Time to evolve!

Games have been around for a while now, you don't need me to tell you that. However, we still see some artifacts of yesteryear in current-gen games that often leave me wondering if they're there just because, well, they've always been there. Can't we have a clean sweep and get rid of some of the old gaming staples? And yes, I said "yesteryear", even though I hate that word.

Title Screens
Obviously every game needs a title, but a title screen where I have to "press start" to continue? What is this, a mid 1980s arcade? Sometimes it isn't even start but any button press, but worse still, sometimes it is required to stretch out your hand and reach for that badly placed start button just to get to the menu. Often the title screen is a disguised loading screen, which is fine, but I am then still asked to press "start" to continue when loading is done. When am I ever likely to think "nah, I think I'll just look at the title for a tad longer"? It's double-wrapping nobody needs anymore. Why can't your main menu and the title screen be combined? Sure, it isn't a big issue, but it is a stupid one.

Continue? 9...8...7...6...
Yes, please. Why ask? Why give me a set of lives...and then another few sets of lives? Why not give me all those lives at once? Or better still, allow me to choose how many lives I want to take with me when I start, if that is the kind of game you're making. The idea of a "continue" screen made a lot of sense in the arcades, where the player needed time to rifle through his pockets for another 100 Yen coin, but on a home console? What's the use in that?

Attract Modes
Worse even than the title screen is the game that after a period of inactivity jumps to an "attract mode". In the old arcades this usually happened to be a demo of the game in action so a passerby would be "attracted" and lured to the machine. These days the same could be said for demos in kiosks and stores but in the final home product? Granted, they are quite rare these days but you still occasionally come across them. Usually they end up being some kind of edited collage, quite separate from the actual game's introductory sequence, but just something you might see as a commercial for the game. And it serves no purpose whatsoever. Considering the impatience with which I rap on the ”start” button at the sight of any title screen it is unlikely in the extreme I'll be sitting there staring at it for a few minutes for any attract mode to kick in.

Are these really necessary these days? I can hardly remember the last one I actually read. Usually, after a brief battle with the plastic wrapping I insert the disc and while the game boots up I cast a glance over the manual, flipping the pages for a few seconds, before putting it back in the box. In the "old days" when space was at a premium and graphics were blocky, a manual could help you understand the gameplay mechanics and illustrate the enemies and protagonists a little better than 4 by 4 pixels could. Part of my addiction to the early Ultima games came from the excellent manuals and bestiary which really helped make the on-screen blobs seem like real characters and monsters in my mind's eye. These days, with the multi-buttoned controllers, a tutorial stage is pretty much the standard, which leaves the manual for...what, exactly? Manuals only serve to give the game case a pleasingly expensive weight, fooling you into thinking you're getting your money's worth.

Paradoxically, for an industry so dynamic, some things take a long time to change. The issues above are mostly left-overs from a time they were actually needed; they have since been accepted into the general game design lexicon, for no other reason than the fact we're used to them. Occasionally one daring developer will try something different, but it's usually not enough to break the clichés. And to be fair, none of the above is really crippling in any way, but it sometimes just strikes me how much of a game is simply there because we expect it to be there, rather than it being truly necessary anymore.

Call to Arms 2008

Steve Gaynor of the Daruma-headed Fullbright blog recently spammed me about his "Call to Arms 2008", a community game design challenge to eke out the creative in all of us and hopefully come up with some novel game ideas. Though I usually shy away from giving away game ideas to the public for gratis, the first thoughts that came up when pondering this challenge were obviously not commercially viable, so I will hereby give away my intellectual property to any idiot who wishes to make it into a product. May God have mercy on your soul.

The basic idea behind the challenge is to find new ways of expressing conflict, or to find new game design ideas to express this. "Tradition vs. Progress" was an obvious hook for me, living in Japan, as was "Indulgence vs. Prudence", as a tobacco, caffeine and alcohol abuser, something quite close to my heart. Of the proposed emotions, again, a few seem tailored to my situation. As the Brit the "anxiety of uncertainty" struck home with me, as did the obvious "alienation of being in a foreign land".

