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Introduction[]

James D. Rolfe: I want to share with you some secrets to the trade, specifically what it's like writing a script, for Angry Video Game Nerd episodes. Maybe you're interested in making game reviews yourself, or you're just curious to know any techniques or tips I might have, because of the fact I've been writing these scripts since 2004. So, writing these is like second nature to me. It's an instinct. I just do it. But I figured you might like to know more about the process and the thought behind it. So, I hope you enjoy this and maybe even find it useful.

Over the years, I've made many behind the scenes videos, most notably The Making of AVGN from 2011. Since then, the process hasn't changed, so I figured there probably wasn't much new to add, but then I thought about it more and figured, "Hey, you know, might as well go into some more detail." And this time, I just wanted to talk specifically about the writing process. So for this video, I'm just going to focus on the writing aspect, and then maybe sometime later, I'll go into more detail, on the other production phases as well. So let's get down to it. Before I start writing an episode, the first decision is, what type of episode is it going to be?

Types of Episodes[]

James D. Rolfe: Is it going to be a basic episode? Like Karate Kid, Super Pitfall, Dick Tracy, Lester the Unlikely, Darkman, Hudson Hawk. These kind of episodes typically focus on one game, usually 8 or 16 bit, sometimes based on a movie. Shooting is simple, not that many effects or big sketches.

Or, is it going to be a more cinematic episode, like Friday the 13th, Bugs Bunny's Birthday Blowout, Mario 3, Berenstain Bears, Polybius, or Vegas Stakes. These ones are more story-driven, tend to have a higher amount of effects, and are much more like mini-movies.

Or, is it going to be a compilation episode, like Bible Games, the Batman two-parter, Schwarzenegger Games, Wrestling Games, Mortal Kombat Rip-Offs, or Doom. These ones cover lots and lots of games, and because of that, these ones take a lot more time with the gameplay, the note-taking, the writing, but the shooting is usually fairly basic.

Or it could be a console episode, like Sega CD and 32X, DoubleVision, the Jaguar two-parter, Pong Consoles, Amiga CD32, or Commodore 64. These ones are similar to the compilation episodes, because there's a lot of games to play through, but they focus on a particular console. They talk somewhat about the history of that console and involve a little more shooting in that you're showing the consoles the controllers and whatever hardware is involved.

And on that note, it could be an accessory episode, like Power Glove, NES Accessories, R.O.B. the Robot, Game Boy Accessories, Sega Activator Interactor Menacer, or Aladdin Deck Enhancer. These ones focus on controllers, peripherals, attachments, or enhancers, demonstrating how they're used, with comedic results, and they also tend to cycle through a large amount of games.

Or, it could be a nostalgic, sentimental retrospective of a highly-beloved game or a game franchise, like Mario 3, the Castlevania four-parter, Mega Man, EarthBound, Majora's Mask, or Contra. These ones are a different mindset in that the Nerd is playing a game that's actually good, but I still try to find shitty things or, anything funny to say about it, while praising and celebrating it at the same time.

Then on the opposite side of the spectrum, there's the games that are so bad, they're straight-up hilarious. Like Plumbers Don't Wear Ties, Big Rigs, Hong Kong 97, Desert Bus, CrazyBus, and Purr Pals. These ones tend to be the easiest to write, because the games are so absurd, you hardly even need to say much. You just show it and the episode writes itself.

Or, at last, it could be a co-op review involving a guest character, like Spider-Man, Wizard of Oz, Ninja Gaiden, Toxic Crusaders, Home Alone, or Black Tiger. These ones are much different to write, because I'm not just writing for myself, I'm writing for another character. In that case, I often allow a great deal of ad-libbing, because the guests could always say something funnier than I would have thought of.

Fred Fucks (Ep. 170): I'm not educated enough for the guy who talks about buffalo shit in his basement!

James D. Rolfe: For example, in the Sega Activator episode, when Keith is playing Terminator 2 Arcade with the Menacer, he says this.

Keith Apicary (Ep. 143): Take that! (Blows on Menacer) I'll be right back.

