This is pretty funny when you consider last month I wrote three thousand words about how I think Smogon has a fundamental problem in terms of its game design toolkit. Wa hey anyway.
I’ve talked about how when it comes to any given internet niche you run the risk of running headlong into the cursed distinction between ‘pronouns in bio :)’ and ‘pronouns in bio :^)’. There are a whole lot of spaces on the internet where you can always find someone who knows way too much about it and is happy to infodump to you about it, and for the increasingly pointed niches, those interests are usually represented by a truly sweaty nerd or some detail oriented queer person. It is in this space that I wish to proffer to you two people who make interesting material about Smogon.
Not only Smogon, but the part of Smogon focusing on a game mode which has three Pokemon that probably are 100% represented. That’s right, Red Blue Yellow, the oldest metagame of all, and the weirdest.
Let me show you the work of Plague Von Karma and Big Yellow.
Plague von Karma is a delightful channel if you’re into vtubers wearing plague doctor masks talking about thirty years of gameplay history. Which I guess I am. And statistically, so are you. Plague Von Karma’s channel is more brisk, with a lot of shorter videos designed to introduce you to the history of this game, documented in distinct ideas rather than long, broad overviews of a variety of topics.
This is also just coincidentally, an examination of when I engaged with the period of time, and therefore periodically I see people I know mentioned by name. Well, knew. I was a teenager. But like, I was there when the TobyBro arose and I hung out in chat rooms with Cat Gonk and it’s an incredible story to see as the narrative of the TobyBro endures for decades.
I mean, as a game designer I would have something of a problem if my game lasted that long with a generic piece like that but also, y’know, Chess got away with it, and we’ve never needed a Chess 2.0 (aside from how Pokemon is Chess 2).
If you look at the videos of Plague Von Karma, there’s a quantity of videos that are kind of meant to get you up to speed for what RBY is like, and why it’s like that, and when you understand those things you can approach the format more wholly. It’s not exactly positioned as ‘behold, I, an educator am here to get you involved in this format’ but it really feels like a good place to start that doesn’t involve reading the Smogon forums, which are…
BigYellow is a lot more into these long form, dense and humour-driven kinda memelord treatments of the RBY OU format. It’s not quite a guide to getting involved – I mean, there’s really nothing to it beyond ‘you should probably have Snorlax, Chansey and Tauros on your team,’ but it’s still approached with a conversational mien and… like
I think these videos are really funny. I watch them because BigYellow is charming and talks about Pokemon in a way that’s charming even as they talk about a format of Pokemon I think looks horrendous to play. I have the nagging suspicion that sometime I’m going to drop some joke somewhere in one of my videos and well after it’s gone up realise that I’m just copying this ginger Irish person who’s half my age and funnier as well.
BigYellow forwards what I think is one of the healthiest visions of Pokemon in the Smogon play space, where you should only ever consider the game to be a series of spaces you move between. If you want to play a Pokemon, don’t try and drag it into the ‘proper’ format, but rather look around for the formats where it is playable, then see if you can find a way to play that format. Charizard doesn’t have to be in OU for you to enjoy playing it, and if you start looking at Smogon tiers like playgrounds with some bumpers around them, you start to see some really cute, interesting metagame spaces to play around in.
It’s a diagnostic treatment of the tiering system. The game is not there to be proscribed, but described. There are ways the game works, there are ways it doesn’t work and some of the ways it doesn’t work result from silly people with weird grudges against Jumpluff.
But alright, sure, what if I’m not interested in a twenty-five year old Pokemon metagame that’s built out of emulators that are designed to implement bugs properly? Well, what if I told you that BigYellow also did videos about fight games? Oh, no? That’s not exciting? What if I told you there’s a 45 minute long video about the history of brown bricks in lego?
Yeah that’s right.
And I watched the whole thing.
And really, you probably will too, right?
I just can’t tell you what this channel’s identity is, not really. It’s BigYellow, who makes a game that I think sounds awful sound amazing. It’s about Lego. It’s about nostalgia. It’s about Guilty Gear Strive and how sometimes the weather being too severe shuts you out of playing the videogames you intended to play. It’s ultimately an insight into how one person who’s interested in stuff expresses that interest.
And that’s really cool.
Also, and this isn’t really important, but if you’re like me and you notice when you’re hearing voices that aren’t just More Americans talking about things, these reminders that the world’s culture does not actually stop at the edges of the mainland USA, then yeah, here are some channels discussing a Japanese game from places like Ireland and… I’m guessing Australia? But maybe New Zealand? I’m not about to say where or when.
The world is not a place where we intrude, it’s a place we share.