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News - Feature: A Tribute To Jason Brookes

Feature: A Tribute To Jason Brookes

Earlier this week, the gaming world was hit by the tragic news that legendary British games journalist and graphic designer Jason Brookes had passed away after a long battle with cancer at the age of 52.

His name might not be instantly familiar to some of our younger readers, but Brookes was involved with some of the most influential gaming magazines of the ’90s and ’00s; Nintendo fans will know his name from Super Play, the UK’s first SNES magazine and a publication which championed import gaming and all facets of Japanese culture.

Starting out with the fanzine Electric Brain, Brookes would join Super Play before moving onto EDGE magazine – which is still in circulation today – where he would eventually become editor, presiding over what was arguably one of the most exciting periods of its history, covering the launches of systems like the PlayStation, Saturn and N64 and interviewing the likes of Shigeru Miyamoto, Howard Lincoln and Gunpei Yokoi.

He would later move to the US as Future’s first American correspondent, as well as working on the likes of Japanese magazine LOGiN and Ziff-Davies’ GMR magazine, amongst others. A massive fan of Japan and Japanese culture, he would later assume the role of Foreign Correspondent for Enterbrain, Inc, the publisher of Weekly Famitsu. He also contributed to Tony Mott’s 2010 book, 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die. Outside of games, he helped launched the dance music magazine Revolution in 1999. More recently, he was working towards a Masters degree in Illustration at the University of Gloucester and was still attending classes until just a week before his passing.

We’ve pulled together some thoughts about the great man here, taken from the people who worked with him and knew him best over the past few decades. You might also want to check out our exclusive interview with him from 2017.

James Mielke – Co-Founder & Creative Director, Tigertron

I’d worked with Jason since the days of GMR magazine. My boss, Simon Cox, always gave him carte blanche on whatever assignments we had for him. Their friendship went back (at least) to their days when they both worked on EDGE.

He was always omnipresent in my early days of games journalism, and over time I learned how easy-going and friendly he was. He went out of his way to send me a private note expressing appreciation for the soundtrack I’d curated for Lumines Electronic Symphony, with him having experienced firsthand the acid house revolution of the early ’90s and sharing a mutual appreciation for electronic music with me.

I didn’t see him often, on average once every other year or so, but when I learned he was ill it was deeply upsetting to discover. Throughout it all he never once complained, never acted the victim, and still maintained his relaxed, generous, kind nature. He introduced me to some developers whose game he really liked and thought that I would also like (it was Demon’s Tilt, and I loved it), and wanted to spread the word about.

To the very end, he was thinking of others, with kindness. If only everyone were so selfless.

Simon Cox – Former Future US Editorial Director / EDGE Deputy Editor

His perfectionism and attention to detail were his absolute superpower and at times – even he would admit – his Achilles’ heel. It was certainly part of what made EDGE the magazine it is today – beautifully designed, but with a velvet rope that only quality games could pass, and with an attention to detail that drove art directors and writers insane while demanding their very best, even as deadlines slipped. The result was that a pat on the back from Jason Brookes meant something. But – and this is important – he wasn’t a tyrant. Far from it.

Jason was a gentle soul, endlessly forgiving and encouraging and effortlessly charming. Everyone who met him, or had any contact with the man, fell a little bit in love with him. He just had this way about him. If I had to liken him to someone everyone might know, I’d pick Paul Newman. He had that same ability to disarm and comfort, no matter the circumstances – and that meant lifelong friendships – including with many industry figures.

Simon Cox with Jason during a 2016 trip to San Francisco© Simon Cox
Simon Cox with Jason during a 2016 trip to San Francisco

One such figure is Tetsuya Mizuguchi of Sega Rally, Lumines and Rez fame, whom he attended the Burning Man festival with and whose psychedelic, often stunningly beautiful projects were a perfect match for Jason’s twin loves of electronic music and space-age design. Jason always made it a point to visit Mizuguchi-san and 17-Bit Studios boss, Jake Kazdal, whenever he visited Japan and those nights would begin with a meeting of minds at the game studio, and end with hugged goodbyes outside a dance club at 5AM, with everyone the worse for wear.

