Video Games Awesome, Awesome Video Games
Interview with Fraser Agar, Creator and Host of ‘Video Games AWESOME!’
Ultra Mega Death Ray had the pleasure to speak with Fraser Agar. He is well-known for his online shows Video Games AWESOME! as well as the previously conceived Awesome Video Games. His friends Ben, Kyle, and Deacon as well as girlfriend Becky are frequently part of his productions.
AVG was a skit show that followed two boys (played by Ben and Kyle) who loved NES games and their dad (played by Deacon). It was shot as a parody to over-the-top video game commercials of the 80′s (view first episode).
VGA, on the other hand, focuses on Fraser and his friends playing games to a live chat room. Trolling and snarky humor is a big part of the show’s humor and appeal.
(UMDR) Video Games AWESOME! has your audience watch as you play through a game. Was having friends over and watch each other play video games a big part of your childhood?
(Fraser) I didn’t have A LOT of friends. Ben was one of them when I lived out in a rural area where I was starved for company. My parents only had one car so when friends could come over, it was a golden opportunity. As I got older and my friends had their own transportation, I held what I would consider the first “Show and Trailer” (Pre PAX Prime 2012 Show and Trailer) back when I was in high school. I would record The Simpsons and cut out the commercials using a dual VCR setup for dubbing tapes.
Before YouTube, I would ALWAYS be recording something no matter what I was watching. One of my first great moments with TV was cutting out the most ridiculous moments from the show Walker, Texas Ranger. This was way before Conan O’Brien started doing this for his skit. These were compiled and shown to a large group of friends (10-20 people). I would pause, give the setup, and we would watch any funny thing I had recorded. I’ve always enjoyed seeing people’s reactions to things.
(UMDR) I understand your fans have many nicknames for you. Do you have a favorite?
(Fraser) I kind of resisted the names “Farshar” and “Frash Frash” for a while. It was when I saw how much Ben was liking the nicknames that they started to be endearing to me. He would laugh at them and say them himself. That’s when I started to own it.
I enjoy “Frash Frash” and any variation of it. “Frage” is another one. It’s hard for me to choose from the many different versions. For me, the more distorted it is the better.
(UMDR) Like many “internet celebrities” out there, you got your start on YouTube. Can you describe what your journey was like from there to where you are now?
(Fraser) In some ways, I’m not so sure I truly got my start on YouTube. Where I’d say I really REALLY got my start was with The Little Buzzers. I believe there’s this moment for most creators of Internet content where they realize, “Hey, there’s people out there who really want to watch this.”
I uploaded my first cartoon of The Little Buzzers two years after making it. I was just showing it to friends before. There was this show called ZeD that had a website where you can upload content. The community would vote on what gets broadcast. Becky saw a commercial for it and suggested I upload my cartoon. I didn’t think much of it at the time. Within a week, The Little Buzzers got featured and people from the show called me up saying how they want to put it on the air.
At that moment, something snapped and made me decide to drop out of film school. Having something on TV gave me bragging rights to my parents but it was the Internet recognition that mattered. I started to make more cartoons and the popularity for them snowballed. After that, Newgrounds was where I truly started to gain popularity. I would reply to every comment whether they were negative or positive. I would respond to the negative comments in this “enragingly positive” way that got the attention of Newgrounds creator Tom Fulp.
We started uploading on YouTube with the debut of AVG. That was a very small show until Stuttering Craig from ScrewAttack took notice and asked us to join. We were part of the first three Internet shows they brought on board including Captain S and the Angry Video Game Nerd. We slowly grew an audience with that. In my peripheral, I noticed YouTube started snowballing around this time. Once we reached 5,000 subscribers there, that was enough for me to concentrate on it as well.
Our relationship with ScrewAttack ended over a disagreement with merchandising rights and revenue sharing. We just wanted a little slice of the pie since my goal was to make this into a business. They weren’t willing to do that so we moved on. It was a reasonably amicable split.
In 2009, we got featured on YouTube’s front page which gained us 1,000 new subscribers in a day. At that time, I was trying every platform and avenue for our videos such as Dailymotion and podcasting on iTunes. We eventually knew that YouTube was the way to go after they dominated the market and our subscriber base grew.
(UMDR) What was your thought process transitioning from Awesome Video Games to the more current Video Games AWESOME!?
(Fraser) That came about from the Awesome Video Games DVD. We have special features where we watch AVG and give commentary on camera. This idea came from my desire to actually see The Simpsons creators while they would give commentary for each episode. There was also the problem of distinguishing the voices with five people talking. That’s when I decided we should just do it on the couch, in front of the camera, and make it part of the DVD.
While watching the video by myself, it just clicked. I saw the potential for a show format right there. We didn’t have the format we have now with the green screen at first. The original commentary was just us on the couch with the TV in front of us. The room was dark so the glow from the TV was flickering on our faces. I loved that effect and it ended up setting this bright and flashy format for VGA.
I wanted to try adding the glow effect to a green screen which is how we eventually ended up with the current look of the show. After seeing how cool it looked and how much fun we had, that’s how the first episode of VGA was born.
The reason why we made the switch from AVG to VGA is that each episode of AVG would take a long time to shoot. There’s a script, you have to get everyone on the right schedule, and also in the proper mood. We couldn’t produce it consistently enough to make it a business. Merchandise was an idea but it wasn’t economical enough for us as a startup. With VGA, our views per month quickly grew from 100,000, to 300,000 after a few months, and then 500,000 shortly after that. Advertising was clearly the route I had to concentrate on.
(UMDR) How did you meet fellow co-stars Becky, Ben, Deacon, and Kyle?
