James Rolfe, an independent filmmaker from New Jersey, became an accidental pioneer in integrated retail and distribution when he created an Angry Video Game Nerd.
Nostalgia fuelled crowdsourcing
In February 2012, Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie raised USD $325,327 via an IndieGoGo crowdfunding campaign. The creation of a New Jersey based independent filmmaker, James Rolfe, AVGN started out as a joke. It was simply a video made for friends in 2004. After Youtube was launched in 2005, Rolfe began posting Nerd episodes online. These went viral after a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles episode, which had received over 8 million views by 2015. Each episode is centered on The Nerd giving his opinions on terrible videogames from the past.
After 8 years of being in production and over 100 webisodes, AVGN: The Movie got an independent film release in 2014. This came 10 years after the first AVGN video was made. Rolfe and his Cinemassacre production company handled all of the distribution for the film, which included a movie theatre release in 27 cinemas throughout the US and Canada. By coincidence, the plot of the film ended up being an example of art imitating real life. It fed into the folklore surrounding the burial, and exhumation, of the E.T. game for the Atari 2600. Considered to be the worst videogame of all time, truckloads of E.T. were taken to a New Mexico landfill site in 1983 (see Digging up the Ghosts of Videogames Past, IEEE Spectrum website).
Rolfe had inadvertently crowdsourced a successful independent filmmaking career by tapping into the nostalgia that fuels retrogaming communities. A feedback loop culture, fuelled by The Nerd’s commentary on videogames from his childhood, started to form around AVGN. It is ultimately what made crowdsourcing the film possible. AVGN videogames also started to get released by independent developers, such as Eric Ruth and Kevin Berryman, in 2008. Within four years of being created, The Nerd had become a videogame character himself.
In AVGN games, players make their way through environments based on the mythos created by Rolfe. It is the common theme running through all Nerd games. The Glitch Gremlin from AVGN episode 92, for instance, plays a prominent role in The Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures released by ScrewAttack Games in 2013. Always quick to thank his supporters, James paid homage to the AVGN games by critiquing them as The Nerd in AVGN episode 115.