24

The Systems

November 25, 2019 by Tim

I have never been into Pokemon. Until recently, a short daliance with Pokemon Go and a few hours with a previous game (Black? White? One of those) was the extent of my hands-on with the franchise. I have played more Pokemon in the last week than in all of the previous twenty-three years combined.

Well, “played.” I’m not actually playing. We bought Pokemon Shield for our six-year-old who loves Pokemon, and this is his first Pokemon game. I’m more of his co-pilot, helping him read some of the tougher words and acting as a general gaming liason for standard stuff like menu navigation, etc. My wife, a bonafide Pokemon nerd, consults on type match-ups and moves, etc, and our three-year old just likes to peddle the bike around and run from fights. So it’s a group effort, I guess.

At any rate, this is the first time I’ve really had a look at a Pokemon game up close to any extent. And I knew that the game was a deeper RPG than it appeared on the surface; I may not have been a Pokemon player, but with the circles I travel in clearly I’d heard of things like IVs and EVs and Egg Moves etc. I just never had much context for how they all fit together in the bigger picture.

I do now, and I’m still reeling a bit. Partly because there’s a lot to dig into, but mostly because my son is playing an entirely different game than the one I’m watching. For him, it’s magic. It’s an adventure. It’s an experience buoyed by the imagination of childhood. He runs around fighting Pokemon, capturing Pokemon, working his way through to become the ultimate Trainer. He refused to capture a Meowth for the longest time because they were “dumbfaces”, and sticking to that principle was more important than completing a Pokedex. He plays with the Pokemon in his camp far longer than is required to get them some XP, and dislikes sending them on Poke Jobs because he feels better knowing his friends are close.

I’ve been playing games for so long, I look at Pokemon and I see all of the systems underneath, working together to create the facsimile of an adventure. I see the timing of turns, when to heal, when to use what abilities, and the stats beneath those that dictate their outcomes. What he sees as an adventure down Route 5 to find the next gym, I see as the A to B between quest points, and tick boxes to check off in order to advance the next tier of content.

And obviously it’s all still a game to me; just because I “see the matrix for its code”, so to speak, doesn’t mean I can’t see it as a video game. Playing with my son just reminds me how I used to see them. Before I was aware of so much about the boundaries of code, and things just seemed limitless.

I look at Pokemon and I see a strategy game I can grind and min/max and systems to exploit to move numbers around. And there’s an appeal in that for me. But between the two of us, I think my son is playing the better game.


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Nick Wallace
Guest

Awww, this is so sweet and something that I think everyone should try to remember. I run a VR Arcade and see this all the time with parents badgering their kids to play the game properly, like Job Simulator. There are tasks to complete but the kids often just want to muck around and throw stuff at the robots and steal their glasses, I try to help them if they want to follow the tasks and are unsure but I’ve long ago learned that if they just want to shoot fireworks at the customers and steal their glasses them who… Read more »

Honuvo
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Honuvo

Ignorance is bliss… I feel you Tim. Always looking for the mechanics is driving me insane to the point, that I can hardly play new games, because I feel it is too overwhelming to understand the inner working before I can play it “right”. Would be better to just start and enjoy, but my mind won’t let me. :/
Could you just be in your son’s place or have you, too, seen too much to just let it all happen?

Killiak
Guest
Killiak

Being an adult clearly has its drawbacks.

wahnsinn
Guest
wahnsinn

What are you talking about – did you maybe miss the part about the gloriously delicious spreadsheets?!

Spanner
Guest
Spanner

I won’t lie. I’m part of the demographic for whom those spreadsheets ARE a great part of the fun. Or would be, if I played Pok√©mon.

Eric
Guest
Eric

This was me running our trading vessel in our recent traveller campaign…I had spreadsheets upon spreadsheets…

Mousio
Guest
Mousio

Sigh. Considering how, for the past few years games have been a refuge from world for me and a source of great frustration for being good at them(plus i can’t play new ones anymore due to technical *cough*lack-of-system*cough* problems), This both warms my heart and makes me depressed.

