Opinion – Pokemon: You were right, I was wrong.

I thought for the first post of the year, I’d start as we mean to go on; with honesty. In videogame journalism, there are rare occasions where we, the gaming-writing folk, are wrong. I know we’re always supposed to cling blindly to the notion we’re always right, and that our opinion is the right one, but hey, I’ve always prided itself on being different to the norm.

Thirteen years ago, I played a game called Pokémon Blue. At the time, every kid was hooked; ‘Wanna trade?’, ‘Who was your starter?’, and ‘Magikarp’s evolution is cool!’ were the daily conversations of Pokéfans. I, however, was the odd kid out. I tried and tried to like it, but flat graphics, repetitive battles, and a grindfest only the most hardcore players could endure, left me with a feeling of ‘Is that it?’

Everyone was playing Pokémon and I thought they were mad.

pokemon-screenshotYears later, when Internet made the jump from dial up to broadband, I decided to try out Pokémon via a Gameboy Color emulator. Surely Pokémon Yellow must be a step up from Blue? It is color after all. The handheld market is growing, so the quality of games must be growing also, right?

As it turns out, Pokémon Yellow was just Blue and Red, only with a Pikachu for a starter…

Never mind, my emulator had a cheat function: I could cheat to make the game fun. No more grinding; no more waiting to catch the best Pokémon. So with a level 100 Mewtwo, Mew, and a Pikachu I didn’t really want, I set off to begin my own adventure.

It’s not very effective. I lasted all of two hours before shutting down the PC having deleted the emulator and the rom. Suffice to say, Pokémon just wasn’t for me.

Over the next decade I tried Pokémon games in passing. I enjoyed Pokémon Coliseum, Pokémon Snap was woeful, and Battle Revolution was one of the most pointless games ever conceived.

First comes wrinkles, then comes kids, then comes marriage. I watched my wife become enthralled in the world of Pokémon Diamond, and as my kids went from rattles to handhelds, I watched as they became entranced by catch rates and which Legendary Pokémon they could find.

It was like when I was a kid, only I still hated Pokémon with a burning passion. You see, my kids were playing a near-identical version to what I played over a decade ago. Sure, it’s brighter and more vivid, but it’s still just a top-down 8-bit (maybe 16-bit at a push) adventure. The formula hadn’t changed in the slightest: Pokémon Black and White, more like Pokémon Black and Blue. Same story, same Team ‘Insert Dumb Name Here’, same boy/girl hero. Where’s the evolution? Where’s the updated gameplay? Why is the latest iteration still following such an archaic formula?

“Wes, you don’t GET it.”

Saying to a journalist that we don’t GET something is one of the biggest insults that can be flung. How dare someone question whether we understand a videogame? We spend hours of our lives so that we can impartially critique a game.

Picture this: I spend over one-hundred hours playing Skyrim, then go on to find it a bit dull (I know it wouldn’t happen, but humor me). If I’ve sacrificed one-hundred hours to review a game thoroughly, only for someone to say I didn’t ‘GET’ Skyrim, I would be fuming; how dare someone question whether I ‘GET’ a game. I did ‘GET’ Pokémon, it’s just all of you who are wrong. It’s rubbish and you all have a terrible taste in games; all the millions upon millions of you who play Pokémon. You’re all wrong!

As the years come and go, I become a videogame reviewer and editor, and continue to bash Pokémon to anyone who’ll listen. Then November 20th, 2012 happens and everything changes.

“We Both Chose Squirtle,” writes Jo Rowan of Gaming Lives. Great, I think, another Pokémon article about how great and magical it is… So like the masochist I am, I click and read, eyes ready to roll, lips pursed for a “Pfft!”

“While I sat there blubbering and fighting to hold in the tears that had been accumulating over weeks of utter torment, he started shifting around in a crate of his old N64 games. He’d pluck one or another out, and show me with a smile. “Here’s my favorite”, or “I Pokemon_01always loved this one”. These games all held a good memory to him, and I knew he would rather cut off his foot than trade them in. Then he pulled out his immaculate copy of Pokémon Blue. He took the case containing my imposter version, and changed them over. Before I had a chance to protest, he held up his hand and said “It wasn’t my first, Red was. So I want you to have mine.

This is, without a doubt, the most romantic moment of my life.”

Argh! What?! What the fuck?! Something isn’t right! Where’s the eye roll? Where’s the indignation; the cynicism? WHAT HAS THIS ARTICLE DONE TO ME?! There’s no hatred, there’s no calling it a boring grindfest. In fact, what I’d just read sounded like a real, genuine, hardcore gaming moment that’s geeky in all the ways we gamers love.

OH MY GOD WHAT HAVE I DONE!!!!!!!! WHAT HAVE I BEEN MISSING OUT ON!!!!!!!! I WANT TO BE A PART OF THIS!!!!!!!!!!!

Like any married man, I sought the council of my other half (read: went ‘running to the wife’), who tells me she wants Pokémon White 2 for Christmas so she can play and trade with our eldest son. It’s a great idea. Without mentioning the article I’ve just read, and by pure coincidence, my wife was having a Poké-moment with our first-born.

OH MY GOD WHAT HAVE I DONE!!!!!!!! WHAT HAVE I BEEN MISSING OUT ON!!!!!!!! I WANT TO BE A PART OF THIS!!!!!!!!!!!

Christmas 2012 comes and goes, and all that remains are two Pokémon addicts trading and battling. Then it hits me. It hits me and I ‘GET’ it. Pokémon isn’t about grinding, it’s not supposed to evolve. It’s not a Triple A game that innovates and redefines gaming as we know it. It’s just a fun experience. It’s an RPG that sucks you in. Whether you’re the school kid who discusses which starter they had, or a couple trading cartridges, or even a family with opposite versions trading the Pokémon that are exclusive to their game-world, I ‘GET’ it. I finally ‘GET’ it.

Pikachu_01Fast-forward to January, 7, 2013, and Wes wakes up ready to get back to work (and talk in third person for some reason). Before he brushes his teeth, before cereal hits the bowl, and before he hits the power button on his laptop. He flips open his 3DS and loads up his copy of Pokémon Black 2. He’s currently on the Dragon Gym, he’s twenty hours in, and discussing with his wife and kids how to get hold of a Mewtwo.

Thirteen years, a wife, two kids, a gaming site, and now I ‘GET’ it. So as much as it pains me to say: “Dear The Internet, N4G, and everyone who bitched out my previous articles that bashed Pokémon, you were right. I was wrong. I admit defeat. Pokémon isn’t just a kid’s game. It isn’t uninspired, it’s poetry in motion. To put it simply, there’s so much in there that’s pure brilliance, that makes it great, that makes it the staple of handheld gaming, that it would take a separate article to do it justice. It’s that good!

So once again, I was wrong. Yes you can brag, and yes, feel free to revel in this moment and if you want to really stick it to me, feel free to force me to have/play with a Generation One Mewtwo. That’ll show me, for sure.

Wesley Copeland

Wesley Copeland

Editor
Born in Cyrodiil but raised in Ferelden, more commonly known as England. Wesley Copeland is a passionate writer with more opinions than an ostrich.
Wesley Copeland

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