ClassicGameRoom is a review show with a difference. You won’t find any angry gamers at CGR, and you’ll note the lack of pseudo-intellectual ranting employed by a lot of the YouTube gaming world. This isn’t a show about swearing at games, or discussing consumer ethics – it’s a show about playing, and reviewing videogames. From the Vectrex to the Wii U, ClassicGameRoom has been covering peripherals, consoles, games, accessories, and even food since 1999, and there’s no sign they’ll be going anywhere soon.
Presented by long-time broadcaster Mark, CGR split their time between space and Pittsburgh, USA.
With over 320,000 subscribers and hundreds of willing long-time donors, ClassicGameRoom has a tight community, and y’know what? They deserve it. With a positive outlook on almost everything, CGR always puts a smile on our faces, so we decided to talk to the man behind the channel. Want to know more about ClassicGameRoom? Keep on reading.
ClassicGameRoom has so many episodes that YouTube’s playlist used to default to 200, essentially breaking itself. I know that because I’m a long time fan of the show, and I actually kept a CGR playlist tab open for a full 2 weeks when I was decorating the house last year. It was running for 24 hours from a laptop somewhere in the corner of the room, and I completely forgot about it. I don’t think it did ever make it to the end… with 320,000 subscribers and a staggering 3,072 videos, you’re clearly doing something right. But what is that something? What is CGR, and why are you doing it?
Hello and thank you for your questions! Classic Game Room is a daily video game review show and website that covers games and hardware from the past into the future. My goal has always been to keep it fun, entertaining, informative and accessible for fans and collectors. Galactic domination is only a few years away.
I have a sneaking suspicion that ClassicGameRoom in its original carnation was the first gaming show on the internet, after seeing a short clip sometime ago. Are you the first show? And what were you doing during its hiatus?
I started the original show late in 1999 and it may be the first professional video game review show, it’s hard to say for sure but I’m not aware of anyone else doing it in the ‘90s. Sadly we were unable to fund that part of the business (which would eventually become our parent company, Inecom) and cancelled the show in 2000. I moved into feature length documentary producing and directing until about 2007 when Classic Game Room returned to YouTube with some of the original 1999-2000 episodes. My last documentary, Westinghouse, was released in 2008 and that same year I brought Classic Game Room back in February as Classic Game Room HD with the review of Zaxxon on Atari 2600. I later dropped the HD, and this is the series as we know it today.
You receive a lot of your content from donors – notably Mohammed in Qatar, although we haven’t seen much of him lately. Is he okay?! Just how much of your inventory is donated, and how long does it usually take before you manage to get your hands on it for a review?
Mohammed donated quite a lot, that’s for sure! I’m still playing through many of his games like Xenosaga right now. The first few years the show was based on my old collection of games but now it’s almost entirely driven by fan donations and the video game industry. Depending on the game and my schedule it can take weeks, months or years to get to a fan submitted game since CGR’s fan base has been so incredibly generous and supportive, and my schedule is filled.
What do you do with a lot of the junk you either don’t want to look into, or you’ve used and want to pass on. We all have only so much storage. Do you donate it to charities, store it somewhere in the ISA (Intergalactic Space Arcade, for newcomers), or even sell it to support the show?
The show originally started in an old office and then ran in my basement for a few years until that filled up. In 2010 we moved into storage lockers and quickly filled those up. With the launch of the new Intergalactic Space Arcade in 2013, I finally have a suitable space to construct a gaming museum devoted to the art and history of video games. The new arcade is being coupled with our website at www.ClassicGameRoom.com where you can see all of the games sent by fans and post your own reviews of them. Depending on when you read this, you’ll see a lot of changes and community upgrades happening to our site which has turned into an online gaming museum.
As a member of the press myself, I can – at best – review a game in around 8 hours of playing it, and 3-4 hours of video creation and editing. That means an entire day for one video. Mark, you manage to squeeze out multiple videos a day. I know this is a question on a lot of people’s minds, and I want to split this into two parts. So, firstly, how do you find the time to do what you do? Do you play a new game every day? Do you play and capture all the footage yourself, or do you have a team to help you? Take me through a day of production for CGR.
I play all of the games that I review which is time consuming to say the least. I don’t sleep much, however, I usually only play through one big, modern game a week. The rest of the reviews are usually of shorter games, arcade games and accessories. Unlike a lot of the corporate sites we don’t survive on massive AAA titles alone – CGR covers everything! Video production runs pretty smoothly; I’ve been doing it for years so I have a system down.
Part two of that question is simply: don’t you ever get bored?! How do you mix it up, and what do you to take a break from gaming?
Producing Classic Game Room, setting up a game museum and running a website prevents this job from getting boring. Sometimes I need to take a break, but I enjoy a good challenge and the fan support keeps me going. I don’t play much on the weekends which is backwards from most people.
On a more serious note, I’ve rarely seen you out-right criticize a person, or a game. You’ve mentioned a few times that “there’s a game for everyone” (I’m paraphrasing, I know). Basically, you understand that for every game, there’s someone out there who will probably enjoy it. Obviously there are exceptions to the rule. You do a review show, so aren’t you worried that if you’re not critical enough, people won’t take it seriously? Or, are they not supposed to take it so seriously. It’s all gaming, after-all, right?! In your Tomb Raider (2013) review, you made a few comments about the press criticizing the game in too much depth, which was a little different from your usual tone – is that something that genuinely annoys you? Press being too picky, or too serious?
