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Tag Archives: Tim Rogers

 

 

Stomach.

 

 

PAX East 2015.

I’m in Boston. I have a cold.

I spend Thursday afternoon dislodging the Hyundai rental from one of the four-foot snowdrifts framing my driveway.

Sweating. No hat. The wind blowing hard off the corn field across the road.

PAX East 2015: I fall into Boston.

I choke on its wind.

Same hotel. Same time of year. A different state:

2014. I am ready to give up on games. Everything feels hollow.

Everything feels bored.

Everything is hype and money.

Exhausted and numb: I find Tim Rogers.

I see Videoball. It pulls me back.

I start writing again for the first time in three years.

I gut my political blog.

I write about video games for the first time ever.

I write my first post about Videoball.

It stays with me. It sticks to me. I think about the game at least once a day for a year.

PAX East 2015 and I only need two days.

The panels are uninteresting.

I am curious about the booths on the show floor.

Friday night I walk with my wife through the park.

She takes pictures of fat, red squirrels.

We work our way to Chinatown.

We try shabu-shabu for the first time. We drink bubble tea.

It’s quiet. The streets are quiet.

The snowbanks glow from neon signs.

Caked in trash.

I think about Saturday. I don’t miss PAX.

I miss Action Button.

I miss Videoball.

 

Joint.

 

Pax East 2015.

I wake up. Shower.

I don’t sleep much. The walls are thin.

Exhausted, I step into the city. Buy some coffee.

I love the city.

I miss Madison. Chicago. LA. Beirut. Paris.

We walk through Chinatown again. We find our way to the convention center.

The foot traffic stops. The security line is two blocks long.

Stuck on a bridge. I stare down into the small pools of broken ice.

I have always had a fear of deep, complex water – A horror of it.

We make it in. We burrow into the display.

There is a muted excitement.

It feels familiar. It feels off.

Bethesda doesn’t make a showing for the first time in three years.

Evolve is buried away from the main entrance. No giant monster to display.

Supergiant is there for the third year in the same booth pushing Transistor.

Alienware brings back the opulent spirit of the late-90’s PC hardware fever.

The manipulative pre-order systems of 2014 are gone.

I see Grey Goo and Dreadnought. Overwatch. Final Fantasy Type-0. Monster Hunter. Elite Dangerous.

I wander into independent games.

I wind through rows of small developers: Frenzied innovation and a consuming boredom.

Iron Galaxy cuts into view.

I find Videoball.

I greet Tim. We talk with joy and excitement.

He introduces me to Michael Kerwin, programmer for Action Button Entertainment.

And I feel like I’m home.

Videoball is still stunning.

I watch it played on an enormous screen.

It has grown in the past year. It has matured.

It feels less like a video game. It feels like a court.

An arena.

An environment.

A world.

 

Knuckle.

 

2014 Videoball felt new. It felt vigorous.

It was a geometry problem stuck in the mind of a squash player.

It was a system brimming with friction and momentum.

2014 Videoball caressed urgency.

Videoball has now learned how to breathe.

This past year the game has evolved in small, intelligent ways.

Touching the ball no longer freezes the player: The player is pushed away.

The punishment is still the inability to move, but now the field is more active.

Nothing stands still.

This rejection system still requires the player to correct trajectory however much they can.

It’s a punishment that still involves the player.

It’s a punishment that involves losing field position.

2015 Videoball has adjusted the timing and features of the three shots.

The level 1 shot can now be used repeatedly with quick button taps.

The (persistent) level 2 shot is able to push the ball in a straight line.

The level 3 (slam) shot feels hot and alive.

Now when the ball is hit with the level 3, it creates a thick, rubber-banding color trail behind it.

Like the light trails from Akira translated into an organic brutalism.

The level 4 blocks actively deconstruct themselves with each hit.

One hit and the block splits into nine squares.

Two hits and the squares spin and disappear.

