The Problem with Pokémon
March 25, 2021

I'm going to tell you right now that the title of this blog post is misleading--this isn't a Pokémon problem--but rather a me problem that Pokémon helped me discover and understand. I'm a long time Pokémon lover. I've played these games for as long as I've played games. I recently decided to pick up Pokémon Sword version after nearly 18 months of uncertainty.

It wasn't always this way. With almost any other release you would find me right there, excitedly waiting until midnight to pick up the latest iteration of the worlds favorite monster collection simulator on its launch day. X version was the last mainline entry I've played to completion. So I found myself in a unique situation tonight when a close friend on the back of the same Lapras asked for my opinion on the game so far. I gave him an honest answer; this was the Pokémon game of my childhood dreams! A fully realized 3D world, with battles more detailed and exciting than anything we could have dreamed of slaving away over pixelated creatures and chiptunes on our Gameboy Color! The monsters even show up on the overworld, and chase you down for an impromptu battle if they have a mind to for gods sake! In the midst of all of this praise of a dream come true, the other shoe dropped. I wasn't enjoying myself, and I couldn't figure out why. Was it that the games have become increasingly easier over the years? I don't think so. I've never pursued a Pokémon game to challenge my skills as a gamer. I'll admit that like many, I've become increasingly disconnected with the growing number and absurdity of the new monsters, but this has never stopped me before either. The truth is I just wasn't LETTING myself enjoy the game. I'll say it again--this isn't a Pokémon problem.

I've become jaded, indifferent to the comings and goings of this now monstrous industry that used to be a driving force of excitement in my life. Yearly releases rehashing the same thing we've been doing for almost two decades. Games living on in perpetuity with nothing but new visuals and old clichés released like clockwork. But in the midst of all of this doldrum I've lost something that I desperately want returned to me. For now, maybe getting that back is just as simple as giving myself permission to love this game that my 10 year old self would have wept over with joy and wonder. So that's what I'm going to do--and you can bet that I'm going to keep that Pikachu in my party all the way through to the champion cup despite my nearly 30 year old brain telling me that spot could be better used by a far more powerful Pokémon, just like I did all those years ago. See you in Galar, Gym Challengers!

Feedback
honestgamer honestgamer - March 25, 2021 (09:17 PM)
Sometimes, we can get so fixated on playing games that push the medium forward or communicate powerful messages or whatever else that we forget to just have fun and enjoy ourselves. Different games exist for different purposes. If we can't enjoy a great game that's doing everything we once might have wanted, maybe we need to consider our expectations and whether or not they're helpful. I hope your Pikachu leads you to glorious victory!
dirtsheep dirtsheep - March 26, 2021 (05:08 PM)
So, I am more privileged than most readers, because I remember you being six years old, waking up at 6:oo AM when everyone else was happy to be sleeping, so that you could watch Ash and Pikachu take on the world. So I know what it is with Pikachu, even if he's not the strongest electric type out there.
I know a bit about the jaded part, too. Unlike you, I bought this game on release day...but had been pretty sure I wouldn't buy it. I was in GameStop that day, and a cute young tomboy named Ray sold it to me. I remember her name, probably, only because I came home and named my newly-caught Rookidee (now Corviknight) after her. But that's part of the jadedness, isn't it? Nowadays, it's rare that a GameStop employee inspires much of anything except a deep exhaustion with the gaming world.
Anyway, I started much later than you, in the DS days. Part of the magic for me was holding an entire world in my hands. On the bus. In the department store, when the female was shopping. Whatever. For me, the Switch will never be the handheld that I hoped it would be when I bought it. So, for me, while it's obviously gained some things, it's lost some things too.
I have to admit that part of the magic was always sort of imagining that I was ten years old as I played these things. Imagining what it would be like to take the Johto region to bed with me, playing illicitly under the covers. Now, of course, I'm old. And sleep is too rare to lose any of it to Pokémon.
We want these games to remain what they are, but we also sort of want them to grow up with us, don't we? Pokemon is a lot more sophisticated than I thought it was when I first started out, in terms of its ability to be played at multiple levels. But, too, it's a lot less so than it had the potential to be after this many decades since that copy of Pokémon Yellow that your grandparents bought you.
Still, you've inspired me to put that cart back in the machine, and go check out some DLC.

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