James D. Rolfe: That cracks me up, and I don't even know why! Um, just butchering the famous line, "I'll be back," and merely changing it to "I'll be right back," (laughs) just, by adding the one word, it takes all the badass-ness out of it, and makes you wonder why the original line was so badass to begin with. He's poking fun at himself and at the movie.

Pizza Boy: You've never had toilet pizza?

The Nerd: Yeah.

Pizza Boy: Yeah, it's...

The Nerd: Pizza shit.

Pizza Boy: Yeah. Oh, it's... I knew I liked you.

(The Nerd and Pizza Boy break out laughing.)

What's Funny?[]

James D. Rolfe: When I get a genuine laugh at other people's lines, it reminds me of how people laugh at my lines. Um, there's no magic formula to know ahead of time, what's going to be funny, uh, when I say things like "All that for a pizza? Pizza shit!" or "This game sucks ass through a straw." I'm just going for it and, hope it gets a laugh.

The Nerd (Ep. 176): And then you, wait, w-w-w-wait, drug satellite?! They're actually broadcasting the drugs... via sate... (laughs)

James D. Rolfe: A lot of times, it's all about how you describe the game. Maybe there's a sound effect, like in NBA All-Star Challenge on a Game Boy.

The Nerd (Ep. 200): The ball dribbling sounds like farting against a sheet of aluminum.

James D. Rolfe: "The ball dribbling sounds like farting onto a sheet of aluminum." I didn't know that was going to be so funny, but I've seen it quoted and... I'm glad it got a laugh. I think it worked because, it seemed like an accurate description, um, that's what the ball sounded like. So you never know what's going to get a laugh and, you just keep shooting and, sooner or later, it's going to score.

Playing the Game[]

James D. Rolfe: So where does it all start? Well, let's go back to the beginning of the writing process. In the old making-of video from 2011, I already talked about deciding on a game, playing and recording the game, and taking notes. Today, nothing's changed, aside from a few technical details. For example, I don't record on DVD anymore, uh, now I record onto a PC, which is much more convenient, though I still copy it onto my Mac, where I edit.

James D. Rolfe: As mentioned before, while I'm recording the game and taking notes, I'm also putting a time code next to every note so that later, when I need them, I could find those spots in the game footage much easier. And that's not just for editing, but also, writing, because sometimes, you need to look back at what you recorded to remember some kind of detail. Like, "Oh, how many times did it take me to beat that one boss or get past that part?" You know, that sort of thing.

James D. Rolfe: So, after I've decided what type of episode it is, like, for example, "Hey, I haven't done a console review in a while," or whatever, I'll go to that. But regardless of which type of episode, the first step is always playing the game and gathering the material. Another big decision is how far to go into the game. In the early years, if the game got too hard, I would give up more easily, um, like in Roger Rabbit, Ninja Turtles, Fester's Quest, for example. But, now, more often than not, I get pretty hell-bent on beating the game. Uh, it almost becomes personal, like, "I'm gonna beat this game," and, even if it's a real bad game and, you have to suffer through it, the reward at the end is being able to make a video all about it and tell people what you had to endure. So, it's kind of therapeutic in a way. And, that's why even playing bad games can be fun, because, you get to share it.

The Nerd (Ep. 201): After 200 episodes, I never thought I'd see anything so PERFECTLY FUCKED! THIS is a MAJOR CODE RED on the Shit Scale! It sits right on there with Jekyll and Hyde!

James D. Rolfe: But there's games like EarthBound and Majora's Mask, which I think make for great episodes. But those are the type of games that took me 45 to 50 hours to finish, and that's before I could even start writing the script. Uh, they were worth it. I enjoyed playing those games, and they're some of my favorite episodes. I plan to do more like that sometime, but they have to be spread out. So this is why, um, movie reviews are much quicker and easier to make in my experience, because with a game, you have to figure out how to beat it. There's no telling how many game overs you're gonna have before you eventually succeed. But with a movie, there's only one way it can be watched, which is from beginning to end, and in two hours it's over. So, I find cranking out movie reviews is always faster. But most of the time, I'm working on AVGN.

James D. Rolfe: Sometimes, when playing a game, I get totally stuck. When I was playing The Last Ninja, I almost stopped at the boat part.

