Rob McElhenney: ‘ I Hadn’t Seen a Show or Movie Take the Gaming Industry Seriously’

22 Apr

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Rob McElhenney is best known for the last 15 years in which he has written, directed, produced and starred in the highly acclaimed FX comedy 'It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia'. His latest project for Apple TV+ - 'Mythic Quest: Ravens Banquet' - is a hilarious games industry satire in collaboration with French games company Ubisoft. Renewed prior to its streaming debut, the shows second season began shooting shortly before the world shut down and stayed home.

Screen Times sat down with Rob McElhenney prior to the shows debut at PAX South where he opened up about the shows aims and gave his take on an industry often lampooned but rarely celebrated.

On Mythic Quest: Ravens Banquet's Beginnings.

“I was approached by Ubisoft and they were interested in doing a show within the industry but I wasn’t 100% sure what that meant. I said I’ll come up to the studio in Montreal and check it out. I’d never been to Montreal before and I thought, if anything it’s an excuse to go up to Montreal for the first time. I grew up playing video games but it had never crossed my mind that it would be an interesting place to set a show. I went into the studio and one of the very first people that we met was a guy with long hair and a big beard with 15 rings on each hand... I said 'Hello, what do you do?’ he replied ‘I’m a creative director.’ I asked ‘What does that mean?’ and he thought about it for a second, looked at me and then looked out into the distance… 'I Create Worlds.’ I gave my excuses and called Charlie. ‘We are making this show. This is incredible."

"The more time we spent with people in the studio the more we realised how passionate people are. Not just about playing games but making them. We then thought how similar it was to our industry in terms of creating content that people engage with. More importantly I looked back through popular culture and I hadn’t really seen a show or any movie take the gaming industry seriously -where it wasn’t just used as the butt of jokes. It’s bull because it’s an industry that dwarfs the traditional entertainment industry and there’s a reason for that. We thought that if we were going to do a show like this we had to make sure that we treat it with respect and honour its size and scale and the global community.”

“We wanted to make sure that the show was accessible to a wider audience and even if you didn’t play games or care about the industry it would still resonate with you. We wanted to make sure that it felt like an office. Like any old workplace comedy. If you had a job, you recognised a lot of those people and you saw a lot of those personalities. Beyond that, to make it feel authentic, we wanted to make sure that we were capturing those things that the studios themselves are really grappling with beyond just the interpersonal dynamics amongst the employees. Specifically things like crunch - which we deal with in a very real and big way at the end of the season. People are out there working 60 - 70 hours a week to make these games possible and one of the ramifications of that was the fall out. What does that do to the psyche of the employees and the individual?"

On Streamers

“I think it’s easy to look at people and say ‘these children have to much power and control of the industry'. My take is that I kind of love it. It puts so much more power back into the actual players hands as opposed to what we see traditionally - certainly in our industry - with so much power given to the studios and the executive producers or the people that are ‘making things’. Instead it’s all put out into the community. You get a certain level of feedback because of the advent of social media. Everybody's just a recipient of the information thats coming out. Often times that can be exceptionally toxic but when it’s not I think it can be incredibly empowering for the players, the people, the fans.”

“I look at somebody like Pootie Shoe - yes we’re playing it for comedy - but I think that’s a very important role. I think community feedback is a very important part of the process. Yes, whilst I am a little bit nervous and I fear some backlash, I think we’ve created something that pays homage and respect to the community itself."

On Games Industry Involvement

“What you see on the show, that really is a sandbox that was created by Ubisoft. It’s taking assets from games that they've had in the past. But it is a playable sandbox. Mythic Quest is a game we are slowly but surely building over the course of the season and hopefully from next season we're making - not really a playable experience - but something that we can then go in as the show makers and utilise to make sure that is feels authentic.”

“In terms of some of the cut scene stuff. For Honor was a big one, Assassin's Creed and Red Dead Redemption you'll see at some point in the future. In fact, there's a lot of games that are outside of the Ubisoft library that we were able to use. As we went on we started leveraging Apple's relationships and then my relationships because of It’s Always Sunny… We were able to reach out to some of these games developers and other gaming studios and ask them if we could use them.”

“Ubisoft has been so great about this. This didn't become a commercial for Ubisoft. They were very clear at the very beginning that they weren't interested in that either. They wanted something that celebrated the industry and we felt strongly about that as well. So yes, in the beginning, it felt like there were a lot of Ubisoft assets. As the season goes on, you'll see that we're able to use other gaming assets as well and hopefully people see the show and we’ll start opening things up next year. Nintendo was impossible as you may know. I mean impossible. Everyone else were willing to play ball. It was very important part of it for us. We wanted to make sure that this looks and feels like no other show on TV.”

Mythic Quest: Ravens Banquet is available now on Apple TV+.

Sigmund Judge
Sigmund is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of ScreenTimes where he began his Apple TV coverage in 2016. With an unwavering passion for Apple, storytelling and storytellers alike, he writes about Apple TV with a focus on the arts, development, tvOS, home theatre and accessibility. Sigmund also co-host’s Magic Rays of Light, a weekly podcast exploring the world of Apple TV and the many talents bringing our screens to life.