From the creators of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet is an Apple, Lionsgate and Ubisoft co-production, that combines a workplace comedy format with an interesting (and admittedly oversimplified) look at the modern video game industry. The show has plenty of well-trodden tropes like the egotistical boss, and a hopelessly undervalued employee thinking about leaving, but Mythic Quest uses those tropes to tell some genuinely engaging human stories on the video game industry and the associated creativity. There is also some great performances and some hilarious satire of modern pop culture thrown in for good measure.
The basic pitch for Mythic Quest is a sitcom that looks behind the scenes of the fictional World of Warcraft-like “Mythic Quest”. The show begins with the lead up to the release of the games largest expansion “Raven’s Banquet”. Mythic Quest’s creator and creative director is Ian Grimm (hilariously pronounced ‘eye-ann’), who expects the world from his employees whilst rarely giving them the credit or input they deserve. Grimm is played by the real-world creator of the show Rob McElhenney (who also created It’s Always Sunny). McElhenney brings a hilarious sense of likeability to the otherwise obnoxious, and self-obsessed character.
Amongst a large supporting cast, the other half of Mythic Quests’ main duo is the games lead programer Poppy Li, played by Charlotte Nicado. An often overlooked and certainly overworked employee Poppy is the person responsible for enacting Ian’s vision. Poppy is the level-headed side to the coin that is Mythic Quest. Ian and Poppy’s dynamic is the real crux of the show, and is the subtext to almost every episode, in particular as Poppy starts to doubt her future with Mythic Quest after deciding the environment, and Ian specifically, isn’t how working in gaming should be.
The rest of the cast is rounded out by another It’s Always Sunny alum with David Hornsby as David Brittlesbee the hopelessly powerless Executive Producer, Danni Pudi as Brad Bakshi the money-loving head of game monetisation, Ashly Burch and Imani Hakim as two-game testers, and F. Murray Abraham as C.W Longbottom, the games head writer. There is also Jessie Ennis as Jo, David’s (but sometimes Ian’s) assistant, and Caitlin McGee as Sue, Mythic Quests impossibly positive community manager. As with any solid supporting cast, each member of the team brings in a new dynamic, and how their various storylines are interwoven provides much of Mythic Quest’s intrigue and entertainment.
In terms of realism there is no doubt that Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet oversimplifies the process, problems, and solutions behind making video games, in particular, a constantly live MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) like Mythic Quest, but I’d argue most of these benefit the simplicity of the story.
Another ‘problem’ the show suffers (one I’ll admit is perhaps being more nitpicky than is necessary) is an inconsistency with in-game footage. This is a problem that many video game-related shows suffer, but in particular with Mythic Quest which borrows footage from Ubisoft games like For Honor and Assassin’s Creed (which it later confusingly name drops), and then switches to its a more empty and basic looking world for most in-game scenes – also most times we see any footage there is no visible User Interface – although sometimes there is.
Through the wide supporting cast Mythic Quest packs in as much satire and jabs at the real-world gaming industry as possible, with community manager Sue questioning why people even play the game if they hate it so much, and Poppy pointing out that just because something is old doesn’t make it cool (something a large part of modern pop-culture has forgotten).
Some of the shows more obvious satire is its thoughts on streaming, and the streamers themselves. The main video game streamer the show features is called Pootie Shoe, a joke at real-world YouTuber PewDiePiepie. Played by Elisha Henig the character is less of a direct parody of PewDiePie and more of a generic teenage video game streamer who has fully sold out, views his mom as an employee, and knows how powerful his ten million-strong audience makes him to a game like Mythic Quest.
Much of the streaming humour comes from the development team’s annoyance at how much the opinion of the snotty and entitled teen streamers matters to the success of their game. The show also briefly circles some more serious topics like banning hate groups from video games (and the resultant rights issues), a lack of female representation in the video game industry, and the excessive time pressure put on video game developers (known as ‘crunch’).
Although it only touches on most of these topics for an episode or so, it does have a lot to say. Michelle, the only other female coder than Poppy, played by Aparna Nancherla, tells a young group of girls how difficult it is to be a female coder and that she sees other women as more of a competition than she sees men, as it’s already such an established boys club.
Michelle later notes that she and the coding team don’t mind the time requirements of video game crunch, and explains that Ian’s demands are correct, more time on the game is what it needs to make it great, they just want to be fairly paid for the extra hours required – which is a large part of the real world debate on video game crunch.
Ultimately though where Mythic Quest succeeds the most, more than showing a version of video game development or even being a funny show, is the trials and frustrations that come with working in a creative industry.
Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet does a great job of showing the problems that come with the creative side of games, in particular how that works in a collaborative environment. Ian, the seemingly naive and carefree boss who likes to take all the credit, mentions his frustration at not being able to create what he sees in his head on a screen. He explains that what Poppy does is essential and that in reality she ‘made’ the game, he just imagined it.
On the opposite side, Poppy’s problems come from not having anything of her own. Instead, she simply makes what Ian tells her, and even when she does come up with something (like the first episode’s shovel add-on), Ian and the others usually high-jack it and turn it into something she didn’t intend, like a weapon or sellable item.
The show also puts a large emphasis on showing how the expectations and demands of others can affect the creative process. Others think that Poppy can just create anything for the game almost instantly, without considering how difficult it really is. Similarly, Ian is expected to come up with a new idea that will save the game on the spot, or CW is tasked with writing an incredible new story or character as soon as it is required. For those in any kind of creative industry, Mythic Quest does a great job of showing how people see creativity, and how they often oversimplify and undervalue it.
And none of this is more evident than in the fifth episode of the show, “A Dark Quiet Death”, which is, except a very brief mid-credits scene and call back in the final episode of the series, a beautifully realised (and harrowingly emotional) standalone episode that focuses on vision, and what people will sacrifice for it (for my full thoughts on the fifth episode check out our post HERE).
Overall Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet combines a well-rounded cast with some new twists on well-worn tropes, adds in just enough of a look at real-world issues in the gaming industry, and offers a heartfelt look at the struggles behind a collaborative creative process, all of which adds up to an endearing, charming, and funny show.