Jonathan Davies - Production Director, Games Press & Former Super Play staff writer
Some of my happiest times in magazine publishing were in the early 1990s, working alongside Jason on the first issues of Super Play. I’d never met anyone quite like him, and initially, I wasn’t sure what to make of his fondness for incomprehensible Japanese RPGs, his Post-it Note-filled copies of Dengeki Super Famicom, and his occasionally eclectic taste in trousers.
But he rapidly became a firm friend, and also a huge influence on my games writing. His love of games was truly infectious, and on the rare occasions he was stumped by a particularly obscure SNES-related question, he’d soon find the answer by rummaging through a copy of Famitsu, kanji dictionary in hand.
His encyclopaedic brain is why Super Play didn’t just look great but was also crammed with Nintendo knowledge, and will forever be fondly remembered by its readers – as Jason will be by the Super Play team.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 (I was never able to take him up on the offer, another eternal regret). 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.
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.
This article was originally published by nintendolife.com on Fri 6th December, 2019.