AVGN the Movie: The Film Event of Our Generation

No. That was not hyperbole.

James Rolfe, aka, the Angry Video Game Nerd, encompasses two of the biggest influences of my generation of 20-30 somethings: video games and the internet. (with hip-hop culture rounding out the triumvirate of my generation’s biggest cultural influences).  And for the last eight years, he and his friend and writing partner Kevin Finn have been working on a full-length feature film for Rolfe’s online persona and, yes, I truly believe it to be the movie event of my generation.

Don’t believe me? Here is a short list of the reasons why!

  • Video Games & Gaming Culture: Video games have, since the beginning, had many myths and legends associated with them. The movie discusses all the little secrets that used to appear in Atari games (initials and easter eggs), but even later games like Mortal Kombat, Doom, Tomb Raider, and Killer Instinct all had their own lore associated with them . These little mysteries entered into gaming culture so much that secrets in games are commonplace and expected now. Myths about how games are created and their back stories are just as compelling; from how Pac-Man got his name (anyone believe Scott Pilgrim’s explanation?) how Rock-Man became Mega-Man, we just eat these legends up. The AVGN movie explores a real game legend with a fantastical explanation. It’s the kind of stuff the internet would run with in this day and age! And on that topic…
  • Internet & YouTube Culture: The only cultural aspect that has impacted my generation more than video gaming would be the internet. People make their entire careers as internet personalities (James Rolfe being one of the best and most successful) and legions of fans follow them, often doing just what they are begged not to do. The Angry Video Game Nerd even points out in “Nintendo Classics Re-Revisited” that people bought and played Jekyll and Mr. Hyde after he expressly told them not to. The whole premise of the film is that negative press from the right personality can bring positive results. Both from a slightly sleazy game publisher and from an altruistic scientist. It’s an interesting parallel and sums up how the internet community can have profound impact on course of popular culture.
  • The Movies of Our Youth: For those in my generation, the happy-go-lucky 20-30 somethings out there, we grew up with cheesy horror movies, giant monster movies, goofy cartoons, and practical effects (guys in suits, miniature sets, puppets, blue screen effects, etc.) James Rolfe is a filmmaker first and he makes movies the way he likes them. With…guys in suits, miniature sets, puppets, and blue screen effects… I think even if he’d managed to raise 10 million dollars we’d still see a model van explode in a spark-filled firecracker explosion and not a real van flip and burn before bursting into a gasoline bomb. Death Mwauthzyx would always be a home-made suit…never a CGI model. It’s just like the movies and afternoon cartoons we all grew up with; summed up in one brilliant two hour spectacle.

I don’t think it’s necessary to go into the plot or characters. I won’t spoil it and it’s actually got too much going on to sum up in a few sentences. But suffice it to say I think James Rolfe captured the entire culture of 25-35 year olds in a compelling and incredibly hilarious movie, made with love and affection for that culture AND love and affection for his fans. Furthermore it still feels like an AVGN episode. Yes it’s bigger, more characters, expanded world…but it is still his world and has his tone.

James Rolfe has declared a sequel isn’t likely. While I’d love to see another expanded look at the AVGN’s life I can see why and I’m looking forward to seeing what other, new creative ideas he has. Until then I know I’ll enjoy revisiting all things AVGN for a while to come. It truly takes me back to the past and exemplifies what’s great (and delightfully bad) about the cultural impacts of my generation in the best way possible.

Cinemassacre website

Buy the movie!

Life Lessons from Video Games: Versus Mode!

LifeLessonsHeader

I’ve been playing video games since I 4 years old.  My first “gaming” system was an Atari 400 and was replaced (actually it was added to by) an Atari 800XL in the mid-80s.  I was a military kid who lived in secluded base-housing and, essentially, only knew my family.  I just assumed that everyone was playing Centipede, Missile Command, Frogger, and  Pac-Man.  In addition I had loads of games that almost no one has heard of but remain my all-time favorites; Sea Horse Hide n Seek, Ducks Ahoy, and Movie Musical Madness.  It wasn’t until my father retired from the USAF and we moved into “civilian” life that I first learned of what kinds of systems were popular.

I had an Atari…but never heard of an Atari 2600.  My memories of Pac-Man are slightly different from most others…the 400 and 800XL computers I had played different versions that actually (to me) looked superior to the 2600 version.  I only ever saw Commodore 64s and Apple IIs in school.  I never heard of Colecovision until I saw it on VH1’s I Love the 80s and never heard of Intellevision until James Rolfe did a video about it.  I DID hear of NES almost immediately after my we left the military lifestyle.

Atari400

Atari400

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I can remember being in my elementary school cafeteria in my private school blue shirt and slacks and a vicious little rich kid snarling at me, “What?  You don’t have Nintendo?! What’s ‘Atari’?”  I remember telling my mom that and she said, “I bet our Atari has better graphics than their ‘Nintendo…'”  And I immediately agreed.  And the game was on.