Along with games and design, dance music was another of Jason’s loves and obsessions, and the EDGE office during his tenure was always bouncing and thumping to the sound of whatever latest Paul Oakenfold or Leftfield CD was parked in the sound system. This, of course, was a perfect match for the new era that PlayStation ushered in, where games for the first time became this nexus of art, music and design that was a part of – not separate from – the wider culture.

You honestly couldn’t have designed a more perfect editor for a magazine like EDGE if you’d tried.

Steve Carey – Publisher, Super Play

What do you mean, he’s gone? Surely that can’t be right. Jason was unfairly attractive. Indeed, he romped home in some kind of contest at Future for being the handsomest bloke, back when it was permitted to admit that not everyone was as beautiful as Jason Brookes. No-one demanded a recount.

There was a gentleness to Jason that was maybe a little unusual for Future folk at the time – it was fairly boisterous and there plenty of healthy egos about. He loved Japanese culture, which was a great asset on EDGE magazine.

Jason Brookes, gone? S**t.

Jake Kazdal – Founder, 17-Bit Games

I first met Jason Brookes while working on Rez with Tetsuya Mizuguchi in Tokyo in the spring of 2001. They were old friends, and Jason and his best friend Simon Cox were in town for Tokyo Game Show and came by to check out what we were working on. Jason was a huge trance music fan – and a huge Sega fan – and was very excited to see this crazy game we were tinkering away on. In fact, Simon came up with the name Rez that very trip! Mizuguchi-san loved it and it was quickly decided we would change the name officially. Jason had written a big expose on Mizuguchi at AM3 in EDGE in early 1998, literally weeks before I had the chance to meet Mizuguchi at E3. By the time I met Mizuguchi-san in person soon after, I had already learned a huge deal about him and was able to connect with him very quickly, and was hired soon after just as he was starting his new CS4/RD9/United Game Artists group.

Jason and I hit it off quickly, and he stayed behind after TGS to explore the city and hang out some. My good friend Takamasa Shichisawa was an art director on the Gran Turismo franchise, and he invited us both to the Gran Turismo 3 launch party not far away from my studio. Takamasa (known to everyone as Nana, which is the other way of saying 7, along with Shichi, part of his surname) was also a huge trance music fan, and the entire party was DJ’d by some of the top psy-trance DJs in Tokyo at the time who had contributed to the Japanese soundtrack, which is very different from the western soundtrack. We had an absolute blast, and the three of us closed out the party with a long walk through a gorgeous Japanese garden the next morning, and became fast friends.

Jake (foreground) around 2000 with John Ricciardi, Simon Cox, Justin Shriram Keeling, Sam Kennedy and Mark MacDonald in Japan. Jason is on the far right of the image© John Ricciardi
Jake (foreground) around 2000 with John Ricciardi, Simon Cox, Justin Shriram Keeling, Sam Kennedy and Mark MacDonald in Japan. Jason is on the far right of the image

As the years went by, I made a point of seeing Jason every time I visited San Francisco, and he visited me in Tokyo as well. We always hit it off so well, with so much in common in our shared passions. I introduced him to Gio Fazio, aka MAKYO, a club DJ and tribal dub producer who I was (and still am) a huge fan of. Gio did most of the soundtrack for my first indie game Skulls of the Shogun, and Jason went on to design some of his album covers, and the two of them became good friends as well. Jason was so effortless for me to communicate with; a reserved, polite man with an incredible twinkle in his eye, who when in small groups of close friends would become very animated and passionate about his favourite things – music, classic gaming, trance music and dance culture, all these things we shared and could excitedly jabber on about for days in a row when we hung out.

For years after I left Tokyo, I would always spend at least a couple of nights with Jason at his place in the Upper Haight in San Francisco during GDC every year. Mostly we’d just cruise the neighbourhood, excitedly catching up on all things music and games, eating at his favourite restaurants, just constantly grinning and discussing the finer points of our incredibly common interests. We would always spend the Saturday after the show ended doing a marathon hike through Golden Gate Park; he lived next to it almost the whole time he was in SF and knew it like the back of his hand, he loved it there so much. Simon lived close by and the two of them were like brothers, for better and for worse. Hanging out with both of them brought so much happiness to my heart, listening to them squabble was always a great laugh. He missed his family in the UK and France, but truly was a San Franciscan at heart. It became such a tradition I looked forward to it all year. When the Nintendo Switch shipped in the US during GDC, we opened it together at his house and we went into the park and played in the woods at his favourite hidden little hippy shrine; it was one of my favourite days on this planet.