The Nerd (Ep. 201): I've tried landing on the edge of the boat, I've tried landing dead center, but where oh where is that magic little pixel that invisible bullseye of super strict programming?

James D. Rolfe: Um, jumping on that boat was... nearly impossible. Uh, it seemed the only way to pull it off was by luck. I tried for hours, and I knew it was prime gold for a Nerd episode, so all that fail footage is good to have. And, sure, I could have stopped the episode there, but I wanted to get past it and see what other awful things happen for once.

(The Nerd gasps and holds his breath.)

The Nerd (Ep. 201): I made it! I MADE IT! Ah!

(The Ninja jumps and misses, splashing into the water.)

The Nerd (Ep. 201): NOOOOOOO!!!

James D. Rolfe: Uh, luckily, I did make it past, and, as you can see in the episode, it was well worth it. And as I said in the episode, it might be the worst NES game I ever played, and that's saying a lot.

Finding the Moments[]

James D. Rolfe: So when I'm gathering material, what is it exactly that I'm looking for? How do I know if I've gotten enough material to work with? Well, there's no right answer, but I think what you need is a variety of material: some fails, some hard parts to get through, some interesting little bits, and some jokes.

The Nerd (Ep. 171): This basically takes all the family-friendliness out of the game, and makes Chex Man the fuckin' Chex Hitman! Chex "The Hitman" Hart!

James D. Rolfe: I think the most important thing is to be able to laugh at it, so you want to find something in the game you can make a joke about, and, not just a passing joke, but something that makes you go, "Stop, hold on!" Like in the old Friday the 13th episode, when you die, the game says, "You and your friends are dead." I could have just said, "Well, that's brutal," and moved on, but no, I gotta dig in.

The Nerd (Ep. 12): It's priceless. Like, I can't believe it! Isn't that a mean thing to say to kids? "You're dead. Your friends are dead. Your family's dead. Your fuckin' pets are bein' skinned alive. Your mom's a fuckin' whore. You suck at life. The whole world hates you. You're goin' to Hell. Live with it. Game Over."

James D. Rolfe: In the newer episode, there's a moment when I find that the music in the Friday the 13th Commodore 64 game is Old MacDonald.

(Cut to gameplay footage with the Commodore 64 game's version of "Old MacDonald Had a Farm" playing in the background.)

James D. Rolfe: I could have just said, "That's weird," and moved on to the next thing, but this is where the Nerd thrives. To just go all out, build up to a big rant.

The Nerd (Ep. 199): What I have heard, with my own ears, IS A FRIDAY THE 13TH GAME THAT HAS OLD MACDONALD HAD A FUCKIN' FARM! (singing over the song) Jason Voorhees had a farm. Ch-ch-ha-ha-ha.

James D. Rolfe: There's also the Atari Sports episode, where I made a big deal about the game just being called Football.

The Nerd (Ep. 109): Not this "Madden" shit. Just plain-ass, normal, everyday, no question about it, no NFL, no year...

James D. Rolfe: And I did it again in the LJN marathon, sort of like a callback.

The Nerd (Ep. 200): PLAIN ASS PERFECTION! (slams fist on futon) AS UNDISPUTABLE AS DEATH! THREE LETTERS! UP YOUR ASS! N-F-L!

(The Nerd furiously throws the game into the NES.)

James D. Rolfe: And one of my favorites ever was the big rant about grass or turf.

(The Nerd comes to a choice of making the field “Grass” or “Turf”. He stops in shock.)

The Nerd (Ep. 200): Oh, the decisions in life. AS YOU STAND AT THE BURNING CROSSROADS, UNDER THE LIGHT OF GOD, AND ASK YOURSELF, "WHAT'LL IT BE?! GRASS, OR TURF?!"

James D. Rolfe: Sometimes, you know it's going to be funny when you have somebody to laugh with. I mentioned in the 2011 video that Mike will drop in sometimes to play games with me. He still does from time to time, or sometimes I'll text him. When I was playing the football game and I saw the choice of grass or turf, I texted Mike and said, "Hey, important decision: grass or turf?" And he responded with "Live or die, man!" which is a reference to Karate Kid II. And then I thought, "Wait a minute! That could be a good joke!" So I decided to make a dub out of it.

