Felicia Day and Freddie Wong hosted last week’s Dice Awards, the Oscars of video games, during the Dice Summit at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas. That was significant because they are home-grown video game celebrities, becoming famous through their gamer-focused shows on YouTube.
Day and Wong weren’t celebrities pretending to like games. They were authentic. And while some of their jokes fell flat, their performance was generally well received. Before the event, they were relaxed and playful. Day talked about the issues she has faced as a woman in gaming and acting while Wong discussed the stereotypes of gamers and Asian males. Their reactions showed that they do feel the occasional pain of sharp criticism from the Internet.
Day is co-founder of the digital entertainment network Geek & Sundry. She created and starred in the hit web series The Guild, which is about a member of a guild in a fantasy role-playing game. She went on to act in the CW show Supernatural and is completing a two-season role in the SyFy series Eureka. Her YouTube channel has 75 million views.
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Wong is a pioneer in online video about gamer culture with his YouTube channel, FreddieW. He has created some of the funniest, most viral video satires about games. His channel has had more than 900 million views since its inception in April 2010. Video Game High School, his web series, gained over 50 million cumulative views over 12 15-minute episodes in 2012. Wong is currently raising money through an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign for season 3 of VGHS. He’s about halfway to his goal of $750,000.
We interviewed Day and Wong last week just before the awards show. Here’s an edited transcript of our conversation.
GamesBeat: Do you guys have a game plan for the awards tonight?
Felicia Day: We’re going to be amusing.
Freddie Wong: Hopefully.
Day: We’ll be on script, hopefully, and celebrate some awesome video games.
GamesBeat: You guys have something in common here. You were sort of born on the Internet because of video games.
Day: You could say that, yeah. I think so. We have the same roots. We came from the same womb, Freddie.
Wong: A dirty, sticky, gross Internet womb of games. Absolutely.
GamesBeat: Is that what made you want to do this together?
Wong: I don’t know, actually. When I heard that you were going to be my co-host, I was like, that’s perfect. That’s right.
Day: I’m honored.
Wong: My friends, when I were telling them about this, would say, “Oh, that’s the best combination you could possibly have for this.” OK, that’s good.
Day: There’s nowhere to go but down now.
Wong: Nothing but the highest of elevated expectations to fall from.
Day: I mean, we’re not comedians. We’re not stand-up artists. I envy those guys for what they can do, to be off the cuff like that. That’s not our style. We’re coming from a point of view where, like he said, we have a love for games. I’m excited to represent a ceremony honoring great feats in games. Having observed the industry for so long, I appreciate so much of the process that it takes to get a good game made.
GamesBeat: The past hosts have always had that comedian style of roasting everybody who’s in range. It almost carried on the stereotypes about games, that these are just a bunch of geeks here.
Wong: A lot of them come from a perspective of not being gamer types themselves. Hopefully, our history and our experiences and our upbringing with regards to gaming at least shows through.
Day: But also there are some people who watch a ceremony like this, and they’re waiting to be offended. If you’re waiting to be offended, you’ll find something to offend you. … I think gaming has matured to the point that we can just have an evening of celebrating games. We can make some fun jokes — where we’re not making fun of people, but we’re having fun with them — to make the evening lighter and hand out some awards.
People might have been burned in the past, if only as part of an effort to make games more mainstream and bring more people into games. I don’t think it’s ever done out of a sense of pure malice or anything. Everyone always has the best of intentions. Sometimes, you just have to do some experimenting to figure out what the right tone is for your audience. But together, if people are willing to go into the event with an open mind, we can all have a lovely evening.
GamesBeat: How do you feel about this whole mainstreaming of games? How do you look at it, whether people had made fun of you when you were young?
Wong: I wish it had gone mainstream earlier, so it could have been cool to play games.
