J-Dev Confidential 2

In this series of posts I examine, from the unique perspective of having experience and knowledge of both Western and Japanese development practices, where, in my humble opinion, Japanese game development is going wrong. Beware that these are merely generalised opinions and do not necessarily apply to all or any specific Japanese companies, some of which are, admittedly, slowly changing their approaches and attitudes.

Part 2 - Serfdom

A few decades back, when Japan was riding high in their economic boom and the world was looking at Japanese businesses and management to copy their techniques, there was such a thing called "job for life", where anybody entering into employment within a corporation was pretty much guaranteed to be able to earn a wage within that company in one form or another for the rest of his life. When Japan's economic bubble burst, this admirable situation obviously died with it. "Job for life" hasn't existed in Japan for a while now, yet the attitudes still linger, from both the employers' and employees' sides.

In Japan the average employee works for the good of the company and not so much his own benefit. This may not sound too bad, and honestly, it probably isn't. In the West, especially the UK, I have found people have a bit of a bloated sense of entitlement, which often leads to unhappiness, complaints and bitterness, lacking a strong sense of responsibility. Japan seems the opposite, where people have a strong sense of responsibility yet almost none of entitlement. Neither situation is ideal, but I personally think your average Japanese employee could do with a little self preservation.

There seems to be a blind adherence to do whatever one is asked to do, whether it fits the job description or not, not that I've ever actually seen a job description formalised in Japan. At smaller companies employees can be tasked with cleaning duties, emptying bins, hoovering or wiping down common area surfaces, above and beyond the usual working hours and tasks. A the end of projects everybody chips in with testing and debugging, no matter what group of development is lagging behind or whether or not an employee's skills are better used elsewhere on other projects. When companies move or rearrange desks, the latter happening all too frequently, it is the employees who have to lug around equipment and furniture or relay cables. When schedules are overstretched, as they often are, employees can be asked at a day's notice to come in on holidays or weekends, or stay late, regardless of their private situations or plans. Employees can be lent out to friendly companies for short periods. In short, as an employee you simply belong to a company and do whatever the company wants you to. All of this happens without complaint or questioning.

Now I'm not saying this attitude doesn't have its good sides. Staff turnover seems to, generally, be much lower than in the West, with employees staying at companies for long periods of times, rather than just a few projects. This helps bond teams and collegial familiarity and it helps companies plan their future better without having to worry so much about staffing levels from project to project. The attitude also seems refreshingly devoid of bitching, a favourite pastime in the UK, where everything and everybody about management always sucked and that had to be vocally expressed, even on the workfloor. It is actually quite nice to work in an atmosphere where people try their best in the face of bad odds and punishing schedules rather than complain like a prima-donna the moment something extra is asked of them.

It has gone too far though, and I don't really like to use the term "exploitation" but often it can seem that that is exactly what management does with its employees. Employees don't complain or move jobs so much, so it's pretty safe to ask them to do anything, at any time, at whatever cost. And they do. When a director drastically changes his mind on some design issue but doesn't change the schedule or budget, it's up to the team to catch up an make it happen; if or when it doesn't happen, it is obviously also the team's fault. When a product is miraculously shoved out the door and onto the shelves, the employee may get a few drinks at a cheap izakaya at the company's cost, but completion bonuses are reserved for management, All in all, the employee is a chunk of man-month to deploy as the company sees fit.

None of this is particularly unique to Japan, it just seems to be driven to extremes here. In an ideal world employees keep their sense of responsibility but learn to stand up for themselves a little. By making management take responsibility for their mistakes or decisions management can be streamlined and, well, educated better, which in turn leads to better working systems and attitudes. It's a difficult balance, of course, as too much of a sense of entitlement leaves everybody dissatisfied, yet too little leaves employees open to abuse. I don't have any solutions for this, which is a little useless, as it would require a huge cultural change over the entire Japanese mindset, which, frankly, seems unlikely.

What usually happens is that Japanese employees with a sense of individuality and a drive to excellence for themselves personally, rather than collectively, end up leaving the country and going somewhere where their skills are appreciated for what they are. Within our industry this usually means moving to the US or starting your own company - not a unique Japanese thing, actually. This leaves the employers falling back on the usual practice of hiring inexperienced and dirt-cheap graduates.