Over my lifetime I’ve seen numerous competitions in video games, systems, and gaming culture in general that are all just as frivolous and subjective as this one.  Sega vs. Nintendo.  Street Fighter vs. Mortal Kombat.  Sony vs. Microsoft.  It’s been fascinating to see them come and go, and each generation of hardware and software customers act like it’s the first time these things have ever been discussed.  I’ve been thinking a lot about all these various, senseless wars I’ve witnessed during my gaming life and thought I’d start sharing some of the most memorable.  Since this is just a little intro I thought I’d start with a brief look at the Atari vs NES.

Of course the Atari 400, which came out in 1979, and even the updated 800XL had nothing, hardware-wise, on the NES.  The NES came over from Japan with a library of games that would become classics (and some hardware strangeness that would fall into pop-culture obscurity).  Since the NES clearly has the edge in nearly every technical sense, I thought I’d look at just one thing that strikes me as amusing in terms of my old Ataris compared to the NES.

I started watching AVGN when the new Ghostbusters game was set to come out on current-gen consoles.  I heard a funny online reviewer had reviewed the NES Ghostbusters game and I was intrigued, I didn’t know there WAS one.  I turned on his review and was alarmed to see him reviewing a game I knew…only I knew it from my Atari 800XL…I knew it on floppy disk……and I knew a MUCH better version!  Smoother gameplay, more “ghostbuster-y” graphics, and less idiotic additions (like the gas station…)  Granted it was still a monotonous “wtf is going on?” kind of game, but the NES version looks like a butchered port…of an Atari game.  The Atari version was no masterpiece…but it’s definitely competitive with the later NES version!

That little fact did indeed help remind me that, although the most popular system might dominate the market, the reviews, and rewrite the history, for the minority of us who lived with other brands…we might have found a nice classic gem.

In two weeks I’ll start versus mode in earnest, and will try to do one every two weeks.  The first one will be the most appropriate way to start such a contest and has been a heated debate for almost 20 years…ladies and gentlemen…it will be: Street Fighter vs. Mortal Kombat!

Atari GB

NES GB

An Illustrator’s Foray into Adobe Illustrator – Week 3

More spheres!  Admittedly working all of these tutorials was pretty addictive and once I started learning how to use Illustrator’s various functions it was hard to stop seeking out new applications to learn.

After designing the previous sphere, which was of course simply a circle shaded to resemble a 3D object, I became curious about the rendering capabilities of Illustrator.  While cruising the forums the rendering features are often discussed and, much like pathfinder tools, which can be a little confusing for beginners like me, the 3D rendering feature feels inaccessible.

My first attempt to create something in 3D without instructions was a sphere, what could be simpler than a circle, right?  So I created an ellipse and tried a few of the 3D options, creating a cylinder, a disc, and finally this thing:

The Great Black Oil Donut

I clearly needed some assistance with this feature and while searching for “How to Create Spheres” I found another tutorial that showed, as an element of the exercise, how to create 3D spheres.  Once you see how it’s done it feels a little less psychotic than all the random shapes you can create just trying to make a polygon a 3D polygon.  The tutorial taught how to make a “peel effect” which is similar to the AT&T logo of a shape wrapped around an invisible sphere.

The tutorial:

http://www.tutorialsbucket.com/peel-effect-in-adobe-illustrator-cs5

Not only does this teach how to make 3D spheres using the rendering tools, but how to repeat graphic shapes using transform, how to create symbols, and of course how to apply the symbols to make the peel effect.

During one of the steps it shows how to easily create a 3D rendered sphere like this:

Sphere!
My first sphere rendered in 3D.

It was one of my favorite basic illustrator tutorials.  It was very easy to follow and provided clear steps in the multiple tools used to create the graphic.  Also it teaches by osmosis several other useful tools and finally hammered into my analog brain how digital 3D rendering works. I used it to create the peel effect he shows:

I admit when it worked I did say aloud, “What the…that actually worked!”

One slightly more difficult one of my own:

It was just an attempt to apply the rectangles in an overlapping fashion but it came out looking a bit like a Christmas tree ornament. It let me try the process one more time though!

And then combined it with what I learned in the previous tutorials to create this original graphic inspired by the wonderful, colorful, world of James Rolfe’s AVGN:

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it is…an F-Bomb… And I think the Nerd would approve since it looks like a Nintendo 64 graphic.

The above graphic was created using the 3D rendering sphere technique learned in the tutorial from this week; the cylinders I created by accident using “bevel and extrude” trying to create spheres before I learned how to do it properly; radial gradient shading learned from last week’s tutorial; and the pen tool (which I accidentally left on the gradient fill and made a nice fire effect).  It goes to show, once you learn enough to operate properly, classic trial-and-error methodology still has skills it can impart…and that feels like a Mr. Miyagi-level lesson.

Next week is the last tutorial about making spheres and how they’re used to create textures and even characters.  I’m sure there are plenty of other ways to use the 3D rendering tool so feel free to share creative ways to use them.  To quote Bender Bending Rrrrrodriguez: Learning is fun.

The inspiration for the F-Bomb:

Support James Rolfe and the AVGN Movie at Cinemassacre.com!