Tim Rogers is invited to my Party

Tim Rogers then. Scurrilous punk that he is.

The internet’s knowledge of Tim Rogers can be summarised as follows: He lives in Japan. He writes laughably long, self-indulgent articles about videogames (like this). He is a liar, because he claims to be poor. He is a liar, because he claims to be rich. He thinks he can write. He is a jerk. He is loathsome. And recently he’s blackmailed his way into having a monthly column on American superblog Kotaku.

Here’s what I know about Tim Rogers: He lives in Japan, and has been working for a variety of games companies for a while now. He’s pushing 30. He writes long, self-indulgent articles about videogames. In fact, when IGN paid him to cover E3 he ended up overshooting his requested wordcount by 80,000 words.

When he first moved to Japan he lost his job teaching English and survived, in part, off donation money from fans of his writing, who’d also send him games. I found this pretty inspiring- the 108 in my twitter username is a reference to Tim.  Thanks to a career as a corporate salarybitch, Tim is now relatively rich.

He can write. And he is a jerk.

When I was backpacking around Tokyo for the first time I got in touch with Tim and we hung out. One night we attended a meet-up for Japanese people who enjoyed Western games, which acted largely as a signpost warning of the million mile weaving dirt road between the Japanese games industry and the West. We watched as a group of 90 or so Japanese men sat smoking intently at projected movie footage of, no word of a lie, the Mega-CD edition of Demolition Man, various scenes from GTA3 and a montage of fatalities from the new Mortal Kombat game. There was also guffawing… so much so that you couldn’t be sure if these men only liked these games for their tone of caveman braggadocio; their guts, and those guts’ exposure to daylight.

Some of these people had shown up because a certain Japanese games development celebrity (you’ve probably heard of him) was meant to be there, and sure enough he was, flanked by an actual posse. At one point during the night Tim began writing in Japanese on a cocktail napkin. He went up to one of this celebrity’s people, and asked them to give him the napkin.

To this day I still don’t know what was written on it. But when I returned to Japan 4 years later, Tim was working in that celebrity’s development studio as a well-paid consultant. This boy? He’s pretty sharp.

Maybe now I’ve got a little traction, I’m gonna say this: Tim Rogers’ games journalism is worth studying.

To echo Tom Wolfe, it’s not often you come across a new style, period. That alone means games journalists should be scouring Tim Rogers’ acres of text for merit (the image of a small community looking for the body of a girl in a thicket springs to mind), not least because there’s an awful lot of merit to be found.

That Tim Rogers writes so much about himself is deceptive. If he’s written a 9,000 word review and 2,000 of those words are about Tokyo, or his band, his hair or whatever, he’s still written 7,000 relevant words. While even his on-topic stuff is verbose, it’s impossible to write 7,000 words about a game and not drop chin-deep into a characteristic depth of analysis that has its place in this industry, to say nothing of how few games journalists I know who could write 7,000 words on a single game at all.

Tim doesn’t just say what’s wrong, what he doesn’t like, what’s clever. Tim points out fixes, outlines whole alternate-universe design documents, and playfully brings the development team’s staff to life through his uniquely intimate relationship with the industry and remembered interviews.

At one end of the spectrum you have Tim pointing out in his Bioshock review that the first things your avatar does in the game (without anybody batting an eye) is beat a man to death and then immediately eat a cream cake out of a trash can. At the other end, you have slower burning work like this piece painstakingly explaining why Another World is the greatest game of all time.

As for a defense of how much Tim Rogers talks about himself, welll, I think there’s a use to that too, but actions speak louder than words. I’m going to be riffing off that exact device in blog posts for the rest of the month and see what happens.