Growing up, JRPGs like Final Fantasy 2 & 3 (4 and 6 in Japan), Chrono Trigger, and EarthBound were the videogames that I would lose myself in every day after school. These simple, pixelated graphics could hold untold worlds of storytelling within them, a few simple dots bringing a character to vivid emotional life. Then gaming moved away from that, towards photorealism and extensive cutscenes and then the JRPG basically died for Western audiences. They may look more ‘real’, but they feel more posed, and the relentless push of poorly-directed, poorly-written cutscenes makes it even harder to get invested in the characters.
There’s a lot of power in these clumsy old graphics, in working within a limitation, something Emily Carmichael realized perfectly with RPG OKC. Her short film takes the look and feel of classic JRPG quest fantasy and transports it to the world of online dating. In it, Paul, a young soldier working for an evil overlord, and Paquine, a catgirl from a bizarro dimension, meet up on an online dating site. The two share the sort of awkward banter you always find in online dating – pan
Emily Carmichael’s RPG OKC has a sharp observational sense of humor. From the dry wit of doing emotional close-ups on pixelated characters, which – instead of giving us more details – renders the characters almost abstract to the ways men and women talk about meeting a new online partner, Carmichael’s short film is just straight-up funny. Often absurd, this blend of romantic comedy and old-school gaming goes down easy and makes you wish for more.
Watch RPG OKC below!
“RPG OKC” was written, directed, and animated by Emily Carmichael. You can visit her site here and see some of her work, which I highly recommend you do.