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I made this just for this post
Twitch Plays Pokemon is a fascinating social experiment. Through the magic of streaming video and live chat, tens of thousands of users try to collectively play a single game of the original Pokemon Red by inputting simple commands such as up, down, and a. The result is inevitably chaos as our hero Red looks to be religiously checking his items, pacing back and forth, throwing away valuable items, and never ever being able to walk in a straight line. Fans have lovingly crafted a lore around the whole endeavor, taking the idea of active participation to arguably another level.
If you’re reading this, you probably don’t need me to tell you about it, because Twitch Plays Pokemon has absolutely exploded in popularity, getting coverage on a number of major sites. Given this, I do have to wonder to what extent the popularity has to do with Pokemon itself? Pokemon is one of the best-selling video game franchises of all times, and inevitably many people have experienced Pokemon in one form or another, even if they haven’t played the original game. This is why you can get anywhere between 40,000 to 100,000 people on the stream simultaneously 24 hours a day, because much like the British Empire the sun never sets on Pokemon fandom.
I’m no exception as I’ve inputted a few commands myself. I’ve watched in horror as the convulsing young Pokemon Trainer threw away two of his most valuable Pokemon, and witnessed the serendipity of Digrat, the Rattata who keeps resetting the progress of the game by digging back to the beginning of caves and secret hideouts. What I’ve also learned is that Pokemon Red is still really fun in and of itself. While the latest games in the series, Pokemon X/Y, are by far the best Pokemon games ever in terms of level of refinement, things to do, and even ease of finally creating that competitive team to beat down your friends/people on the internet, the enjoyment that the first-generation games brought was not simply a matter of nostalgia. Nostalgia is a huge factor for me personally, as the familiar tunes are ingrained deep into my psyche and I realized I could recognize that a Drowzee was sent out just from hearing it cry, but the elaborate yet ultimately forgiving sense of exploration you get in Pokemon Red/Blue just feels right.
This isn’t to say that the collaborative aspect of Twitch Plays Pokemon is subordinate to the game itself, as it’s being part of a greater crowd that is (for the most part) trying to aim towards success but often unintentionally stifling it that gives the whole experience much of its charm. With the Pokemon games, you’ve always had an environment where success feel great, but with Twitch Plays Pokemon failure often feels just as satisfying. Either way, it makes for great stories to share.
If ever there was a “nostalgia anime,” Pokemon Origins is it. An intentional recreation of the first Pokemon games, it limits its world to 151 Pokemon instead of the steadily climbing total count of later generations. There’s a lot to look at in terms of how it portrays a simpler time for the Pokemon franchise, but one thing I wanted to focus on is the main character Red’s team when he fights Blue for the championship, because it’s actually extremely deliberate and meant to reflect the experience of going through those first games, as well as the diversity of choices available to you along the way.
From left to right:
Scyther was a Pokemon exclusive to Pokemon Red and represents one half of the version exclusivity which helped to define the games and the necessity of trading to get all of the Pokemon. Being that the main character is named Red, the implication is that he caught this one in the wild.
Persian represents the other half of version exclusivity, being only in Pokemon Blue (or Green for the Japanese). This implies that Red at some point traded for it or its pre-evolution Meowth.
Lapras, unlike most of the Pokemon which are caught, evolved, or traded (or in the case of Porygon purchased), is a gift. In the games you receive it from an employee in the Silph Co. headquarters, so Lapras represents the “Pokemon by plot event,” and shows how he went through Silph Co. dismantling Team Rocket along the way.
Jolteon evolves from Eevee, a Pokemon which like Lapras you receive as a gift. Unlike Lapras, however, it also represents the act of the permanent choice: in the first games you were supposed to only get one Eevee (barring any creative glitches), and the choice of whether to evolve it into a Jolteon, Flareon, or Vaporeon was permanent, so the choice of Jolteon is meant to make you think, “Ah, so Red went with this one.”
