Why yes, I’m reviewing a review that takes six hours to watch. A review of a review of a niche Playstation game that was only released in Japan. I do what I want.
This is a review of action button reviews boku no natsuyasumi, the opening video of Action Button season two. In the interest of not undermining the herculean amounts of research and writing that went into Rogers’ review, I will avoid going too much into specific detail. Instead this text will be more of a broad spoiler-free birds-eye view of whether or not you should watch this six hour review of a Playstation game.
You should. There, I did the Tim Rogers thing of spoiling the thesis for those without the fortitude to consume something prohibitively long.
Who is Tim Rogers?
A simple question, given he’s prominent enough to have a Wikipedia page. Tim Rogers is a guy who loves his Pomeranian dearly and also happens to have worked in the gaming industry for decades. He’s also known for a verbose, prose-like writing style when reviewing games.
Tim Rogers as a YouTuber, however, is a bit more difficult to summarize.
Rogers’ entire brand centers around doing a lot. The man read over 260 books in 2019. He played, read, and watched dozens of pieces of pop culture multiple times to craft his Cyberpunk 2077 review, a video so massive it’s siloed into eight segments with the viewer asked to only watch three, simulating the experience of playing a game that locks off story content based on earlier choices.
It’s, frankly, unnerving how much content Rogers manages to create when reviewing any given game. All for a YouTube channel that, while he clearly is doing fine financially, has only accrued 155k subscribers. Only one Action Button review has broken a million views since its debut with the near-as-makes-no-difference three hour and thirty minute review of Final Fantasy VII: Remake.
Crafting a multi-hour review or video essay has become a meme in a post-Breadtube world. Where Breadtube reached its plateau at a time fans balked at 40-minute commentary videos, the current generation of longform videographers are bound by law to, at some point, disappear for months only to return with a single video file so massive any attempt to skip ahead or rewind causes YouTube to crash on older devices. These monoliths to over-analyzing a particular topic will then be retweeted by hbomberguy, Sarah Zeidig, or if it’s really good: both.
To that point: the first Action Button to break a million? His five hour and fifty-six minute review of Tokimeki Memorial. That was the one the YouTube algorithm decided to smile on outside its initial push from the usual suspects’ retweets during launch week. Sounds like what Action Button needs is another six hour analysis of another game from the early 2000s only released in Japan that Rogers played in his twenties while living in Japan…
Well would you look at that.
action button reviews boku no natsuyasumi kicks off the second season of the internet’s most ambitious video game review series with a masterful skill check. A pass-fail for those foolhardy enough to click on a six hour video game review without the fortitude or patience to actually commit to the journey. Four minutes and thirty-one seconds of juxtaposing boko no natusyasumi’s sunflower field (and this soundscape) with footage of a real-life sunflower field.
Wordless except for an on-screen quote that briefly appears, this segment contains multitudes. I got a little choked up rewatching it to get a screenshot for this review thanks to the hours of context I have for certain shots in the sequence. Rogers dares you to click off the video. The thesis of his piece requires six hours to full mature and he’s not in the mood to rush even one second of it. At this point dedicated Action Button viewers have watched more hours of Action Button than any half-hour television series that wasn’t renewed after two seasons. Time can be taken, and time will be taken.
The first four segments of the six chapter video are spent breaking Boku no Natsuyasumi down to its constituent parts. And, in true Rogers style, also interrogating the constituent parts of video games that came before and after. Boku no Natsuyasumi uses a style of walking controls the American gaming public has dubbed “tank controls” or “Resident Evil” controls, so Rogers must spend a not-insignificant amount of time analyzing the reasons why (or why not) a game would use this control scheme.
We learn more about Rogers’ job in Tokyo during the Playstation/PS2 era. Several coworkers become key players. The video casually embarks on a retrospective of Japanese pop culture media built around nostalgia for a rural summer break that ends up substantive enough to program a college semester of monthly movie nights. By the end of part four the viewer knows (almost) every nut and bolt of what makes Boku no Natsuyasumi work both on a mechanical and textual level.