Tim explained he got this idea from the visual flourishes in Destiny when breaking down items.

The ball and the stages themselves feel more involved.

The ball contorts when manipulated with force like a soccer ball in the feet of Captain Tsubasa.

The stages absorb energy and ripple with soft, Mario 3 curves.

The stages have also become more complex.

Some involve the goals being split in the center.

Other stages are littered with small blocks around the center of the field.

The stages are diverse and shifting. Creative and challenging.

In 2014, Videoball was aesthetically cohesive.

Its visual language was clean and deep.

In 2015, Videoball is whole.

It’s completely awake.

It is a living, breathing world of systems and cues.

A world comprised solely of sunsets and city nights.

A year ago Videoball felt complete.

It inspired me then.

It showed me how much some people still care about games and vision.

2015: That passion hasn’t receded.

Last year, it was Midnight City.

Now it’s Iron Galaxy:

Revitalizing Killer Instinct. Pushing Gunsport. Supporting Videoball.

Showcasing games that pull on the flesh.

Games that rip open sweat and spine.

Videoball has found the right kind of new home.

The right kind of stable.

Videoball is ready to run.

To trample.

It’s powerful. Beautiful. Lean. Heavy. Fast.

In 2014, Videoball was a game I needed:

To see.

To touch.

To digest.

 

2015: Everything and nothing has changed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pose.

 

 

It’s raining.

I stand at the end of the pier.

Crashing water.

A gull screech.

I skipped class again.

And it doesn’t matter.

I walk across the university terrace.

I enter the woods.

I sit on a rock.

The rain comes down louder.

Grey falling.

I look up at the trees.

I wonder about the confusion between man and nature.

I close my eyes and think of The End.

I smell the earth.

A dead log in front of me: Bright moss glowing.

No music to play. No poems to write.

Raw, desolate peace.

I stand up and walk into the city.

I stand beneath the awning in front of the library.

I waited for a girl here once.

She never showed up.

I watch a saxophonist belt out some jazz across the street.

I watch him get into it.

I listen to his interpretation of noise.

Nothing to do. Nowhere to go.

I cut the end off a cigar.

I sit down on the cobbled brick.

I watch the jazz player tear everything up.

What was the sense of him being out here in the rain?

Not much money thrown around.

I light the cigar and watch the smoke hang.

The saxophonist stops after a while. He waves to me.

I nod back.

I get up and trudge deeper into the city.

I stand outside the Gamestop.

The last time: I came to pick up The King of Fighters XI.

The clerk was hungover and irritated.

I was trying to learn how to be social.

I tried to start a conversation with him while he was cashing me out:

‘So, I was really surprised this came out here!’

He looked at me.

‘Uh, yeah…’

I walked out.

I walk in.

One clerk. One manager.

I walk around the store.

Look at the used games, the new games.

The clerk begins a conversation with me.

We talk about fighting games.

We talk about games.

We talk about graphics, systems, lighting.

I needed that. I needed to talk.

Another customer walks in.

He enters the conversation.

He is awkward and grating.

He has nothing to say. He keeps talking.

Later on, he would enter the Gamestop Street Fighter IV Tournament wearing a Ryu headband.

He would be eliminated in the first round.

His girlfriend calls him, wondering where he is.

He tells her that he missed the bus and he’s hanging out with his friends.

An hour has passed and the manager is angry.

I walk out.

I walk home.

I try to remember a haiku by Bashō about cherry blossoms.

And I watch everything drip with a blunt, hateful love.

 

Position.

 

The internet was a void.

The discussion around games was dry.

Reviews. Releases. Previews. Business deals.

There was no heart in any of it.

There was no love to it.

There was no concern about it.

The discussion was looking for legitimacy.

It was seeking out the specter of the objective.

The culture was insulated and alone.

And Insert Credit rejected all of it.

It was a new discussion in an honest language.

Years before I began reading IC, it had already influenced my exposure.

