I’m something of an originalist in Pokemon. I think that the games are the core of what the narrative flows from and everything else is flexible story that builds on that. What’s more, in Pokemon, people can say things, but there’s nothing saying that they’re right. People are wrong all the time in Pokemon, and sometimes people even lie to the player characters, to themselves, or to one another. What’s more, the player character is a kid, somewhat, but also a kid who is experimenting with and learning about Pokemon training and breeding, so chances are good, people would explain the useful things to them.
But they don’t.Continue Reading →
In the context of Pokemon competitive play, speed is not everything but it is a lot.Continue Reading →
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.Continue Reading →
Gunna talk about Smogon here. Oh, you don’t know Smogon?
Weeeeell, deep breath.
Smogon is a Pokemon fangame played with the basic components of the videogame series Pokemon, which is itself, made by Game Freak and distributed by Nintendo, which you’ll probably recognise as one of the largest privately held companies in the world. Smogon, by contrast, are a forum and some emulators and a surprisingly dense little bubble of Youtube content.
‘Smogon’ in this context refers to a bunch of related games, that form a single fandom game, a folk game. They have, in the terminology I’m fond of using, made a game out of another game, which is a super cool practice I actively encourage. It’s how we get great things like, for example, the entire Legacy subgenre of games, from its dizzying heights of Pandemic Legacy Season 1 to the shocking lows of Pandemic Legacy Any Other Seasons. I like Smogon as a thing to observe through some sort of astrolabe or other technical device. I have no particular interest in engaging with the game itself, as they play it.
I don’t want to get into a play space with these people.
Not because they’re bad or anything, though they are overwhelmingly split between the still-thinks-he’s-on-4chan shithead vs autistic trans girl social binary of internet niches and you’re never sure what side that coin is landing on when you flip it. I don’t want to partake of Smogon because the game they’re playing looks unpleasant to me to play, and because part of Being Into Smogon means looking around at the game Smogon has made and thinking: Yeah, this works. This is a good system.
The current news out of Smogon, such as it is, is that in their OU format (short for ‘overused’), just banned the Pokemon Gliscor. Gliscor is redacted information that doesn’t matter, because you don’t need to know what Gliscor is to come to understand the problem that Gliscor highlights, and the lesson you can learn about making games and control over those games.
Smogon’s banning policy reflects a truth I espouse as a game designer: Players are great at identifying problems and terrible at solving them.Continue Reading →
A while back, a funny Tumblr post came across my dash. Fox doesn’t like Tumblr – like, for web design reasons. I tend to screenshot it and share it with her, or in some cases, read them aloud. This was a post I read as a dramatic reading, and it’s about the worldbuilding of Pokemon and the availability of Pokeballs.
That was fun, so we recorded more and I recruited another friend, Corey, to add another voice in the mix.
I regret to inform you that the yearly article about the wonky handling of Genders in Pokemon has become a trilogy, and it’s all thanks to this thing, Enamorous.Continue Reading →
There’s so little interesting stuff you can say about food in the Pokemon universe.
Not that you can’t say stuff about it, but rather that talking about food in the Pokemon universe is a well-worn and kinda boring topic. It was so boring, to me, that when I saw the the final Unravelled over on Polygon was about Brian David Gilbert tackling that idea, it wasn’t until uh… twenty minutes ago that I finally watched it. It’s boring. It’s someting a lot of people have looked into, and it’s been written about for twenty-five years. The second game had a plot point about people eating Slowpokes, after all.
The idea that ‘people eat Pokemon’ isn’t really controversial in the game, and it also tends to bring with it a deliberately muted understanding of what it means to eat meat, or what it means to exist in the world of Pokemon in the first place.Continue Reading →
Okay, get a load of this. This here is an Azurill.
History has been kind to this little mouse, but that helps that it started out as kinda mean in the origin. Azurill is a particular type of Pokemon we tend to group as a baby Pokemon; when they first showed up, Azurill couldn’t be found in the wild, but you could breed one, and then it would evolve into a Marill, which you could encounter in the wild. This was some of that gameplay thingummy, where there were Pokemon that, if you wanted to catch ’em all, you’d have to, you know, make sure some of ’em all were even around to catch.Continue Reading →
I mean, not like any given fairy type sucks. Every Pokemon, big or small, is someone’s Ya Boy, and it’s not like your favourite being a fairy makes it bad or not. It’s not that I think the Pokemon that are fairy type pokemon suck, it’s that the fairy type itself sucks, and I dislike it, and how it was implemented.
The problem derives from what fairy does, and what its presence changes.Continue Reading →
Nuzlocke runs refer to playing one of the Pokemon games with self-imposed rules to make the game harder and to change the context and tenor of the game. Typically speaking they are built around an attempt to make the game more edgy and meanspirited, to take a game that is made to be unbrickable for four year olds with numerous difficulty adjusters even more difficult.
And like, that’s good. That’s not a bad principle, in and of itself. Pokemon is a game designed to be very easy and to always have a route towards something like success no matter what the current state of the game, which can mean that if you’re outside the bottom end of player competence, which I want to again remind you is four year olds, you might find the default play experience a bit easy.
Now, ostensibly the game has a place to graduate to if you hit the limits of difficulty in the game and like pokemon battling, which is, you might want to try battling other people, but that is obviously very intimidating. People want the game to be harder, but not in a way that might involve that and all. If you want to stay within the difficulty of a game made for children by deliberately not taking the best strategic options presented to you, you start to get creative.Continue Reading →
You know how I wrote about how there was a chance that cool design I had of a Quagsire sneaking around in a mask wouldn’t ever be able to be published because discoverability was functionally broken?
Well turns out I lied.