All this is changing, slightly, at a snail's pace. Job-hopping is slowly losing its stigma. The days that having more than a couple of companies on your cv being viewed as a bad sign of unemployability are coming to a close. With employees free to switch jobs easier, companies that offer the best package and working conditions will win out over those that rely on employees' sense of responsibility alone. This in turn will lead to a competition between companies to create the best working environment to lure the best employees. This, I think, is a healthy thing.

It might have been a bad idea to start this series of posts with this particular subject as management types will obviously not see this as a problem at all, but those that do are faced with Japan's cultural mindset, which is not something that can be changed so easily. Personally I have managed to keep my own interests protected while working at Japanese companies, calling my leads out when they made unreasonable demands, like asking me to come in on a bank holiday weekend when I had already planned a trip, or telling them I wasn't going to attend this late night meeting and they should reschedule it for tomorrow morning. It didn't make me very popular, but at least in one company it did help solidify the otherwise meaningless core-hour rules that were already in place; they started to only schedule meetings within those hours and not after. Of course, it's all a matter of give and take. Had I taken the purely Western approach of "look after nr. 1" I could never meet them halfway; I had to occasionally do my overtime and weekends, or stay at a late night meeting once in a while, even do some cleaning duties occasionally, always letting them know it was a special circumstance, something I did for the company but not something they can always rely on. This seemed to work well, as they had trouble thinking of me as arrogant and entitled, as I did sometimes give more than I was required to, yet at the same time letting them know it wasn't cricket. Colleagues who saw me "get away" with such behaviour were inclined to follow my example. One of the companies I worked for was actually going in the right direction with this, in some small part, I'd like to think, to my insistence that I wasn't going to stay at work late to help a programmer I worked with if he came in after lunch.

Soon, part 3, "work ethic".

J-Dev Confidential 1

In this series of posts I examine, from the unique perspective of having experience and knowledge of both Western and Japanese development practices, where, in my humble opinion, Japanese game development is going wrong. Beware that these are merely generalised opinions and do not necessarily apply to all or any specific Japanese companies, some of which are, admittedly, slowly changing their approaches and attitudes.

Part 1 - Preface, "This is Japan!"

As someone who has recently decided he couldn't handle it anymore, any direct criticism from my part would and should be taken with a grain of salt. It could easily come across as sour grapes and, if I'm brutally honest with myself, some of it probably is. I had high hopes of my career, none of which came to fruition, mostly due to decisions on my own part, but some of it due to how things are done round here. Though I will focus mostly on the latter, readers should not forget that I am not so arrogant as to assume I myself am without blame, and that I am making a scapegoat of an industry I have failed to make an impact on. Instead remember that these posts are an honest attempt at looking at what I, in my humble opinion, consider to be the major failings of the Japanese video game development industry in the hope these things can be addressed, for the greater good, as it were. I may sound like I'm bitching, but I am trying my hardest to be constructively critical. My apologies in advance if I seem to stumble occasionally.

Also let me preempt some critical feedback. I am fully aware Japanese games enjoy a certain status with a certain group of people who will gleefully point to all the industry's successes as proof that my observations are academic at best. It is certainly true that some excellent, amazing titles have come from these shores, but my contention is that these titles have been made despite the way the industry works, and not because of it. Though the industry in Japan has a few kinks that allows, nay forces more creativity in certain areas, as a whole it is still a lumbering beast with many flaws and coughing up blood. The fact a team of developers managed to create masterpieces like Zelda, Super Mario Galaxy or Ico goes more to show the great talent of these teams than prove the Japanese way of doing things actually works. If anything it is as inefficient as a solar-powered sunbed, and I can only imagine, excitedly, what these teams could accomplish had they a better working system.

There is of course a growing awareness of Japan's status in the global video game market. More and more similar reports are cropping up of industry high-rollers such as Yoichi Wada, president of Square-Enix, and Kenzo Tsujimoto, of Capcom, incidentally one of the first high-profile companies to make it an active goal to pursue the Western markets over the local ones in both product and development practices and Hideo Kojima Some consumers are even getting a little irked by all this negativity; but I don't see it as pessimism. The fact major Japanese corporations can stand up and publicly admit Japan is fading fast in the shadow of Western technology and development is the kind of acceptance that leads to improvement and a better industry (and market) for all. Once big corporations like Square and Capcom successfully change their businesses others will follow too, or be faced with imminent bankruptcy.