Charizard is of course the Starter Pokemon, the first choice a player has to make in the game. Once again Red is Red, so the choice for which starter he’d go with is pretty obvious.
That leaves Dodrio. Its pre-evolution Doduo is available in both versions, is caught in the conventional manner, and also evolves in a normal fashion. However, the fact that Dodrio is common is what makes it special within the context of this team.
If you look at the rest of the battles in Pokemon Origins, you’ll find that the choice of Pokemon reflects this idea that the anime should give a sense of the progress Red has made. For instance, both Hitmonlee and Kabutops appear as Red’s Pokemon, and both are Pokemon whom you have to choose over others in the game (Hitmonchan and Omastar). Snorlax is a Pokemon you have to encounter because of the way it blocks certain routes, and a sign that the Poke Flute was used. Using the Legendary Birds against Mewtwo also shows how Red intended to go against it at full strength. Perhaps the most interesting decision of all, however, was having Pikachu appear only towards the end, to acknowledge its value to the franchise but to prevent it from overshadowing everything else or associating it too closely with the other anime.
After much delay, I finally started playing NiGHTS into dreams… HD. I’ve never played too many games on my PC just because I didn’t even have a proper controller for a lot of the genres I normally play otherwise, but I decided to just go, “To hell with it” and purchase an X-Box 360 controller. I know I was hankering for some retro gaming when I decided to buy it in euros even though it’d cost me a little extra.
I’m not really going to review NiGHTS here just because the game has such a powerful reputation, a cult classic that all Sega Saturn owners either remember fondly or always pined after. It is indeed an exquisite game, especially in its visual presentation and its smooth controls, but what I’ve found upon returning to my old favorite is that the game occupies this strange space for me where it is both somehow therapeutic while at the same time motivating and challenging.
Actually, I will say one thing about the game: it doesn’t control quite like the original Sega Saturn NiGHTS, and while the difference isn’t huge, it’s still noticeable for someone like me who poured hours and hours and hours into the old one. Playing widescreen can also throw off my sense of timing because the camera changes at ever-so-slightly different points.
I’ve written previously about how a current hobby of mine, Japanese mahjong, is a combination of luck and deception, and is thus enormously nerve-wracking. NiGHTS isn’t this, but it also doesn’t feel “casual” or “mindless.” Rather, it’s a game with a simple, clear-cut goal (get the highest score while beating each stage and boss), but I always feel like the game is only as intense as I want it to be. Unlike another perennial favorite of mine, Pokemon, it also isn’t hampered by the permanence of decisions (can’t use your single-player team because it wasn’t EV-trained properly!!!) If I want to just enjoy the bright colors and scenery, I can. If I want to push myself to get as close to perfect as possible, I can. If I just want to fight the bosses over and over again (and I do love doing that), I actually can now, thanks to NiGHTS HD. I can kill Gulpo in 10 seconds.
That reminds me that, even back then, my biggest complaint about the game is that the bosses are simply too easy regardless of whether you’ve played the game a ton or not. It’s the one thing that I think the sequel, NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams, improved upon tremendously (except for that stupid and frustrating fight against Bomamba).
Genshiken info aside, I’m not one to write “breaking news” posts, but I had to report this: Mewtwo will be making its return in the new Pokemon movie, titled Divine Speed (Extremespeed) Genesect and the Rival of Mewtwo.
I still consider the first Pokemon movie to be the best one by far, and a great deal of it had to do with how powerful Mewtwo is as an antagonist and as a complex character in general. In other words, I’m now looking more forward to a Pokemon movie than I have in a long time. The made-for-TV followup, Mewtwo Lives (aka Mewtwo Returns) is also quite good in its own right. In case you never saw it, the conclusion was that Mewtwo basically becomes Batman.