But after some soul searching I have decided to think of a new game idea revolving the most ancient of conflicts, "life vs. death" in an environment which is close to my heart, my life. The emotion I want to convey is the "will to live", or loss thereof. I considered calling the "the Fall and Rise of JC", but such arrogance is off-putting and, considering the basic mechanics of the game I propose, a more appropriate title would be


Using the Wii balance board as a control mechanism the player must, simply, survive a commute on Tokyo's busy rail system. There will be a set of difficulty levels of increasing commute length, all played out in real time, from the "easy mode", a roughly 10 minute ride, right down to "salaryman mode", a full hour and a half of commuter Hell.
The player stands on the Wii Balance Board and must keep his balance in the face of the train's swaying and the crowd of other commuters who will try their best to pick fights with you or shove you around simply for being foreign. Special boss characters will be "broadsheet guy", the idiot who will try to read a newspaper, and "roidrage", the racist knuckledragger who will shout at you to die or go back to "your country".
On-screen a delicate balance must be held by shifting your body weight to match instructions. Sudden jolts from the train's movement or idiots will give you a very brief chance to correct your pose before you fall over and are penalised. Holding the Wiimote and nunchuck you can control your on-screen commuter's hands to slap away newspapers, though if a woman happens to be standing in front of you, the player must adjust his pose so his hands are at all times visible for fear of being accused a groper, "chikan!", at which point you'll be arrested and the game will end. Push-fights take the form of a series of balance challenges and hand motions wherein the player must fight for space with another commuter who won't grant you the room to breathe in favour of his own comfort.

Along the top of the screen is a "health bar", titled "the will to live", which constantly, slowly, depletes. The only way to top up this bar is to unbalance aggressive fellow commuters or to find a spot next to an attractive female (boy, for the female players, who can only ever play on "extreme difficulty" and must use the nunchuck to constantly elbow perverts in the groin). Once the bar is completely depleted, the player's avatar will exit the train and jump in front of it.

Special periodic challenges include covering your face when old men cough and sneeze all over you and jostling for a seat when the previous occupant disembarks. If successful the commute time will be depleted by several minutes of comfort.

If enough commercial interest can be found, a special peripheral could be created; a velcro band to be tied around your chest which, much like a blood pressure meter, would slowly fill up with air to restrict your lung capacity and, literally, crush you to death.

Successful completion of a level will unlock the "bonus mode", which is the return commute on the same ride, but with a machete, controlled by the Wiimote, and a taser, controlled with the nunchuck.

The game will not only teach you vital survival skills, but strengthen up your calves and resolve but mostly, it’s an exhausting, depressing experience, constantly jostling, readjusting your balance and gradually losing all hope in humanity and any will to live. Playing the game is living the game and if you don’t want to kill yourself after playing it, you haven’t played it correctly. The bonus mode is pure, classic fantasy fulfillment gaming at its best.

Fun for all the family!

Available on WiiWare, Q1 of HellFreezingOver. Price: TBA

Bar to Entry

If you listen, which I cannot much advise, to game related podcasts or read your average gaming website or blog, you’ll find a lot of talk about “casual” versus “hardcore”, as if amongst the googolplex games released every year there is a quantifiable number of more “deserving” games. This whole attitude stinks of snobbery, but what is often overlooked is the rather heartening fact that more and more people are looking at gaming as a hobby or time sink. Personally, I don’t think it was so much the social stigma of geekery that stopped so many “normal people” from playing games so much as the increasingly disastrously designed control inputs, which is exactly why the DS and moreso the Wii has been instrumental in bringing new players to the medium and why the PC has been doing so for a while now.

In the old days, controls were simple but as the games grew in complexity extra buttons and triggers were slapped onto it to the point where usability and mapping were slaves to the accepted standard. Most controllers look fairly similar now, with dual joypads, a whole host of buttons, your start and select keys, et cetera and et cetera, and, to be frank, it is ridiculous. Even I, having played games for a fair number of years now, still have trouble with my PS3 or Xbox360 controller, am unable to remember all the combinations for whichever situation, or get confused about which direction to push the right stick to control the camera which way, and even end up crouching/hooting/whatever in the heat of the excitement by accidentally pushing down on a joystick. Show any such controller to a layperson or explain what is required and I’m not surprised so many of them think “sod this for a game of larks”.

If you read Donald Norman’s excellent book “The Design of Everyday Things”, which comes highly recommended, you’ll learn about mapping and how many objects in our lives seem to muck this up, from how four gas pips on a cooker are laid out in a square but their buttons in a row to how mopeds and motorcycles arbitrarily use twisting a handle forward or backward equates to left and right indicators or braking. Your average game controller has similar problems. How does pressing down on a joystick equal honking your car horn? Why is the SQUARE button reload in one game and jump in another? Why is the left trigger the fire button, but the little button above it a zoom button? Why is up on the controller forward in the game, but up on the right joystick is up for the camera, or down if you’re one of those inverted axis weirdos? Why do we even need a start and select button? It is outrageously arbitrary and totally counter intuitive.

