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Game Boy Advance SP Corporate Video Gaming
em Feature/Review

Just a word before you get into reading this feature. I did mean it to start off the way it does, but I sort of started ranting a bit. I wrote it a few weeks ago and even left notes for myself to change parts of it, notes like 'Don't sound too pretentious' and the such. I have edited it a bit, as I often make a bad job of voicing my opinions about certain things. Anyway, I hope you can understand my points in this feature. If you have any problems with it, then by all means make some comments in the forum.


The Adult School Uniform
I hate suits. This doesn’t mean I hate people who wear suits – but I do hate a lot of them. Well, maybe ‘hate’ is too strong a word; I just don’t like them. Using the word ‘suit’ when referring to a person doesn’t – for me – just mean ‘someone who wears a suit’, it tends to define a certain type of person. Does the word ‘yuppie’ still get used these days? Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t – but it’s all I can think of to define these people I can’t stand. Oh, and anyone who says they like to wear a suit when they don’t need to – like people in Marketing and PR.

But I know in some professions they’re sort of required, like in a bank for example – it instils a feeling of trust. And I know a lot of people who wear them have to wear them when sometimes they don’t want to. It’s the adult equivalent of the school uniform in some scenarios, and no-one can honestly say they liked wearing theirs. I mean they gave us the reasons why uniforms were applied in our school, although I can only really remember two of them now.

One of them was something like ‘So if any of the children get into trouble on the way to or going home from school, they could be identified as pupils of that school’ which is quite interesting seeing as our school was the only comprehensive or secondary school in a 5 mile radius, and there were only two other schools just outside of that radius. So supposedly if you saw any trouble you’d get a look at the kid involved – give the school a call – “Saw this lad smashing some milk-bottles; little-lad, I’ve got a description – does he go to your school?”
“Where did you see him?”
”Just outside the gates”
”Yeah, he probably does – we’ll sort it out”. Simple enough, if he didn’t go to the school, presumably you’d call the police.

The other reason was so that any poor kids wouldn’t get picked on for having cheap clothes on. You could see the logic in this, but in practice it didn’t work as all the poor kids would come into school with bits of mud and leaves on their clothes anyway because they didn’t have anything to change into to play in when they got home. And they had greasy hair. And come ‘non-uniform day’ they’d either be wearing their school uniform, or some sort of tracksuit – with mud and leaves on it.

These days it doesn’t matter though. If you’re working for a place where you have to wear a suit you’ve probably got enough cash on you to buy something half decent anyway. So why wear suits? To be honest I don’t know. I suppose it has something to do with this so called ‘Corporate Image’ that big places like to adopt. But we all know it’s so they can keep you down and you know your place in the big machine. I’m specifically thinking of large places with office-environments here. Or maybe it’s so if you get into any trouble outside of work, people will know which office you work in.

"They’re trying to liven themselves up and set themselves apart by being ‘wacky’, when in actual fact they just look like tossers"

Thankfully I’ve never had a job where I’ve had to wear one. I had to wear shirt, tie and trousers on my work placement from Uni for a year – and every day was a misery. For me it removes all self-identity and worth. That’s why you get some ‘suits’ wearing fruity shirts and comedy ties – they’re trying to liven themselves up and set themselves apart by being ‘wacky’, when in actual fact they just look like tossers. The only way I managed to stay sane and remember who I was, was by wearing my old, beaten up 10-hole Doc. Martens instead of shoes.

Creative Communism
I recently got into a miniature debate with my current co-workers about the wearing of suits, as for every day of the week (except Friday, which is the now much used in other companies ‘Casual Day’) they all wear suits, or at least shirt and trousers, apart from me. You may think this is extremely arrogant of me to think that I shouldn’t have to conform, but let me just explain.

Creative people are always creative. They don’t go home and switch off the ideas and forget about stuff they want to do. I’m sure an accountant or a project manager can’t wait till they get home and forget about everything they’ve been doing, put their feet up and watch Brookside or whatever shit is on TV these days. But for me, when I get home, I’m still thinking about art and design and writing. Being a designer isn’t just a job, its also part of who you are and sort of your hobby. So by wearing a suit to work, it’s making it feel like what you love to do has suddenly turned into this thing that you’re being made to do – and that tends to strip the fun out of anything. Maybe I’m generalising all designers or creative people here, but for me that’s true. This is what I explained to my co-workers and they tended to agree with that.

