Updated: Oct 25, 2020
In my insatiable search for retro video game nostalgia never have I come across an individual as unique and talented as James Rolfe. He is by far not only king of retro video gaming but a whole lot more. I recently interviewed James who is the creative mind behind Cinemassacre productions and star of the “Angry Video Game Nerd” YouTube series. James’ Cinemassacre productions are extremely entertaining and addicting as I find myself watching many of the segments repeatedly and have been introduced to a number of films and video games by him that I later would purchase and enjoy. Much to my disappointment I was unable to meet James personally but he was kind enough to answer all my questions in colorful detail. Anyone who watches Cinemassacre Productions on YouTube for the AVGN series, video game walkthroughs or his extensive collection of movie review segments would be interested in knowing a more behind the scenes look at this creative talent. Let’s take a closer look into the world of James Rolfe.
Believe it or not James did not always know he was going to pursue a career in cinematic arts and actually didn’t really start taking it seriously until he was about 15 years old. When he was younger he describes himself as a shy loner who wasn’t interested in what most of the mainstream youth were doing. He enjoyed creating art and amateur stage and movie productions with puppets, action figures and most enjoyably with friends when available which he’d hope would make people laugh and connect him to the crowd. As James got older he became more interested in filming as it combined all the creative arts and which he said “Was the best way to express myself and tell the stories I wanted.” I had asked James if there were any notable people who encouraged him along the way and he answered “My family was supportive and I had some great teachers who also encouraged me. I would love to go back and thank all my childhood art teachers.” James graduated from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and now uses his passion for filmmaking as his livelihood through his company Cinemassacre productions.
James’ production company was originally called Cinematica Productions but in the year 2000 he would later change it to Cinemassacre Productions. My initial assumption was that the name was a tribute to horror films since James seems to gravitate to that movie genre and he has made a large number of YouTube movie segments called “Monster Madness Movie Reviews” but this wasn’t the case. James described the inspiration of the company name as “It wasn’t necessarily a tribute to horror it was more like a word to convey the do-it-yourself filmmaking style which was always like some chaotic rampage. You just have to Cinemassacre your way through.” He admitted though that he is a fan of horror films but mostly just the black and white classics and he doesn’t really have a favorite genre either. When asked what his all-time favorite movie is he stated “My favorite one is a comedy, It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World but a close second was a film that inspired me the most with the craft King Kong.” If you watch some of James’ movie review segments on YouTube you will notice he has an enormous movie collection and when asked how many he owns just answered “Too many too count.” James has worked on hundreds of projects and when I asked to know which was his favorite he replied “The Dragon in My Dreams.” The Dragon in My Dreams is a video you can find on James’ YouTube channel which takes a deep dive into explaining what inspired him to create movies and which after watching I became deeply moved and would highly suggest for others to watch as well. It is amazing to know that this same person is also the star who plays the Angry Video Game Nerd character on YouTube.
The Angry Video Game Nerd is one of James’ biggest successes and when I asked him if he felt the same he responded “I made the first couple Nerd videos as a short-lived joke but after YouTube was invented it proved that it wasn’t a short-lived thing at all. People loved it so I continued with them. In that way yes it is my biggest success.” I was interested in what would inspire him to create such a character and if in retrospect he would’ve done anything differently and he told me “It was a joke meant for anybody who remembered those games. The inspiration was sourced from childhood memories with the games and secondary influences of playing them in college and revisiting the past with my friends. As adults we would joke about the games. I don’t think I would have done much differently. The Nerd is just something that took shape naturally.” The AVGN has a trademark character trait being he loves Rolling Rock beer. He can be seen drinking it in his videos even more so when the games he reviews are bad. As a viewer of the show I automatically thought this must be James’ favorite beer but it was not to be the case as he explained to me “It was just a character trait like Popeye eats spinach. It just so happened to be Rolling Rock. If I’m at a bar or restaurant, I usually get Guinness.” When watching AVGN one thing that is hard to ignore especially if you are a lover of video games is the immensity of James’ collection. I mean really his collection is massive and when I asked him to give me a break down of all the video games and consoles he owned he told me this “I own 20 or more consoles I think. With games it must be in the thousands.” and regarding his favorites he said “My favorite system is SNES and my favorite game is Zelda - Link to the Past.” Admittedly since watching James’ videos I have been steadily accumulating a large amount of retro video game consoles and game titles along with a number of movie titles. James has 11 seasons of AVGN available on YouTube free to watch and if you love video games especially older ones it’s a must see.
In 2014 dedicated AVGN fans were given sincere thanks in the form of a full motion picture Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie. I asked James if this movie was the culmination of years of hard work and if there is a sequel in the making and this is what he had to say “It was definitely the culmination of years of hard work about 8 years though most of those years were spent making episodes full time while writing the movie on the side. Afterwards I cut down on the amount of episodes to get the movie done. By the time the movie went into production it was about 3 years to make. Everything we wanted to see happen in a movie we put in. It’s a very non-serious movie. It was meant to be goofy and crazy. There’s no sequel. I’d rather do something different next.” The movie is available purchase on DVD from the Cinemassacre.com website or you can view it free on Amazon if you are a Prime member. I personally loved the movie and one of my favorite quotes from it is “Nerds before Birds”. It was a funny line that was mentioned a couple of times in the movie and I will not reveal its context so it doesn’t spoil it for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet. I curiously inquired about it and this is what he had to say “The line you mentioned ‘Nerds before birds’ was written by me and Kevin Finn. It’s a stupid line but it made us all laugh. The Nerd character was meant to have the mind of a kid because he’s so attached to the past. He’s immature so that’s where the line fit in. It was like something a kid would say.”
James is not always a one man show and sometimes he can be seen with close friend Mike Matei who also does YouTube segments on the Cinemassacre channel. When I asked James about Mike he said “I met Mike in college. We played video games a lot. So we definitely are both familiar with those classic games. So when I started making the Nerd episodes he encouraged me to keep it going. Since then we’ve been working on creating content.” Mike also does videogame walkthroughs and definitely serves as an adequate substitute when waiting for James to come out with new content, “Just kidding Mike.”
As we neared the end of our interview I asked James what we could expect from Cinemassacre going forward he said “I’ll probably still be talking about movies for years to come since that’s my favorite thing but I hope to be making more of my own soon even if it’s short films. I just want to tell some stories.” This definitely appears to be true as I see James putting out more and more movie review segments and the AVGN episodes seem to be becoming more far and in between. I really hope James keeps up with the AVGN though, as it is what originally drew me to his channel. In acknowledgement of James’ talents and the journey he took to get where he is today I felt it necessary to ask him if he had any encouraging words of wisdom for up-and-coming film students and enthusiasts, he said “The main thing is to know how time-consuming it is to create videos and to know first that you’re going to enjoy it because all the time spent can be overwhelming. If you already enjoy it and it’s a personal goal of yours you’re already on the right track. Just find things you like and if you’re doing something different that nobody’s done that’s even more reason to do it. Find the next big thing that hasn’t been done yet.” I couldn’t have said it any better myself and there you have it James Rolfe, film artist, writer and entertainer among other things. Please check out James’ official site, YouTube and Twitter pages which I have posted links to below. This is Dante from the Ragingeek hoping you now know everything you ever wanted to about James Rolfe aka The Angry Video Game Nerd, thanks for reading.