(Fraser) I knew Ben and Becky from high school. Ben and I started hanging out in the 9th or 10th grade and have been best friends since. I don’t particularly remember hanging out with too many other people at that time. I first met Becky in 9th grade. The first time she talked to me was during a hockey game. I was talking to a friend about a book I was writing. She turned around and asked, “Are you smart or something?” From that point, I had a crush on her until the 11th grade when we started dating. We’ve been together for almost 11 years now.
Kyle and Deacon came along while I was in college. I was an RA during my second year and the two of them were residents in my dorm. Despite being an authority figure, I was more friends with them than anything. Deacon took the same classes I did the year before so we bonded from that.
(UMDR) Do any of them have much input or say in what gets put into each show?
(Fraser) During the AVG days, I would have final say ultimately at the end of the day. I was pretty strict with my script when we had one. When we first started, however, everyone would brainstorm and have input that way. Even then, I kept the scripts loose enough where lines can be adapted if we came up with something funny on set. AVG was pretty strictly controlled.
With VGA, everyone can pretty much say whatever they want. The input within the structure of this show is pretty much limitless. My control on it is really in the pacing. You’ll see me on the show always trying to reel it in or get everyone to concentrate on a specific thing. The games we play or the videos we watch are things I try to keep hands-off from them since they have to be surprised to some extent. I don’t make too many rules on set otherwise.
(UMDR) Was it difficult continuing the show when Ben left for a brief period?
(Fraser) It was! I interact with him better than anyone. Despite Deacon and Kyle being my friends, it’s really hard to get into my “bubble”. Becky and Ben are the ones I truly let into that. We have so much history and spent so much time together that we know what the other is going to say before saying it. That crops up on the show some times where we’ll finish each other’s sentences. It’s kind of scary.
The show was hitting its stride of success at that time. I made it clear to him that it might not be the best time to leave. I do respect the decision he had to make though. We’re getting old! I think he was asking himself, “If this doesn’t pan out, then what the heck am I doing with my life?” He always wanted to go to college and was saving up for it. It was easier to do that by moving back with his parents in Ontario. Ben wanted to become a teacher despite what we said on the show about being a lawyer.
About three or four months after he left, things REALLY started to pick up with the show. Around the same time, we got on That Guy With The Glasses and the amount of money you make per 1,000 viewers on YouTube was rising. It got to this point where I called Ben and told him that if he comes back then I can pay him with confidence that what we’re making now will continue to increase. I made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.
He came back and is a part of the business now. That, if anything, shows that we have no intention of stopping this. I mean, he gave up school for it! As much as Ben was questioning how this will all pan out before, I made sure he knows that it has to and will.
(UMDR) Becky does an amazing job with the costumes! Does she tailor or dress up professionally at all?
(Fraser) No. I think she taught herself sewing actually to make the costumes. She’s always doing crafts, always painted, and is just the artsy type. She would make sculptures all throughout high school. Despite this, Becky doesn’t dedicate all of her waking hours to it. She never went to school for art. She was just always doing something in that regard.
Becky recently bought a sewing machine mainly just to create random little things. It could be something like making alterations to clothes or just to simply fix a rip. It wasn’t until the show when she decided to sew, tailor, and dress up. Our audience has seen the beginning of what she can do.
The first costumes she made that got a lot of attention were the ones for Amnesia: The Dark Descent. She gets to cheat a little bit since she’s not designing costumes for a cosplay competition or anything like that. She can occasionally be rough around the edges since you’re not looking real close up. Another way she will cheat is by not finishing the back since we’re sitting down the whole time. Other than that, she’s doing it all from scratch.
(UMDR) Which upcoming games are you most anticipating?
(Fraser) Certain games I’m excited about to have on the show and others to just play on my own. On both sides of the spectrum, I can’t wait to pick up and play ZombiU. I am REALLY excited for Watch_Dogs and, to a slightly lesser extent, the recently announced Remember Me. Both of those are kind of similar in that they’re really unique. I like when games bring something to the table that’s familiar but with a new spin on it. The memory remixing in Remember Me looks like it’s going to be a blast. Watch_Dogs just looks so gorgeous and potentially expansive. I’m just interested to see where that goes.
In terms of the show, I’m looking forward to Beyond: Two Souls. I guess I’m excited for any game that feels like a movie. Beyond (as well as Watch_Dogs, Remember Me, and The Last of Us) has a cinematic quality which excites me. These types of games work so well for the show since we can make fun of them so easily.
(UMDR) You are known for being a big fan of cats. Why do you love them so much and what are the names of the ones you have?
(Fraser) The names of my cats are Hugo and Ruddager. They’re named after the aliases from Bart Simpson. Hugo was his “good brother” in a Treehouse of Horror episode while Ruddager was a name he went by upon meeting self-help guru Brad Goodman. The next cat we get will probably be named Bartholomew.
I never had pets growing up. I think I had a turtle once and maybe a gerbil as well. I actually wanted a dog while living in Toronto but we lived in a small apartment at the time. Taking that into consideration, we settled for cats. It really wasn’t until we got them that I realized how much I love cats.
I’ve always been an angry and stressed-out guy. Becky first took notice how much calmer I am when around or spending time with the cats. It just brings a huge difference in my personality. I think I would love dogs just as much if I had time to train them but yeah, I love kitties.
Thank you Fraser for taking the time to speak with us! You can watch episodes of Video Games AWESOME! on the site VideoGamesAwesome.com or all of their videos (VGA, AVG, The Little Buzzers, and more) on their YouTube channel. You can also stay up to date with them on both Facebook and Twitter.