He could dive into the tiniest details on his favourite graphic design, his favourite games from yesteryear, and began to really focus on combining his love of the two. He began studying graphic design constantly, and made his own clothing line, drawing heavy inspiration from both club culture and classic gaming, particularly the 16-bit era of Japanese games. His skill set quickly improved, and his attention to detail he was so well known for during his EDGE years (and before that as well) really began to shine. I was always amazed at his subtle understanding of shape, colour and composition. He would commit entirely to these compositions and designs, sometimes tuning them and experiment with them for weeks, even months. He was such a perfectionist, but it led to simple, stunning works that always impressed completely.

Jake Kazdal and Jason Brookes© Jake Kazdal

Jason’s long journey towards finding his true happy place in the world was just really coming to a head when he began to feel sick, and by the time he went back to England to spend time with his parents after almost two decades in San Francisco, he was diagnosed with late-stage cancer. We stayed in regular contact, but it didn’t look good. Jason was upbeat and positive as ever, attempting all kinds of bleeding-edge treatment options in Germany and elsewhere. He mentioned coming to Kyoto one last time to visit me and it was then I knew I probably wouldn’t see my dear friend again. We kept in touch, and he was always positive and hopeful, reading constantly about the condition, experimenting with diet and alternative treatments, but it didn’t get any better. His last message on Facebook, the day he died, was to Mizuguchi-san and myself, which I find highly uncanny. Full circle I guess. Simon solemnly informed me he had passed, peacefully, and I’m still spinning days later.

Jason was one of the most beautiful, passionate, particular, intelligent, stubborn, focused, interesting people I have ever met. Every minute I spent with him was always energizing, exciting, inspiring and joyful. Our sparse but intense regular visits were always a highlight of my year; I loved the man like a brother. I still can’t believe he’s gone. He was a passionate, restless creative wanderer, who leaves us far too soon. I’ll miss him like hell. I hope you find the most spiritual psychedelic festival ever, up there in the stars my dear, dear friend.

Goodbye Jason. Thank you.

Keith Stuart – Bestselling Author and Acting Guardian Games Editor / Former EDGE Staff Writer

I am extremely grateful that my first job in journalism was with Jason Brookes. He was very different to most of the other video game writers and editors at the time. Cool, tanned and handsome, he looked decidedly out of place in the ramshackle Future offices of the mid-1990s, where each magazine area resembled a teenage boy’s bedroom. He was fantastically self-assured, but also incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about games, especially Japanese games – he had a way of communicating their qualities that was utterly unique; like a music professor disassembling a Bach concerto. He taught me how to write in a human way about poly counts, texture-mapping and collision detection, and he also taught me how to interrogate the games industry and its sacred figures.

Jason (foreground) with Keith (right) in a photo which also includes Tony Mott and Craig Brooks, taken by EDGE art editor Terry Stokes© Terry Stokes
Jason (foreground) with Keith (right) in a photo which also includes Tony Mott and Craig Brooks, taken by EDGE art editor Terry Stokes

Working with him was sometimes exhausting and frustrating, but I learned so much. He expected a lot of his staff and we were desperate to get it right. There were a lot of late nights and chaotic deadlines, but then we’d open the magazine at the end of it and realise what all the effort was for. Even in the midst of sending a week-late magazine to the printers, he was calm. He was always calm. He was calm when he got famously prank-called by Charlie Brooker – a moment that would have humiliated lesser men. He was calm when I wrote an email to him complaining about the endless missed deadlines and late nights, and criticising his management, and then, thanks to a new unfamiliar email app, accidentally sent it to every editor in Future.

I only worked with him for two years, but almost everything I learned about rigorous, interesting, authoritative consumer journalism, I learned in that bright, intense and fascinating period. He was a true one-off.

