You’ve seen TwitchPlaysPokémon, yes? It’s become such a thing (phenomenon? mess?) on the Internet that’s it’s hard to escape; but, if you’ve no idea what I’m talking about, then click the link and check it out. Pokémon Crystal is currently streaming, but prior to just a few days ago, it was streaming an emulated version of the original Pokémon Red (1996, Gameboy) in which users “played” the game by inputting commands via keyboard prompts. TPP is a social experiment of sorts to see just how much of a Pokémon game a “crowd” can play. After 16 days, the crowd beat Pokémon Red. It was a pretty amazing feat that was eloquently summed up in this post from At The Buzzer. I couldn’t even begin to describe what I saw during the few times I tuned into TPP, because as much as I get the experiment, I don’t get Pokémon.
See, I’ve never played a Pokémon game. Not a single one. I’m not going to go into details about my tenuous relationship with the series (as I already detailed it on my own blog), but suffice to reiterate: I’ve never played a Pokémon game. So when watching TwitchPlaysPokémon, I get the basic concept of what’s going on, but the gameplay, characters’ powers, the special terms, the memes, those I don’t get. My knowledge of the Pokéverse probably goes as far as Pikachu’s Volt Tackle (see, I’m not a complete doofus), and I’ll be honest, watching TPP makes me…kind of…sort of…in some very roundabout way…want to…try…one of the games. But that’s a big IDON’TKNOWMAYBEORNOT. And where would I even begin?
I don’t think I’m alone in saying that plenty of major game franchises have passed me by over the years. And there’s something very intimidating about even the mere thought of jumping into a beloved series. Think about it. Last week some of us here at UWG covered our favorite levels in Mario games. If you had never, ever played a Mario game, those posts might read like a foreign language. It’s the same with me and Pokémon. To my ears and eyes, discussions about it make little sense. So if I wanted to take a swim in the vast Pokémon waters, should I start at the shoreline or take a boat out to the ocean? If I was to recommend a Mario game to a new player, I’d go with either Super Mario 3 or Super Mario World, as I find either of those much more enjoyable and accessible than the original. It’d be the same with Final Fantasy, or maybe even Zelda. (Though I’m probably not the best source of knowledge on either as I started in each series’ middle with FFVII and Ocarina of Time, respectively.)
Unlike films (or even some TV shows), not many game series come to mind that absolutely need to be played in release order. Even series with distinct and obvious sequels and prequels like Uncharted, Fable, Dragon Age, and the Batman Arkham games, don’t require players to play any particular order. Having knowledge of previous games may aid in understand an overarching story (of there is one like with Mass Effect), but past events are sometimes summed up in opening sequences, or just completely ignored.
But Pokémon…Pokémon to me feels different. It’s a nearly 20-year-old cultural trend that’s surpassed video games. It’s an indelible part of those who have taken in and accepted it as fact from the beginning, and starting a Pokémon game feels like I’d be knocking on a large, vault-like door, where one is greeted with a gruff voice that says only “password!” Not knowing it, I’d simply turn away sheepishly. At this late stage in my gaming career, I think it simply might be too late for me and Pokémon. But if I, or any non-Pokémon-er, were to gather up enough courage to go out and get a Pokémon game, any game, any system, I ask of the fans, which one should I get? Is it best to simply begin at the beginning, or is there another game in the series that you feel might be better for a complete novice?
Are there any significant game series that you feel are beyond your grasp, or that just haven’t captured your interest (and maybe never will) despite accolades dispelled upon then by friends/family/the media?