It was where my brother discovered rRootage.

It was where a friend introduced my brother and I to MAME.

I began reading it myself.

Each day I spent hours churning through the archives.

Devouring what I had missed.

The stories were subtle. They shifted.

Some were small bits of Japanese gaming culture.

Some were about the intersection of games and culture.

Insert Credit refused the objective.

It refused insulation.

It threw games and pieces of games into the world.

The tone shifted often.

Excited. Cautious. Curious. Introspective.

The narratives were never complete.

IC required the reader to follow-up on their own.

It tried to be the catalyst for growth.

It had expectations.

Sometimes it required curiosity.

Sometimes it required patience.

When I first read Brendan Lee’s infamous feature, I wept.

I wept out of sadness about where games were going.

I wept out of remorse for contributing to the process described.

I wept because it resonated deep inside the guts of my mind.

It changed the way I saw games and the industry around them forever.

Insert Credit woke me.

It was where I learned to rip games apart.

It was where I learned about hardware.

It was where I learned about voice.

Insert Credit was an arcade of a website.

It was a dark glow.

It was full of people who cared.

Brendan Lee. Tim Rogers. Brandon Sheffield.

It was contributors like Ollie and Simoniker.

It was a resonant world.

It became a space of critical emotion.

And one day it all evaporated.

 

Prowl.

 

When Insert Credit stopped, it hit hard.

I used Kotaku to fill that space.

I had just graduated. I was unemployed.

I spent two years trying to be a journalist.

I tried to write about video games on Suite 101.

I started my first blog. I wrote about politics and the Middle East.

It was all terrible.

I was lost.

Kotaku was unfulfilling on its own.

I looked for more.

I found Select Button: A site formed in the absence of Insert Credit.

It maintained the aesthetic.

It was a temporary shelter.

I traced IC’s wreckage anywhere I could.

I found Tim Rogers again at Action Button.

I discovered Mecha Damashii.

I followed Brandon Sheffield on Gamasutra.

Insert Credit’s implosion created the space to further understand their voices.

It pushed me to observe their ideas in different venues.

This sustained me in the years of inactivity.

I moved from Wisconsin to Rochester, NY.

I got my first job after giving up being a journalist.

I worked as a temp in a Blockbuster Distribution Center.

I saw the games people rented.

Madden. Call of Duty. NBA 2K.

It took me awhile to get used to this place.

I read Tim’s review of Bangai-O Spirits.

I spent an afternoon driving to any Gamestop I could looking for it.

It was the first time I made an effort to discover this city.

And Bangai-O Spirits was beautiful.

I gave up writing in my blog.

I gave up writing a novel about being trapped in Lebanon in 2006.

I gave up on social media.

I worked.

I played games.

I read about games.

DoDonPachi Daioujou became an obsession.

Brandon’s words about Ketsui lingered in my eyes.

Every few days I tried to revisit Insert Credit.

And always nothing.

Always stagnation.

It was lonely.

Its absence still lingered.

And one night, it came back.

Insert Credit had a new page.

It was coming back.

I was in my bedroom.

My eyes widened in front of the screen.

I was shocked.

I was thankful.

 

Galavant.

 

The new Insert Credit is larger than itself.

The new Insert Credit is Tim Rogers and Action Button Entertainment.

The new Insert Credit is Brandon Sheffield and Necrosoft Games.

The new Insert Credit is Frank Cifaldi and Other Ocean Interactive.

The new Insert Credit is Gunhouse. Ziggurat. #iDarb.

The new Insert Credit is a podcast full of humor and consideration.

The new Insert Credit is still old Insert Credit with more patience and focus.

Its ideas have spread beyond the written word.

Its ideas, its tone, its warmth, its concern are embedded now.

Watching Insert Credit grow has been a lesson in creative endurance.

Where most game sites would settle for a simple redesign…

Where most game sites would never allow themselves the space to fall…

Where most game sites could never build on their core concepts in new ways…

IC did it all and still stands today.

