Action Button is a Video Game Analysis Channel hosted by video game journalist and indie developer Tim Rogers. It is a Spiritual Successor to both Rogers' old text reviews at ActionButton.net and a series of video reviews/essays produced for Kotaku.
Action Button's videos are part long-form analysis, part retrospective reviews of video games that were historically significant for the medium in some way. The videos are peppered with ruminations on core elements of the game in question, such as the gameplay loop and narrative, as well as the historical circumstances surrounding its development. Rogers also includes various anecdotes from both his personal and professional life related to the game in question.
So far, videos have been made about the following games:
- Final Fantasy VII Remake (May 2020)
- The Last of Us (June 2020)
- Doom (September 2020)
- Pac-Man (November 2020)
- Tokimeki Memorial (January 2021)
- Cyberpunk 2077 (October 2021)
- Boku no Natsuyasumi (September 2022)
- L.A. Noire (TBA)
- Castlevania: Rondo of Blood (TBA)
- Final Fantasy IV (TBA)
- ??? (TBA)
- ??? (TBA)
- EarthBound (1994) (TBA)
- Asteroids Deluxe (TBA)
Not to be confused with the trope for which the channel is named.
Tropes used and discussed in the Action Button reviews:
- all lowercase letters: Normally, the various reviews are introduced in all caps as "ACTION BUTTON REVIEWS..." with the title of the review subject at the end. The review of Boku no Natsuyasumi notably breaks this trend by employing this trope instead, perhaps to reflect the review being even more lowkey and introspective than Tim's usual style.
- Alternative Character Interpretation: Tim cannot help but find that Yoshio Saotome, the cheerful best friend of Tokimeki Memorial's Player Character, comes across as somewhat of a mentally disturbed and creepy stalker, and maybe even potential serial killer, what with his just-a-little-too happy and friendly demeanor combined with his forthcomingness about his distressingly detailed and extensive notes on him and the protagonist's female classmates, which not only chronicles their mood, hobbies, favorite places to visit, and relationship with the protagonist on a day-to-day basis, also contains their blood-type and bust, waist, and hip measurements. Tim also notices, much to his disquiet, that Yoshio eventually adjusts all of the girls' bust measurements up by 1cm during the endgame as the High School Graduation day approaches. When playing the game in one of the post-review streams, Tim outright compares Yoshio to the titular character of Dexter.
- And I'm the Queen of Sheba: Tim does an aside to this effect when briefly discussing the graphical capabilities of the PlayStation 5 in the Cyberpunk 2077 review.Tim: Let me also take a second to note how shriekingly ridiculous it is that the PlayStation 5's box has a little "8K" logo on it. Come on, man! If that thing can do 8K, I'm a brain surgeon.
- Bilingual Bonus: On occasion, Tim will leave an anecdote from his days working and living in Japan or a line from a game without an English localization entirely untranslated. Context tends to imply a translation, but just as often doesn't.
- Book Ends:
- Season One begins and ends with two games with the number "7" featured in the title which were released much more recently than every other game reviewed in the season. Tim states this was intentional in the Cyberpunk review.
- Tim's reviews start and end with a segment called "The Bottom Line", a one-sentence summation of the video, which usually either doesn't make any sense or seemingly makes sense, before he then does the actual review. He then comes back to the summation at the end of the review, revealing it to be his thesis statement on the game in question, based what he has outlined in the preceding review:
- Final Fantasy VII Remake is more Final Fantasy VII than Final Fantasy VII. The remake is literally more than its source material (expanding on plot events, backstory, and narrative); and spiritually more (changing story beats and characterization to better fit the themes of the original narrative, at the cost of not being Truer to the Text).
- The Last of Us is a great game...by default. The game smartly uses a number of Oscar Bait tropes to create a memorable experience; yet because it uses those tropes, it would have been a critical darling (and winner of over 200 Game of the Year awards) even if it wasn't good.
- Doom speaks for itself. The level design, graphics and gameplay tell a narrative of its own that doesn't require an elaborate story; and its impact on game design trends in the following decades speak for how influential the game was.
- Pac-Man has come a long way from itself. A play on the Stock Phrase "video games have come a long way since Pac-Man" seen in ill-informed media coverage about games; and Pac-Man has indeed come a long way from itself, with spinoffs and pseudo-sequels influencing game design in many different genres.
