A Failed Fetch

While I haven’t followed what’s been happening with Pokémon for numerous years, I can’t really escape some of its news and whatever general stuff is happening due to friend circle having loads of friends who still spend about as much time gushing over the franchise as they did back in 1998. Guess how how many of them still live with their parents. However, I often check out what the new designs are like, because designs sensibilities with Pokémon has changed to the point of being constantly compared how they look like Digimon. There are some Digimon design articles on this blog by a visiting author, so check them out. This post is really how whomever designed and approved Farfecth’d long awaited evolution, Sirfetch’d, and how the design fails.

The original idea of the original Farfecth’d, as it stands now in the games, was largely a simple joke about the Japanese saying how something extremely convenient to the point derogation happens, hence the whole duck carrying its own leek theme. While the plant it carries is clearly a green onion, the games themselves simply called it a stalk or an unknown plant. In original design, Farfetch’d carried the leek in its mouth and was said to do so.

Majority of the time in games you can see this, though as early as Japanese Red you can see it leaning the stick against its wing. It wasn’t until around Dimaond/Pearl when it changed completely to holding the stick in its wing, which now effectively functions as a hand, which is also a breaking point in terms of design aesthetics when it comes Pokémon in general. However, Farfetch’d embodies the basic and the best approach in Pokémon design; animals with something interesting to them. In this case we have a duck with a leek as a sword-like weapon, and it can’t really live without its stick. Good for food, especially when it conveniently comes with its own onions. Just add a dash of salt and pepper and you’re done. Sadly, Game Freaks and Pokémon Company don’t actually utilise any sort of base guidelines and ideas when designing their new pocket monsters. This leads to stupid shit like Dhelmise or Stakataka, not to mention Trubbish or whatever that rubbish Pokémon’s name was, and let’s not forget Klingklang and Vanillite lines, which are metal gears and ice cream respectively. While some would argue that the first generation had its own designs in the same vain, but that doesn’t excuse literal trash bags and living cogs. A mysterious sphere could at least have some considerations behind it. But I digress.

Oh for fuck’s sake…

Isn’t Sirfetch’d more of the same then? I hear Liam asking. No, it isn’t. Much like how modern designs want to push these monsters into direction of adding more shit for the sake of adding more shit, and having them act nothing like animals they originally were supposed to represent, Sirfetch’d seems to be fundamentally flawed despite the outer appearance. Farfetch’d was always a fighter, so naturally it should become a knight in this region based on United Kingdom, with jousting lance and a shield replacing its sword. This evolution is achieved via numerous fights and victories, making Farfetch’d change its typing from its usual Normal/Flying to pure Fighting. What a load of bullshit.

The thing that rubs yours truly here is that this isn’t thematically fitting. Nothing with Farfetch’d has been about fighting per se, but I guess that one Pokédex entry saying the species fights over good sticks was the source for this. Does that justify this design? No, as what we’re getting with this almost the opposite. Farfetch’d was a rarity due to people eating it, a fleeting Pokémon that will defend its stick. Defending does not mean it’ll stick to a fight to the bloody end, that serves no purpose. Farfetch’d evolution should’ve been more akin to a ragged warrior, like a ronin, rather than a white knight. These two clash against each other, but I guess it was more important to get a white knight in. What a missed chance to make an ugly duckling into a beautiful swan take, or a samurai crane.

It doesn’t help that the simple black V-crest on Farfetch’d’s forehead has now become its eyebrows, which of course can now be used to make joke macros and such, especially Golgo-13 kind. So does its weapon, and I’m glad to see someone going all out on the whole design.

If Sirfetch’d was a new design related to Farfetch’d rather than its evolution, it’d serve the purpose just fine. Make it a regional variant or some sort of alternative form tied to the region or an item it carries. Making Sirfetch’d an evolution means Farfetch’d, a duck that’s designed around a Japanese pun and has been seen to be tied to this in various media, now evolves into an English white knight. I just hope the shiny version will be a black knight and not the golden one I’ve seen floating around.

Then you have the point that most Pokémon don’t look like animals anymore, not even cartoon animals. Sirfecth’d might be a thematically missed opportunity, but it also clashes with its pre-evolution stage’s design by being from the new Ducktales.