Classic Game Room is about fun and collecting, not pre-engineered reviews that regurgitate marketing material and technical specs. Gaming enthusiasts are fed up with fake corporate reviews and seek out better alternatives like CGR. I actually play the game and try to discover who it was made for and whether or not it’s fun for that audience. There’s no sense in bashing a game because it isn’t a popular game or genre, there’s too many genres and budgets now to expect everything to be the same. You can’t compare a pet hamster life simulator to Call of Duty: Ghosts!
You guys have created several spin-off channels. CGR Toys made a brief appearance, but it hasn’t been very active. Is that a time restraints thing? Or did you find it didn’t pick up enough viewers to justify its own channel? Likewise, the interview series was going seemingly well, why did you decide to stop producing those? I would think publishers would jump on the chance to get their PR and Marketing Managers speaking to someone as enthusiastic as yourself. Most YouTube personalities try and get as in with publishers and developers as they can, but you keep your distance. Why’s that?
CGR has been working with game publishers and developers for years now and they know how I review a game. Companies like Activision, Sega, Ubisoft, EA. Konami, Square Enix and Nintendo have been incredibly supportive and enjoy getting their products in front of our audience. I treat them and their games with respect and give honest commentary. We’ve seen a lot more interest from indie developers lately which is great! From where I’m sitting, it’s about respect for the games, the work that goes into making them, publishing them and respect for the audience.
I haven’t had much time to put into the other spin-off channels lately I’m afraid.
In a strange way, your reviews tackling things like a Bejeweled mouse mat and some third party mice that seemingly nobody would care about are some of the most entertaining. How do you go about reviewing something as uninteresting as a mouse mat?
I really enjoy reviewing inane objects, that’s fun and a great break from the bigger reviews! If you see one of those videos it probably means I’m not done with a big game that I’m playing!!
You’ve taken a lot of trips to the Professional and Amateur Pinball Association. Is that something you’re a member of, and are there any other establishments in Pittsburgh that open the CGR empire with open arms? Do you ever get noticed on the street, and are you somewhat of a local celebrity?
I don’t go out that much but occasionally someone recognizes me and that’s cool; it’s great to meet fans of the show at places like Best Buy and at a hockey game. PAPA is a pro outfit and I’ve become good friends with their team over the years. Their collection is simply amazing, and they put a lot of work into their pinball tournaments and maintenance. They’ve been a huge part of the revitalization of the pinball industry, and we always enjoy getting together to film or just play some Robocop.
What other notable YouTubers are you a fan of, and do you ever watch their shows. I know people like Clint from LGR are aware of you, and he’s someone I’ve interviewed in the past. Have you ever thought of networking via various YouTube partners and networks, or is CGR its own empire, above all?
I don’t have time to watch much of anything else to be honest! I’m watching my way through Magnum P.I. whenever I want to unwind with some TV.
I think I’ve heard you swear about… three times in all your 3,000 videos. You know you rarely swear in the videos, but when you do, it comes out of nowhere. It always catches your viewers off guard, and it feels a little like a nod of appreciation or a wink to your mature audience who can enjoy the silliness at the same time as staying in tune with their adult self. That might sound odd, but is it intentional. What makes you say “today, I’m slipping in the S or F word”?
I don’t really care about swearing one way or the other. Classic Game Room’s audience is a smart audience, and they don’t need to be fed a diet of overused foul language for no reason. CGR is watched by families, and I’ll set ratings before the reviews so that parents know what is coming.
The CGR community is huge on Facebook and on YouTube, but you never really interact with them. That’s not a criticism, it’s more of a question. Why is that? Are you too busy? What made you decide to take a step back and deliver content, rather than to comment on your videos or answer questions directly. Why are you so illusive? That said, interviews like these are a great way to say hello to the community. So, what would you like to say to them?
We get thousands of comments and messages on YouTube every day so I encourage people to join us on Twitter, Facebook and ClassicGameRoom.com. I try and respond to questions on our website every morning although sometimes it takes a few days to get through them. ….So hello to everyone from SPAAAAAAACCCCCEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!
What is your involvement with CGR Undertow, and your relationship with Derek? I’m lucky enough to have chatted to quite a few CGR guys on Twitter, notably Brendon, Derek, and many conversations with Ryan who has unfortunately since left. How do you find them, and do you guys regularly meet up and play games together? Also, I’m actually a huge fan of TJ and I really enjoyed it when you guys shared a panel together. I know that many of the community haven’t responded to change too well – that goes with Retro Gaming News, too – but is that something you’d like to rekindle in videos here and there? Could Undertow become more integrated into CGR for group events, Christmas specials and the like?
CGR has been producing a few other shows since 2010 and CGR Undertow is its own show with its own viewpoints. I’ve tried to mix up my own show format a few times over the years, and we’ve experimented with news but the audience speaks and sometimes it just doesn’t work out or I’m not happy with the results. Now that we’re in a new building, err, I mean space station, we’re able to work together for more segments like the GTA V review which is fun. They’re a good group of guys and work hard to produce daily content.
On a final note – did Gamer Grub make you the elite, most tactical, skilled and talented gamer in the world, and are you supernatural neurons susceptible to any form of attack by current technology?
The Gamer Grub team is great; I love seeing their product out there. What most people don’t know is that Edit-Station 1, our broken 1970’s computer, actually runs the show. I just do what I’m told.
Are there any major changes coming to CGR that you’d like to discuss, or is CGR firmly on course for many years to come?
We’ve invested heavily in our future with the new Intergalactic Space Arcade and our website at ClassicGameRoom.com. Thanks to the fans and supportive gaming companies, Classic Game Room will never run out of games and accessories to review! Edit-Station 1 says I have to go back to work now. Thank you from SPAAACCCCCEEEEE…..!!!!!!!