In 2004, when Youtube hadn’t exploded yet, video game criticism was reserved for professional publications. Often the opinion of such publications was fundamentally different from the opinion of the players and the industry lacked appreciation from the gaming community itself with all its honesty, which smashed the objectionable to smithereens and erected monuments to their favorites.
One of the progenitors of the «home» game review was the American James Rolf, known to everyone as Angry Video Game Nerd. The moment James picked up the gamepad, it was like Dr. Jekyll from his most hated game, he suddenly turned into a completely different person, into an angry, annoyed Nerd, lamenting about games that are already two decades old.
Glasses, trousers and a white shirt with handles in the breast pocket. He looks like he just got back from a hard day at the office. The nerd sits down to play and drink, trying to ease the pain of the insane complexity and crooked levels of old-school games. He screams, smashes cartridges in a rage, and skillfully builds the most sophisticated and lengthy insults.
The image was liked by the entire Internet and Angry Video Game Nerd gained cult status in a matter of years. What James started as a joke soon determined his fate for the next ten years.
James’s love for creativity and, especially, cinematography was born thanks to his parents, who first gave him an audio recorder, and then the famous Super 8 eight-millimeter camera. took his first reviews.
«I was just playing and talking with the camera pointed at the TV.»
But he found his real life calling a little later. 1996, sitting in his room, sixteen-year-old James is dying of boredom and the thought that he will have to spend the whole weekend like this does not give him rest. A video camera catches your eye, and the idea comes by itself — why not make your own film … alone. James has always had a “if you want to do something, do it yourself” mentality, so such a task did not frighten him at all. Being a passionate fan of any horror films, by this point James had already managed to shoot several scary short videos, but he still remained a green novice in this business and never planned to take directing seriously.
Of the equipment, James had only a simple video camera and a few masks left over from Halloween nights. Throughout the weekend, he filmed scene after scene, composing the story as he went. James’s ambition and effort paid off and he proudly introduced A Night of Total Terror to his friends. Immediately, a couple of three people were added to the film crew of James, and the filming process became much easier. There were no more doubts, and James decided to closely connect his life with cinema.
In subsequent school years, James shot short films one after another, approaching the matter more seriously and consciously. After leaving school, the passion did not disappear anywhere, and at the age of nineteen, James decides to enter the Philadelphia University of the Arts.
“I didn’t do cinema with thoughts of future wealth. It was a very personal and emotional way for me to express myself through the combination of images and sound.”
At the university, he studied the art of directing and even thought about a possible career as an animator, having taken the appropriate courses.
It was also during this period that James began running his own website, Cinemassacre.com, which would later become the home page of his Cinemassacre Productions company. In its early years, the site was more of a blog with footage of James’ work.
As for the unusual name, it combines both his main passion — «Cinema», and his life principle — «Massacre» (massacre).
“As soon as there are any difficulties that prevent me from finishing my case, I rush directly, break through the wall with my forehead and finish the job in any way. The approach to cinema is the same.
Cinemassacre for James is to get lost in what you are doing and rely on intuition and chance.
«Cinemassacre is me.»
Home Angry Video Game Nerd
2004 College completed, diploma received. As if eight years ago, James feels a promising boredom and decides to make a joke to review two of his least favorite childhood games — Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest and Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde. If in the first video we hear only the voiceover of James, then in the review on Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde James first appears on the screen in a familiar image. The video was recorded on VHS, distributed to friends and for some time was forgotten.
James’s life began to settle down. After a hateful job as a loader in a liquor store, he got a job as an editor in an industrial company. This was followed by a new apartment, a new car and a new girlfriend.
Things got even better when Youtube blossomed in 2006 with 100 million views a day. A solid part of the views began to go to James, who listened to the advice of his friend Mike Mathey, who would later become a big part of Cinemassacre. James started a Youtube channel and uploaded the first two episodes of AVGN there.
After that, he recorded a review of The Karate Kid as the missing part of a trilogy of reviews. To his surprise, the audience more than liked it, and James decided to continue.
After a review on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the project really took off. The fan base grew by leaps and bounds. Art and covers of AVGN’s title theme song, performed by Kyle Justin, rained down like a rapid waterfall.
At first, the project was called Angry Nintendo Nerd, but soon the name had to be changed. One of the reasons was potential copyright issues, but the main thing is that the range of games that could theoretically annoy Nerd was huge and far beyond Nintendo. Over time, games on the Atari 2600, Sega Dreamcast, Sega Genesis, and others fell under the sight of Nerd.
2007 was a golden year of change for James. Up until this point, he’d been uploading videos to Youtube and Cinemassacre with no income other than a growing fan base. The whole project was based on pure enthusiasm, which was just beginning to end.