What makes things worse is that none of these inputs are standardized either. Each game requires its own learning curve just for controlling it, let alone playing it. Some games don’t even allow you to customize the controls to suit your personal “standard”. On top of that there are slight variations per region too, most famously the CIRCLE button meaning OK in Japan, but the X button taking over that task everywhere else. Then the naming of the buttons is obtuse too. Why A and B, followed by X and Y? Why are the buttons underneath the joysticks L3 and R3, and why did it take me months to realize these were buttons in the first place? To muddy the waters even more are the game designers themselves who often like to add feature upon feature, clouding the control scheme with badly thought out button actions or totally unimportant ones.

The simplicity of the Wii’s control inputs are a true breath of fresh air. You want to select something? Just point at it and click the friendly round button. Reviewers like to snort with derision at what they call “waggle controls”, seemingly pointless waggling of the Wiimote to perform an action. But I ask you, would it have been better if the action was tied to an arbitrary button? The DS makes things even simpler, with just tapping the required area for your input. It’s so simple, anyone can understand it. Which brings me to the PC, which seems to be the King of casual gaming. And why? Because a lot of games require only a mouse and a single mouse button. Most people know how to use a PC, which means most know how to control a mouse. And with a single button to control a game, you can ignore the learning process and jump directly into the challenge the game itself offers.

Which is exactly why it annoys me that somehow, along the line, developers and publishers have started equating “casual” with “bright, friendly” or “shitty simple”. You do not have to make main characters pink with huge eyes, involve horses or kittens or make boring mini-game collections to make a casual game. Just make it easy to play. As films, books and television show a wide range of popular styles and stories, so, I would hazard a guess, do games. There are a lot of “casual” gamers out there who would like a zombie survival horror game or a gritty World War 2 shooting game, but would not be able to learn or enjoy the 150 button combinations needed to control it. This doesn’t mean those games would have to be made so simple a 5 year old could play them, but it would mean having a good hard think about how these players control the game, adding more contextually automatic actions and using a controller that doesn’t look like a robot with acne.

Just like last year’s cliché warcry of “we need more women playing our games” gave us a slew of pink-coloured horse-riding simulators and fashion Barbie titles, so the current paradigm of “casual” seems to be bringing us overly simplistic gameplay and cutesy graphics. I’d say if we focus on accessibility more than anything else we will have won half the battle. And the Wii seems the idea for this, but it may not necessarily be the only option.

I don’t want it to be nostalgia

I’ve seen genres come and go, which is only natural in a young, dynamic and constantly growing industry. The most egregious casualty was the point and click adventure game, a genre I was addicted to as a young lad but which until recently was not so much dead as coughing up blood and ignored in the gutter. It always annoyed me when pundits and journalists went on a rant about how game storytelling needed to be more betterer, yet everybody seemed to have forgotten that we’ve had magnificently scripted games for a long time. Luckily this particular genre seems to have made a bit of a comeback, surged back from the pits of amateur freeware, where, to be frank, some hobbyists made some excellent adventures, to the mainstream, more or less, with titles like Sam & Max, hurray!

But there is one beleaguered genre I, personally, am aching to play again: the 2D platformer. Now obviously the genre is still around, specifically on the handheld consoles where more often than not they are licensed IP shovelware, and occasionally in the realms of homebrew. But ever since home consoles have become powerful enough to carry amazing, visually eye-popping platformers, nobody has really been making them anymore.

Xbox Live Arcade has had a few attempts, mostly in the lower end of the quality bell-curve, and a few more are on the horizon, like the much anticipated, by me, remake of Bionic Commando which by all accounts looks to be much better than the actual new title in the series. But that’s about it.

The death of this genre can be pinpointed to the time where consoles went all 3D on us and platform holders made it an unspoken requirement that all titles make the best use of their hardware, i.e. being in 3D. Of course the much lauded Castlevania: Symphony of the Night was a last hurrah for the genre, but since then, not a sausage. More optimistic readers may point to the better 3D platformers, like Mario 64, of course, the Banjo Kazooies and whatnot, but if I’m brutally honest, these never really grabbed me. Half of the game was always battling the camera and learning new controls, whereas the simplicity of the mapping of the 2D platformers always meant they were easy to play and difficult to master rather than the reverse which seems to be true with most 3D games.