As you can see, I already speak in hyperbole and from a position of false authority, putting forth my theories as facts. In the posts to follow I am sure this tone will continue, so I must humbly ask the readers to remember these are all conjectures, based on personal observations and musings. And it takes a big man to admit he is wrong. I am not a big man.

Now you may ask what the point is of this series. Why didn't I discuss this with my colleagues and employers at the time? Well, I did, sort of. The many problems I'll discuss in later posts I have talked about with colleagues, even my boss. The end result was always the same: sympathetic nods, agreement, acceptance of the futility of the situation, understanding the need for change, all rendered moot with that single, ever-present line "but this is Japan", as if to say, "you're right, of course, but this is simply how things are done round here, old chap." This is an argument you cannot fight against. Whenever people see the correct way to solve a destructive issue but decline to act because it's not the done thing, you might as well, as I did, give up. In certain areas I have tried to lead by example, with some limited successes, but in the end Japan's immovable object was too immovable and my irresistible force of change all too resistible.

Also, don't be too discouraged if you are one of those who is working towards or dreaming of a career in video game development in Japan. As a series focusing on the negatives it will naturally come across as all doom and gloom. Also, I believe if you are aware of the problems you won't get wrong-footed or short-changed when you finally get here. You'll know what is going on and be more informed before making any decisions. If you really want to work here, don't let these articles dissuade you. Let them help you have realistic expectations. And who knows, maybe you will be the one to bring the winds of positive change at your future company.

Finally, no, I have no intention of lifting my veil of anonymity and openly discussing the companies I have worked for; many issues are wide-spread but not omnipresent, some issues I know exist even though the places I have worked at didn't actually suffer from them. I am trying to paint a rather broad picture here and it would be unfair, not to mention unprofessional, to assign all these ills to a few particular companies. However frustrated I grew as an employee I don't actually harbour any bad feelings towards my former employers and I do not wish to harm their business. So don't ask.

The series will kick off in earnest some time soon with part 2.

The morning after the night before

I know it's a cliche and I know it is true, so why does it still occasionally surprise me when colleagues really come out of their shell when they get drunk? Of course as the company is paying everybody is going mad, including myself, with free booze. I know it's a school night but opportunities to get locked on sponsored alcohol are few and far between. People I hardly ever speak to, people that usually avoid me on the workfloor, people who can often hardly disguise their contempt for this foreign interloper with a better salary come over and slap me on the back. We laugh and make jokes.They tend to get very tactile when drunk, and being British this still freaks me out somewhat, so I decide to get drunk quickly; it's bad form to flinch when your boss taps you on the back of your upper thigh. I have about 4 conversations on my interlocutor's desires to speak English better, peppered with my usual jokes about not being able to speak Japanese at all, delivered in Japanese, and how if an idiot like me can speak English anyone can. This seems to be the norm for any evening with Japanese people.

Of course the next morning I regret it. I usually do. Though the nights have been getting colder today is a warm, sunny day; the worst kind of day to have a hangover. On my way to work I purchase the items for my survival kit; a bottle of Pocari Sweat, a glucose drink so sweet you can feel your teeth and eyes and brain rot as you drink it, but it packs a bit of a punch and takes over the role of coffee this morning. Also a chocolate bar of sorts. Again, sweetness and unhealthy crap, a perfect foodstuff for when I am feeling this way. I couldn't possibly imagine eating a Japanese style breakfast with the remains of God only knows how many glasses of red wine sloshing around my veins. I think I am actually still drunk. The chocolate was a compromise though; they have some excellent bakeries here that bake fairly outrageous buns, stuffed with sausages, curry, or both or many other things I usually don't eat for breakfast, but on mornings like these they are a great pick me up.

My colleagues have all reverted back to their normal selves. The golden rule of Japanese drunkenness is that you will not hold anything against anybody for acting the way they do when they are stiff as an owl. This, sadly, also includes all the friendly banter. One can't approach a colleague so easily and continue last night's conversation. It's as if they have two personalities, one fueled by alcohol and one by corporate obligation. Sadly, the golden rule also dictates that nobody will remember my grand gesture: the grand raffle prize I won last night and in a fit of drunken benevolence and acute quitter's guilt donated to the company for use by my soon to be ex-colleagues, as I already had one and didn't want to lug it around all night. A fine gesture I think you'll agree, but one I regretted almost instantly and again a little later in the evening when a colleague tells me he would have bought it off me and again this morning when I realise how nobody is going to mention anything about that drunken night ever again due to possibilities of embarrassment. At times like these I try to be pragmatic and tell myself "easy come, easy go", rather than dwell on my stupidity, as well I should.