But by chance, it was at this time that the MTV portal GameTrailers.com bought out James offered a one-year contract for twenty-four episodes, implying the release of two episodes per month. On the one hand, this caused confusion in the minds of freshly baked fans. After all, now the releases could only be viewed on GameTrailers, while only trailers were posted on Youtube. But on the other hand, James finally began to receive money for his work. To celebrate, he moved into a larger apartment, on the advice of his wife, he left his job and concentrated on AVGN.
Fans, meanwhile, continued to shower James with gifts, among which, in addition to a lot of game cartridges, were numerous copies of Sega Saturns and other consoles. A year later, his collection outgrew his new room, and he signed a new one-year contract in 2008 to move to an even bigger location, finally giving AVGN a room of its own.
“It was just wonderful to finally be able to shoot video while rotating the camera 360 degrees.”
It was around this time that James’s legendary front line confrontation began with another Internet celebrity, Doug Walker, better known as Nostalgia Critic. Walker, who appeared on Youtube just a year later, was dissatisfied with the comparison of himself with Nerd and spoke about it more than once on his blog. Both figures challenged each other to review this or that thing and even met in real life at the signing of autographs by James. The confrontation culminated in an epic mock fight in Nerd’s apartment, in which the latter won.
In 2010, after three years of contracts and almost a hundred episodes behind him, something happened that should have happened. James burned out. Anyway, he’s been involved with AVGN and other projects for six years now, and it’s starting to weigh heavily. James felt that he was starting to compromise on quality and decided to take a break.
A month later, he returned with a new one-year contract and announced that he would no longer release episodes more than once a month. The decision did not harm the project at all, rather the opposite. The period is notable for the release of some of its most epic episodes, including the anniversary review on the ROB controller (the first episode filmed in 16:9 resolution). But most importantly, James had time for his cherished dream…
Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie
Since childhood, James dreamed of making a feature film, which would be something more than a set of scenery in a garage. At the end of the Spielberg Games episode, fans discovered a cliffhanger hinting at the release of Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie.
After the success of AVGN in 2006, Rolf began writing a feature film with his childhood friend Kevin Finn, centering on Nerd and one of the most failed video games of all time, ET the Extra Terrestrial.
But the more popular AVGN became, the less time was devoted to the preparation of the film. From 2007 to 2010, several script revisions were made, but things did not go any further.
When, finally, James adjusted the contract, he had a long-awaited free time. She and Finn immediately began trying to launch the project and were negotiating with sponsors. Alas, to no avail.
An army of loyal fans came to the rescue. A fundraiser was launched for the film’s production and instead of the required $75,000, AVGN fans showed true love by raising $325,000.
2012 for James is the year of the fulfillment of a childhood dream and at the same time one of the most difficult periods in his life. Taking his wife and cats in his arms, he went to Los Angeles for a month-long shoot. Part of the filming took place in the desert and for James, new to a project of this magnitude, it was a disaster.
Brandon Amelot (Principal Assistant Director) recalls: “When the wind picked up, it was impossible to talk to a person more than a meter away. Because of the wind, we lost a lot of food, sheds, equipment. Everything was covered with sand and dust. Several members of the team became seriously ill.»
The guys quickly realized that they swung at a too epic debut with a huge amount of visual effects. But no one was going to back down.
“It was obvious that the whole team is really on fire with the project. Most of the team were very young, but worked hard.»
In general, the shooting went well, but it was not possible to shoot a lot of things. A protracted two-year period began to finalize the film. Special effects, editing, some scenes had to be filmed. For a month, the whole process had to be suspended due to the birth of James’s daughter.
Finally, in July 2014, the premiere screening of Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie was held at the famous Hollywood cinema Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre. Critics were not very positive about the film, but noted the scale and ambition of the project.
By the way, while James continued to polish his film masterpiece, another pleasant event happened — in 2013, AVGN Adventures was released — Rolf’s first official personalized video game developed by Freakzone Games. Not many can boast even one game built around their persona. Counting the unofficial ones, James Rolfe already has nine of them.
The most prominent are AVGN Adventures and AVGN II: ASSimilation released on PC, Wii U, Nintendo 3DS in 2013 and 2016 respectively. The games are entirely based on references to the series. Suddenly falling platforms, bosses from AVGN episodes and insane difficulty! In fact, Nerd finds himself in his worst nightmare — inside the game, which contains everything that he hates so much.
Nerd’s opinion about it is appropriate: “Each game has its own peculiarity. The highlight of AVGN Adventures is to piss me off.»
It’s done, Freakzone Games.
Currently, James continues to release AVGN reviews, but this time without the help of GameTrailers. James releases an episode about once every few months without any kind of schedule. He has already crossed off the film and the personalized game from the list of goals and is now considering how to please himself and others next time. There are rumors about a sequel to AVGN: The Movie.
James is often asked if he ever plans to review modern games. But Angry Video Game Nerd is about something else, about a pleasant feeling of nostalgia.
“Remember the first line of my song? «You will go with him to the past …». Ask me about the same games in ten years, and maybe then I’ll do them.