I originally thought that they would have Mewtwo make a return for the Deoxys movie a few years back, as both were powerful psychic beings, but it didn’t happen. That said, Genesect may be a better counterpart for Mewtwo. In the story of the games, Genesect is an ancient Pokemon that was biologically altered by Team Plasma, which makes the genetically-engineered Mewtwo fit well into the story.
Mewtwo has also had an incredible voice actor in all of his previous appearances, theatre actor Ichimura Masachika. Ichimura is probably most famous as the original Japanese Phantom of the Opera, and I hope he’s back for the new movie. If you’re wondering what he sounds like as Mewtwo, he voiced the character in Super Smash Bros. Melee. If you turn on the Japanese mode, you can hear his spoken lines when you win as Mewtwo.
I’ll leave off with some trivia. Did you know that not only is the main antagonist of the first Pokemon movie (Mewtwo) is voiced by the original Japanese Phantom of the Opera, but that the second movie’s antagonist (Gelardan) is voiced by the original Japanese Jean Valjean?
(Taken from Yaraon! Warning: NSFW banners)
Today marks the 5-Year Anniversary of Ogiue Maniax. That’s quite a big milestone I think, especially when I consider that it’s probably the longest I’ve ever actively stuck to something, but because I actually reflect on where I’ve been as a blogger and where I might go every year, I find myself not knowing really what to say that I haven’t said before. So, I’ve decided that maybe rather than just reminiscing on being a blogger, I would kind of talk about my pre-history of blogging, pretty much how I came to be active in communicating on the internet with fans and such, and how I strongly believe those experiences shaped much of how I write and approach anime. I’ve talked about some of these things in part before, so those who’ve been reading a while may see some familiar things, but I hope you’ll be entertained anyway.
My very first experience with online fando came shortly after purchasing my video game ever: NiGHTS into dreams…. I remember saying to myself at the time, “I must be the only NiGHTS fan out there!” based on how none of my friends even mentioned it, so I was pleasantly shocked to find out that there were communities dedicated to the game, even sites where people wrote fanfiction based on the universe. And so I hung on those early messageboards, things that didn’t even have the luxury of sub-boards and convenient categorizations, and it’s where I first learned about what it means to communicate online. I made a lot of friends then, both older and younger than me, and while I don’t really talk to them anymore I do cherish those times. Amidst the webrings and such I learned how big the world is. I was actually amazed that I could communicate with people from the UK!
My next big steps in terms of internet community went hand in hand: anime and Pokemon. With anime, I of course visited the Anime Web Turnpike and tried to read through every single site with the naive notion that if I did I could learn about every anime in existence. I mean, how many could there be? Though that was a fool’s errand, my pursuit of knowledge of anime is still of a similar sort, which I think shows in my writing. With Pokemon too, I can draw a clear line to where I am today as a blogger, firstly because discussions of the anime back when it first came out were filled with everyone’s wild hopes and speculations and theories, but secondly because a lot of my Pokemon community experience was on the competitive side.
There were the war stories,” entertaining recaps of Pokemon battles you’d had both online and off, where you had to take a rather dry text log consisting of “Pokemon used Attack! It’s Super Effective!” and spice it up into something more engaging. And then there were the strategy discussions, where we rated each others’ teams and discussed the pros and cons of various strategies. By engaging in those discussions, I think I laid some of the early groundwork for some of my more argument-oriented posts today. Obviously I was less experienced then in terms of conveying my ideas, but I remember wanting to present my ideas not only intelligently but also in an entertaining and accessible manner.
The amount of forums I interacted on grew and shrunk depending on various circumstances, but that idea of writing for fellow forum readers stuck with me throughout. It’s the reason I cannot truly accept the idea that the internet fosters idiocy in its communities: I know in my heart that my writing style was forged on internet forums, and I strongly believe that I benefited immensely from these interactions, and not only because it influenced the way I write.
