Interview with Cinemassacre's Mike Matei

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend SGC 2014 (ScrewAttack Gaming Convention) in Dallas, Texas. While I was there, I visited a number of interesting panels. Yet the one I enjoyed the most revolved around James Rolfe and Mike Matei of Cinemassacre as they celebrated the 10th Anniversary of Cinemassacre.

Although the event has come and gone, I decided to reach out to Mike afterward and simply ask him a few questions.

The Interview

Richard Mallory: Being that you and James have been working close together for a very long time on many of the shows produced for Cinemassacre, was there ever a point where you went to James and were like “whoa…I think we may have something here,” or “this could be really big?”

 Mike Matei: First thing that comes to mind is Board James. That started with James just wanting to do a quick video about Mouse Trap, because he had some nostalgic feelings for that game. Once he showed me that video, I instantly told him that he should do more board game related videos because I saw the same sort of potential with Board James that I saw with the Nerd. The same way kids of the 80’s grew up with the NES, we also all grew up around board games. Just like the Nerd, it was something the audience could relate to, so I thought the idea was perfect.

Richard: I recall either you or James mentioning how in the earlier stages of the Angry Video Game Nerd (AVGN), you were not so comfortable being on camera, yet would agree to show up in costume as guest characters such as Bugs Bunny or The Joker and so on.

Now that time has passed, you do appear on camera for segments such as James and Mike Mondays as well as your own personal reviews for games and other media.

All that being said, my question to you is what was it that convinced you to eventually cross that barrier and get out there in front of the camera?

Mike: James went to California to film the AVGN movie in January 2012 and returned around May 2012. Because of that, we knew he wouldn’t be able to do any web videos for around five months.

So, we were in a position where there wasn’t going to be any new web-videos from James on the website for roughly half a year. I felt like, if there were no new videos coming out for that long a period, we would lose a huge portion of our fan base from non-activity. So I decided I needed to step up and start doing my own videos.

As camera shy as I was, I didn’t particularly want to do it. I was more comfortable just being behind the scenes as a video editor. But someone needed to be putting out content during that time frame, and it made the most sense for it to be me. Because at least some of the fans knew who I was from AVGN character appearances like The Joker and so on.

Looking back, I’m glad I did start doing my own videos during that time frame. While a few of them were wonky because I was new at it and nervous, I do think I came up with some interesting ideas. Like my Top 10 Obscure NES Gems. It certainly took a long time for me to get comfortable in front of a camera. But now with James & Mike Mondays I forget the camera is even there most of the time. So I’ve gotten over it.

Richard: As somewhat of a follow up to the previous question, hardcore fans of the AVGN know that the caricature of “Mike,” if you will, does not actually know “The Nerd.” Will this change?

Mike: I’m not sure. At one point many years ago we talked about the idea of me being in a Nerd episode. I didn’t want to do it because I felt like “who is Mike Matei” to the character of the Nerd? It just didn’t make any sense in my mind why I’d show up in the Nerds world. Then again, I guess it wouldn’t make any less sense then how the guitar guy lives behind the couch. It is funny though that now the Nerd has mentioned me by name in the “AVGN Games” episode.

“Who the fu*k is Mike? I don’t know anyone like that”.

.. Maybe one day I’ll pop up in a Nerd episode, but for the time being there’s no plans for such a thing. 

Richard: Keeping with the theme of your appearances on AVGN episodes, which do you feel is the one you had the most fun working with?

Mike: Bugs Bunny for sure. I mean, it’s all there on camera. Just watch the episode. You can tell we were having a blast!

Richard: Looking back, which of your character portrayals on the AVGN would you say is your favorite and in contrast, the least favorite?

Mike: Jason Voorhees probably worked best technically because of how he forced the Nerd to play his game. My favorite though is Bugs Bunny because I’m such a Looney Tunes and classic animation fan. It also helps that I can do Bugs voice fairly well.

And my least favorite character portrayal? Hmm.. Maybe when I got a bunch of games shoved up my asshole as the Joker. That really hurt! I think there’s still a copy of Batman Forever lodged up there somewhere!

Richard: It is obvious that James holds you in very high regard as a close and personal friend of his. Does he ever come to you and ask what game he should review next or for feedback on certain aspects of episodes?

Mike: I definitely help him choose the games a lot of the time for the AVGN episodes. Milon’s Secret Castle is a good example. That was a game that I was very familiar with from my childhood, and James hadn’t even heard of it.

If you watch James & Mike Mondays, you can get a pretty good idea of how Nerd episodes get started. Watch the Universal Studios Theme Park Adventure episode we did. That’s a perfect example of us hanging out and discovering a terrible game. All the stuff we said in that episode could have been reworked into a script format and turned into an AVGN episode if we had wanted. That’s usually how it goes. We sit around playing a bunch of bad games while taking notes. Then James works those notes into a fully fleshed out script. And when he’s near completion on an AVGN episode, he’ll usually have me look it over for anything he might have overlooked or mistakes.