Zuby Ahmed – Associate Professor in Games Design, Birmingham City University

I’m shocked and devastated by this; Jason had a massive impact on my life as a gamer and also upon my professional career. There are so many memories to pick from, but one of my fondest was the time I met him in Manchester outside the Coin Exchange back in 1991 when I brought his PC Engine CD-ROM drive, and that was the start of our beautiful friendship, where we would contact each other weekly (and sometimes daily) to talk games, from PC Engine to SNES to Saturn, PS1, N64, and then PS2. We would also talk music, from trance to chill-out! He introduced me to some life-long ‘choons’!

There was the time he called me in 1994 and 1996 to get my ass down to EDGE to pick up my PS1 and my N64 respectively (he ran a small import business on the side). The N64 day was awesome as we played Super Mario 64 in the office for ages, just making Mario run and jump into the tree outside Peach’s castle. Then in the evening, we went out and had a big night out to see Paul Oakenfold DJ; can’t remember the name of the club, but what an all-nighter!

Then there was when he Fed-Exed me his roll-o-decks of Game Industry contacts, with the proviso that I send it him back the next day, so I could grab a list of key contacts to hit up for a job in the Games Industry. This lead to my first gig in Game Dev, being offered a job by Martin Kenwright, working at Digital Image Design. The next year, I organised Jason to come up to D.I.D. and he did a whole piece on Martin and the company. Again this was wrapped around a great catch-up night out. I owe Jason my start in dev.

I am truly gutted by the news. I don’t know what else to say.

Matt Bielby – Launch Editor, Super Play

We launched Super Play towards the end of 1992. Many new Future mags had traditionally been staffed, at least in part, by safe pairs of hands who’d worked at the company before, but in the early ’90s we were growing too fast for that, and pretty much the entire launch team were fresh to the company. And on Super Play we really lucked out with Jason – a truly crucial find, and a completely different kind of guy to most of us on the games mags. Lean, quite tall and very good looking, with a healthy tan, spiky blonde hair, orange or pink T-shirts and a love of cut-off denim shorts, he looked like he should be in some surf-themed Australian boy band, not hanging around in a tiny room playing video games with us lot. He gave the impression of someone who should be living in a beach shack, partying all night, sleeping all morning, doing a bit of work in the afternoon with the ocean lapping his feet. He was charming too – the girls loved him – but so nice, we couldn’t resent him for it.

The most striking thing of all about Jason, though, was just how much he knew about and loved Japanese culture – and gaming in particular, and Nintendo especially amongst that. He knew more about all of it than the rest of us put together. One of his big dreams at the time had been, and perhaps still was, to become an air steward for JAL, the Japanese airline. He’d applied to them, I think more than once. And mostly he wanted that job for the free flights to Japan, and the opportunity they would afford him to really immerse himself in Japanese culture.

Jason had actually originally come in for an interview on Mega, but Neil West, that mag’s launch editor, had pushed him towards me instead, saying that his Nintendo love meant he’d be a much better fit for Super Play. I’ve always had Neil to thank for that: the magazine wouldn’t have been half as good as it was without Jason’s enthusiasm, knowledge, contacts in the grey import market, and telling contributions. He’d always push me to leave things as late as possible, so he could squeeze in every piece of breaking news he could.

P1011404.JPG© Nintendo Life

Super Play was great fun, but stressful as all launches are. There were two major flies in the ointment: 1. A tiny L-shaped garret office, the sort of place where only two of our six-person team could stand up at any one time. At the height of summer it was sort of hellish, but Jason’s relaxed good humour was one of the things that made it tolerable. 2. Getting reliable info on Japanese games, which was a painful, time-consuming business in the pre-internet days, involving late-night phone calls to the other side of the world, local language students doing vaguely comprehensible translations for us from Japanese magazine articles, and all sorts of palaver. Just thinking of the hoops we used to have to jump through to get all the good info we needed still sends me into a cold sweat – but Jason was intrinsic to this, too.