The morning drags. As they don't like to pay people for doing nothing they won't ever tell someone to sit out their notice period at home yet still give the last month's wages, as has happily been the case whenever I quit a company back in the UK. No, I am sat here doing nonsense work that won't be of any use to anybody. Boredom is a brain killer so I throw myself on the task with more energy than my ragged soul ever thought he could muster today. If I can just keep focused it'll be going home time before I realise. Sadly, I don't remain focused.

I decide to go out for what I call my "bad Jew" lunch; a toasted bagel with both ham and melted cheese. A woman walks into the smoking area to hand coffees to the two older guys sitting near the window, one of whom gives me the involuntary gaijin stare, obviously mesmerised by the whiteness of my skin or enormity of my nose, or maybe the bags under my eyes. As the woman walks back out to get her own coffee she pulls a face and waves her hand in front of her nose. Why come into a smoking area and be disgusted by the smoke? It makes little sense to me. But later I feel a little bad for her as she sits with the two old geezers. She doesn't smoke and obviously has to mother these two guys and keep them company. But still... On the way back to the office I walk past a woman who looks Japanese but is dressed as an African queen. I half expect her to hand me a flyer for something but she's just playing with her phone and her perfume is much too potent.

Here I am, looking at the clock's minute hand slowly creeping forward in little jumpy motions. A few more hours until a much needed weekend, and then one more week of this before creative freedom. Being at the office has a real last day of school vibe about it these days.

Alice in Japan

Considering Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass is one of my top five most favourite books of all time* I was pleasantly surprised to accidentally stumble across this DeviantArt page by user "Apricot8585". Considering a large proportion of my readers are probably secretly or overtly Japanophile, I thought I'd share the link.

The page contains a few images that re imagine the story and characters of Alice as traditional Japanese characters in an awesome classical Japanese style. The images are bold and imaginative, not to mention beautiful; definitely worth checking out. The separate images' descriptions explain in further detail the how, what and why of the characters.

I have had to endure some terrible reinterpretations of one of my favourite books over time, like the predictably gothy American McGee game and the ludicrous vanilla version Disney thought was better than the original, but this is the first one that actually got to me, in a good way. Enjoy!

* FYI, the others being Haruki Murakami's "The Wind-up Bird Chronicle", Cervantes' "Don Quixote", James Joyce's "Ulysses" and Bret Easton Ellis' "American Psycho"

Tokyo Gameshow 2008

Here is a top tip for readers from abroad who want the real news on the Tokyo Gameshow: if the site you are reading news items from also features articles and posts on other "wacky" Japanese sights and activities the "reporters" have seen, like crazy bondage doll gift egg machines or weird trans-gender cosplay in Akihabara or, most tellingly, reports on "cool swag" the "reporter" picked up in Tokyo or at the show, well, then your "reporter" is way too enamoured by Japan to be able to give you an objective view and opinion on the products on display. They are not reporting on the show but walking around in a wide-eyed daze of excitement and geekiness, "omfg I'm in Japan!", which clearly clouds the mind that that weird, colourful stamp licking DS game is actually probably just a shit game, and not an amazing example of Japan's creativity or that the show itself is exciting or significant, which it really isn't.

I'm not being overly miserable here, I do "get" it. I was very much like that too when I first moved to Japan. The lights, the sights, the people, the madness, it was all a little overwhelming. But over time the sheen wears off and the truth outs, and those fantastic little toys I got then are now revealed to be cheap tat and the Tokyo Gameshow, for me once an amazing experience of Japan's video game industry's extravaganza, is well past its prime and diminishing more every year. This is not just my perception; it can be seen at the show itself, if you are unclouded by the otaku hype, once filling the entire Makuhari Messe twice a year and now barely filling up half of it once a year. It's glory days are over and its function, to inform and entertain, long since taken over by the internet, a much more convenient and comfortable way of getting your game-related news. For developers it remains an excuse to escape the desk for a day or two and to meet up with peers, do business and get drunk. For the consumer, though, it's in obvious decline.

