Interview With Mike Matei Of Cinemassacre Part 1 – The Early Years
Please note that any Cinemassacre content, including any featured or linked to in this article, is NSFW and contains strong language.
With the advent of YouTube, gamers all around the world have been able to share videos of their gameplay. One common type of gaming video today is bashing poorly made video games. People love to watch others suffer through torturous game experiences – just look at the sheer number of Let’s Play videos on YouTube.
Before these videos became commonplace, however, James Rolfe and Mike Matei created The Angry Video Game Nerd (AVGN), a foul-mouthed and short-tempered reviewer of bad retro games. The character soon became popular, and is still going today. A video game based on the Nerd’s episodes, AVGN Adventures, is available on Steam and will be on Nintendo systems in the future.
The Angry Video Game Nerd Movie has been in the works for years and is set to release on July 21. Also, the Nerd just celebrated his tenth anniversary in June. In addition to all the Nerd content, Rolfe and Matei do much more than just the AVGN; their website, Cinemassacre, has tons of video content and is updated regularly. The Angry Video Game Nerd is truly one of the best personalities on YouTube.
In light of the movie’s imminent release and the landmark tenth anniversary, I sat down with Mike Matei to talk about the founding of Cinemassacre, the movie, and his life as a gamer. The interview was lengthy, so expect the second part to come soon. Enjoy!
MUO: When and where did you meet James? What did you have in common besides your love for video games?
Mike Matei: James and I met in college. I believe the first in-depth conversation we had was about Transformers because I had an action figure of Devastator in my bedroom. Besides classic gaming, other interests we shared closely were old TV shows, horror movies, and cartoons from the 80’s.
MUO: You originally took the videos of James critiquing NES games and uploaded them to the Internet. Did you think much of it at the time? What made them so funny to you?
Mike: I was the one to put the videos on YouTube, but James was the first to upload the early Nerd episodes to the internet. Originally, he had them on Cinemassacre as Quicktime files. Not many people saw them there though.
Some time later, I found out about YouTube and decided to create a channel where we could post stuff. At the time, I was most excited over the Nerd videos so I uploaded those first. Originally, the show was called “Bad NES Games,” followed by “The Angry Nintendo Nerd” and finally “The Angry Video Game Nerd.” When it began, we were always trying to decide what the title should be, which is why I named the channel “JamesNintendoNerd.” I was really unsure of what to put at that point.
What made them funny to me? Being familiar with the games certainly helped… I remember seeing an article with Charles Schulz (the creator of Peanuts) many years ago. His advice for cartoonists looking to get into the business was “do something people can relate to.” I think that’s what struck a chord with me (and the fans). It tickled an untapped funny bone in our memories that we didn’t know was there until James showed us.
MUO: What was it like running a channel in the early days of YouTube? Did you get a lot of feedback?
Mike: Since the very first episode, we’ve always gotten a ton of feedback. Not only the comments on the videos, but also through personal messages and so on. The fans have been extremely supportive and helpful through either sending nice messages, or by suggesting a bad game we might not have heard about.
Before YouTube, James was always sending his movies around to film festivals on VHS tapes. It was really hard for him to get his stuff seen. YouTube opened up the door for Cinemassacre videos to get a wider audience.
It’s still an exciting thought that if you make a video, you can upload it to YouTube and someone in another country can watch it the same day. That was just unheard of when we were in college.
MUO: What was it like when you started getting media/Internet attention?
Mike: It was exciting uploading the early Nerd videos because prior to that it was really only a few people, including myself, who had seen them. I remember looking at the Karate Kid video a few days after I had uploaded it and seeing it had something like 16,000 views. I thought there was something wrong with the number count, but when I saw the amount of comments on the videos, I started to realize it wasn’t a mistake.
It was crazy to see all that unfold… and a lot to manage. At that point I got involved in trying to promote the show through social media and other outlets such as MySpace (which at the time was a big deal in case you forgot).
As for myself, people didn’t know who I was for quite a while. Once I started appearing in videos like Friday the 13th or Bugs Bunny’s Birthday Blowout, people started wondering who I was. I’ve spoken about it before, but in the beginning I was camera-shy. That’s why I only agreed to be seen wearing a mask at first.
Over the years, we’ve done so many videos that I’ve gotten used to it. It was certainly a new thing to adapt to. The best part of it is getting your opinions recognized by other people.
Just as an example, I recently did a video about Mario Kart 8. I spoke about how Nintendo royally messed up the Battle Mode system. Many people felt the same way and gave their own thoughts in the comments about what was wrong with the game. It’s nice to be able to share your thoughts and interact in that way.
MUO: You’ve played a variety of characters throughout the Nerd episodes. How did you decide whether a particular episode needed a character or not? Who’s your favorite character you’ve played?
Mike: James always writes the scripts when it comes to theatrical episodes, so he made the choice on whether the episode warranted bringing in characters. My favorite character I played was easily Bugs Bunny. That was the first fight we ever did and I think the funniest because it was so unexpected.
Normally, it’s just a guy in a room critiquing a game. You would never think that a few seconds later he’d be in a brawl with Bugs Bunny of all things. That fight also spawned many brawls that happened later, such as the fight with the Joker and when the Nerd went up against the Nostalgia Critic. It started a whole string of reviewers beating up on each other, but I think it worked best with Bugs: “Of course you realize this means war!”
That’s all for now, but there’s more to this interview! Part two is up right now , where Mike will share about his art, the AVGN movie, and the future of Cinemassacre. Don’t miss it!
What was the first episode of the AVGN you saw? Have any thoughts about what Mike had to say so far? Tell us in the comments below!