411 Mania Games Exclusive: An Interview With The Angry Video Game Nerd
411Mania: With Xbox Live and Wii Virtual Console services launching, gaming nostalgia seems to be running very strong right now. Is that what inspired you to start filming the Angry Nintendo/Video Game Nerd?
James Rolfe: No actually, I made the first couple Angry Nintendo Nerd videos in May 2004. It was meant to be an in-joke for my friends. I had no idea retro gaming nostalgia was on the rise as much as it is. I didn’t know anybody would even get what I was doing. The whole joke was that I was ripping apart a game that’s nearly 20 years old and getting pissed off about it. Like, why would anyone care, let alone remember those old games? But little did I know, this turned out a lot bigger than I thought.
411Mania: Your videos features a lot of swearing– was that a conscious decision, or did it just sort of happen?
James Rolfe: I dropped in a few swears at first, just because I thought I needed to drive the point home how angry this nerd is. But fans kept encouraging the swearing, so I kept going further with it. Everybody thought it was hilarious. I would have never guessed that it would become such a character trait.
411:You chug a lot of Rolling Rock in some of the videos. Why Rolling Rock? Did you ever think of switching to a different brand?
James Rolfe: Once I was really drunk on the streets of Philadelphia at 6AM in the rain, with a paper bag and a few cans of Rolling Rock and the NES game Rygar. That’s a true story, you couldn’t make up something like that. I was walking home from a party in college and someone had an extra copy of Rygar, so he gave it to me.
But that story doesn’t really have anything to do with the videos. Rolling Rock was just a coincidence. The idea of the joke was that the games are so bad, they cause me to drink. But now, like the cursing, it’s a trademark of the character and I’m even mentioned on Rolling Rock’s wikipedia page. I thought of maybe switching to Yuengling, because Rolling Rock got bought out by the company which now makes Yuengling, the only true Pennsylvania beer that I drink.
411:What was the most frustrating game you’ve ever played?
James Rolfe: Zelda 2: the Adventure of Link can be a pretty tough game, but it’s beatable and it’s classic. A game like Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde is just plain bad, but it’s also very frustrating because you’re so helpless and unable to attack anything. Jekyl walks much slower than any of the enemies, and then sometimes you die for no apparent reason. Then as Mr. Hyde, lightning strikes you down at random. I’d say that’s pretty frustrating, so if I’m going to pick one, that’s it.
411:What’s the crappiest video game you’ve played…and loved anyway, then?
James Rolfe: Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest maybe. I consider that a very flawed game, however its regarded as a classic by many people and besides, it’s part of the Castlevania franchise. I will always remember the day I bought it at Toys R Us, long ago, and those days are fond memories, but you know what? That game sucks. It’s a love/hate relationship.
411: You have a knack for ramming together random cuss-words to make new, different cuss-words. Let’s see how quick on the draw you are by completing this phrase: “Other sites that are not 411 Mania Games can…
James Rolfe:…shovel a dead moose up their motherfucking shit hole.”
411: What’s your favorite episode of Angry Video Game Nerd that you’ve filmed?
James Rolfe: I’m not sure, actually. I liked doing both the Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm St ones, because I got to do some film-making and try some different things. I also liked the Bible games episode a lot, because those games brought me a lot of laughter. I really am shocked every time I play Super Noah’s Ark 3D.
411:You really ripped on Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th for the NES. As a horror aficionado, did you enjoy the Splatterhouse game series?
James Rolfe:Yes, games like that and Zombies Ate My Neighbors definitely attracted my attention for the titles alone. I remember them being pretty good.
411: What about the 8-bit and 16-bit era of games do you enjoy the most?
James Rolfe: I think today games look too real. Also I’m a fan of side scrolling games. 3D is cool too, but there’s too much of it today. Lately, I’ve been playing some of the new versions of classic games on the Nintendo DS, like the New Super Mario Bros, and Sonic Rush. I like when they go back to the original format. It’s a hard question, but those old games really have a lot of charm.
411:You’ve done a Christmas Special, and a horror/Halowe’en special, as well as a tie-in with the new Rocky film. Any other upcoming specials you’d like to divulge?
James Rolfe: Well you can imagine by next Hallowe’en, I’m going to go nuts.
411:For some time now I’ve been getting the sense that there is some meta-commentary going on in your videos. Like how the room you play the games in is covered in old posters dating back to the NES days, the TV which actually has a dial on it for changing the channel, suggesting someone stuck in the past. For all your video game bile and ranting, you provide only accurate knowledge and you even applaud something when it works despite expectations, like how playing R.C. Pro-Am with the Power Glove works surprisingly well, even if it sucks for attempting to play almost everything else. And you even seem to be poking fun at yourself and the AVGN formula in one video where you end up finishing up the usual string of obscenities with a pause and then “…and I don’t like it!” as a stinger right before the end.
So, correct me if I’m wrong, but are you putting as much thought into playing a nerd CHARACTER as you are reviewing crappy video games?
James Rolfe: Hmm. Yeah it’s all a show. [People] definitely seem to enjoy it and that’s what really matters to me. I do exaggerate a lot of things, but they all stem from truth. You know, I get emails every day from people explaining to me how to land the plane in Top Gun or how to beat McKids. The truth is, I’ve beaten McKids and I’ve landed the plane, but that wouldn’t be funny to see in the video… except when I’m landing the plane with the Power Glove and being surprised over it. So I’ve turned myself into a character which is more or less an exaggeration on myself and just try to make an entertaining show.
411: That’s fascinating. Thanks for taking the time to talk with us!
The Angry Video Game Nerd is a satirical character who rants about the games of the past. He remembers frustrating aspects of games thought to be forgotten, but that come up and haunt you.
He is dedicated to anyone who’s gotten pissed off at a game.
His video reviews are a creation of filmmaker James Rolfe from Cinemassacre.com. His videos currently debut on Screwattack.com. For the Nerd’s direct page, check out AngryNESNerd.com.