- Tokimeki Memorial objectifies love. The game expects you to fall in love with a digital entity as if it were a flesh and blood human being; it simulates the process of winning over a Love Interest through number-crunching; and also indulges in some questionable narrative choices that turn stereotypes about teenagers (most notably malicious teenage gossip) into gameplay mechanics.
- Cyberpunk 2077 gives us everything. The gameplay is expansive and open-ended, touching on every major trend in contemporary open-world AAA game design, yet it fails to provide a polished, complete experience.
- Boss Battle: Discussed. In his analysis of Tokimeki Memorial, Tim comes to the conclusion that on a mechanical level the various girls the protagonist meet and date are in many ways analogous to the bosses the player would encounter in a more straight-forward video game, and when viewed through this lense it means that Shiori Fujisaki is actually the Final Boss of the game.
- Developers' Desired Date: Discussed in regards to Cyberpunk 2077 and how it seems to heavily favor Panam, with Judy coming in as a clear second.
- Doorstopper: His Tokimeki Memorial video is almost 6 hours long, a fairly ridiculous length by any video standards. His Cyberpunk 2077 review is split up into multiple hour-long videos that total up to 10 hours long (though he strongly recommends in the opening video that the viewer selects two of them to watch before moving onto the final one).
- Even Better Sequel: Discussed. As groundbreaking as he thinks Tokimeki Memorial was, Tim mentions that he finds Tokimeki Memorial 2 to be the superior experience, feeling that the story was better written and more willing to play with darker themes.
- Every Episode Ending: Every review ends with Tim reciting the following:Tim: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that video games were created awesome. That I was born stupid. However, I will not die hungry. Video games forever... Action Button.
- He subverts it slightly in the Boku No Natsuyasumi review, by delivering a variation of sorts:Tim: Even those born unwise, need not resign to perish empty.
- He subverts it slightly in the Boku No Natsuyasumi review, by delivering a variation of sorts:
- Freeze-Frame Bonus: Tim leaves a veritable litany of small blink-and-you-miss-it text bits all over the videos.
- Gosh Dang It to Heck!: As with his other works, Tim avoids swearing on principle, even when quoting the game in question. This leads to some hilarious moments such as when he calls a Final Fantasy VII enemy a "Heck House". Tim even censored Cyberpunk 2077's profane dialog with the Imp death sound from Doom.
- Homage: Tim's review of The Last of Us ends with a short-story adaptation of the game's plot, In the Style of Cormac McCarthy.
- Hotter and Sexier: Tim discusses this with the Final Fantasy VII Remake, finding that it in quite a few ways comes across as more "horny" than the original game, especially with both Jessie and Tifa flirting both more frequently and aggressively with Cloud.
- The Man Is Sticking It to the Man: Discussed. In the Doom review a segment sees Tim ruminating on the cultural zeitgeist of the late '80's and most of the '90's, especially regarding advertising targeted towards boys in their teens. He notices that the majority of the TV commercials of the time seemed to attempt to paint that consuming the products they were hawking, even if said product was extremely innocuous, as an act of, not if not outright rebellion, then at the very least contrarianism against "boring" and "authoritarian" adults. Tim considers the crowing example of this a commercial for Bubble Tape that consisted of little more than of a series of ugly and middled-aged authority figures saying that they "hate" Bubble Tape for some not-really-defined reason, before finishing with the slogan "For you — Not them".
- Most Gamers Are Male: Discussed. Tim ponders the ways Cyberpunk 2077's different Romance Sidequests can be discovered and the way they influence the story seems to at least imply that this perception is at play.
- Meeting the heterosexual female love interest, Panam Palmer, is part of a mandatory story mission, and her romance sidequest can potentially factor directly into one of the ending branches.
- Meeting the lesbian female love interest, Judy Alvarez, is also part of a mandatory story mission, and her romance sidequest can potentially influence the tone of two of the endings.
- The gay male love interest, Kerry Eurodyne, can only be met during a completely optional side-questline, and it requires the player to already be four sidequests deep into the questline, and, like Judy, his romance sidequest is limited to only influence the tone of two of the endings. However, the quest which unlocks Kerry as a possible love interest is part of the questline centred around Johnny Sliverhand and his exploits before his death, so if the player is at least just a bit invested in unravelling Johnny's backstory, they will at the very least get introduced to Kerry at some point.
