better with both critics and audiences. We may not be interested in seeing pixelated characters made flesh, but it turns out stories about the creative process hold interest to us, regardless of what the thing being created happens to be.
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Apple TV+’s latest series, Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet, targets our fascination with creative genius, focusing on the people responsible for developing the show’s titular fictional game. And it does so in the familiar and frequently satisfying shape of a workplace sitcom.
Think of it as a successor to Silicon Valley, with programmers, billionaires, and venture capitalists swapped out for a pompous creative director named Ian (pronounced I-ann) Grimm, played by It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia‘s Rob McElhenney (also one of the show’s creators); the charmingly slimy “head of monetization” Brad Bakshi, brought to life by Community‘s Danny Pudi; and the game’s brilliant but underappreciated lead engineer, Poppy (Charlotte Nicdao).
These three are joined by a terrific supporting cast, including a pair of game testers (Ashley Birch and Imani Hakim) who may be falling in love, a spineless executive producer (fellow It’s Always Sunny alum David Hornsby, also one of the show’s writers) and his vaguely psychotic personal assistant Jo (Jessie Ennis), and none other than F. Murray Abraham — still sharp as a tack at 80 — playing C.W. Longbottom, the game’s lead writer, who hasn’t actually played his company’s game but never misses an opportunity to mention that he won a Nebula award in 1973.

Cue office hijinks.

Many of the shenanigans that ensue are unique to the world of game development, and are bound to be appreciated primarily by gamers and people in the industry. For example, there are some clever scenes set in the company’s motion capture studio, where human movements are transformed into character animations in real time, and the bulk of the first episode is devoted to Ian trying to figure out how to make the game’s latest tool/weapon — a shovel — seem “cool.” And the entire team’s seeming obsession with satisfying an egomaniacal teen streamer with 12 million followers is a pitch-perfect lampooning of one of the weirder parts of the game business.

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But Mythic Quest also plumbs themes likely to appeal to a much broader audience. Particularly authentic is the way the show pits creativity against commerce. Anyone who has ever tried to bring some level of originality or innovation to their work only to have it stamped out in the name of caution, nearsightedness, and the pursuit of the almighty dollar is bound to recognize and sympathize with some of these characters.
The fifth episode, dubbed “A Dark Quiet Death,” brings this leitmotif into sharpest focus. Written by Katie McElhenney, it takes place entirely in the past and concentrates on a pair of new characters: a game producer named Doc (New Girls‘ Jake Johnson) and Bean (Black Mirror‘s Cristin Milioti), a deliciously dark and sarcastic woman dressed in various shades of black who loves games but believes they can and should be more than just mindless killing simulations. The two end up making their own game and, predictably, fall in love in the process. But when the capitalistic whims of their parent company begin infringing on her creativity we begin to see a rift forming in their relationship. It manages to distill the core ideas of the entire series into a single 30-minute story that’s surprisingly affecting — and pretty damned funny, to boot (a scene in which they choose a space for their new studio is one of the best in the series).
The moral, it seems to me, is that while video game stories may not be a match made in heaven for film or TV, stories about video games and the people who create them seem to fit the medium just fine — especially when put together by a group of people as talented as the cast, crew, and creators behind Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet.

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