(Cut to the edited scene from The Karate Kid Part II.)

Daniel LaRusso: Grass or turf, man?

Chozen Toguchi: Grassss!

James D. Rolfe: That's how ideas get started.

Creating an Outline[]

James D. Rolfe: So once you've found all the good parts to riff on, and you have enough material, what's next?  What I do is put all those notes into a separate document and play around with it. I move parts around, I look for common threads, like, here's a bunch of stuff I wrote about weird enemies here's all the stuff about graphics, and I'll put them into categories. Enemies, graphics, sound effects, whatever. You don't have to do it that way, but that's how I usually do it. That gives me structure, so when I'm writing, I have a certain path to follow. Categorizing is a big part for me. For example, when I was writing the Commodore 64 episode, I put it in the order of: talk about the history, the hardware, the codes, the load commands, all the crazy stuff you gotta do to get the game started, and then go into all the games. So, I broke them up into franchise games, weird games, and then I saved the horror games for part two, which became the Freddy & Jason episode, the Halloween episode of that year and the 15th anniversary of the first Halloween episode.

Freddy Krueger (Ep. 199): I'm gonna chop you to kilo-bits!

James D. Rolfe: When I was writing the big LJN marathon, official title: Every LJN Game, which was broken into three parts, I first had to find every LJN game that existed, and then I organized them by movie-based games, sports games, Marvel games, wrestling games, and miscellaneous.

The Nerd: I just completed the LJN library.

(Fades to the Nerd looking at the LJN logo in the sunset.)

James D. Rolfe: For any of the games that I already reviewed, I would just show a very short clip and move on. With 67 games total, the episode clocked in at over an hour and 10 minutes. On top of all that, there was also a plot thread where I'm trying to make my own LJN game of Back to the Future to make it better. So between each category, the Nerd would check in with the designer, Sam, and see the game progressively get worse and worse.

The Nerd: Hourglasses?

Sam Beddoes: Well, you said no clocks.

James D. Rolfe: And Sam actually made the game run. For real. So it's the only Nerd episode where we actually made our own bad game, and it's one of the few nerd episodes where he has a character arc, realizing in the end that making games was harder than he thought, therefore giving a little sympathy for those game designers. But those type of videos that involve many games are different than the ones that dig into just one game. A recent example that's fresh on my mind is Kid Icarus. That's an example of another method that I've used from time to time over the years. This is where, first, I'll put all the footage into my editing software. By the way, I've been using Adobe Premiere since about 2015. That was after it became clear that Apple was never going to update Final Cut.

Anyway, what I do here sometimes is make sub-clips. I'll use all the time codes from my notes to find all the parts in the game I want to talk about. And then I'll divide them into these little piles. Maybe one is for comments on the enemies, another's for power ups. And then I'll grab a pile and throw it onto the sequence now I have those clips roughly in the order I want to talk about, so I can watch through it as I write the script . It's a different method, but if you do it that way, you're also getting a head start on the editing. It's double duty. But if you're playing these type of games it's more like... (smirks) doody.

Walkthrough vs. Review[]

James D. Rolfe: Before writing, it's worth thinking about your intention. Do you want to give somebody tips on how to beat the game? Is it informative, like a history of the game? Is it more opinionated, or is it just humorous? I try to do a little of all the above, but one thing I differentiate from is a walkthrough versus a review. They can have a little bit of a walkthrough feel, like I'm taking you through the game, but when doing a review a big difference is that you can show things out of order more often. If it's a walkthrough, you're mainly sticking to a linear timeline. But if you're giving your overall impression, you're going to want to jump around and highlight different parts of the game. I sort of do a hybrid. It's somewhat linear. I usually start by showing level one, and the last thing I show is usually the end of the game, or at least until the Nerd gives up or whatever happens. So even though you know it's been chopped up and presented in a digestible way, I still want it to feel almost linear almost as if you you're sitting here with the Nerd playing all the way through.