- Finally, the heterosexual male interest (i.e. the one meant to appeal directly to a heterosexual female player), River Ward, requires the player to invest about 10 hours into another completely optional side-questline, but this one doesn't directly relate to any other character in the story, so there is a fairly good chance that might be overlooked or skipped by a lot of players. Finally, like Judy and Kerry, River's influence on the endings is again a matter of slightly influencing the tone of two of them.
- Master of None: Tim's thesis statement on Cyberpunk 2077 is that, by chasing every major trend in open-world game design over the past several years, it fails to forge much of its own identity or provide a strong gameplay experience in one particular area.
- Munchkin: Discussed as a tactic, during the Cyberpunk 2077 review, as Tim notices that it is rather easy to break the game's combat system and character progression. That is to say, he tells the story of how he realized early on that the game's "Quickhack" mechanic was extremely easy to exploit, as it could pretty reliably deal pretty huge amounts of damage with very little effort. He goes on to describe that this realization lead him to Min-Maxing his character towards using the system to "Death Note" enemies, ultimately resulting in him playing as a "ridiculous, boring Batman", in that his character ended up cruising around Night City in a vehicle looking for known gang members walking the streets, and then, without ever leaving the comfort of said vehicle, spammed Quickhacks to pretty effortlessly kill them from afar, while raking in experience points, street cred, and money by the truck-load for doing so. Tim eventually worked his way towards combining the method with a character that, equipped with various clothing and weapon buffs, got an almost 100% likelihood for scoring Critical Hits with every shot fired from any equipped assault rifle, and as such also made very short work of pretty much all of the game's dungeon levels, even the supposedly quite difficult endgame ones, and even rendered the Final Boss an Anti-Climax Boss, if not a borderline Zero-Effort Boss. With the power of hindsight from looking over the gameplay footage, Tim laments how this whole character build might be extremely efficient at "winning" the game and earning more money than it would ever give the player any opportunity to actually spend, but it reduces most of the dramatic tension that the game's story is trying to convey to pretty much one great big joke. He also notes that it makes for really boring footage to show off for an audience, as pretty much all the combat is skipped, in favor of, at best, staring at enemies desperately, but futilely trying to close the distance to the player before their damage effects inevitably kill them, and, at worst, outright staring into a wall and watching the off-screen enemies' HP steadily tick down in the distance.
- Oscar Bait: Tim discusses it in connection with The Last of Us, in an attempt to analyse how "Video Game Oscar Bait" are both similar to and different from "regular" Oscar Bait.
- Overly-Long Gag
- The Pac-Man video begins with a Long List of every instance Tim could find of a journalist using the Stock Phrase "video games have come a long way since Pac-Man" in articles about other games. This goes on for nearly five minutes.
- Troubled Production, starting with the delays, before listing every patch and hotfix released following the game's release. This goes on for about 40 seconds, before the video "glitches" out and skips to Tim talking about the bottom line. The Cyberpunk 2077 video begins with Tim explaining the game's increasingly
- Photographic Memory: Tim has the condition known as hyperthymesia, which gives him near-perfect recall of the vast majority of his life experiences. He frequently uses this in the videos to describe his first encounter with the game in question, which sometimes happened in his childhood, or how the gaming press was receiving it at the time.Tim: As you may, or may not know about me, I suffer from a rare neurological condition that requires me to remember just about everything in my life all the time. On the one hand, this condition has never been useful outside of the odd party trick involving years old gas station receipts dollar values, and even then the money won on bets is negligible and usually spend more frivolously than even the rest of my money. On the other hand, this condition a — perhaps — unique opportunity to channel exact mind states from any lived experience of my life. It's for this purpose, of course, that I have tried to keep my life uninteresting. Because, trust me, there's nothing worse than being trapped in the remembrance of an interesting experience.
- Running Gag:
- The Last of Us is the winner of over 200 Game of the Year awards before watching Tim's video, you certainly will after. If you didn't know
- Reusing the Doom shotgun sound effect, especially when what's happening makes it out of place. The Tokimeki Memorial review in particular gets a lot of use out of it. The Cyberpunk 2077 review adds yet another layer by mixing it with Mario's "taking damage" grunt from Super Mario 64.
- Reusing the "BINGO!" line from Smash TV, usually combined with a clip of Ayako Katagiri from Tokimeki Memorial, in a similar manner to the Doom shotgun sound effect.
