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Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Understanding Video Games Post 4: My Choice

With this blog post for my Understanding Video Games class, I have been given the choice to talk about any topic that I want. Thus, I have decided to focus on a certain area of video game culture that has fascinated me over the past five years, yet has seldom been thoroughly analyzed-- the growing trend of comedic video reviewers of games on the internet.

The catalyst for this trend was James Rolfe, a big fan of movies and a budding filmmaker in his own right. Way back in 2004, Rolfe did two video game reviews, and decided to humorously subvert the more professional style of traditional video reviews of games by being overly negative and tossing in some profanity for good measure. Two years later in 2006, Rolfe's friend and collaborator Mike Matei encouraged him to post his game reviews on Youtube. Soon, Rolfe, in association with Matei and musician Kyle Justin, began producing more game reviews as part of the "Angry Video Game Nerd" series. The Nerd soon took Youtube and the internet in general by storm, and many were influenced by the Nerd's foul-mouthed and quick-witted reviewing style.

A seemingly countless amount of AVGN copycats soon flooded Youtube, though many of them were of dubious quality at best. But none of them have been as controversial as Chris Bores, a.k.a. the Irate Gamer. Many of the earlier Irate Gamer episodes not only covered games previously reviewed by the Angry Nerd (like the Back to the Future and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games for the NES), but Bores also critiqued many of the same aspects of those games that Rolfe had. To add insult to injury, Bores has gone to great lengths to discredit or downplay Rolfe as an inspiration. These accusations of plagiarism, combined with many factual errors, extremely weak complaints, an abundance of flubs (in many scenes, Bores's systems are turned off or not set up properly, and he often mispronounces frustrating as "fustrating"), and an increasingly erratic release schedule have resulted in Bores appearing as a flat-out hack in the eyes of many. Despite these criticisms, Bores has had a fair amount of success as a Youtube partner, and has even been invited to the video game's premiere expo, E3.

On the other end of the popularity spectrum, as far as reviewers/internet personalities based on AVGN go, is Derek Alexander, whose web series, the Happy Video Game Nerd, is, as it title indicates, a blatant parody/homage to Rolfe's iconic character. While Rolfe's character focuses largely on tearing apart poorly-made and/or bizarre games, Alexander's Nerd sets his sights on informing viewers about the hidden gems of gaming history. Alexander's videos have become so popular, that even Rolfe has admitted to liking them.

Another notable video game reviewer is Noah Antwiler and his show the Spoony Experiment. Antwiler is one of the most popular internet comedians affiliated with Channel Awesome, the company behind the website That Guy With The Glasses, and it's video game-centric sister site Blistered Thumbs. Other notable Channel Awesome contributers include Doug Walker, whose beloved Nostalgia Critic once had a mock feud with Rolfe's AVGN, and Lewis "Linkara" Lovhaug, whose comic book review show Atop the Fourth Wall has made frequent crossovers with the Spoony Experiment. There are many other video game reviewers at Blistered Thumbs worth mentioning. Among them are the French-based Benjamin Daniel, whose character Benzaie is known for his comedically broken English; "Angry Joe" Vargas, whose reviews are meant to help video game producers improve their creations; Justin "JewWario" Carmical, who focuses on games only released in Japan; and Bennett "the Sage" White, who has reviewed everything from video games to comic books to even poorly-written fanfiction. One former member of Channel Awesome who deserves mention is Jason "LordKaT" Pullara, whose series Until We Win took viewers through some of the most challenging video games ever made.

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