On top of that, 3D graphics age badly. Check out any Playstation 1 game and see how horrific the textures, how limited the polycount. Yet open up one of the later Super Nintendo games and bask in the glory of their beautiful 2D graphics, even today. Though today’s better 3D titles are indeed gorgeous, I am the first to admit, I have no doubt this time next year there will be several titles that look even better and come the next generation we’ll look back on Uncharted and laugh at the quaintness of its visuals. And now I have a big telly and some powerful consoles, I want to sit on my sofa and play 2D games!

What I’m selfishly aiming at is for people like Konami to just damn well bite the bullet and give us another home 2D Castlevania. With 3D graphics, possibly, and classic 2D gameplay how could this do anything but rock hard? Better yet, give the current masters of gorgeous 2D visuals, Vanillaware, makers of Odin Sphere, free use of the Castlevania IP and you’ll have a title on your hands that will sell forever and ever. Or Nintendo should put a full-stop after this recent and excellent Metroid Prime series and make another 2D adventure for Samus to plough through. Make it WiiWare if you must, I’ll buy it!

In the commercial sphere Sam & Max have proven there is life in an old genre yet. Who will do the same for the 2D platformer?

Go to touristing: Parasitological Museum

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these posts, but this one is worth a visit. When taking someone out on a date in, say, Meguro, a nice area full of restaurants and bars, afterwards why not take her to see a museum devoted to the many horrific things the tiniest of creatures can visit upon the human body at the Meguro Parasitological Museum, the world’s only, as the website claims.

Hidden away in an unassuming apartment building, and thus easy to miss unless you’re looking for it, the museum claims, via the website, “try to think about parasites without a feeling of fear” and then goes on to show you all manner of horrific and disgusting photographs, schematics and overgrown parasites in formaldehyde, which is enough to make even the most manly of men shudder. But despite the horror show it is indeed fascinating, and as the world’s only, apparently, worth visiting just to be able to say you’ve been there.

The museum isn’t that huge, so you could see most things within an hour, probably, and spend some time at the small museum shop, where you can purchase books and cute parasite-themed key chains and T-shirts. And due to the nature of the exhibits, you can end the day with yet another dinner date, as it’s extremely likely you’ll be tempted to void your bowels from either end, though whether you will still have an appetite is debatable.

Location: Meguro is centrally located along the JR Yamanote line, a short ride from Shibuya and Shinjuku. The museum is a short, straight walk from the station.
Website: here (in English)
Map: here

Barking Mad

Readers will realise within the span of this sentence what a biting, satirical pun the title of this post conveys as the following text will discuss to what extremes the Japanese go in the mollycoddling of their pet dogs. A recent trip to a medium sized outlet mall beyond the outskirts of Tokyo had no less than three pet stores where doting owners can buy anything from dog clothes and kimonos to perambulators. These things are not pet themed but actually intended for use by said pets!

Though dog clothes are a cruel insanity nothing really prepares you for the idea of dog prams, seeing as dogs are evolutionary better equipped for walking than us bipeds by a factor of two.

This sunny day saw the crowds at this mall divided into young families and dog owners in a 20-80 split. A man or woman pushing a pram was far more likely to have a canine sticking out of it than human offspring. In the West the idea of dogs as children substitutes is widely recognised, presumably, as a mental illness whereas in Japan it is a powerful market force.

I had always presumed the disastrously low birthrate in Japan had something to do with the expense of looking after a child but seeing how much money, time and attention these people spend on their dogs it may just be that Japanese people don't find each other attractive enough. There is definitely something offputting about someone who dresses a dog up in a little canine kimono without grasping how ludicrous this is. And pushing an animal around in a pram or carrying it around in a branded shoulder bag may give you the feeling of parenthood but it is our duty to make sure these people get the mental healthcare they so obviously need.

Using a dog may be a decent child substitute that circumvents the messy and painful business of giving birth and can be entirely achieved without having to witness your naked husband bearing down on you with a flushed face but it is undeniably insane. I occasionally feel like the only sane person in Tokyo and that is worrying news indeed, for Tokyo.

