Monday, July 26, 2010

The Pokémon Ego Agenda

"You know how the game says that there are trainers who only care about battling and not at all about the pokemon themselves? Well, I'm one of those."

I'm sorry, but in my experience, that's most of you fellow Poképhiles as well. At least he's willing to admit it.

It's pretty damn easy to point out that Pokémon is a series that needs to change. The trick however, is dealing with what is an established and deeply set-in formula that has lasted over a decade now. The slightest misstep in any particular direction could end up having a disastrous impact on Nintendo's immense and crazed fanbase.

What I propose here of course, is something that's only apparently been bothering me, but I think it's something that would do series well in the long haul. This would be totally yanking out the flimsy mechanic veil that Pokémon has had for a very long time now. What I mean by that is amount of behind-the-scenes play that the series is well-known for. Examples of this include the overexposed play with EVs, IVs, breeding, etc. Actually---I should rephrase that. What I'm really getting at here isn't that yanking them out is the answer, what I'm actually asking for is 'blinding' the audience a bit more. Yes we could go off into a general-gaming tangent at this point about how many players do this for most games anyway, but let's just focus on THIS game series right now.

Anybody that has played through any of the main gen games has suffered the effects of boosted stats and handicapped leveling (e.g. take an Elite Four champion's Pokémon with perfect IVs). Many gamers have perverted the world of Pokémon in my eyes through the use of such tactics; mechanics of the game not meant for them, but in building the illusion of its world. If that perversion continues, Gamefreak & Nintendo will design to cater to that instead. Perhaps it's sounds corny, but overriding the small message which the game actually tries to communicate to the player for the sake of hedonistic competitiveness is destructive and limiting to the game's potential. This message is one of unity and an actual attachment to one's Pocket Monster. Regardless of their nature, base stats, and aesthetics (i.e. "YOU GOTZ SHINIES?!"), the team one builds can easily make this collectathon game a deeply personal experience. In fact, it already does for some of us. 

The downsides of the game's minimalism is where this destructiveness truly kicks in though. People are only granted a certain degree funnel vision towards specific playstyles with this series, usually those granting them elation. Since Pokémon is a bare-bones RPG, the audience has compensated for it to an excessive extent. This isn't all their fault either. Both Nintendo & Gamefreak assume a good chunk of the blame here (which is not surprising given Nintendo's long track record of non-progressive game design). Some of the more romantic parts of the game have been pointlessly pulled into question too (e.g. random battles) if for no other reason than people find them annoying. This is not the answer however, merely a diversion to the game as a whole. It's actually a pretty old and disgusting human trick to become divisive by separating something's worth STRICTLY according to its utilitarian values. Pokémon has long been hindered by this very concept. 

Even more controversial is the fact that Nintendo has gone on record saying that their reasons for not opening up Pokémon to more MMO-like playing grounds is simply because they prefer the trading aspect to remain uncompromising (something that earnestly failed a very long time ago). People aren't trading for a social catharsis and they aren't doing it to further some vague ideal of 'connection' either. Most are only exchanging the damn things in ways that parallel goddamn currency. All of these restrictions have gone on to establish puerile electric fences that we're not meant to touch. Pokémon thus remains a 'kid's game' and for good fucking reason. We encouraged it. If you want more evidence that their trading ideal is a crock of shit, try getting a generation I Pokémon to generation IV.

Effort values and Individual values need a chaotic revamping, as players have simply spoiled themselves with it now. The systems and processes in how the numbers are generated, perpetuated, and maintained between stats needs to have an extremely esoteric mechanic to it (if for no other reason than to reflect the number of people that actually play the series). These things need to be out of reach for the player, this way the cheesy message that the game is constantly trying to wack us over the head with may actually begin to accumulate some meaning for a change.

With the fifth generation on the horizon, I posit that it's not wrong to ask more of this series (it never was).The old adage that 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it', is a flimsy excuse that's hindered these types of games for far too long. The fact that a character like 'N' even exists shows that Nintendo is fully aware of sentiments such as my own and are choosing to cheapen it by an indirect and borderline humorous acknowledgement. You're not slick, you assholes. 

Leave it to me to actually take the goddamn "Pokémon are friends!" stance, but yeah---I'm sticking to it.