As there were so few SNES games officially released in the UK each month, we got more and more interested in exaggerating the Japanese feel of Super Play by reviewing even the most obscure grey imports – so you’d often find the mag full of one page reviews of utterly baffling strategy games by the likes of Sunsoft or Enix, all heaving with near-untranslatable Japanese text. Even if the average Super Play reader was never going to buy Super Wagan Island or Zan II, the fact that it existed and we could tell people about it added to the unique feel of the magazine. Jason was key to this, as he’d find some sort of pleasure in all sorts of obscure stuff that I, for one, couldn’t get my head around at all. It became his territory in a way, and his enthusiasm made us all consider, if just for a moment, the most oddball releases in a new light.

Many of the very best magazines, to my mind, do more than was expected of them, pursue interesting avenues other magazines might not think of, and provide an individual rather than generic take on whatever it is they’re writing about. With Super Play, Jason’s contribution was crucial to that. He provided a great gateway into Japanese culture – so strange and wonderful-feeling in the early ’90s – for so many people, and went on to have a great career that revolved in part around the twin suns of video games and Japan in the years that followed, both editing a high-end games magazine called EDGE at Future in England and later in America. And throughout he remained as charming, and as good company, as ever.

But the Jason I will always remember and treasure is the one I knew best, the one who came down from rainy Manchester in a battered hatchback full of dodgy knock-off posters (there was probably a chimp sitting on a loo, a shirtless man holding a baby, and that tennis girl) to help us make a remarkable little magazine in Bath, and who brought with him enthusiasm, knowledge and good humour. I always associate Jason with sunshine: not just because of all those years in California, and not entirely because of the bleached blonde hair and the tan, the Miami Vice pastel T-shirts and the beach bum shorts either. But because he was always smiling, always happy, always somehow both laid back and giddy with excitement about something.

We got lucky with Jason. I dare say everyone who knew him felt the same way.

Steve Jarratt – Launch Editor, EDGE

I have very fond memories of Jason, whom I first became aware of when he joined Super Play magazine. I’m not sure when we first met, or how he came to join the launch of EDGE – I think he just applied for the role – it’s all a very long time ago. I do know that he was both a blessing and curse on the mag: his knowledge of the Japanese games market and Far Eastern culture ensured we were always abreast of new games and hardware. But his insistence on waiting until the very last day of production before handing over images of the latest releases (often clipped from Japanese magazines) meant we always skirted close to the deadline – and regularly sailed straight past it.

He drove us all a bit crazy with his casual approach to scheduling, but the magazine would have been so much poorer without his input. The fact that EDGE is still going after all these years (apparently it’s now the longest-running UK games magazine) is due in no small part to his efforts, both during my editorship and his own four-year tenure, when it grew in both sales and stature. I’m very proud of the mag and its legacy – but a lot of the credit has to go to Jason.

I wish I had a clearer memory of our time together. I do recall us both visiting Sony’s HQ in London, when were given an exclusive preview of the original PlayStation. The machine would prove to be a nice little earner for Jason who, very quietly, embarked on a grey import business using his contact in Japan. I had no idea he was doing this until he rocked up at work in a replica Porsche 356 Speedster. (It was actually a Chesil Speedster – a VW-based replica of the 1950s original, which would have cost a small fortune). He was certainly the focus of attention that week. A friend recently told me that Jason loved the car, but wished he’d invested in property instead!

Jason eventually departed Future and headed to the States, at which point we drifted apart. I stupidly missed the chance of catching up with him at a Future Publishing reunion some years back, and it was only recently that I heard about his illness. We reconnected on email a few weeks ago, and planned to meet up when he felt well enough. I hugely regret missing both opportunities – to see my old friend again and find out what he’d been doing, and reminisce about our careers in video gaming and the time we shared on EDGE.

Jason was a lovely guy – annoyingly tall and handsome, effortlessly stylish and permanently tanned, due to his love of dance music and the exotic locations he visited. His passing is painfully sad, and it’s the one deadline I wish he could have sailed straight past… However, I take some solace in the fact that he lived an exciting and eventful life, both here and in San Francisco, and enjoyed himself to the fullest.

Paul Monaghan – Host of Maximum Power Up Podcast

In 2016, I wanted to discuss Super Play for the Maximum Power Up podcast I am part of. Jason was the first person I asked to see if he was interested in sharing some of his memories and experiences from working on the magazine. He answered straight away and was eager to discuss such a fun time of his career.