Frequently Asked Questions

Last updated: May 8th, 2008
I often get emails from hopefuls with an eye cocked at the Japanese game industry. The questions, though I usually try my best to answer them if I can, usually follow the same lines, which reminds me that my blog is probably not the most user-friendly. I promise that I'll think of (yet another) redesign, with a blogger template with better emphasis on categories and such. A lot of the things people are curious about are mentioned specifically or in passing in earlier blog posts, but I understand these can be difficult to find. So here are a few of the most common questions I get sent my way, and I'll tag this post with the title, so it'll show up on the "categories" list in the sidebar for future reference.

Q: Do I need to speak Japanese to get a job in the Japanese gaming industry?
A: The easy answer is "no", hurrah! There are a few companies that are willing to overlook this requirement, as they have realised the potential value of a foreign employee, especially if they have previous experience that is useful to the company.
The answer you don't want to hear is "yes", it's imperative! Let's face it, you'll be living life as a social cripple without basic Japanese skills, and communication with your team will be tiresome or impossible. If you make the slightest effort to learn Japanese your chances increase exponentially, you'll have many more companies to choose from and you'll become a far more attractive prospect. Your colleagues won't speak English, your boss won't, your contract will be in Japanese; if you can show you can handle all this you'll find very few obstructions in your way to becoming a game developer in Japan.
So, really, just learn the language, and start now!

Q: How well do I need to be able to speak Japanese?
A: This very much depends on your role. Some jobs will obviously require near-native level skills, where others will be perfectly doable with only basic communication levels. The more managerial you go, or the further into producing, the more meetings you'll have and the more documents you'll need to write, so obviously you will need some good language ability for these. Down in development, say programming or art, basic communication is the very minimal but often also all you really need. For planning (design) again documents need to be written. For localisation there are a variety of roles, from proofreader or rewriter, for which Japanese really isn't required, to actual translation, which obviously requires native-level skills. So it all depends on what job you are going for in the end, but needless to say, the better your Japanese the better your chances. As a minimum requirement you should really at least be a confident conversationalist.

Q: But isn't Japanese so very difficult to learn?
A: This is what the Japanese themselves would like you to think, but no, not really. Grammatically it's simple enough. You'll need to lean your vocab again from scratch, which is a pain, but generally with a bit of effort, especially if you're in Japan already, you can quickly go from nothing to something, to a level where you can ask the shopkeeper for extra plastic bags or to tell the police you didn't steal that bicycle.
The real pain is kanji, of course, which the Japanese themselves learn from age 6, and even they have trouble with it. The best advice here is to get started as soon as possible and cram several of them a day for, well, the rest of your life. But overall, apart from the kanji, no, it's really not that difficult. More problematic is some of the cultural etiquette but even that can be learned or avoided. So don't stress about it.

Q: Is it, like, nearly impossible to get your foot in the door?
A: No, this is one of those persistent fallacies, that the industry is a closed shop and that it's impossible to compete with the Japanese for job openings. It's bunk. Mind you, if you don't speak the language, don't have any previous experience and don't have any marketable skills then, yes, you won't get in, but that isn't uniquely Japanese. Working in game development requires certain skills that not everyone has, so just thinking it's a nice idea for a job without putting in the study is simply not going to cut it.

Q: Should I do/continue/finish my study in (Subject X) before moving to Japan?
A: Yes, absolutely. Personally I'd recommend it anyway, because, even though the skills you need you'll probably only learn doing the job, getting a degree is a valuable experience for any young mind, both in training and knowledge as well as social contacts and alcohol consumption. You’ll spend the rest of your life chained to a cubicle, so why rush into it early?
Mostly, though, having a degree will ease your way into a working Visa for Japan. I'm sure companies willing to spend money on lawyers could find a way around it, but a degree is a requirement for Visa applications. The more relevant your degree the more useful it'll be but in the red-tape of Japan's bureaucracy any old degree will probably do.

Q: Should I get some experience at home first?
A: It would certainly help. Like in any other situation or country the more experience you have the better a candidate you are, the more chances you'll have getting a job. With Japan specifically I'd recommend it, as learning your required skills whilst also dealing with a culture and language barrier my slow down your growth as a developer, taking too much on at once. The better you are at doing your job without the need of tutoring or supervision the better your chances at landing that job.
If you have no experience at all you are pretty much at the mercy of the employer, and you'll probably end up amongst the new graduate hires, working hard for very little money until you can prove your worth. In this sense Japan us no different to any other country, but at least in your own culture you might be able to learn quicker and easier.