For Earthworm Jim, I decided- (covers mouth) Ooh, that, that's the next one. Yeah, for the next one, I decided on a more chronological order. Since every level was so unique, I figured, "Just say something about each level, and go the next." There's also a difference between reviewing and doing a Let's Play. In a Let's Play, there's typically no script. You just hit record and then just react to the game in real time. I think there's a benefit to that, too, to see someone's genuine real-time response. So, once again, I like to do a hybrid. For the most part, the Nerd is speaking about the game in past tense as if he's played it, and is now telling you what it was all like.

The Nerd (Ep. 187): I got stuck in the beginning here for a while, before I realized... I have to fall down this pit. Up until now, Bart DIED from falling in pits. And the game was cheap as shit with its death traps... so, I kept passing it!

James D. Rolfe: But there's moments when you see the Nerd playing a certain part. So, the narrative has to switch to real time. A classic example is the Ninja Turtles episode.

The Nerd (Ep. 5): Can I get up? Can I get up? No! God-fuckin'-damn, get the fuck up there! Get up there!

James D. Rolfe: Or a more recent one, Hudson Hawk.

The Nerd (Ep. 204): Oh, shit. (sighs) Ugh, motherfucker! Okay, got 'em stacked. Now, all I gotta do is jump... FUCK!

James D. Rolfe: They all have these switches to real time, and this is a very conscious decision, but it's meant to be one of those things where you don't really notice the transition. But if you're writing your own reviews, it's worth thinking about that beforehand. Uh, when do you want to switch from speaking in past tense to present tense? So instead of writing, "There's this one part of the game where you have to do this." you say, "What's going on here?" Almost like you're playing it with the audience. To keep it exciting, you gotta withhold certain information until the time's right. Like in the Purr Pals episode, when I'm trying to figure out how to feed the cat, I take you through all the wrong steps first, like the Nerd doesn't know how to do it yet, which is in fact how it went when I played and recorded the game. And when the Nerd sees that you have to clean the cat's shit I make it a surprise. It would have been different if I wrote the Nerd saying, "Well, wait 'til you see this. Check this out." No, instead, I write it as if the Nerd is seeing it for the first time. So that's the element of discovery: the Nerd doesn't know what's coming next any more than you do, like, we're in this together.

The Nerd (Ep. 203): Well then, HERE comes a game... where you're ACTUALLY PLAYING... WITH CAT TURDS!!!

James D. Rolfe: When you're in these real-time moments, it's hard sometimes not to over-describe what's going on. You have to remember the audience are seeing it. So, sometimes if I write something like, "I tried to climb this ladder, but this bird came out of nowhere and killed me." You might not even have time to say all that. Instead, just a simple "Get up there!" or "Oh man! Fuckin' bird!" That might be all you need. So, a big part of writing is keeping it simple.

The Nerd (Ep. 206): Okay, duck down, alright, n- OH! The fuckin' mouse! Shoot 'em! Shoot 'em, shoot 'em! (grunts)

James D. Rolfe: Even those simple parts take preparation. The game is recorded, I highlight the fail, I write a reaction, and then I voice it. Some might assume I'm recording the voice in the beginning while I'm playing, which is usually not the case but the idea is that it seems that way. It's meant to seem as if in those parts, I'm just playing and commentating in real time, when fact all those comments are things I wrote after the fact. But it's meant to look effortless, like I just said it.

The Nerd (Ep. 207): He's in the middle of fighting monsters, then he has to stop and write shit down? Oh look, I finally get to use something for my... fashionable pouch right here.

James D. Rolfe: Comedians go through this, too. You'd assume the comedian just walks up on stage and starts talking, but there's a ton of writing and rehearsal and preparation that goes into it. I heard Jerry Seinfeld bring up a really great quote. I heard him say it on the Armchair Expert Podcast, and the quote was: "Art is the disguising of art." He said, "It's kind of like dressing up looking sharp, but wanting it to look like you just casually threw something on." He also said, "It's not the audience's job to think about any of this. It's the audience's job just to be entertained." So it doesn't matter what your methods are, as long as... it gets you there.