Really, Sirfetch’d looks like a cheap Chinese knock-off of a Disney character with its buff chest, smirking face and off white colour. It’s become a cartoon caricature of a duck knight rather than a Pokémon. Gone are the days when wings were wings, now they function as hands just as much Dewey’s do in the cover above. There is a distinct lack of animal in this duck. You can put this on how the style has been changing from game to game as time as gone by, yet this is a hard backlash from old to new. Sirfecth’d is a good example how incoherent design philosophies and lack of proper guidelines can result into clashing motifs between two directly related objects. Imagine designing a chair, but because it has to be different, you end up designing a chair that’s horrible to sit in. Sirfetch’d is far from the most worst examples in this, but it is very timely example. The argument that the new designer shouldn’t fixate themselves to the past can be made and is sound, but at the same time the results will be more and more Digimon like Pokémon, where both rhyme and reason has been abandoned, and there is no division or sense in the designs themselves. The brand as a whole has lost most, if not already all of its visual coherence and design aspects at this point, while its competing monster collecting franchises have still managed hold them together in more proper manner.

 

On electronic games’ history and culture

This post is a collection of related subject, combined into easier access

A game is an interaction between at least two individuals under certain rules to achieve some sort of goal or achievement. These rules can be shared between the parties and can contradict one side. This idea has not changed with electronic games, and they are not the first ones to have a non-living party. Just like card games have a card deck as the opposing party alongside other human players, electronic games use their device as the party to oppose the human player. In the end, modern video and computer games use the same rules and point calculation methods used past games and plays, be it sports or card games. After all, Super Mario Bros. is just a continuation of our play culture.

Steve Russel’s famous By gosh, it’s a Pinball! is a good contrast how not even the first computer game was, in the end, nothing new. After the Second World War, game parlors had become the cradle of youth culture, and pinball game parlors (or game arcades) became the place where young men and their girlfriends could escape to from the world, essentially becoming their own little separate worlds from the oppressing reality. This world was from the reach of mainstream culture and its moral guardsmen, allowing the youths to let their suppressed side to blow out.

Originally released 1969, this song is iconic representation of the time

Pinball Wizard is an anti-hero, an abused young man who is shunned by the larger world. However, in the game parlors he is able to convey himself to his peers, becoming one with the machine.

As such, it should be no surprise that parents would be worried about these parlors. After all, penny arcades before had been seen as place of vagabonds and men with beaten past. A place where people with less fortune could come together and entertain themselves with cheap coin operated machines, while possibly making connections to the criminal world. Different leagues and mafias controlled these penny arcades at during the 1930’s America, and as such it’s understandable to see people shunning arcades well up to the 1980’s. That shadow never left these places where men could get together and play games. It could be argued that even the games we have nowadays are suffering from similar complains, where moral guardians blame games for ruining whatever they deem valuable. In this light it is interesting to note that it is more than probable that many parents bought computers and game consoles to keep their children out of the arcades later down the line to keep them away from entering the wayside paths of life.

While my text is largely based on American culture, it’s not to say that the rest of the world saw these parlors in any better light. In France, Jean-Claude Baudot banned all coin operated machines in 1937 to prevent the disease penny arcades were seen as. According to Baudot, this law was still in effect up to the early 1980’s, though the law had been eased and circumvented in all ways and manners. In 1981 Ferdinand Marcos, the president of Philippines,  banned all arcade video games. To enforce his rule he smashed arcade machines in public. This is the same man who banned Voltes V  and other similarly themed cartoons just before the series’ final episode. Both of these men echo events that had taken place during world history time and time again, and events like these would be repeated after them, like how Pokémon was seen as the tool of the Devil by some religious forces. In Colorado Springs, 1999, pastor Mark Juvera took a 30-inch sword to a Pikachu toy in front of 85 children and calling Pokémon poison, not to mention the claims of video and computer games causing players to be more violent. Neither of these points are anything special, they’re just continuing  the same backlash games and other media forms have experienced throughout the ages.

