The Angry Video Game Nerd is a decade long series of youtube videos produced by, and starring James Rolfe as the titular character. The series is well-summed up by its title, as the core theme is an angry nerd disparaging video games that failed to live up to his standards. The series was originally called "The Angry Nintendo Nerd", but was changed to the more general "Angry Video Game Nerd" both to avoid trademark issues and to reflect a focus on other systems. The focus of the series was still on the 8-bit era, with occasional forays into games of the early 80s and late 90s as well.
I had heard of this series for years, but thought it was not the type of thing I would like: online dissections of pop culture are a dime a dozen, and watching someone play video games angrily doesn't seem like the best use of time. Recently, though, I came across some clips from "The Angry Video Game Nerd", and found it passably funny, and started watching. And kept watching. The concept and the execution started growing on me. It is a discussion of pop culture ephemera propped up by a series of angry comments, some of which become outrageously scatological. The episodes usually focus around a game, but sometimes they can focus around a peripheral, a system (such as the Colecovision) or a theme (such as Star Trek-based games). The episodes are anywhere from 5 minutes to around a half hour long, and can be straight forward game reviews, or they can go in a more fanciful and unrelated direction. Although at first I didn't think I would like this type of humor, there are a few things that make this bearable: first, this was original. While guy on the couch youtube review series are now overdone, at the time the first episode was released, in 2004, it was still a novel idea. Second, the series has pretty high production values. Although it is a self-made series without a "budget" in the conventional sense, Rolfe did have a background in film editing, and the shows are well put together. Although some of the shows are just a guy on a couch playing a NES game angrily, others involve the game world intruding in, in a fantasy context: such as the episode where he must fight the Robotic Operating Buddy. Third, the titular nerd keeps some of his charm: there is a difference between angry and mean, and he comes across as frustrated more than anything, in part because many of the reactions to games are ones we can remember having ourselves.
Another thing to remember about the series is that it is in character. Rolfe is not the character he portrays, although some of his interests and attitudes are similar. The series works on two levels: in the first, the joke is about bad video games, with broken controls, nonsensical storylines, and cheesy adaptations. In this level, the character of "The Angry Video Game Nerd" makes the joke. The second level of humor is one where the Angry Video Game Nerd is the target of the humor. He is a man who seemingly has no jobs, responsibilities or relationships, and spends all of his time locked in a basement stocked with hundreds of video games, who spends all of his time angry that the entertainment provided to him isn't adequate. So while the criticism from the Angry Video Game Nerd is funny, the criticism of him is even more funny, although a bit subtle: the idea that people are entitled to be perfect removed critics of all things, at all times, based on nothing else but their role as an audience.