Dodgy
Guest
Dodgy

Whoa, hold on there sport! I know that for a kid having fun in a videogame is important and all that but really… he has to learn about responsibilities and the (sometimes not so fun) things that come with it too! Completing a pokedex is one if them. Sure, Meowt may be a dumbface and you could let it slide, let it go and think nothing of it. But what if he turns out to be really good at this game, eventually competes in tournament and then has his dreams shattered because he got disqualified because he did not have… Read more »

no thanks nintendo
Guest
no thanks nintendo

GameFreak didn’t complete the Pokedex, so now nobody can. ūü§∑‚Äć‚ôāÔłŹ

Kaitensatsuma
Guest
Kaitensatsuma

Hopefully they’ll re-introduce it in the next game(s)

Bob's Muff
Guest
Bob's Muff

Maybe just let the kid play a video game

Stephen Ford
Guest
Stephen Ford

Very insightful comments dude. I feel this is poignantly significant to my gaming life as I get older.

Glacoras
Guest
Glacoras

Your child is playing the better game. Until the end of the game, and unless you are doing challenge playthroughs, you don’t need to worry so much about IVs and EVs. The end-game content is where you need to start understanding that point. This is one of the things I like about Pok√©mon games. The main story is easy enough for casual players and the end-game and competitive parts are more suited for the hardcore gamers that would drill down on stats. Even if you are casual, you then have the palette swap Pok√©mon (known as “shiny” Pok√©mon) that you… Read more »

EMMachine
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EMMachine

I’m over 30 years old and still play some of the games (but ever did much about IVs and EVs), but complely missed out the GB Advance era. There are so many challenges you can see on Youtube. Nutzlock, Starter only, only one Pok√©mon (with or without evolving), Tradepokemon Only, no Pok√©moncenter, no items in battle. The only challenge I find quite interesting the the professor oak challenge (trying to complete the Pok√©dex as fare as possible before having all badges). At least trying to get as many Pok√©mon as possible in the game is a quite nice challenge (but… Read more »

Glacoras
Guest
Glacoras

I do feel that the Pok√©mon company would make a lot of money if they get GameFreak to develop such a game, with each new region being DLC. I would prefer free DLC instead of paid for DLC, but can’t see them coding new regions or updating the graphics for old regions without additional revenue.

Pulse
Guest
Pulse

one thing everyone forgets is the switch is prime dlc territory. theres nothing stopping them adding more pokemon and maybe areas as dlc later on. just because they arent there now doesnt mean they never will be

Eldest Gruff
Guest

They never will. Time spent on the old game is time taken away from the new game. Benefits added to Sword Shield are benefits that will make you want the eventual Pokémon Master Sword / Mirror Shield far less. Pokémon is on a tight marketing schedule.

Glacoras
Guest
Glacoras

I am sure they released something that said they weren’t going to provide previous Pok√©mon not released with the game via DLC, as that was something the community was suggesting as to get around this.

foducool
Guest
foducool

that doesn’t sound fun? BOY, POKEMON IS ANYTHING BUT FUN IF YOU’RE A SERIOUS TRAINER!

Marc McAdam
Guest
Marc McAdam

Funnily enough, the recent generations have taken a lot of the harder work out of minmaxing a Pokemon for competitive play. I don’t mean to say it’s completely trivialized, but more that a lot of the frustration has been minimized. IVs and EVs used to be completely hidden from the player and you’d never know the difference until you start questioning why your specimen is worse than your rival’s. We’ve gone on to have in-game IV and EV checkers, a hard code on maxing out on 252 EVs instead of the useless 255, and ways of ensuring that maximum IVs… Read more »

no thanks nintendo
Guest
no thanks nintendo

Yep. This is why I never bothered playing competitively and always just enjoyed filling the Pokedex.

But now GameFreak has taken that away, so I just don’t bother playing at all.

Propellorhead
Guest
Propellorhead

Anyone else reeling from the bat of nostalgia we just got cracked over the head with?

destino
Guest
destino

EXACTLY! You’ve nailed it again! your type of parenting looks a lot like mine, and your reaction to games and our aging gaming experience is really one to relate to. lately I had a similar moment with my boy, he’s playing the last Order and I keep urging him to reach for a box or some point of interest to reach. but all is lost when he open his eyes wider when a cutscene starts playing and says in awe: ” DAD, WHAT A GREAT GAME”. Then I stop playing and start enjoying my son even more.

Devil-Arcana
Guest
Devil-Arcana

Wow… I thought I was the only one to organize a game into a spreadsheet. I do it with near everything I take notes on. You should see the ones I made for Persona 3, 4 and 5. CrAzY detailed!!