It is somewhat ironic to note that television was seen as one of the remedies to keep these rebelling young people at home, as the 1950’s saw it entering mass markets despite not many having the money to buy one. Television didn’t give solution to the problems parents saw game parlors to be, as the problem was social and parlors were not the originator. Turned out that these young people watched television and took themselves to play pinball with their mates. Basically everything that was seen a solution to a problem would later be deemed a problem in itself as well, as seen with books, movies, amateur radio and maybe some day with games too. The problems were real to an extent, they are always more about the stereotypical view the mass culture takes at them. Books, amateur radio, television and games share the same blame that they keep people, children and adults alike, inside rather than “allowing” them to go outside and play, or do something more worthwhile.

Arcades, as we now remember them, didn’t come from nowhere during the 1970’s. They are just those game parlors with a new name and new machines, just like penny arcades before them. We can trace these places back to the game events held before mechanical games existed. In Herrad von Landsberg’s manuscript from the 1100’s we can see a pair of knights fighting each other through controlled marionettes. While it would be easy to compare this to modern era Vs. fighting  game, that would be far too direct. We do not know whether this was a common event or not, nor whether or not this is a real depiction as intended.

Artikel_45890_bilder_value_1_augsburger_puppenkiste1[1]Street Fighter with dolls?

Nevertheless, the core idea of contest and games are still present, even in the physical games. In the same extension, cock-fighting has been compared to Pokémon and other similar games. This is not rare in any way, as all games have their roots in some form of other plays and games. Majority of first person shooters are based on war games, strategy games are war board games, platformers are adventures children have in forest and elsewhere and imitates jumping form rock to rock, fighting games are rooted in physical combat and so on. Plays and games the adults play do stem from the childhood games, and to certain extent adulthood work and politics are just grander, more serious form of these games. It should be noted that video games especially have stemmed from boy’s play culture (and still reside there due to the competitive nature of it), thou arcade games like Pac-Man and Breakout are more or less neutral in their approach.

But what are the original electronic or mechanic games that can be called as the firs physical grandfathers of modern computer and video games? Perhaps the first ancestral machines are the automata, with machines offering entertainment and awe to the audience. However, games require interactivity, and one of the first proto-interactive machines that allowed the user to dictate some elements of the entertainment was the mutoscope from the late 1800’s. It was deemed to cause moral decay and was blamed to corrupt the youths for the pennies they cost. Pornography was a thing, and mutoscope is most remembered for those kinds of movies. We shouldn’t forget shooting galleries and the like as one of the proto-interactive game machines, as Nintendo’s Zapper and the games it used are pretty much a straight continuation.

Perhaps the mutoscope’s history is closer to films overall. However, it’s slightly more interactive nature does make it a relative of playing

1900’s saw all these machines to become everyday objects, and despite the bad rap they got, they spread like wildfire throughout the world. UK created their own machines alongside Americans (a lot of mutoscope’s UK had were either destroyed or exported to the Denmark during coin change in 1971), France and Germany had their own similar history with coin operated machines and Japan had adult-only pachinko parlors in 1930’s Nagoya. It’s not a large step from these mechanical devices towards electronic games, and through that, into computer and video games.


While many of the fears from the late 1800’s and early-to-mid 1900’s still persist when it comes to electronic games, those who play games and are most enthralled by them has not changed too much since then. Things changed with the advent of Golden Era of games, especially with Pac-Man, a game that attracted both men and women to play. Pac-Man as a character was largely a non-descriptive blob despite the game’s and character’s name.

I’ve talked about Industrial revolution being the main dividing point between arts, crafts and design, but when it comes to games it also created a cultural point with boys’ and girls’ cultures. According to E. Anthony Rotundo (1994), the industrial revolution separated boys from their father’s work environment, leaving them for their mothers’ to take care of. Boys moved outside from there, as motherly care usually emphasised good morals, pampering and kindness. Boys’ games and plays often were almost the opposite of this with physical contact with surprising aggressive attitudes. Going against mother’s command was a way to show that you weren’t a momma’s boy, and building from that onwards is a sort of step towards independent manhood. Regardless of how wild these games were, boys would return home to their mothers. One could say that unlike the Freudian Oedipus complex, boys’ fight against their mothers’ culture.