I started this blog in April 2014.

I started it after seeing Videoball at PAX East.

I spent two days standing at that booth.

Nothing else I saw at the expo mattered.

True to Insert Credit:

Videoball was a million big ideas sliced up into consumable mechanics.

It was a game that cared about games.

I left Boston feeling awake again.

I built this blog off the one I abandoned.

I deleted all the entries.

And I wrote my first post about Videoball.

After three years, a video game made me want to write again.

Insert Credit made me want to find my own voice.

Insert Credit changed me.

It helped me find myself in my writing.

I can’t help but imagine there are a lot of stories like this in the world.

I can’t help but wonder how many others Insert Credit has spurred into action and exploration.

It’s been over a decade since IC launched and the fundamental sadness surrounding it is how entrenched game journalism still is.

Some sites have eliminated numbered scoring for game reviews.

Some sites have tried to post more subjective, experiential content.

But the discussion around games is still full of hype and garbage.

The writing is still bland and lifeless.

The culture is still intolerant and insulated.

That’s why Insert Credit still matters.

That’s why Insert Credit will always be necessary.

It is an inspiring work of endurance and precision.

It is an aesthetic, a philosophy, driven by people who still give a damn.

It’s the punk and the jester.

 

It’s the saxophonist, the noise, and the rain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

At.

 

 

I joined Twitter in 2010.

I had been unemployed for almost a year since graduation and was eating through the endless time on my hands by looking for work, writing, and reading.

The year before, I developed a larger appreciation for Japanese culture.

For Japanese history, art, literature: Expanding beyond the world of games and anime.

In 2009, Jake Adelstein released his memoir: Tokyo Vice.

It told the story of Jake’s life in Japan as an investigative journalist and the only American to be admitted to the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Press Club.

Having turned down the opportunity to work in Japan, I was able to experience Tokyo through his work.

After finishing Tokyo Vice, I spent days finding a way to get in touch with Jake.

Due to the sensitive nature of his work, he had made himself difficult to find.

Scouring the internet was fruitless, so I settled on the only public face he had: Twitter.

I explicitly joined Twitter to tell him how much I enjoyed his book.

I was absorbed by it.

After a few exchanges with Jake, I had no idea what to do with this network.

When I moved to Rochester, I stopped writing.

When I started working, social networks didn’t mean much to me.

Through SRK, I found the Rochester FGC and because of that, after a three year absence, I was pulled back into maintaining an internet presence.

I reopened Twitter in 2013 and saw how much it had changed.

The sheer amount of content Twitter was producing, the amount of access it was allowing.

I understood it better now.

I had been listening to the Insert Credit Podcast since its inception, having been a follower of the original site.

I always felt Tim Rogers understood games and language on an intrinsic level.

I always felt he understood what was necessary to express and understand.

After hearing him plug his Twitter account on numerous podcast episodes, I went on to find him.

I thanked him for his excellent writing. He thanked me back.

I was still buying games from Gamestop and stopped by one day to purchase Muramasa Rebirth.

A child was digging through the used game bin and found a knockoff, CoD-style, console FPS.

As I handed the money to the cashier, I overhear the child pleading with his father:

“I want to get this game because I want to be in the army when I grow up!”

I laughed. I remember dropping lines like that to convince my parents of whatever games caught my eye.

At home, I related the story to Tim.

He wrote back: I could have just downloaded Kokuga for the 3DS and I would never have had to leave my house.

I looked up Kokuga.

I couldn’t believe I had never heard of this game.

 

Seal.

 

Kokuga had been released for a year by the time I downloaded it.

As I have often stated: I have a deep, profound love of STGs and have always prided myself on knowing of the ones that mattered.

I couldn’t believe how I had lapsed here.

Kokuga was not only made by G.rev, one of the world’s last remaining and most storied STG houses responsible for the likes of Under Defeat, Ikaruga, and Border Down, but was also directed by Hiroshi Iuchi: Director of Radiant Silvergun, Gradius V, and Ikaruga.

