So why not kick this new blog off with a post that is almost guaranteed to rile some feathers? Though before you raise your pitchforks at me, do read the rest of the post, as this post is not a criticism of Pokémon Go, just an explanation of why it does not interest me in particular.
I am a huge Pokémon fan, to say the least. I started playing all the way back when Pokémon Blue first came out in the US, and have played a game from every generation since. As I have gotten attached to the variety of Pokémon and the increasingly deep strategic element of the game, it has become one of my favorite video game series of all time. So with Pokémon Go’s release this summer being the latest big fad and allowing me to find and catch Pokémon in the real world, you would think I would be all over this mobile game, carrying my phone everywhere to find all of my favorite Pokémon and training them up to conquer every gym in the area, right?
Well, not really. As the title of this post says, I just can’t bring myself to play much of this game. I should probably clarify that it’s not like I never play it; every once in a while I’ll open up the game and flip some PokéStops and catch a few Pokémon and maybe even hatch an egg. But I cannot bring myself to get invested in the game. I probably will not try to catch or evolve every Pokémon, nor do I plan to train any Pokémon for gym battling seriously.
Admittedly, I had a bit of a hard time getting started. The game came out during a busy time in my life, which led me to going to Japan, where the game’s release was delayed until late July, and even then I was in an area with very few PokéStops or Pokémon spawn points. In addition, I have issues with how the phone must always be on to find Pokémon or hatch eggs, though that will probably be fixed by, of all things, the Apple Watch app. Certainly, the game is flawed in many ways, and I hope Niantic implements fixes to keep supporting the game.
In the end, though, the reason I am not playing Pokémon Go has nothing to do with any of the game’s problems. It has to do with the very core of the game’s design, something that cannot be changed without making an entirely different game. In the end, Pokémon Go just is not what I am looking for in a Pokémon game.
To me, the biggest draw of Pokémon is how unique each species of Pokémon is. Each Pokémon has its own appearance, typing, Pokédex entry, stat distribution, movepool, evolutionary line, and as of Ruby/Sapphire, abilities. All these come together to give each Pokémon a unique identity, which affects how I approach each one in raising and battling with it. The ability to customize movesets for a Pokémon further plays into this, as even the same species of Pokémon can then have different identities, further highlighting the nature of that Pokémon species. All this makes it a joy to train Pokémon, even turning an otherwise tedious level grind that plagues other RPGs into something meaningful in and of itself.
Unfortunately, very little of that makes it into Pokémon Go.
While Pokémon in Pokémon Go still have their appearance, typing, and Pokédex info, everything else is greatly simplified or removed. Stats are greatly simplified, Pokémon have only two randomly-chosen moves that are only really attack moves, evolution just becomes grinding for candy, and no Pokémon has abilities. To me, this removes a lot of the identity these Pokémon have. I have little reason to invest in a Pokémon when I know I can catch a stronger one later on, and when all different species really have are different types, somewhat different stats and a couple slightly different attacks. It turns the grinding aspect of the game into more of a chore and just overall keeps me from really enjoying the game.
That said, I can understand why Niantic simplified the system in this way. Fact of the matter is, this game is for a certain audience, one that does not really want complex mechanics and just wants to enjoy walking around, finding Pokémon, catching them, and battling in a simple way. And I think that is great. One of the great things about the Pokémon franchise is the variety of ways one can experience it, whether you want to catch ‘em all, or become the very best like no one ever was, or explore the world and the various Pokémon within, or some mix of different experiences. Having more ways to experience Pokémon is a great thing, and Pokémon Go provides its own experience for its own audience. Alas, I just am not part of that audience.
Overall, I think Pokémon Go is a cool thing and I hope Niantic continues to work on it to make it a better experience for its players. It may not be my type of Pokémon game but that is okay with me. I still have Pokémon Sun and Moon coming up, which have made me the most excited I have been for a Pokémon game in a long time. And as far as mobile gaming goes, the beast that is Starlight Stage is still keeping me very busy to the point where trying to get invested in any other mobile game is near impossible anyway.
In the meantime, for all you Pokémon Go players out there, though, good luck with your adventuring, and when Niantic updates the game with Johto Pokémon, please catch a Lanturn, because Lanturn is awesome.