Day: Yeah, I missed that whole window when I was a teenage punk. “Yeah, I’m totally into Ultima!” “Oh, man, you are so hot.” The stigma of being an outcast or a weirdo if you’re playing games, that whole Big Bang thing, is kind of yesterday’s gamer. I don’t think someone who’s 15 or 18 or 20 thinks about playing games like that. It’s a big shift in geek culture in general. You can be a huge sports fan and be a huge FPS player and that’s not necessarily what you’d think of as a “gamer.” Or you can be someone who loves to play Candy Crush. But to negate that title, somebody who loves games….
Wong: Yeah. It’s just as valid there.
GamesBeat: Flappy Bird is one of the big things now.
Day: I didn’t get into that. But I hated Angry Birds. And not in a hipster way. It’s just that I didn’t believe that physics. I didn’t get it. Sorry. Aerodynamically, that bird cannot fly that far.
Wong: Well, it’s just been launched by a giant slingshot.
Day: Doesn’t matter.
GamesBeat: You guys have a great touch with humor.
Day: We hope!
GamesBeat: Where does that come from? Because there’s so much bad humor out there.
Day: Humor is relative. Some people think some guys are funny. Adam Sandler, God bless him, is not my style, but a lot of people think he’s the funniest dude on earth. I like British comedy, and most people are like, “What are you talking about?” The Mighty Boosh, who is that? I think it’s the best show ever written. So, there you go.
Wong: Where would it come from? It’s a good question. I guess world view is some of it.
Day: They say that humor is a combination of the known and a surprise — what you know, and then the surprise that someone can make you feel based on what you know. That’s pretty individual to each person.
GamesBeat: What about the kind of humor that gamers like?
Wong: That’s a good question. Gamer humor ranges all over the place. What it comes down to is taking a lot of what we see in gaming and we’re familiar with in gaming and being like, “OK, hold on, let’s re-examine this for a second. Isn’t this funny? Isn’t this strange? Isn’t this a little bit ridiculous?” That’s where it is.
GamesBeat: What do you consider your main projects now? You guys always seem to have different things going on.
Day: My channel, Geek & Sundry, we have three scripted shows that are going to be coming on in the next several months, which I’m really excited about. I’m taking the year off to create new stuff for myself. I’m super excited about writing.
Wong: We’re working on the third season of Video Game High School, running a crowdfunding campaign for it as we speak. Quick plug, rocketjump.com/campaign, still time to donate! For the rest of the year, the goal is to do more series. We’re ending the VGHS run, and we’re going to be launching, hopefully, as many series as we can do in the next year.
GamesBeat: Why did you decide to end it?
Wong: There’s a bunch of reasons. One is that it’s really difficult to keep everyone the same age. Everyone’s getting older. Also, every season we do, we run the risk of … if some actor gets pulled off for a TV gig, then we’re done. A couple of our actors, some of the main ones, they’re on the edge. They’re getting pretty far with some of their pilot stuff.
Day: With TV shows, they pay a lot of money to own you, to be exclusive.
Wong: Recasting would suck. And, like I say, everyone’s getting older. You get that Degrassi thing, where at a certain point everyone’s like “Yeah. Right. You have a mustache.”
Day: You could do it like One Tree Hill and just jump to middle age. That’s what they did. Not that I watched that show. And it’s fine if you do.
Wong: That was a big concern. And, also, we had a whole bunch of other things we wanted to do. We didn’t want to just be doing that specifically. It’s such a production. We want to try a range of things. So, lots of practical, boring reasons.
GamesBeat: You had the post about your hair recently.
Day: I’m glad that’s what people are talking about, my hair. I’m really glad that is the number one conversation. Yes. Freddie, what you need to do is change your hair and see if that makes the front page.
Wong: I get occasional tweets from people asking what shampoo and conditioner I use. I go straight for the Costco brand, Kirkland brand, the bulk shampoo. That’s as far as I go.
Day: And your tresses look so glossy.
Wong: I saw that post. That was ridiculous.
Day: I mean, A, it’s ridiculous that I’ve done so much in the last couple of years — running a business, creating shows, producing them, starring in them — and, yet, that’s the one thing I get a lot of trash about. But that’s just life.