Q: Can I intern in Japan?
A: Probably. I actually don't really know this. I've come across one or two Japanese interns so far in my career here, and I have heard of foreign ones here and there but that is where my knowledge ends. I'd say it is not impossible, but it is not common and you'd probably have a better chance as a cheap graduate hire.

Q: Are the salaries really that low?
A: Well, yes, especially compared to the industry in other countries, like the US. Developers generally get very little pay and there is a glass ceiling you won't break until you get promoted into director level positions, but even then, don't expect to be buying Ferraris left, right and center until you start your own company and become famous or successful (or both?).
There are two points of note though. Firstly, as a foreigner you can bargain better. Part of the culture is to not be too aggressive or arrogant in these matters, but foreigners are exempt and expected to be difficult, so you can and should try hard to fight for a better wage. You'll still hit that glass ceiling but you're likely to hit it quicker than your Japanese peers. Secondly, the salaries aren’t specifically bread-line bad. Sure, you won't be able to afford a penthouse in central Tokyo, but most people can't afford that ludicrous luxury. The cost of living isn't as astronomical as you may have been lead to believe, and if you're prudent you can even save some cash. It is absolutely better than an English teacher's wage or that of a McDonald's worker.

Q: What is the working atmosphere like? Is it strict, formal, hierarchical?
A: There are too many different companies with too many different working cultures to give a single definitive answer to this. You know those films you've seen or those stories you've heard, of scary bosses, tight suits, deep bowing and all that? Yeah, well, no, the game industry isn't really like that. Your relationship with your boss pretty much depends on what type of boss he is, and though you're unlikely to call him by his first name, you can expect to have a laugh with him down the pub. Job interviews could require a suit and tie, which is perfectly reasonable, but again, not always. Generally decisions are passed on down from up high, what the boss says goes, but that doesn't mean you have to bow deeply when he gives his orders. In short, don't stress it, the game industry is a lot more relaxed than most types of companies. This is especially good in the hot and humid summers when you will be the only one in shorts and sandals on the busy train stuffed full of suits.

Q: Is it really as much of a game/manga/anime paradise as I hope it is?
A: There is indeed a lot of it about, but it becomes less fun buying all that tat if you're using your monthly salary rather than a holiday budget, so you'll find the novelty soon wears off. There is also this anticipation that your otaku tendencies will be blindly accepted by the Japanese, because manga, games and anime are much more part of everyday life. This is only true to an extent. People that like these things a little too much are still shunned as sad geeks, and remember "otaku" is derogatory.

Q: Where do I start?
A: There are many avenues you could choose from, most of which have been discussed previously on this blog. Check the links below for more information. But generally, if it's something you want to do, move to Japan and work in the game industry here, my best advice is to just go for it. It's certainly not impossible, though you will need to work at it. More and more foreigners seem to be able to make this jump these days, so things are looking up. Don't be dissuaded by the naysayers who say it's impossible - they don't know what the Hell they are talking about. Good luck!

Previous posts on moving to Japan here.
Previous posts on different job descriptions here.

Q: Is it worth it?
A: That totally depends on your reasons. For someone early on in his development career Japan could offer some interesting opportunities, but for someone more senior the salary and working conditions may be a little too much of a step down. Living in Japan is great, so if you simply want to work to live it can be a nice life. If you're a Japanophile you may have high expectations that probably won't be met; integration is impossible, the Japanese are as rude and ignorant as everybody else in the world and otaku are not revered, as so many people seem to think. I'd highly recommend spending some time here first, a few holidays, a homestay or a few months as a teacher or whatever, just to get your expectations back to a realistic level, and then decide. The industry itself isn't in the best of states right now, and any experience as a developer you pick up here might not translate well to Western development should you ever move back, but that could change.
If your expectations are realistic there is a lot to get out of a move to Japan and a job in the game industry, so yes, it could be worth it.

Q: Who do you work for?
A: Because I feel it is unfair for my employer and projects to possibly suffer unduly from anything I write I have decided to use a penname. As such I won't be forthcoming with any further details regarding my identity or place of employment. Trust me, it's nothing to do with adding a veneer of mystery or feverish speculation - there is no big reveal here. I certainly hope my posts will be useful, insightful or distracting enough for readers not to care I am a nameless schlemmel.

If you have any specific questions, don't be too shy to email me directly, as I do always try to answer my mails. Making the move to Japan is always a lot easier if you get a few nudges in the right direction, which is what I'll gladly do if I can.