During our chat, he talked about getting the job at Future, his love of Japanese gaming, artwork and more. He was more than happy to answer any questions I had. Earlier this year I asked him if he would come back on the show to discuss EDGE also; again, he was eager to help.

Jason on the right, during his Super Play days
Jason on the right, during his Super Play days

Last year I was having a tough time with my mental health. Several times he messaged me with techniques, tips, websites and podcasts to try and help me. This was someone who I had never met in person yet was concerned with my wellbeing despite the battle he was going through himself.

I wish I could have told him in person how much he helped me personally in health and on the podcast.

R.I.P. Jason; thank you so much for everything you did for me.

Damien McFerran – Editorial Director, Nintendo Life & Push Square

Like so many UK-based gamers in their 40s, I grew up with the likes of Super Play and EDGE; fantastically dense, knowledgeable and enthusiastic publications which did a great deal to shape my view of the games industry as a whole. These magazines are, therefore, directly influential when it comes to the very site you’re reading now.

Jason was a key figure in both of these magazines; as a staff writer on Super Play he had an effortless talent for spotting amazing games as well as explaining precisely why they were amazing in the most accessible way possible. A passionate import gamer, he – like the rest of the mag – would tirelessly celebrate the very best that Japan had to offer, be it games, manga, anime or just amazing gadgets and toys. This was a time when game companies were going out of their way to snub out any trace of Japanese influence from their games (hence the terrible re-drawn western artwork for titles like Street Fighter II), yet here was a magazine that put illustrator Wil Overton’s amazing anime-style characters on each and every cover. Jason was a massive part of the magazine’s drive to celebrate all things Japan via his love of games.

However, it would be his tenure on EDGE that had perhaps the most dramatic impact on me, and the career path I eventually chose. Launched by fellow video game legend Steve Jarratt, EDGE was one of the first magazines to treat gaming seriously and speak to its audience like adults. With a successful launch secured, Jason would step into the editor’s seat fairly early on, and those opening 50-odd issues remain some of the best games journalism I’ve ever encountered – and, again, are a direct influence on the way I approach my work here at Nintendo Life. I can’t pretend that I knew Jason anywhere near as well as some of the people who worked with him over the years, but it felt like I knew him thanks to the fact that I’d hung on his every word in the amazing magazines he made.

In 2017, I was lucky enough to make contact with Jason over email via a mutual acquaintance. I predictably wasted no time in telling him how he had helped form my gaming consciousness many years ago, and upon hearing this news he was both humble and dismissive; he modestly tried to deflect praise for the incredible impact of his body of work yet still couldn’t resist gushing to me about a new game he’d played – some people never change, it seems.

Shiny's Dave Perry takes his anger out on Jason in the early '90s. "We gave Earthworm Jim a 7 while everyone gave 9s," Jason later said. "Virgin was p****d off!"© EDGE
Shiny’s Dave Perry takes his anger out on Jason in the early ’90s. “We gave Earthworm Jim a 7 while everyone gave 9s,” Jason later said. “Virgin was p****d off!”

After exchanging a few emails he opened up about his health issues, but never in a way which tried to elicit sympathy; he was so incredibly positive and optimistic about things that I never for a second thought it would beat him. We shared countless emails and direct messages covering topics such as the Switch, PS Vita, the OSSC, PC Engine, RGB cables, the SNES Mini, Demon’s Tilt (a Devil Crush spiritual successor he simply wouldn’t stop talking about) and he even showed me some designs for a project he was working on called ‘Visions of Video Games’; he saw it as a celebration of gaming, covering written content as well as elements of culture and merchandise, such as T-Shirts and the like. It was, like everything he seemed to turn his hand to, utterly amazing, and I’m saddened that I’ll never get the chance to see the final thing. I’m also ashamed and deeply regretful that I never completed a revised and expanded history of Super Play which he enthusiastically contributed to (his full, unedited replies can be read here). During our email chats, he would periodically ask how it was coming along, and it pains me that he never got to see it finished.