So that’s “Early, Early Pre-Ogiue Maniax.” What you see from me in all of my posts on Ogiue Maniax comes from years of getting into spirited but (hopefully) good-natured arguments with people on a variety of nerdish topics. In fact, the reason why I ended up wanting a blog (and started participating less on other sites) was that I would frequently write forum responses which I felt argued really good points about a certain topic, but it would forever be confined to just that small community. I wanted to write about ideas and thoughts I had on my own terms.
Actually, in writing this mainly internet-oriented summary, I realize that I’m leaving out all of the real life development I had at the time as well. Around the same time, I discovered friends in school who had as much if not more interest in games and anime as I did, and I think the combination of both friends who understood me well (and are still friends with me today) as well as enriching internet communication actually worked together to help instill in me some confidence as to who I am and what I love. Still, it wouldn’t be until many years later that I would truly have faith in my abilities, and though they weren’t around all the way back then, I still feel a need to thank those who support me today.
In a recent video interview by Marcus “djWHEAT” Graham about the world of eSports, djWHEAT espouses his beliefs on how eSports can grow, and that in defiance to the doom and gloom that surrounds declining numbers in games such as Starcraft II there is steady growth in both the idea of video games as sport as well as streaming. One of the frequent criticisms I see from people towards djWHEAT’s philosophy is that for most people, eSports as a whole doesn’t matter, and that if their game is the one that’s doing worse, then little else matters because they are not going to jump ship to another game just because. However, I feel that this view is something of a shortsighted misunderstanding on djWHEAT’s viewpoint, and one that limits itself not only to an unfortunate a favored game vs. an evil usurper context, but to an ephemeral present too narrow in scope.
When I hear djWHEAT talk about how the growth of one game can benefit eSports as a whole, and that people leaving Starcraft II for League of Legends or other games is not such a bad thing, I do not interpret it as this idea that the games don’t matter, that they’re just interchangeable within this structure of the competitive gaming scene. Rather, it has more to do with increasing the presence of eSports as a concept to the point that it gets as close to a commonly understood idea as possible, not just among gamers but among non-gamers as well. While one can argue that there will always be economic limitations to how much eSports can grow, this does not mean that there is a limit on growth in terms of exposure and acceptance. The more people know about competitive gaming, whether that’s through friends or family, or seeing matches online, or through playing the games themselves, or even just from a random guy on the street, the greater the opportunity for eSports to never truly fade away.
The scene might wane. It might become a fraction of what it was. However, establishing a cultural foothold by just having enough people positively experience eSports through games—whether it’s Starcraft, Street Fighter, DOTA, Pokemon, or something else—creates a mental and emotional connection more difficult to take away than money and eyeballs. If we look at Japanese anime, for example, there are certain titles (again, such as Pokemon) which, regardless of how you judge their quality, made the idea of anime simply better known and more acceptable to a wider range of people than just an existing hardcore fanbase.
I find that djWHEAT’s vision is one for the future beyond the myopic squabbling we see now, one where the ground is more fertile for the potential growth of new eSports-capable video games in a way which does indeed benefit everyone. Let’s say for the sake of argument that Starcraft II is fated to die out in a year, that it is on a downward and unrecoverable spiral. In light of this scenario, I want to give two alternate realities where this could be happening: one is where Starcraft II is the only game in town, the only game people consider competitive in any way, and the other is where Starcraft II is but a fraction of a complex milieu of a society in which eSports is known and accepted.
In the first, when Starcraft II goes, so too does the notion of competitive gaming, and if ever some game developer wanted to make their own Starcraft, they would have to start from scratch in more ways than one. People would see Starcraft as an anomaly, something which fell with no viable alternatives, and the creators of this new game would have to convince people all over again that this was a worthwhile notion, that people enjoy spectating games just as much as they enjoy playing them, and that there are positives to creating a competitive video game for the benefit of viewers.