Now they said they liked wearing suits because they feel like they’re coming to work, so when they get home they can separate their work from their home life – which is where I have a problem: feeling like you’re ‘coming to work’. The concept of ‘work’ to me has always been ridiculous. Not the act of actually doing some ‘work’, more the concept of a ‘job’. Going in somewhere everyday, doing something (with the exception of the lucky few) you probably don’t really want to do to make money for someone else, and then they give you a little bit of money back. Does this make me some kind of communist? “No baby, you’re money!”

I remember when I was little I was thinking about stuff like this, went up to my dad and asked “Why do things cost money? Why do we have to work? Why isn’t everything just free and everyone just making stuff for nothing?” My Dad pointed out that that was the basic thinking behind communism and why it doesn’t quite work, which is fair enough. I’ve still never understood jobs though.

Off On One
No-one likes their job. Even designers and writers are mostly pissed off because there’s some asshole at the top of the hierarchy, with not one creative bone in his body, telling them what they should or should not be doing. This is probably why everyone thinks designers are pretentious. And admittedly a lot are. But design is so easy for anyone to criticise – creative or not – everyone has different opinions about what they like and don’t like. However very few are willing to try and understand why something is the way it is. So it’s up to you to make your own mind up on whether you think you should listen to their opinions and act on them.

"Everyone knew who Harry Potter was. We all know it’s a children’s book! Just who are you trying to fool?!"

Creative people need to feel comfortable when they sit down to…well, create I suppose. For me suits are extremely uncomfortable. I don’t want to feel like I’m at work, making someone else richer than they already are. I want to feel like I’m making some money for myself doing something I enjoy. Plus in the summer suits are a nightmare. I remember seeing one guy get on the train, his face covered in beads of sweat from the summer heat. I can only think he felt a little envious of me sitting there in my t-shirt and shorts. And if he wasn’t he should have been. I would have pitied the bastard, but he was making me feel uncomfortable just looking at him.

I suppose the other problem I have with the whole suits issue is that for the most part it’s conforming to someone else’s ideal. If you actually like to wear suits, then that’s fine. Stay what you are. Be yourself.

But, for me, it’s also a ‘growing up’ issue. For many people it seems that wearing a suit is a sign of being mature and professional. To me it’s a sign of conformity, and conformity for me means a loss of fun, identity and only going to the ‘recommended’ section in Virgin Megastore. Buying Coldplay albums because everyone else does, and calling comics, rock music and video games immature.

So ‘suits’ are the adult versions of school bullies to me. They will laugh at and mock scenes and identities they don’t quite understand because they don’t understand them. A classic example being the Harry Potter explosion over the past few years; tell anyone about 5 years ago you still read Roald Dahl books, or even read Dungeons & Dragons and you would have got laughed at and called childish or a geek. Then suddenly, a few years ago trains were full of ‘suits’ reading Harry Potter books. And they found themselves immersed in a world of magic, wizards, goblins and children’s fiction. That in itself was hypocrisy, but at least they would maybe begin to understand that which they previously didn’t.

But what really annoyed me was the ‘adult editions’ of the books. everyone knew who Harry Potter was, so buying a version of the book without the cartoon picture on the front was totally pointless, and just went to making someone with too much pride in their public-appearance a bit more comfortable reading children’s literature in a public place. We all know it’s a children’s book! Just who are you trying to fool?!

And the same goes for computer and video games. A lot of people love to play video games but just won’t admit to it. Another lot of people love to play video games but keep it to themselves, or rather are forced to keep it to themselves. This is because it’s still seen by certain ‘suits’ as a dirty, geeky childish pastime. I mean, just look at the guy above - can you imagine him owning up to playing Zelda every night after work?


Game Boy Advance SP
Now the original Game Boy Advance was great and made it possible to take some console quality games out in public and on the train, or wherever (well, wherever there was a good light source anyway), but still some people were embarrassed about taking theirs out; or even got some dirty or funny looks from those around them. The ironic thing of course being I bet those people giving the looks are all too happy to sit there playing some shitty LCD ‘Snake’ game on their phones. That’s something I’d be more embarrassed about to be perfectly honest.