Jason offered to meet up at some point, graciously inviting me down to his parent’s house in the picturesque Cotswolds, where he was staying while he underwent treatment. As a card-carrying Brookes fanboy, I thought I’d struck gold – I actually believed I’d been singled out for some special treatment by one of my heroes. Turns out, I was anything but special – this was just the way Jason was; selfless, accommodating, generous with his time, willing to talk about his passions (which included the environment, alternative medicine and a wide range of music, as well as video games) with anyone who would listen. I’ve come to realise this as I’ve seen the tributes pour onto his Facebook page since the news of his passing; he clearly touched a lot of lives and created an abundance of friends.

My last contact with Jason took place a few weeks ago in October of this year, when I rather naively emailed him to ask if he wanted to write any reviews for Nintendo Life – something that would have been a career highlight for me, personally. Humble as ever, Jason said that anything he could supply would be “rubbish” and that his health was, understandably, his main priority. Even at a time when his prospects were, in his own words, “pretty dire”, he still wrote me a long and rambling email full of life, energy and enthusiasm.

Of his prognosis in October, he said: “Really need a miracle… good job I believe in magic!” Those were the last words he wrote to me, and they sum up a remarkable man pretty well, I think.

Jason, you were magic, and you’ll be sorely missed.

Matthew Brookes – Jason’s Brother

From an early age, his attention to detail was apparent in his drawings; beautiful Boeing 747s, wings, flaps, and, undercarriage drawn in absolute accuracy. He had an acute eye on form, colour, and a capacity to analyse and replicate what he saw.

His first fascination I can remember was Britain’s Farm toys. His Christmas present list was cunningly transposed onto mine, from the age of five onwards, for the greater good of having a full set of working farm implements!

He went through various other obsessions over the early teenage years; canal fishing, racing bikes, Hornby railways, all commanding his absolute attention…. Until the day our Dad bought an Acorn Electron. Despite the basic and utterly unplayable nature of some games, we shared many hours on games such as Starship Command and Twin-Kingdom Valley, through to David Braben’s original Elite – we were literally blown away by what the programmers had achieved. We regularly compared scrolling smoothness, sprites and frame-rate, which all became part of the new obsession to play the latest games. We had friends with commodore 64’s who played Uridium and Way of the Exploding Fist amongst others.

Jason with EDGE photographer Jude Edgington

Meanwhile, there were the earliest ventures between 1982 and 1986 into arcades at our grandmother’s in Southport, on Neville Street, the mecca of arcades in the town. Every holiday we would spend all our pocket money on Scramble, then Commando, and then on to Double Dragon, Tiger Shark, Super Sprint, and Outrun.

And then, in 1987, he came across R-type. And something changed. He loved the passionate attention to detail, the creativity, the graphical capabilities of the machines, the “huge sprites”, the multi-layered parallax, the colours, and even the superlative collision detection that was at the time unparalleled. I’m not sure how long he must have spent trying and eventually completing the game; Jason was surely an excellent gamer, but no champion.

So, while following a course at Bristol University in Estate Management – a subject which he finally admitted he had no interest in whatsoever – his passion was sharing and wanting to play video games. When the Commodore Amiga came out in 1985, he was definitely amongst the first people to have got one; he’d saved up the near £500 to buy the machine, the Quickshot joystick, and we were set to go.

We revelled in the graphical quality of Cinemaware releases like Defender of the Crown, and secretly played the computer which was supposed to appear as a Christmas present a few weeks later, but we found a way through desperation and impatience before December 25th. There was, of course, the arrival of the Neo Geo, which he ordered directly from Japan, a rarety in the UK at the time, but he had to have it.

I can’t quite remember when he did the first mock-up game review, but he painstakingly put it together (before Photoshop of-course); he cut out the silhouettes, he hand-wrote the review and did an A3 page full of passion and love of the gameplay. He posted it to Super Play, and was asked down for an interview soon after.

We’d like to give a massive thank you to Keith Stuart for assisting with some of these interviews. If you’d like to make a donation to Prostate Cancer UK in Jason’s memory, you can do so here.

If you knew or worked with Jason in the past and would like to have your own memories added to this tribute, please drop us a line.

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