The Angry Video Game Nerd Reviewed - The Intrepid

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Angry Video Game Nerd Reviewed

For retro gaming fans, The Angry Video Game Nerd (AVGN) is a godsend. The webshow, produced, directed and starring James Rolfe regularly reviews old video games in his “angry nerd” persona. When the show began as the Angry Nintendo Nerd Rolfe only reviewed NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) games. Since 2006, the show's name was changed and Rofle and now reviews games on several classic platforms.

The show originated as a quick and angry comedic review of the NES game Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest in May, 2004. At the time, Rolfe only distributed the video to his friends, and his famous nerd persona did not even appear on screen. In his second video, a review Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde, the angry nerd persona made its debut. Like the first video, this one was only distrusted to Rolfe’s friends and family.

In 2006, the rise of youtube gave Rolfe a convenient outlet to upload his movies. The movies were an instant hit. In response to their popularity, Rolfe kept making more, and eventually turned his occasional pet project into an ongoing series.

While Rolfe’s style has dramatically changed over the years, the core of the show remains the same. As Rolfe mentions himself, the key to the show is “nostalgia.” The opening theme after all does say, “He’s going to take you back to past…” Part of what makes the show funny is that it makes the viewer reflect on the terrible video games they regularly played as a child. What’s most startling is that I remember liking some of these games, despite how awful they appear today.

The Nerd’s “indignation” is also a key element of the show. A lot of old video games have some ridiculous parts to them that defy any sense of logic. The Nerd character’s strength is that he can make these flaws hilarious through his over-the-top indignation. In Rofle’s 2008 review of Superman for NES, he points out that Superman has to take the subway to travel around Metropolis. For anyone familiar with Superman’s abilities, this is insane. As the Nerd screams in frustration, “why can’t he just fly there!”

Since 2007, Rolfe has lengthened episodes and stopped focusing solely on the games themselves. Episodes now usually have a live action segment where Rolfe either dresses up as a character from the game or engages with character is some way or other. While these segments are improving, they are still not as funny as the gaming portion of the reviews.

The best live action segment is undoubtedly the Nerd’s run in with Leatherface from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. In this episode, not is the Nerd able to poke fun at some his more abrasive fans, but he also gets to make fun of how absurd Texas Chainsaw Massacre for the Atari 2600 is. After reviewing the game in this episode, the Nerd is chased by Leatherface who eventually becomes stuck on a discarded bicycle, just like in the game. Believe me, it’s a lot funnier if you watch the review.

While AVGN isn’t perfect, Rolfe frequently over does the swearing and diarrhea bit and the new site seems to have server issues, the show is a lot of fun. There are some great retro games out there, but there are enough bad ones to keep the Angry Video Game Nerd busy playing "shitty" games for a long time.