Sanquin
Guest
Sanquin

This is the reason why I don’t like competitive gaming. I may be 32, but I’ve never lost that “let’s go on an adventure!” mindset when I play games. At least not the first time I play them. And competitive gaming is all about the numbers behind it. I just don’t see the fun in it…

Ruffles
Guest
Ruffles

To be fair, competitive gaming is a job, it’s about winning, not fun

BayouByrnes
Member
BayouByrnes

I played Red/Blue & Silver/Gold way back in the day. I used to have these steno note pads of all the stats the pokemon possessed at level 100 this way I knew which ones were the strongest ones to work on. This is all pre-internet for me so once I’d beaten the game once, I went back and started a new game where I used the Missingno + Rare Candy (Red/Blue) cheat to level every pokemon quickly without using any of the stat power-up materials. That’s how I got the data. Then I went through and played what I considered… Read more »

Dan
Guest
Dan

My girls are really into pokemon, just the shows now since we don’t have a switch.

My parents asked what the “premise” of Pokemon was and literally the only thing I could think of that they would understand was…

“Its kind of….fantasy cockfighting…but the animals are into it and no one dies.”

Vedrit
Guest
Vedrit

Are the animals into it? Really?

wkz
Guest
wkz

Apparently, yes.

They’re literal bloodknights who live for the thrill of fighting, and getting “captured” is actually not you subjecting them to your will, but rather it’s THEIR interviewing you for the job of “my boss”: if you can command minions strong enough to beat them, you’re obviously worthy of leading them.

This is second hand information (as with most information on the internet), but apparently the above comes from somewhere inside the official sources.

marie-france fortin
Guest
marie-france fortin

Similar thing with my 4 year old kid. He is playing Let’s go Pikachu. But for him it’s only a game where he can run around, catch all the pokemon he see and go back home. Yes he go back to the home of the protagonist often so his mom don’t worry, or because it must be diner time. He doesn’t want to go to the next gym or find the best pokemon. He just want to catch an other Pikachu ūüôā

Leon
Guest
Leon

Pokemon is about simplicity, dude

Jordan
Guest
Jordan

I’ve been playing simple, fun games with my kiddos, and sometimes I get too caught up in collecting things and finding secrets that I miss the fun. I let my 7 year old play a two-player video game with my 4 year old recently, and I realized how much that drive can kill the joy of games. Thank you for this timely reminder.

Dan
Guest
Dan

I always enjoyed that you could play pokemon without ever giving a shit about this stuff, it was entirely optional.

Dan
Guest
Dan

“Cost of Playing Optimally” ruins most games for me. I feel it encourages, more than anything, endless grinding. As a “grown up”, I want to get the most enjoyment of my games in the limited time I have.

I also want to have an escape from the reality that, due to random chance, things aren’t as good as they could be.

Alcor
Guest
Alcor

If it’s not a good game to you if you’re optimizing, stop optimizing. Some people enjoy the optimization and find it the most fun part of the game; some people can’t stand doing that.

Pulse
Guest
Pulse

i enter every generation like your son, only grabbing what i like and going for the glory and story. then after a couple runs its to the breeding where i work on my dream of a dex worth of perfects

Sean
Guest
Sean

Tim, why are you spying on me and my 8 year old???

On the bright side, he has taught me a lot about Excel.

Eldest Gruff
Guest

Dear God, this speaks to me. I got into the deep end when X/Y came up and made a massive 14-page spreadsheet which cross-referenced every ‘mon, ability, stat, type, egg type, then had a few mega-sheets that slapped them all together so that I could type in any name and see everything up front, then plug in my team and see if there were any holes, weakness-wise. I sunk so much time into that and also into just grinding eggs for moves and IVs and training my EVs to be just the right way. I love and hate Pok√©mon. It’s… Read more »

ern8897
Guest
ern8897

well… he’s not wrong about Meowth

Mattikus
Guest
Mattikus

Maybe it’s because I played the originals at release, but despite knowing about those deeper systems I cant help but play without much research at all. I’ll look up what something evolves into for the sake of better nicknames, but otherwise it’s a great nostalgia trip. I still enjoy scouring the internet for every advantage for games like Soulsborne, but having something remain simple is a welcome experience.

Nethan
Guest
Nethan

So relatable. Being an adult is a nightmare on this part. I play at “Eve Online” or should I say “Spreadsheet Online”. I have at least a dozen of them if not more, I didn’t count. I have one for Capital Production, one to calculate the mining buyback program of the corporation, one for reactions, one for following the market tendencies, etc. But even without them, “Playing Optimally” has become the norm in every games on my side even in a simple FPS. And the worse part, is that it sometimes happens without realizing it. My last one was “Generation… Read more »

Vedrit
Guest
Vedrit

EVE is where I found my love for spreadsheets. I don’t much play anymore, but I’ll still go into my old spreadsheets for EVE, play around with them, find some way to improve them ever so slightly. Maybe make it a little easier on the eyes.