Then Rogers gets on a plane.
Part Five is when the emotional weight of the story truly kicks in. In this segment Rogers travels to Kansas to film sunflowers, visit his old elementary school, and eventually interrogate the inherent pain undercurrent that lies baked within nostalgia and memory.
I have ADHD and if I ever were to get properly diagnosed I surely have a permanent base camp set up somewhere on the autistic spectrum. One of the side effects of having both is being fond of following rules, patterns, and engaging in systems (the ‘tism) while also fighting the fact my brain, seemingly of its own accord, will simply delete short-term memory files or not return a memory query when there absolutely is knowledge in there I know.
I can remember some of the most useless, mundane facts. Some of the most important days of my life are vague impersonations of those moments, a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of a memory. I bring this up because memory is somewhat of a running thread in the Action Button reviews, having peaked in Rogers discussing his own memory during the Tokimeki Memorial review in the previous season.
All of which I bring up to say the following is not a substantive spoiler for someone brand new to Action Button
Rogers has a rare memory disorder that, much like most medical issues in real life, doesn’t abide by pop culture understandings. He doesn’t have photographic memory. He doesn’t have control of it. He’s cursed to retain information and, worse, remember it.
“If one hour amounts to about the size of a fist, let’s say I back-burner churn through a KFC bucket’s worth per minute wherever I go. I’ve gathered that everyone out there, on occasion, remembers some embarrassing comment they made on accident one time and they feel stupid all over again when they do. So imagine how you’d feel if that happened 90 to 100 times a minute… on a good day? I live floating on an ocean of defragmented nostalgia. All my memories are the exact same size.”Tim Rogers, action button reviews boku no natsuyasumi
Part Five haunts me. Watching Rogers deal with traveling around his childhood town learning firsthand that his belief all memories are exactly the same size is one of the more powerful things I’ve seen on YouTube.
This section could’ve been a video on its own. It would be a lesser experience without the preamble and context of Boku no Natsuyasumi, but it’s a good enough bit of self-documentary it immediately stands out on a website packed full of videographers putting their hearts on their sleeves in search of that sweet sweet Authenticity that drives engagement.
On his way to review Boku no Natsuyasumi, Rogers found authenticity, harvested it, and put it to work in his carefully-written narrative in a way few others can. The video is absolutely dripping in intentionality, right down to the fact the title is simply action button reviews boku no natsuyasumi. The fact that it’s casually written in lower-case like a placeholder title or a leftover from the gargantuan video’s file name.
I love action button reviews boku no natsuyasumi. This 1,300 word review sprang from me in one sitting unplanned. I need to tell you why this video is worth investing a few afternoons’ screen time in getting through. There’s a cute dog at times. You’ll make it through. I fully understand Rogers’ style of somehow combining machine-like thoroughness with the pursuit of tangents with as much fervor as the main topic isn’t for everyone. It sure as hell is for me.
A YOUTUBE video that’s SIX HOURS long????!
I fully understand the impulse to balk at a long timecode on a YouTube video. For every good one that justifies its length, there’s two that ramble on and, mysteriously, get more traction on social media. We shouldn’t be at a point where the latter is so commonplace MatPat has cracked wise about watching most YouTube at 1.5 speed “because everything is so darn long. They’re all like the length of movies!”
Yet another in a long line of self-owns from old MatPat, whose content frequently is as long as the shortest videos in his screenshots of videos that’re too long in his eyes. Still, It’s not an unpopular take. A take that reminds me of the time I had something to offer an Actual Twitter Verified Film Critic. At the time the “TikTok lady makes a disgusting mess out of food on a countertop” trend was a hot topic and I saw a critic I followed was asking surface-level questions about it. I happened to have the Jarvis Johnson video that covered the whole ordeal in a succinct package and offered it up in a reply tweet.
