Using 16-bit graphics, RPG OKC tells an ordinary story of online romance set in an extraordinary world of fantastical adventure.
In my previous article, I discussed Jacob Frey, a German animator who worked his way into the film industry by making independent projects on the Internet. As impressive of a feat that is, he is not the only person to find success through grassroots support. Emily Carmichael, for one, found her start by creating videos that were featured on the site for Penny Arcade, a long-running and highly popular webcomic. Now, she has been signed on to co-write for Pacific Rim: Maelstrom, the sequel to Guillermo del Toro’s blockbuster action flick. She will also pen and direct Powerhouse, a film that is being co-produced by Steven Spielberg. Carmichael first received recognition for her web cartoon, The Adventures of Ledo and Ix, which featured sprite animation and was set in a world akin to a retro video game. However, she later created a spin-off short film of the series that arguably garnered her even more acclaimed. This piece, RPG OKC was nominated for Best Narrative Short at the Tribeca Film Festival, won Best Short at the 22nd Philadelphia Film Festival, and was named an Audience Favorite at the Science Fiction Fantasy Short Film Festival. With a unique premise and impressive visuals, RPG OKC is a dream come true for fans of old school games and/or chick flicks.
The story centers around Paul, a disgruntled castle guard for a powerful evil monarch, and Paquine, an introverted anthropomorphic cat woman living in a mysterious alternate dimension known as the “Negative Zone.” The two frequently message each other using OkCupid, which leads to them falling in love. RPG OKC is a send-up to both Japanese role-playing games from the 1990’s and romantic comedies. These two elements blend together well, as it lampoons many of the tropes of both media. All the characters speak using text in dialogue boxes, and the writing makes it abundantly clear that Carmichael is a huge fan of her source material. The short is also very self-aware, with plenty of jokes that poke fun at both RPG’s and romcoms. Paul and Paquine share some great chemistry, too, displaying the kind of affection one might find in a relationship in which the ones involved have never met face to face. In addition, the animation is arresting and distinctive. Carmichael shows her prowess as a visual storyteller, using the old school-era graphics to create an interesting world for her characters to interact with. The design of the landscape of the Negative Zone is especially fascinating, envisioning an alternate dimension that is even more bizarre than the already imaginative “normal” setting. Furthermore, the ending utilizes the idea of parallel universes in a creative way that leads to a touching moment between the two main leads.
Overall, RPG OKC is an inventive and entertaining short film that wears its love for video games and film on its sleeve, giving the audience an enjoyable experience.