Heck, I even made a spreadsheet to calculate the winner of a vote using the Alternate Vote system using simulated votes. THAT was a journey and a half!

Jakk Frost
Guest
Jakk Frost

It’s the pokemon version of min-maxing, which in my opinion always ruins games.

MadGamer
Guest
MadGamer

Yes, it is terroble when you cannot see the magic. I love min/maxxing too, but you need to just take a moment to see it without the ‘mature’ disbelief. Any good game is greatly improved then.

AlexAngryguy
Guest
AlexAngryguy

As someone who has played pokemon Since Gold and silver i had to say that Sword and shield are probably the worst game in the series. Most people dont get into the competitive anyway and now is even more difficult because many moves were removed and we have been limited a lot, Casual people believe that the 400 pokemons that are in the game are enough, but in reality the combinations are less than ever before, For instance most of the Pseudo Legendaries were removed, some of the Mid to TOP Tier pokemon that have been in the series since… Read more »

Vedrit
Guest
Vedrit

Specifically regarding Pokemon, this is precisely why I don’t bother with the newer games. It’s all elitism and min/maxing. Yes, back in my day…. we didn’t have IV’s. I grew up on Pokemon Yellow, occasionally nabbing my sisters cartridge of Silver. It was all about types vs types, levels, and the stats that line of Pokemon had (All Charizards were the same, all Caterpis were the same, etc) None of this “Hmm….Pokemon A has a light edge over Pokemon B in stats, but Pokemon B has better moves. Oh! Pokemon C is better all-around than them both! Off to the… Read more »

Him.
Guest
Him.

He touched the stove again, eh?

Michael
Guest
Michael

I hope your son reads this when he’s in his thirties. I think he’ll find it touching and a wonderful reminder of good memories made with you.

Acher4
Guest
Acher4

Yes.
Whatever you said.
All yes ūüėÄ

raven0ak
Guest
raven0ak

back then with originals it was so much easier … just catch one and evolve it, customize its skill pool and use correct element against opponents. Beside element only thing that mattered was how you liked look of pokemon

Paul
Guest
Paul

This is so true, Tim. I tried to get my son (6) into games like Overcooked or Smash, but he prefers the simple easy life of Lego City Undercover or Bus Simulator. He hasn’t learned that competitive/completionist side that you get in your teens.

Kids can teach us a thing or two.

Doc Mesa
Guest
Doc Mesa

Now hold on a second there sport – it might have perfect IVs, perfect breed and the ultimate moveset but is it shiny? No? THEN BACK TO THE GRINDING WHEEL, MAGGOT!

Dizzy D.
Guest
Dizzy D.

If he refuses to catch Meowth on account of it being a ‘dumbface’, show him Alolan Persian. He’ll warm up to Galarian Meowth REAL quick ūüėõ

leduk
Guest
leduk

I know some people play it that way but I never did and I never will.

Ed
Guest
Ed

Your son is definitely playing the better game. I don’t think I’ve ever created a spreadsheet for a game, but that may be because I do data analysis as part of my job. Doing it for a video game is pretty much like being back at work.
I try to let the kids mess around in games, but I admit I’ve been less than patient when we are playing Overcooked, doing really well, then my kids purposely set the whole kitchen on fire, cover the ground in fish and push each other off into the river.

Matt Gibson
Guest
Matt Gibson

The good thing about SwSh is, for the most part, you don’t really have to grind out competitive pok√©mon anymore. You can get an item to switch your Nature buffs to the stats you want, you can “ev train” by simply giving them items until their stats are maxed, give them special (hyper) training to max out their IVs, and online play sets all pok√©mon to lv 50 so even lv doesn’t play a big part. You can basically turn any pok√©mon with bad stats/negative nature into a competitive machine without breeding at all. They even made it possible to… Read more »

Grufferstein
Guest

Oh damn those last few paragraphs really summoned the self chopping ghost onions. I think I’m going to do my next run through of the game more like your son’s

Velvet74
Guest
Velvet74

I feel kinda attacked by that last panel.
Hubby makes fun of my spreadsheets, but he loved it when I helped him with his attendance workbook and used conditional formatting to highlight students with too many lates and/or absences.