Info and Opinions[]

James D. Rolfe: A big thing to decide on is how much information you want to give about the game. Personally, I like to give just as much information that's needed to set up the next joke. If I talk too much about the game, if I explain all the controls and every little detail that goes into it, I start to sound like an instruction manual. Sometimes, it is worth going into detail about the controls, when there's something really remarkable about it.  When I wrote The Rocketeer script, it was important to me to talk about how much trouble I had with the first stage of the Super Nintendo game, where you're just flying around in circles.

The Nerd (Ep. 196): But what eventually worked for me, was instead of looking at the main screen, I'd look at that little screen at the bottom. That's how you avoid the towers, and by sticking close to them, you can keep yourself closer to the inner circle, and outrun the other flyers.

James D. Rolfe: The control was so bizarre, but you would never know just by looking at it. So that's where the detailed explanation comes in handy. But you also got to express it with confusion and frustration.

The Nerd (Ep. 52): Why'd they program it in such an ASININE, BALL-BRAINED, COCKAMAMIE, RIDICULOUS FASHION?!

James D. Rolfe: Sometimes, I even use something from the game to get myself off topic. There's kind of a... running gag, where the Nerd segues into something that's totally unrelated.

The Nerd (Ep. 152): Could you imagine getting close enough to a wolf! To sniff! Its asshole! Let's play the fuckin' game.

James D. Rolfe: If I were to credit anyone as the inspiration to this, I'd say Joe Bob Briggs. He's introducing a movie, but he goes off on some side tangent that has nothing to do with anything. But those are some of the most memorable parts. So, I always like to throw in these side tangents, as long as it gets back to the game.

The Nerd (Ep. 189): Also, whatever you do, don't touch the fucking clowns. Let me ask you something. Have you ever touched a clown in real life? I mean, seriously, have you ever touched a clown in real life? Of course you haven't. 'Cause you'd be dead. Once at a birthday party, a friend of mine, he ran up to the clown after the magic act, went to hug him... (sighs) He died, right on the spot.

(A brief pause, then the Nerd starts cracking up.)

James D. Rolfe: There's also the question of: how much opinion is needed? These are, of course, very opinionated videos. But I think entertainment and humor is the priority. So sometimes, I'll trash a game, a little unfairly, to exaggerate, because it's the character. It's the Angry Video Game Nerd, of course. So, while I think it's important to stick close to my real opinion, it's more important to make it entertaining. If you're doing something as a character, you don't have to stick to what's real all the time, because sometimes real is boring.

The Nerd (Ep. 207): But it is a classic game in its own way. It's great, but it fuckin' sucks.

James D. Rolfe: Whenever I'm going into heavy research, like the Commodore 64 episode, for example, that's when it's important to stick to facts.

The Nerd (Ep. 198): The first number specifies the device, eight for the disk drive and one for the cassette, and the last number does some other shit.

James D. Rolfe: In the Freddy [&] Jason episode, all that stuff about the sound effects on the cassette, the contest, and the blood capsules that were included, that was all fascinating stuff worth researching.

The Nerd (Ep. 199): There's audio on this cassette?!

James D. Rolfe: The Swordquest episode comes to mind. There was that whole contest and real life treasures.

The Nerd (Ep. 88): Drinkin' outta your gold chalice with your crown, Philosopher's stone and sword, and not to mention your Swordquest video gaming cartridges exclusive from Atari.

James D. Rolfe: Then there's those little fictional conspiracy plots which I love to write. The Beetlejuice episode had that whole part about how the game was based on the star of Betelgeuse and not the movie, and most recently, the Kid Icarus episode had lots to do with Greek mythology, and I just love researching Greek mythology. It's so much fun. The recent Garfield episode had the most convoluted game history, because the game had ties with Ghostbusters, Mickey Mouse and the Crazy Castle series. Researching all that made my head spin, but it was so much fun. I just knew it was golden material. It was just like the old Chronologically Confused episode.

Verbal Flow[]

James D. Rolfe: When you're writing a script, it can sometimes be easy to forget that it's a video, not an article. It's not for the audience to read, it's for the audience to watch or listen to. The way you would write an article would be a lot more descriptive, but in a video, people are going to see it or hear it, so the words are meant to complement the visuals.