Despite my traditional, yearly resolution to never go again, I went to the show this Friday, the second of the two business days. I avoid, at all cost, going on a public day, as the crowds are far less manageable on those days. I'm there to meet people and check out the competition, not to hustle and bustle and queue up for lengths of time to play a demo of a game I'm not really interested in. This year, again, only 2 of the big halls were in use, with half of a third dedicated to university booths and cheap curry stalls. That said, half of one of the main halls featured more business oriented booths, with representatives from several far corners of the world pimping their middleware or promoting their country as a game developers' haven. Several new technology stands could also be found, from a "mind reading" controller, which seemed interesting but was marred by a terrible demo game experience, and head-tracking helmets.

This left the rest for the usual suspects; Microsoft, Sony, Square, et all. The main focus of attention was, shock horror, stop the press, Monster Hunter, digital crack to the Japanese for some reason. Sizable lines were also seen at Biohazard 5 (Resident Evil 5) and whatever Square had in its walled off area. Level 5 went so far as to hide their entire stage area with a massive curtain for each show. This attitude, alongside the "no photos!" rules confuse me; is this not a PR/marketing event? Why force a useless and irritating sense of exclusivity upon it? Madness. Little Big Planet too had some attention and seemed to enthrall the visitors. What with the reveal of Sepiroth and old Snake sackboys it would seem the game is on its way to make a bit of a splash in Japan too. That said, you never really know, do you? Monster Hunter will outsell anything anyway.

And that, basically, was it. Another long, tiring and headache-inducing day with no surprises or flabbergastering. A new title was revealed here and there, with the obligatory 5 second, pre-rendered and uninformative teaser trailers, but there was nothing there that wasn't expected or known already. This Saturday and Sunday is time for the punters to check out there wares, which they'll do in droves, and to dress up and be photographed, but I am glad it's over for another year.

Never again. And this time I mean it.

See you there next year.

Little Big Whoop

I am not often given to hyperbole, as everyone knows, and it is hard for me to get excited about games these days. Well, I say that but we've had an amazing year or two of excellent releases, but still, I could not have predicted how a single, upcoming title would grab my attention the way it has.

Like so many hopefuls I signed up to the Little Big Planet beta a good few weeks back and like so many hopefuls I wasn't successful, but, as so many hopefuls, we got a second chance as they expanded the number of users recently. My key was actually delivered to me on the cusp of a night on the town. You can imagine how torn I was, having to choose between good food and booze with friends and a glimpse at the one title I am most hotly anticipating. As it happened the former option narrowly won out, but once I got home, drunk and satiated, I managed to download my LBP Beta and give it a good go. Or rather, I fumbled about, fell asleep in a drunken stumpour and woke up, hungover but excited, and gave it a second, non-blurry glance. And it's had its cute hooks in me ever since.

The style is, as is obvious, heart-meltingly cute. In fact, I'd go so far as to say it's going to get some attention in Japan, if the squeals of delight my wife produced are anything to go by. Watching a random Japanese player dressed as a pink rabbit sackboy grab my little Shakespeare sackboy and drag him around, having me slap him away, pulling a toothy grin and doing the pointy hand dance made us both smile like a democrat watching a Sarah Palin interview. The wonderfully low-fi quality of the design is just so refreshing in the current pool of brown-gray and the obvious humour dotted around the place, from the World's Best Credits Sequence to the little sackboy emotion animations should guarantee those smarmy bastards at Media Molecule some kind of industry award, or a cuddle at the very least.

Thought all of this was known to me from watching, and rewatching, the many videos and presentations on-line, to the extent I pre-ordered it the very second I was able to do so, I had niggling doubts about the "2.0" nature of the game. Were the tools going to be robust enough, fun enough for your average user to create the content to make this game the hit it so obviously deserves to be? After the slightly disappointing display that was Spore, which had fantastic editors that in the end didn't sit well with the rest of the title, in my humble opinion, I was on the fence with this one. I honestly believed that user generated content was going to be a buzzword that wasn't going to survive the next fiscal year. But then, I also thought at the time the Sims was a ridiculous idea that was going to flop, so I've learned my lesson about jumping to conclusions.

