I’ve mentioned it before but I’m a huge gamer. Ever since I got the Super Nintendo and played Zelda a Link Awakens I was hooked. I got a PlayStation for Christmas when I was 12 , then an Xbox, Xbox 360, and Xbox One, not to mention I was playing PC games the entire time too. So video games are basically intertwined with my childhood. It reminds me of a simpler time, a time where getting a high score, guzzling 4 cans of Mountain Dew and falling asleep at 3am counted as a fun Friday night. Enjoy going out on a date, I have to beat Bowzer repeatedly (this is not a euphemism).
There’s a huge caveat though to my credibility as a gamer though, I’ve never beaten a Pokemon game. And this is the hottest of takes, I don’t think it’s really that good. Ok, I think I heard the collective gasp from here but let me explain. I played Pokemon on Gameboy just like everyone else but I just couldn’t bring myself to completing it. It’s soooo repetitive, I start out with Charmander just like every other self-respecting Pokemon master, I get the badges, grab all the legendary birds but by the time I get to Elite Four I’m just so burnt out of battling that I don’t care anymore. It’s the same thing over and over and over: Start the Pokemon you’re currently levelling up, swap out for more powerful Pokemon, adjust for elemental weaknesses, rinse and repeat. Not strong enough to beat this guy? Go run around in the tall grass for 6 hours until you’re Pokemon are out of health, then do that four more times. Gee that sounds riveting.
It’s fundamentally a bad game, battling in Pokemon becomes about as creative and fulfilling as completing a Tax Form. Player A chooses a Water Type, You select Electric, they select Fighting you select Psychic. Is your Pokemon not a high enough level? Better fill out form 26-245b and get ‘em some rare candy. The developers don’t even try to make the battles make sense either, oh you were walking in the forest? Some 7 year old is going to challenge you to a battle you with 4 Metapods. What kind of world does Pokemon take place in where small children investigate abandoned power plants, graveyards and active volcanoes? Let’s not forget your Rival in the game, who seems to have no trouble getting all the badges despite the fact half of the gym leaders aren’t even in their gyms when you go to battle them, how did he do it? No answer is ever provided… for any of it.
Stop yelling at your screen and honestly think about it, was walking through Mt. Moon fighting Zubat after fucking Zubat fun? No! It’s the gaming equivalent of that bird toy that’s half-full of water, it goes up and down repeatedly, never changing. Pokemon was a cultural powerhouse, if you didn’t play it you were missing out on every inside joke and interesting story that every other kid was talking about, but that doesn’t mean it was a good game. Pokemon is a good game the same way we pretend the 60’s Spider-man cartoon was good, it’s all based on nostalgia, but I’ll be damned if I pretend a cartoon where Spider-man makes a ninja star out of webbing gets credit for being “well-done”.
Now that I have you sufficiently riled up, let’s talk about another confession. I’ve never played Final Fantasy. I mean I’ve played some of it, but honestly I don’t get the appeal. Every game seems so separate from the last one to a point where their game sequencing system starts looking like Algebra, like some of them have Cloud as the main character but then other ones don’t? How do you keep up with something like that? Does Tomb Raider change protagonists after 3 games, no I’m pretty sure it’s Lara Croft every time! There’s Final Fantasy VII then Final Fantasy X2, Final Fantasy Tactics, Final Fantasy Pi, Final Fantasy and the Crystal Skull, how do you make sense of any of that?
Not to mention the sheer amount of time you have to devote to Final Fantasy. A boss fight that lasts 15 hours? That’s longer than some of my relationships. I gave Final Fantasy 7 a try after my roommate told me “it’s the best game ever made”. Honestly though, that game doesn’t even try to explain what’s going on. One minute you’re fighting cyborg ninjas on a subway and the next there’s walking bookcases trying to shoot you with fire. Why are all of these things around and why are they all trying to kill you? None of these questions ever get answered.
World of Warcraft
Alright last one, time for a game that I think is amazing, World of Warcraft. I got into WOW probably 6 years too late but I have to give credit where credit is due. World of Warcraft somehow transformed from Video Game into Virtual Cocaine. I mean, think of people you know who played World of Warcraft, these people literally relapse into playing the game multiple times in their lives. When you ask these people to hang out you get classic responses like, “Sorry man I have to go on a raid”, or “I just need one more set of pauldrons man just one more” or “dude, I just need one more hit of PVP.” So I gave WOW a try and I can’t say it hooked me the way it did other people but I at least see the value. The entire idea of creating your own avatar in a fantasy world and running around with a Fellowship-of-the-ring style group of friends trying to save the world is something that turns my crank (Ok that one was a euphemism).
The only issue for me was getting into it too late ruined the appeal, I couldn’t experience anything properly because my friends already had. It was like trying to convince your friends to break the rules and have a beer when you were 17 but they already graduated to doing coke with strippers. So, when I wanted to go complete a quest to help the farmers who were being raided we ended up going to collect 90 boar tusks because apparently that gets you more XP, sorry Terry the Farmer but daddy needs to hit level 60. So, if you have a group of friends that have never played it I’m telling you right now, set up a WOW-Lan Party/Crack House, grab 14 bags of Doritos, and prepare to ruin your collective lives!
I’m not telling you that you should be choosing WOW over Final Fantasy or Pokemon. Hey if you like filling out Excel Spreadsheets and calling it a video game you feel free. I’m just saying that maybe we need to re-examine how good we say our childhood games are because like Lance Armstrong, Michael Jackson and Joel-Schumacher-Batman movies. Nothing is ever as we remember it.