In the second, on the other hand, when Starcraft II dies out, the notion that competitive gaming is viable would still be part of the public consciousness. It may not have ended up working for this particular title due to some combination of reasons, but future game developers could look at it and ask, “Where did it go right, and where did it go wrong?” When they go to try and get funding and support, they can point to other games which have been successful, games which companies might even already know about as eSports, and say, “We know what mistakes Starcraft II made and we can adjust accordingly. And, as you well know, there are plenty of examples of this model working.”
In both cases, there is a chance for a new and better spiritual successor to appear and grab all of the fans who once supported that game, but where in the first reality a single company would have to struggle just to introduce the idea of competitive gaming, in the second reality the notion of eSports would be accepted enough that there wouldn’t just be one company trying to create the next Starcraft (or any game of your choice), but five or maybe even ten companies, all eager to re-capture and even improve upon the things that made it so widely viewed and adored in the first place. The potential would not only always be there, but it would be so visible that it would continuously inspire game creators, as well as players, casters, everyone, to seize that opportunity.
Essentially, what djWHEAT is advocating when he says that the growth of one eSport is beneficial to all is not simply the product of a “let’s all get along” mentality. Instead, it is based on the idea that the more “eSports” becomes a solid concept in people’s minds through exposure, the better chance future games and gamers will have of fostering and being fostered by that positive environment, an environment which benefits all competitive games past, present, and future, whether a game’s life span is 50 days or 50 years.
As an avid watcher of professional Starcraft I constantly hear of all the strengths and weaknesses of various video games as spectator sports. Starcraft, for instance, has tons of strategic depth and is also visually clear in many ways, but often times the complexity of a given player’s battle plan requires a commentator to explain it in detail, and differentiations in individual army units can be confusing for someone who’s never had experience with similar games. Compare this with soccer, where “kick ball into goal” is clear as day, or even fighting games, where life bars and graphical depictions of punches and kicks tell the story. So with all eSports, one issue is always, how far removed is the game from reality? If it’s too abstracted then it becomes a game mainly for the devoted or hardcore, which is fine, but spectatorship is the question here.
This got me to thinking, what about Pokemon? While Pokemon is pretty far-removed both in terms of its menu-based gameplay and the sheer number of Pokemon and attacks and the complex rock-paper-scissors chart that makes up the 17 types, I wonder if Pokemon can get around all of this by just being so internationally famous that a possible majority of people under a certain age have had some experience with Pokemon, be it through the video games or the anime or their friends/relatives telling them about how Rock beats Flying. If it’s a common-enough experience, then maybe there’s not as much immediate need for realism or explanation.
On top of that, Pokemon has always been quite robust when it comes to strategy, to the extent that not only have there been multiple tournaments over the years (see the recent Pokemon Video Game Championships for example), but there have been a number of sites dedicated to exploring strategy and tactics in Pokemon, whether that’s Smogon or predecessors such as Azure Heights. These forums manage to bring together the very young up to people well into their adulthoods.
Granted, there are a number of drawbacks and setback that could stifle Pokemon as eSport despite its popularity and penetration. The first is that it’s likely Nintendo would never entirely support a competitive Pokemon scene which fuels people’s salaries, especially because part of the appeal and atmosphere in Pokemon has to do with empowering players to feel strong and special and to bond with the Pokemon they catch and train. Ideally, a competitive version would just allow you to customize your Pokemon (and there have been online simulators over the years which allow this), but I doubt Nintendo would ever approve of such a thing themselves. The second problem is that Pokemon’s strategy and difficulty is purely in the mind, whether that’s coming up with ideas on the fly or memorizing statistics, and while plenty of games have those elements the fact that Pokemon is turn-based means there is no physical rigor involved. No one will mention someone’s fabulous micromanagement. No one will be impressed by 400 APM (actions per minute) when the game really only takes 1 APM.
In any case, while I’m not terribly optimistic of Pokemon Battling becoming a career, I still would like to think that some day there may be a game that is so commonly known that it’s a matter of course for it to enter a competitive realm accepted by many. I mean, more than League of Legends even.
I guess the only thing to leave you is an actual competition video of Pokemon, to see what people think.