After just a few days with the Beta, I found, I am having Tetris Dreams. The LBP editor is keeping from sleep, as I lie awake in bed, staring at the ceiling, thinking of all the ways I could use the tools to make elaborate traps and levels. Though being bored, with nothing to do, at work as I sit out my notice isn't the most engaging activity anways, I find my daytime too is filled with daydreams of possibility and creativity. Seeing what amazing creations several users have made, and shared, in this mere beta stage I am astounded and daren't imagine what creations wait around the corner once the title is in full release. The editor, in short, is an amazing toy that just fires up my otherwise moribund creativity.

Still, I think I'll wait and see what happens before making any huge pronouncements on its success. It's obvious the tool allows the creative mind to do wonderful things, but it remains to be seen if your average, non-creative user with little time on his hands is going to use it. I think there will probably be a tiny percentage of users creating playable, fun levels for the vast majority to enjoy. But I also think that will be enough. And I'm sure some creative and dedicated LBP users can use the tools to create a game design portfolio that can help their way into an industry job; so vast are the options that truly creative brainfarts are executable within it and I can't wait to see what is going to be out there.

I am not so over-hyped as to notice the game itself isn't without fault. The idea of having to unlock "building blocks" before being able to use them in the editor seems a little onerous and the three layers of the game field are often a little hard to navigate. But compared to the tremendous fun I've had with the beta just these few days these are minor niggles. The fact I can't log into a server if my PS3's system language is set to anything other than Japanese should be considered a major bug, though, and one I am hoping Media Molecule will deal with.

At the moment there seems little hype for the game in Japan. I don't quite understand why Sony isn't pushing this game into everybody's faces; let's wait and see if they do something for this week's Tokyo Gameshow. I truly think Media Molecule has hit upon a style that could appeal to the Japanese consumer. Sackboy certainly has the looks to be the kind of mascot that can be plastered over all manner of product for advertising purposes. Damn, he's cute! Whether they are interested in the user-creation part of the game here remains to be seen, but I'll be very surprised if the title bombs in Japan. If it does I'm going to blame Sony marketing.

Of course, as Titan Quest shows us, a fantastic tool does not guarantee a success, and LBP's editor could overwhelm your average gamer. But it's powerful and playful enough to make me think there will be something special come the final version. I, personally, can't wait. For once the (western) media's hype and my own seem perfectly matched and the product, what's I've experienced of it, delivers in ways I could never have hoped.

I know, I know, this is basically nothing more than a pretty sycophantic love-letter to Media Molecule and their excellent game, but I don't get this excited that often, so take it as it comes.

I am Joe's utter lack of surprise

In the pre-Tokyo Gamehow press hype it is probably all over the internet by now but Nintendo have finally announced a new DS iteration, this time with larger screens, a thinner design, no GBA port, a camera and whatnot. Aside from the fact I had picked up this rumour a while back through some trusted sources*, this should really not come as any great surprise to anybody; it's the classic Nintendo Way(tm).

Looking at the new features, especially the camera and the funky software with which to manipulate your photographs, it seems to be aimed quite squarely at the DS's biggest market; Japanese women. It seems like a lot of fluffy fun and though technically not on par with other alternatives on the market, it does seem to get the "gee, this is fun" element right; Nintendo have long since given up on the specs race and have focused mainly on functionality and low manufacturing costs. And so far it's been a winning strategy. To this day the number of DSs I see in the wild outnumber the PSPs by a huge margin.

So if the DS follows the GBA redesign route we can see one more iteration of the DS before its demise, possibly a novelty version (GBA Micro?), and onto the DS2, whatever that may be. I expect the DS to survive for quite a while yet, and sales figures are still good. I still think they should release a Louis Vuitton themed DS. Personally I still like to see more Wii/DS connectivity and who knows, with this new version's better Wifi this may be on the cards. Being able to see my DS on my large TV would be great; it's the only way I ended up playing GBA games on the GBA Player for the Gamecube. Control will be an issue, though, but I'm sure some boffin somewhere will sort that out.

Obviously I don't need a DSi, but as a free agent it's more important than ever that I keep up to date with progress. That is, at least, the excuse I'll tell my wife, along with the promise she can take over my DS Lite, as she took over my DS when I bought that. It won't work, of course, but I can handle a few days of grumbling and exasperated head shaking . I mean, I can't buy every GBA iteration and then not buy every DS one, can I? That's not the mentality that made me a Club Nintendo platinum member.

* Sorry, I have no desire to be the new Surfergirl.