(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)

The Series: Action Button

Where You Can Stream It: YouTube

The Pitch: Tim Rogers reviews video games on the internet. But he reviews video games on the internet unlike anyone else you have ever seen.

Why It’s Essential Viewing: I’ve been an avid follower of writer/critic/game developer Tim Rogers since I discovered his work at Kotaku.com, specifically his incredible video series on the English translation of Final Fantasy VII (which turned out to actually be a moving memoir about his time living as an American in Japan, among other things). When Rogers departed Kotaku, he began producing videos on his own, funded by Patreon. The result is Action Button, a funny, smart, and deeply unusual series of feature-length video game reviews that highlight Rogers’ passion for the medium while making most other online video game criticism look lazy.

Action Button has released only three videos since it launched five months ago, but each of those videos has been a gem, the long wait for them worth it. And with each review running north of three hours, they should keep you occupied for some time…unless you sit down and watch them in one sitting, only on a video game console, as Rogers jokingly insists you do in the first episode (because he is full of deadpan gags that he sells with total sincerity). Me? I like to watch each review in 10-20 minute chunks, savoring it, hoping it’ll last until another one comes out. So far, no luck.

With their epic runtimes, Action Button reviews may seem indulgent. But that’s the point. That’s Rogers’ style. Some creators work best when they have an editor helping them to kill their darlings, but he seems to be thriving in an environment where excess is not only allowed, but encouraged. These videos don’t just boil down to “is this good or not?” The point of Action Button is to examine a title that belongs in the gaming pantheon and give it the most thorough breakdown possible. And after watching these reviews, I feel that I have an intimate understanding of these video games that I did not have before. It’s not concise criticism, but it is passionate, personal, scholarly, hilarious, silly, and a bonafide reinvention of what a video game review on the internet can be.

Of course, your affection for Action Button will probably depend on your affection for Rogers and his writing and delivery. His on-camera presentation presents a man with deep wounds, stabilized by the things he loves, an eccentric who hides a disarming sense of hope behind a wall of faux-grandiosity. I cannot speak to Tim Rogers the human being, but I can speak to Tim Rogers the star of very long YouTube videos I enjoy very much, and he’s a compelling screen presence whose ability to mingle familiar, painful, hilarious personal anecdotes with on-point arguments that Doom is the literal Citizen Kane of video games continues to astonish me.

So I await the next video in the series. And in the meantime, I may just watch that Doom review again.

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