What makes G.Rev’s STGs different from Cave‘s is that they all rely on a combination of fringe mechanics that push the conceptual identity of the genre.

Cave is a company driven by pure arcade action, overflowing with style.

G.rev is a laboratory.

Ikaruga has color-switching. Radiant Silvergun has seven weapons. Border Down’s levels change depending on where you are shot down.

And Kokuga isn’t any different.

Kokuga is not afraid of experimentation and may be the purest form of G.rev’s vision to date.

The game takes place in an era of war between two nations and the player is tasked with piloting country A’s most advanced weapon: Kokuga, a tank of the future.

This is a game made at the cross-section of freedom and gambling.

The player is left to choose where to begin the game.

Levels are all labeled alphabetically and the general trend is that as levels progress upwards, the more difficult they are.

Unlike many of its famous ancestors, Kokuga is a multi-directional, non-scrolling shooter.

It maintains the verticality of other shooters, but allows the player more maneuverability.

The levels are very tightly designed. Nearly claustrophobic.

Levels are littered with obstacles and embedded/mobile enemy types.

To succeed in Kokuga, the player must be aware of the spaces around them, more so than in nearly any other shooter I’ve seen.

Kokuga isn’t just about dodging bullets, it’s about tactical positioning and resource management.

It’s a roguelike disguised as an action game.

The game takes place on the top screen, while the bottom screen is utilized for selecting powerups.

There are four powerups, assigned at random, sitting on the bottom screen.

Any one of them may be selected at any time to bolster either the tank’s defensive or offensive ability.

Each powerup is limited in both duration and frequency. Once you use a powerup, another one is assigned to the slot at random until they run out.

Burn through powerups too quickly and the boss fights become overwhelming. Burn through them too slow and the player is bogged down by the enemy.

This is a game that actually holds the player accountable for the decisions they make.

This is a game that does a fantastic job at giving the player a simulation of the responsibility that comes with power.

The player is free to decide where they would like to enter the world and after making the choice, they are thrown into closed, tight spaces and forced to fight through swarms with very limited resources.

This transition is seamless.

In a traditional STG, the player is only ever allowed to make micro-tactical decisions that mainly involve movement.

The urgency in classic STGs is filtered through the forced scrolling levels.

Even in newer STGs, urgency is manufactured through inverted mechanics: Sine Mora uses time/time-manipulation. Luftrausers uses a simulation of gravity.

While there is tactical urgency in Kokuga, the focus is more on the broader, more strategic plane.

It is a type of urgency which burns slowly at first and accelerates as the level becomes increasingly difficult.

This is further reinforced by the smooth, calm movement of the tank itself. Nothing feels rushed.

Kokuga’s greatest strength is that it does not rely on only one mechanic.

Even though by releasing it on the 3DS eShop, one may get the impression that this isn’t an important game, it is by far the purest manifestation of G.rev.

One of G.rev’s weaknesses has always been their over-reliance on one main mechanic around which others revolve.

One of the problems with Ikaruga was that after awhile it’s color-switching became so overused that it quickly lost its novelty.

With Kokuga, G.rev have been able to multithread their innovative style, creating a game full of interesting mechanics that fit together in a near-perfect way.

Kokuga’s systems not only maximize the game’s obvious strengths, but give the player a more dynamic experience by broadening their access to choice while throwing in a randomness element (powerups) within already tight margins.

Kokuga is a deep meditation on elegant, immersive, mobile game design.

It’s frightening this game almost passed by me unnoticed.

It’s frightening that it has flown under the radar of so many others.

Kokuga is everything G.rev have worked toward: A pure distillation of their innovative style.

With it’s somber tone, wonderful styling, and mechanical coherency: It is the true evolution of Ikaruga.

A true evolution of G.rev’s experimental precision.