Monday, August 31, 2009

Maybe Catch Them Most

In interest of full disclosure, I must admit: I’ve got the bug. And this isn’t just any bug, folks. After all, there are bugs that you catch, and there are bugs that catch you, but this bug is the only one I know where you are catching.

The thing I am catching, gentle reader, is pokémans.

I know! I know. Years ago, I thought I had caught them all. Isn’t that how it works? You catch them all, and then you can live your life again. But apparently, while my guard was down, they went and invented a bunch more. This ain’t a scene. It’s an arms race.

Pictured: Rock-Type.

Not that I’m complaining. There is such a thing in this world as more of a good thing, and I’ve long noted my uncanny attraction to games that last forever. But the remarkable thing about these later generations of games is that they don’t seem so much to descend in a lineage, but to actively absorb earlier iterations.

Since the play mechanics are largely untouched, the pocket meisters of yesteryear are free to scamper about alongside the New Guard, retaining their movesets, their elemental types, and their varying degrees of use or uselessness. The result is a game that feels eerily metamorphic, not a new game, but an old one, transformed. Perhaps this is all fitting for a game about evolution.

Thank-you, Charles Darwin, for your contentious theories about fighting electric mice.

I don’t imagine, that in the days to come, I’ll be reviewing the content of the game itself – as a full-blown media phenomenon , it is precisely the sort of thing that defies review. That’s not to suggest that it isn’t a good game – in many ways, it’s excellent – but it’s the sort of game where its qualities and failings are beside the point.

Rather, I’d like to look at some of the ways in which an expansive game like Pokémon combines a number of fundamental aspects of gaming – collection, preparation, and strategy – to foster a surprising array of play styles. I’d like to consider what sets its apart from the half-dozen clones we’ve seen that operate under the same model.

I hope that all this can be done without me resorting to talking about my Pokémon. Hearing about someone’s pokémon is like hearing about someone’s dreams. And everyone likes listening to someone describe their dreams, right?


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