- Discussed when Tim recalls that, through various incidents and misadventures, he has owned and/or played most of Naughty Dog's games without ever paying for one.
- Scenic-Tour Level: Tim calls them prestige tours, a way for AAA game developers to show off graphics and/or complex scripting in a "worldbuilding segment".
- Start My Own: Tim claims in the Cyberpunk 2077 review that Action Button was born when the CEO of the new venture capital owner of the site he previously worked for was a shallow weirdo to him and he decided he would make a go of what he had done there on his own, creating an outline for season 1 of the channel.
- The Stool Pigeon: Discussed and defied. Tim states in his review of Cyberpunk 2077 that one thing he will never do in a game if he has a choice in the matter is being a Narc regardless of the situation.
- Tamer and Chaster: In the Tokimeki Memorial episode, Tim discusses how the game was one of the first Dating Sims that found broad success in courting a mainstream audience by completely doing away with the pornographic material that the genre was otherwise infamous for. He notices with some amusement that the game is tame to a degree where the most intimate possible interaction the protagonist can have with the girls he is dating is some innocent hand holding, and that there isn't even a Smooch of Victory with the final girl at the end, even though many would probably argue that it is a borderline obligatory trope for the romance genre.
- Take That!: Quite a bit of the comedy from the videos comes from Tim delivering some rather deadpan burns to games he didn't particularity care for.
- This bit from the The Last of Us
- In the Cyberpunk 2077 review Tim goes on a tangent on how, in preparation for playing the game and getting a feel for the genre, he decided to look at other games that something to do with "cyber" and "punk", and as such played Rocky Rodent and found it to be a surprisingly good game. Thinking he could find some other overlooked diamonds-in-the-rough, he tried playing a bunch of other Mascot with Attitude platformers from the time period, and immediately found that the genre's reputation of being not altogether that good was rather well deserved.Tim: I booted up Awesome Possum... I wish I hadn't. I was thinking, while I was playing platform games starring mascot rodents, I might as well visit Konami's Rocket Knight Adventures [...] I even played it's sequel Sparkster, which totally sucks. For a good measure, and to finish the poisoning, I chocked down Aero the Acro-Bat, Aero the Acro-Bat 2, and Zero the Kamikaze Squirrel. More like, Zero out of Ten the Kamikaze Squirrel out of Ten!
- Boku no Natsuyasumi features Tim's concept for what a bad-looking American box art for such a Japanese game would look like. Its lack of atmosphere, the badly-rendered main character model with an angry expression, and total misrepresentation of what the game is mark it as a jab at the much-hated North American box art for ICO, which has all those same elements.
- That One Level: In the Final Fantasy VII Remake review, Tim makes no effort to hide the fact that he dislikes the Tifa section of "Chapter 16 — The Belly of the Beast" for its rather slow-paced and insipid gameplay, calling it "a kindergarten Uncharted routine" and "Tifa's Tomb Raider for Babies".
- Trauma Conga Line: If the character of Tim in the videos is to be believed, his life while making the Action Button series is arguably more interesting than his actual reviews, and almost ridiculously more devastating than any other reviewer in history. To whit, over the 2 years since starting the Action Button Review, he:
- Has had to move over 4 times, including living in a hotel room for a month during researching the Doom review;
- Got a case of shingles in that time period, which he described as a persistent shotgun blast of pain to his legs, and the worst pain he ever felt up to that point;
- And also developed the Coronavirus near the beginning of 2020, which caused such severe damage to his lungs, that his doctor had to prescribe him testosterone to aid the healing process (which also aided in his gaining 40lbs).
- Troll: Tim has admitted to engaging in trollish and contrarian behaviour for the sake of gaining attention, especially in reviews on his old website. Tim shared one story in an Action Button video review: in the late 2000s, there was a major debate among game journalists over whether Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots was the greatest game of all time. Tim made his own list on ActionButton.net, hyping up each entry for months, only to reveal the #1 game was Another World - or more to the point, not Metal Gear Solid 4.
- Unreliable Narrator: Tim will regularly reveal that some of his claims, while entertaining, were lies, that he is a fictionalized character rather than Tim Rogers the actual real person, and expose various other falsehoods in his videos to make it clear you shouldn't take all his asides too seriously.