The Nerd (Ep. 205): This is fucked beyond belief! This is below human standards! This game is FILTH! This game puts the "DIE" in DIARRHEA!

James D. Rolfe: Also, an article can be a little more intellectually written, whereas in the video, you're going to have to speak it, so you don't want to sound too much like Data from Star Trek. That's not how people talk. You want to dumb it down to a certain degree, make it seem real, because sometimes my first draft of the script is very wordy. Like right now, you can probably tell that I wrote this all out and now I'm speaking it, whereas, you know, if I was talking in real life you get a lot of stutters, a lot of, "um", "like", "you know", that kind of thing. So it takes a lot of practice to be able to write something and then read it and sound like you're talking.

The Nerd (Ep. 14): Look at me. You think I'm cool? I've got a fucking glove on my hand. I'm trying to play a fuckin' game with it. I look like an idiot with a fistful of shit.

The Nerd (Ep. 204): There has to be something good about this game. Well... uh... it functions. It didn't freeze. It follows the movie somewhat.

James D. Rolfe: Before I even record the script, I'll go over it one last time and check everything over and make sure that it's all easy to read. Sometimes, even while I'm writing, I'm saying it out loud to hear how it sounds. I want to feel how the sentences flow, um, and find out if there's anything too awkward. So I'll simplify some of it and make it sound closer to common everyday speech. A benefit I have is that I'm the writer and the actor, so I get to hear how it'll all sound as I'm writing. Uh, it's very different than when you're making a film and you're writing for somebody else to speak it. You might have it in your head already, you already have this idea of how it's supposed to be spoken, and you have to direct the actor, but with the Nerd videos, that whole step is eliminated, because as I'm writing it, I'm already making the choices with the acting.

The Nerd (Ep. 206): 'Cause the Doc... (laughs quietly) has got a prescription ordered specifically for you, fuck face!

James D. Rolfe: So while I'm recording the voice-over parts, the parts where I'm not on camera, um, I have a script right in front of me on my computer, and even then, I still stumble through many parts and have to do multiple takes. But when you're acting on camera, you gotta find a different way to do it. You can't just sit there and just read it. So... I've used many different methods over the years to remember my lines, but usually it's just simple rehearsing for a Nerd episode. I just do it over and over until I remember. Other times, if it's a really long speech, I'll write out notes just, you know, little words to get me, um, through to remember, and I'll stick them all around the camera on little sticky notes or whatever. I've been doing that since the old days. I used to try a teleprompter. That worked, but I decided it was overkill. So currently, I only use the teleprompter on the movie reviews and anything else. Uh, but in the Nerd videos, the parts where I'm on camera aren't usually as long. Usually it's just a paragraph here and there. So I'll just rehearse it. It's the same method as most of the old ones. 

Sometimes, it's hard to remember, but I know in the Ninja Turtles episode, I just read off of a sheet of paper next to the camera, whereas in the, uh, Jaguar episode, I think I remember just putting scraps of paper around the camera, doing it that way. So there's all kinds of different ways. But here's the other thing about those on-camera parts: You don't always have to repeat the script verbatim. Uh, if I forget part of it, I'll just wing it. Sometimes, that's more natural anyway. Sometimes, I even have fun throwing in little ad-libs at the last minute.

The Nerd (Ep. 197): (grunts) HAPPY BIRTH- (blows) DAY, (blows) FUCK YOU!

(The Nerd tries to keep himself from laughing, along with the filming crew in the background.)

James D. Rolfe: So you don't have to stick to the script 100%. But sometimes, if you go off track, you fall into something awkward. In Hudson Hawk, I had written, "When it comes to movie-based games, you'd think I covered them all by now. But here's another one, based on the Bruce Willis film, Hudson Hawk on Nintendo." So when I recorded it, I got it pretty close. But I said, "movie-based game, based on the Bruce Willis movie", which was kind of awkward, I said "movie" twice. So that was an instance where it was important to say it exactly like in the script. "A movie-based game, based on the Bruce Willis film."

