Next week, the sequel to Pokémon Black & White will be released in the west, and I’m quite excited for it. Even though there’s not really any new Pokémon, or anything truly new about this game, I still feel the need to catch ‘em all nearly 14 years after I started playing Pokémon. It’s a new game, in my eyes, and hopefully one I can enjoy in my down-time.
But why do I enjoy playing Pokémon? I mean, I just admitted that nothing’s really changed - the basic formula is the same, the actual monsters are getting repetitive and boring (Ice-cream? Pile of garbage? Okay.) and the graphics honestly aren't really anything special. The story lines are kind-of dull, the settings are pretty dull and grinding Pokémon from level 1 to level 100 is really just a waste of time.
Well, the reason I look forward to each new Pokémon game is because I can enjoy it with people. Over the years, Pokémon has evolved from being something kids cry over at recess because Jimmy deleted Peter’s Charizard and laughed about it, to something more competitive and crazy than ever.
As I'm writing this article, I'm thinking about my time with Pokémon more than ever. A great percentage of my friends still play the games, in a competitive and casual fashion, including my girlfriend and my uni buddies. I've taught people about the game, about making the best Pokémon that they can, I've taught people how to battle, about how intricate battling can be, and I've taught people how to have fun. Is this reason enough for me to keep playing?
Well, yes, in my eyes it is. As I've gotten older and played more video games, I find myself drawn more towards games that allow me to experience playing with others - it helps keep my attention span. This is why I play as many MMORPGs as I do, while not really getting into games like Skyrim or Grand Theft Auto; because I can’t really enjoy it with other people. Sure, I can talk with them about how I blew up a dragon with my sick spells, or how I smashed a hooker into the pavement, but unless I can do that with others, I'm not really interested to be honest.
When I was in middle school (about 15 years old), I played Pokémon ridiculously competitively. I met a bunch of people online (we were waiting for some fan-made Pokémon MMORPG to be released that never did) who taught me how to battle and how much fun it could be. It was like chess, really, every move had a counter-move, and the aim was to think several moves ahead of your opponent. It was nowhere near as simple as picking a level 100 Charizard - because really, Charizard isn't that great of a Pokémon competitively.
Does that make Pokémon still worth it in my eyes? I feel it does. I can play the game how I want to; with friends locally, online to test my new team, or just talk to people about it. How many games can you do that with? Most big titles you can... for a few months, at least. Tell me, how many people are still talking about Sleeping Dogs in a casual capacity? I don’t know any. I know a lot of people who played, and subsequently beat, the game, but no-one I can think of still talks about it.
Maybe that’s the beauty with Pokémon; people still talk about it to this day. It is a relevant game, even though people are quick to pass it off as “childish” and “repetitive”. And it is. A lot of the attraction is the childish nostalgia and easy, repetitive game-play - if you've played one core Pokémon game, then you know what to do in the others.
I've already got Pokémon Black & White 2 on pre-order; one for me, one for the girlfriend. Neither of us would play it on our own; that’s not what Pokémon is designed for. But we’re looking forward to it, looking forward to doing all over again - the trading, the battling, the experience. 'Cause we gotta catch 'em all, and we're not done yet.