directed by Emily Carmichael
Short film

View a still from the film

Two guards are on the night shift, keeping watch over a kingdom constructed from pixellated squares. Passing the time before they can clock off, they exchange small talk about their love lives, or lack thereof. Paul, an OK Cupid enthusiast, is keenly swapping messages with a potential match, but they are yet to meet face-to-face. ‘It’s tough,’ he tells his armour-clad wingman. ‘She lives in the negative realm.’ The world is cleaved in half, and geography is not in their favour. ‘Harken well, my brother,’ his confidant says in sympathy, taking another couple of stilted steps across the gangway. ‘Long distance blows.’

Meanwhile, in a rose-tinted desert down under, a heel-clad lemon hovers near her daughter, an emerald-eyed cat called Paquine, as she surfs the web. ‘Holy shit but he is comely,’ the mother blurts out at the sight of Paul’s profile picture. Once she has been hastily shooed away, the starcrossed lovers continue to chat awkwardly, trading memes and sharing details about their days: ‘I got brunch … and looked out at the Sea of Nothing for a while.’ Caught in the bubble of online messaging, they long to finally meet. First, though, there are logistical hurdles to jump, and the odd big boss to vanquish.

Words by Elizabeth Brown

The title sequence of RPG OKC sees its letters pop into view one by one, accompanied by the six pitches of a glockenspiel motif, each rising above the last. The acronym outlines the premise of its plot: here, role-playing games and online dating sites collide. The synthesised harps and woodwinds of the film’s score conjure up a sense of artificial antiquity, befitting the archaic inflections of this make-believe realm. At times, the music drops out to make way for an awkward silence or the enthusiastic clacking of computer keyboards. At others, the volume is ramped up to signpost a moment of celebration or an imminent battle.

Over the course of the film’s running time, the limitations of its 8-bit graphics and video game idiosyncrasies are played for laughs. Each close-up shot renders a character’s face as an assemblage of large squares, yet every sigh, scowl, and face palm is clearly conveyed. A pair of patrolmen pace up and down on loop while in conversation, only for one to wander offscreen, leaving a speech bubble hanging in his wake. When he later attempts to clamber over a castle wall to escape conflict, it rebuffs his attempts. In its blending of virtual worlds and its affectionate parody of popular culture, RPG OKC fondly embraces both the familiar and the fantastical.

Words by John Wadsworth

More to discover

Watch RPG OKC here. Read an interview with Emily Carmichael for Filmmaker Magazine, and read about more of the filmmaker’s work on Kid Can Drive.

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