The Nerd (Ep. 204 Outtake): You know, with all the movie-based games I've reviewed, you'd think I would have done them all by now. But here's another one: Hudson Hawk, based on the movie starring Bruce Willis... on Nintendo. I gotta- I gotta get these lines done... (reads to self) When it comes to movie-based games, you'd think I covered them all-

James D. Rolfe: So when you're writing for those on-camera parts, what you're essentially doing is pre-navigating yourself through some of that verbal fumbling. Of course, lots of these things are very minor, uh, it's just because I'm my worst critic. I want to get it right. So, there's little things I notice afterwards that bug me. Nothing big, just like, word combinations, like "in an NES game". In an N-E-S game.

The Nerd (Ep. 121): Beetlejuice can't say "Nice fuckin' model!" and honk his crotch in an NES game?

James D. Rolfe: I hate it whenever I say that. It looks fine in the script, but hearing myself after, I'm like, "Oh, man." But I know it's not a big deal. There's also the topic of cursing. It's kind of become a character trait all these years, so I don't plan to stop cursing, but the videos get demonetized. Not much I can do, but I do look over the script and ask myself, "Is it important to curse here? "And the answer... is "Fuck yeah."

The Nerd (Ep. 205): A proper example in a sentence would be: "Hey, when I get home from school, I'm gonna play some FUCKIN' Doom.

James D. Rolfe: I also want to talk about tone. The tone is a very fine balance. I want to sound like I'm angry. After all, that is the character. But I also want to communicate that while the Nerd is having a bad time, James is having fun. I'll express the pain and frustration of playing the games, but also express the passion of creating videos and entertaining an audience. For the Nerd, it's a chore. For James, it's cathartic and something I take pride in. So sometimes I try to sneak in a little joke or, break the fourth wall or, do something to remind you, this is something I love. This is fun.

The Nerd (Ep. 176): In the year 2020, if you wanna be a winner, you gotta actually fight drugs! (laughs) Yeah, that's one hell of a thought. Could you imagine fighting drugs literally? Just getting a big sack of drugs and just punching the shit out of it, Rocky Balboa style? Yeah... speed bag, with actual speed.

(A clip from the movie Rocky is shown where Rocky Balboa is punching a speed bag, which is edited to show pills flying out of it with every punch.)

James D. Rolfe: Sometimes, if it's a parody of some sort, I'll write in a different kind of voice. Like in the Vegas Stakes episode, it was a spoof of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, so I perform it in a Hunter S. Thompson persona.

The Nerd (Ep. 190): (narrating) What was the meaning of this trip? Had I come to Vegas to work on a review? Or to reflect on a doom-struck era when an eager gaming culture thought anything with robots, ninjas, and dinosaurs guaranteed happiness at 50 bucks a hit?

James D. Rolfe: And for The Immortal episode, I wrote the whole thing in an Old English style.

The Nerd (Ep. 173): Anguish. Lament. Oh, how hath ye been cursed if thou hath playeth a game as archaically, diarrhetically shit-holic as The Immortal on thy NES.

James D. Rolfe: One of my favorites was the Micro Machines section in the Aladdin Deck Enhancer episode. It was the fastest speech I ever did as the Nerd.

The Nerd (Ep. 167): Micro Machines! Micro Machines! Feel the shitty power, feel the suck-ass dual traction! Graphics are shit, the sound is shit, it fucks you in the eyes, it fucks you in the ears, it suckin' fucks, it fuckin' sucks, it fuckin' blows, it's a piece of shit...

James D. Rolfe: And then there's the occasional sketch, like in the Kid Icarus episode, I make a joke about the term farming to collect power-ups, so I wrote a bit in the style of any of those commercials that feature farms and farmers. It's very fun to write those parts.

The Nerd (Ep. 207): (narrating) Direct from land, we make our own blue shimmering capsules for your robot-blasting escapades. This ain't just power-ups. This is family.

James D. Rolfe: Basically, it just requires having to study the source material, and making it clear that people know what you're referencing, and then taking your own twist on it.

Writing Habits[]

Prep for Shoot/Edit[]

Conclusion[]

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