Richard: While you do have your own segments where you review games, has the thought ever crossed your mind to develop your own series playing as a different persona such as James does with the AVGN?

Mike: Not really. I don’t consider myself an actor and I have a very hard time remembering dialogue. That’s why I like doing James & Mike Mondays. I can just be myself.

Richard: Speaking of segments, which would you say is your favorite show produced by Cinemassacre, whether you have been involved in it or not?

Mike: Monster Madness is my favorite series we do on Cinemassacre. I love horror films and getting to edit all those reviews helps me learn so much more about them than I normally would by just watching them for enjoyment. It’s a very rewarding project to work on.

Richard: For many, James and Mike Mondays has become a favorite and something to look forward to each week. Do you and James plan to keep this series going?

Mike: I would like to keep it going, yes. It gives us a chance to play and talk about a lot of games that wouldn’t be appropriate for the Nerd to review. I know James enjoys doing it because it gives him a chance to actually play some good games for a change. And it’s no extra work for him because I edit all the episodes. It’s possible we may take breaks from it sometimes, but in general I’d like to keep it going as long as we can.

Richard: While I’m sure you get asked this quite a bit, what would you say your favorite all-time video game console is and do you feel it had an impact on your life? In contrast, how about least favorite?

Mike: Yes, I do get asked that quite a bit. And I’d be lying if I said anything other than the NES. The impact the NES has had on my life is immeasurable. The Angry Video Game Nerd wouldn’t exist without the NES, so my life would be totally different. As for my least favorite console, I guess that would be the Phillips CD-I. I can’t think of one good game I’ve played on it, and the controller is awful. Also, what they did to the Zelda franchise is unforgivable!

Richard: If the modern console war had to eliminate a competitor (whether it be Sony, Nintendo, or Microsoft), which could you live without?

Mike: I wouldn’t want to see any of them go away. Each system has its merits. Even though I wasn’t fond of the launch titles for Xbox One, that doesn’t mean they might not release something I’ll enjoy later. I love my Xbox 360, so I’d be sad to see Microsoft out of the console war. Hopefully they all stick around.

Richard: Is there any franchise or individual game (young or old) that you feel should not have been made at all?

Mike: Madden. I can’t stand sports, and I’m sick and tired of hearing that name.

Richard: If you could be friends with a real live version of any video game character, who would it be and why?

Mike: Can I pick Superman since he’s been in a lot of video games? He’s probably the most powerful character that ever existed, so he’d be helpful to have as a friend. I know which video game character I WOULDN’T want to have as a friend though. Baby Mario from Super Mario World Yoshi’s Island. “WAAAAAA!!!” God. Shut the fuck up!

Richard: Both you and James are avid horror fans. Is there any horror franchise you’d like to see developed into a game that has not already, or if it has, could be made better?

Mike: I’d like to see a Universal Monsters video game that’s actually licensed by Universal. It would be great to see video game renditions of Lugosi and Karloff. I’m not sure what the gameplay would be like though. Maybe if they did it as some sort of survival horror game it might work. I recently heard that Universal is thinking of bringing back their classic monsters for new feature films because of the success of things like Marvel’s Avengers. So maybe we’ll actually see that happen someday.

Also, I think it’s about time there was a new Texas Chainsaw Massacre game. It would be cool if the game switched between roles, sort of like GTA V. For a few missions you’d play as a girl, who is being chased by Leatherface. A few missions you’d be Choptop or one of the other crazy family members. And of course you’d also have to be able to play as Leatherface and chop shit up with your chainsaw. Some of the recent Mortal Kombat games have so much gore in them, I don’t think anything’s stopping them from making a game like that this day in age.

Richard: Speaking of which, what are your thoughts on Alien: Isolation? Many believe that this may finally be the breath of fresh air that the horror genre of gaming needs. Of what you know so far, would you agree?

Mike: I’ve never been big on stealth games. I don’t like crawling around in the dark and shooting stuff. That’s actually my least favorite genre of video game (other than sports). I like the theme though. I absolutely love the first two Alien movies. Too bad it has to be that type of gameplay.

Richard: Final question. With the growing success of not only the AVGN but all of the shows produced on Cinemassacre as a whole, what sort of impact has all of that had on your life and would you be happy continuing to make videos for years to come?

Mike: The impact has been that it’s given me a job that I love doing. Editing the videos is endlessly rewarding to me. I hope that we can continue producing all the content the fans have come to enjoy for as long as possible. And it’s also thanks to the fans that we are able to do this at all. So big thanks to everybody that watches. And we have tons of stuff planned for upcoming web-videos, so there will be plenty for you to watch as always!