But anyway, it’s these people that Nintendo have pandered to with the design for the Game Boy Advance SP. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m more than happy with the sleek silvery, gadgety looking design. It’s very smart indeed. But you know that Nintendo have probably made it look that way to appeal to a certain kind of consumer – the type that wants to play games in public places and not be embarrassed about it - the type that buy the ‘adult’ versions of Harry Potter.

It’s no secret that Nintendo were going to release a new version of the Game Boy Advance to incorporate a backlight after the Afterburner kits started to appear. So, it’s appreciated that they went and designed a new GBA to incorporate it into – after all, they would be selling back to people something they already had (if they had a GBA), and something which they should have got right in the first place, no doubt. So now it looks like a lovely new console and everybody’s happy.

"It was never ‘quite’ pocket size was it; unless you had rather large pockets. Or regular pockets, but were a giant"

This feature (if you’ve even read this far) is probably sounding like I hate the GBA SP, but I don’t. I love the little machine. I love how silvery it is, how small it is, how gadgety looking it is and how much smarter it is. I also love the retro clamshell design, with Nintendo going back to their roots of the Donkey Kong Game & Watch. This will obviously appeal to the ‘suits’ they’re aiming at as they undoubtedly all had them when they were kids. But would this only go to making them think they’re buying some sort of toy?

Special Features
Either way, you can now actually stick it in your pocket. It’s great on the tube when you’re playing some Zelda and your stops coming up where you have to change trains. Pop it into ‘Sleep’ mode (this is a feature of the game ‘Zelda: A Link To The Past’, not the console) close it up, pop it in your pocket and go get the other train. Take it out again and continue playing. Of course this was possible with the original GBA, but it was never ‘quite’ pocket size was it; unless you had rather large pockets. Or regular pockets, but were a giant.

So, I’ll just run over some of the new features of the console.

The backlight of course is now a must. Apparently you can save battery-life by playing with the light off, thus reverting the screen back to the style of the original GBA. However, you’ll soon find that even in light you once found acceptable, the lack of a back-light sucks, and pretty much just leave it on all the time. Although the button being front and centre (and top) of the main control panel of the console means it’s easy to flick it on and off to see.

The light is also pretty powerful and so it has the handy feature of doubling as a torch for when you have a blackout, or think you hear an intruder.

The new smaller size of the console does cause of problem, for me anyway. If you have large hands then it can get a little bit fiddly to hold. It often results in me getting quite painful knuckles after about 15-30 minutes of play. You may have to resort to holding the console with your fingertips, which in public places can look rather dainty. The new shoulder buttons are too small despite people saying that they’re actually ok, as again you have to use your fingertips.

The lack of an earphone socket is just criminal though. But with an adapter and a set of earphones costing just £5.99 on it’s not too expensive to get hooked up. There have been complaints that you can’t have the power adapter and earphone adapter plugged in at the same time as its one or the other in the same socket, but the ion lithium battery lasts long enough that the scenario of you wanting both in at the same time is going to be a rare occurrence. I think there’s a sort of double adapter out now though that lets you plug both in at the same time. Soooo, that’s that sorted.

There have also been comments about the position of the cartridge slot as it’s now at the bottom of the console as opposed to sticking them in the top. There’s really nothing wrong with where it is though, and the larger Game Boy cartridges sticking out actually provide a bit of a rest for your hands. I’ve heard that the cartridges being upside-down mean you can’t play Super Monkey Ball Jr. or erm, Kirby’s Tilt N’ Tumble…bummer.

So to summarise this rather lengthy ramble, I think the little console is great overall. I love the stylish design; I just wish Nintendo weren’t aiming it at those who tend to mock gamers. Maybe this is one way of making them understand though. Although I think that even those who had never read Fantasy until Harry Potter, even now, will still make fun of Dungeons & Dragons.

And just one final point to make: I’m pretty sure everyone has seen the advertising up around billboards and magazines by now for the GBA SP. The pictures are everywhere – even in men’s magazines. So they’re aiming the console at people who are a bit embarrassed about playing video games? But we all know it’s a games console! Just who are you trying to fool?

Themselves, obviously.

david twomey

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