What response did I get from the man who has watched hundreds of hours of forgettable movies and television as a day job for years?
At this point, complaints about longform videos being… long feels more like the person last truly interacted with YouTube when they were in college in the 2010s rather than a genuine thought-out complaint. A mindset from the same time period as when MatPat was getting started, a time when YouTube creators were actively encouraged to get a video to 10 minutes and one second because that extra second elevated them to a new tier of ad revenue.
The idea of “a YouTube video” was cemented to mean bite-sized things you could watch on your lunch break, but that limitation was purely due to size limitations and tech. Sure, YouTube used to have limitations on how long of a video a smaller account could upload, but even then those restrictions are a non-issue for someone actively looking to make high quality content in 2022.
That’s how we got to a place where someone whose job it is to crank out reviews of 3/5 A24 pictures or 2/5 celebrity-driven buddy comedies every month balks at a sub-thirty-minute video. Do keep in mind that all of this is coming from someone who is extremely good friends with someone (who’s smarter than I) that has genuine beef with the growing timecodes on YouTube. There are legit criticisms.
I’m a podcast critic who has spent years criticizing shows like Critical Role for tossing up 4 hour unedited stream recordings as “podcast episodes.” Not only could every TTRPG ever recorded benefit from going under the editor’s knife, it also eliminates the insidious side effect of the content being so massive it conveniently becomes the only podcast fans have time to keep up to date on. Much like how massive game studios have embraced a games-as-service model with the intention of making each Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry, or Call of Duty so gargantuan the player physically can’t invest their spare time in other games.
Commentary videos (a genre more focused on reciting a thing rather than genuinely talking about a thing) are a hotbed of low-effort editing and long run-times. Both commentators and essayists alike struggle with carrying a topic or thesis long enouhg to justify longer videos, oftentimes backsliding into making a simple reaction video that happens to have a thesis shoehorned in at the last moment, Nostalgia Critic-style.
Yet at the top of the mountain there’s creators like CJ The X or Dan Olsen who can write worth a damn, who earn feature-length essays about Ariana Grande’s acting career or a day trip to a very long lake. There is very much a place in the modern media diet for longform videos. We watch them all the damn time on other streaming platforms, each chapter of the long presentation displayed as a different tile somehow making it seem more managable. Blue Planet is hours upon hours of carefully-curated and beautifully-edited nature footage divided up into neat little chunks for consumption. Throw it up on YouTube as one file and the wrong people on Twitter would lose their goddamn minds.
The Bottom Line (after having watched The Bottom Line)
So that’s what sucks about longer videos on YouTube. Now let’s focus on what works.
Tim Rogers, being someone who consumes a lot of media, has understood and addressed the concern of “holy hell this video is long” from the beginning of Action Button. Damn near every Action Button review actively discourages viewers from watching all of it in one sitting. Rogers has even stated the core concept of Action Button video reviews is to produce a review that’s similar in length and arrangement to a classic PBS docuseries.
That PBS docuseries comment is the key to unlocking longer video essays for those who balk, I argue. If one reframes Action Button (and longer video essays/reviews in general) away from “a YouTube video” towards simply a different UI to interact with a miniseries about a topic, it suddenly isn’t so massive. Hell, the Cyberpunk 2077 review is constructed in such a way Rogers directly addresses the audience and asks them to skip four of the seven branching paths the review takes, intentionally not watching several hours’ extra content. He threatens to have intentionally written each segment to circuitously revisit concepts from other parts to make them less palatable to people who’ve watched more than one part previously.
Action Button reviews are not going to revolutionize YouTube. There likely aren’t a thousand video game critics looking to ape Rogers’ style in the same way gamer video producers immediately glommed onto John Jafari’s manic editing style during his heyday.
They should, though. Holy shit should they. And you should watch action button reviews boku no natsuyasumi. Or go back and watch Tokimeki Memorial if you’re feeling froggy and want the spiritual prequel video first.
Video games forever.