C: The Money of Soul and Possibility Control is a show that can ostensibly be described as Wall Street meets Pokemon. “Investors” are summoned to a mysterious “Financial District” where they use powered assistants called “Assets” to fight and take each others’ money. As I am not really familiar with how actual stocks and investing work, I cannot tell you how accurate the flow of money is within the show, other than to say that I looked up the word “mezzoflation” and that is definitely some made up mumbo jumbo original to C.
But when I think about it, what percentage of the population actually knows in great detail the ins and outs of stock exchange? We go on the news and hear about “NASDAQ rising” this or the “Nikkei Index” falling that, and while the information is out there for people to learn, it is so many levels removed from how people traditionally think of how to make money (i.e. perform a service and get paid for it) that it all begins to sound like some elaborate game involving smoke and mirrors and maybe juggling clowns.
Maybe I’m just an idiot when it comes to finances but with the sheer complexity and mystery of how the world’s finances work, it feels like a nation’s wealth might as well be decided by a Pokemon Battle, instead of the convoluted web that exists in reality.
I’ve recently been talking to an old friend in the competitive Pokemon community, and I was surprised to find out that he and other people I knew from back in the day were still playing competitively. In fact, a bunch of them are going to the Pokemon Video Game Championships this year in Indiana, and though I definitely can’t make it, it’s kind of re-lit the fire in me to do something with Pokemon, especially when I’ve seen what he’s been up to.
Known in the Pokemon communiy as Fish, his team is the one on top, if you want to see some intense and exciting turn-based combat.
At the very least, I want to have a well-conceived team or two around in case anyone wants to battle me. I don’t know how long it’ll take me, especially because I haven’t even opened my copy of Pokemon Black yet, but I think it’ll be a worthwhile endeavor.
I definitely want to use Durant, as I’ve been waiting for an ant Pokemon since the original games.
Thinking back on my years of playing Pokemon, I began to reminisce about the original RBY era and its competitive scene. I talked a little bit about RBY-style battling here, but I’m not sure if my description did it justice in terms of how unique RBY battling turned out to be, relative to subsequent generations of Pokemon. RBY was the era where the only way to cure a status ailment was through the use of Rest, when every Pokemon could have all of its stats maxed out to their personal best. The result was a game where Pokemon were neither overly frail nor excessively defensive.
The best example I can think of is a scenario where one player is switching in a weakened Rhydon on a weakened, paralyzed Alakazam. Alakazam could have predicted a switch and thrown out a Thunder Wave to paralyze the incoming Pokemon, but because Rhydon is immune to electric attacks, it can effectively block the Thunder Wave and avoid its paralyzing effects. From there, a fight which would normally be won by Alakazam’s superior speed and nasty Psychic attack has a different consequence, as paralysis reduces Alakazam’s speed by 75%, well below Rhydon’s, and so now Rhydon has the first shot, and its superior attack does tremendous damage to Alakazam’s poor defenses, possibly to the point of knocking it out. But if Alakazam decides to switch out, Rhydon can throw down a Substitute for 1/4 of its health to take damage for it while it Earthquakes from a safe position. The permanency of paralysis is key here, as in later generations status ailments can simply be whisked away by the effects of moves such as Heal Bell and Aromatherapy.
RBY was by no means a balanced game in terms of diversity. Only about 10-15 Pokemon were considered viable for competition (barring Mewtwo and Mew, who were usually banned due to being way, way, way too good), but it had a certain kind of intensity that wasn’t quite present in later games, and it’s something I wouldn’t mind coming back, though I know it’ll never happen.
When people lament changes in sequels despite the fact that the original game’s system was the result of various limitations and oversights, I can relate to knowing that something is unreasonable and yet still feeling that it’s right. I’m not going to talk down the other generations of Pokemon Battling, though. There’s always a special place in my heart for that original 151, but I still look forward to having fun with a list that is now 646 creatures long.