The journal Critical Studies in Media Communication has published my article Shadow Academy of Video Game Production—Industrial Reflexivity of Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet. In this article, I analyze the first season of the Apple TV+ show Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet, which was co-produced by the video game publisher Ubisoft.
The show is set in a fictional game development studio and adapts the genre of workplace comedy to this specific context. The show’s creators (Rob McElhenney, Megan Ganz, and Charlie Day, who are perhaps collectively best known for their work on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) do not shy away from the problematic issues of game production, instead harnessing them for a comedic effect. Mythic Quest’s satire of poor working conditions, the lack of workplace diversity, or toxic player communities can be understood using John Thornton Caldwell’s concept of the shadow academy. Similar to TV shows like 30 Rock, Mythic Quest exposes structural issues of cultural industries, however it doesn’t challenge their underlying causes, instead it normalizes the current status quo. Furthermore, it presents Ubisoft as a self-reflexive company despite its history of workplace issues, including Ubifree or a more recent alleged sexual misconduct of top executives.
The article is based on thematic and discourse analysis of the first season of Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet (10 episodes), 30 journalistic interviews, 30 journalistic reviews, 5 promotional videos, and 220 user comments (sampled from 1354 comments using the logic of qualitative data saturation). A full overview of the analyzed empirical material is available here.