Rotundo contrasts this against girls’ culture, which is tied to their mothers, which have lived in a sort of symbiosis with each other. While he boys’ “adventure island” had a confrontational setting, girls’ had their own place within the “secret gardens.” While girls tend to favour for more socially interactive game with less or not emphasize on competition and physical contact, the concept of secret garden, a secret place reserved only for them and their fantasies. It should be noted that a lot of books for girls are the opposite of this thinking, where their normal lives are broken by a fantastic individual of sorts and their lives see a change, often at the cost of that secluded place. The differences between classic boys’ and girls’ literature is that boys had the heroes travel far away, while the girls’ literature tended to emphasize on staying home. Through that the stakes were different; for boys the adventures were physical like their games, whereas girls’ adventures were more about the psychology and emotions.

It’s not hard to see why electronic games would end up seen as a boys’ hobby. It is far easier to create a game that’s based on competition and rules rather than a game that requires methodical interaction between characters. A game is easy to program to offer a direct challenge the player needs to achieve, like destroying alien invaders than it is to program to reply to inquiries in a naturalistic and sophisticated way to counter the player’s emotional state.

The question whether or not there is a difference between boys’ and girls’ is cultural at its core. American game developer Purple Moon was known for developing games aimed at girls of age 8-14, and their Secret Paths series could be used as an archetypical example of what is generally seen as a girls’ game.

Secret Path games showcases some traditional symbols and images associated with girls. The cursor in the example above is a heart or a ladybug, there is no physical conflict in itself, and whatever action there is leans on metaphysical than physical. Interestingly, despite Purple Moon’s games tend to be simplified in how things are presented, they still manage to make better use of progressive values than most games we have nowadays.

While Purple Moon’s games were designed to be more about places of relaxation, where girls could pour out their stress and observe things with their hearts, so to speak. Each character has their own secret, and it is up to the player to find the secret paths that are laden with gemstones and other artefacts that give social, emotional and psychological strength. These visuals and pathways are representative of the characters’ plight, and the stories these physical environments contain encourage the player to try things out in their own social life. It’s not hard to see why the founder Brenda Laurel called their games as friendship adventures.

Similarly, Theresa Duncan’s Zero Zero is another example of a game that ties to girls’ culture.

While Secret Paths can be regarded as a continuation to the secret garden idea, Louise Fitzhugh’s 1964 novel Harriet the Spy, is about another sort of play space for girls; the city. Within the book, Harriet observes her city’s, her microworld’s she creates, citizens and their complex interactions and how she changed them as she sees fit. This idea of creating a world and having total control over it is similar to SimCity. The difference between the two is how SimCity is more about playing god and micro-manage everything. To Harriet, creating this world is just the first step, and moves towards spying on the individuals to the point of breaking in real world buildings to understand adult interactions. The same contrast repeats here; there is no physical confrontation like there would be in boys’ novel, all the challenge comes from the human interactions and gaining information on the interactions.

It wouldn’t be too hard to see Harriet the Spy as a stealth game that has no combat. Zero Zero is essentially a computer adventure game version of the novel, where the player goes through the city and similarly seeks people’s’ stories. Despite this innocent sounding setting, Zero Zero and other games from Theresa Duncan do not try to be sleek and pat down the reality. On the contrary, Zero Zero‘s French are bored and tend to insult the player in a stereotypical fashion, as do the flowers. Women with strong make-up smoke freely and tend to flash themselves, promising an event in the Red Lights district.  The Sims has a considerable female fanbase, and in a way can be seen as a modern example of a game that allows the player not only play dollhouse, but also play god and decide the interactions.

Secret Path games and Zero Zero are good examples of two strong sides of traditional girls’ games. Secret Path games are very balanced and encourages the player to feel, so to speak. Zero Zero is an example of a game that shows the misshapen world in a very caricature fashion and encourages the player to seek knowledge and information that is hidden from them. Both are about exploring a physical space, but in the end both are about the players’ inner worlds.

Games like Pac-Man and Nights into Dreams are in neither space as such. Pac-Man‘s design as a character and game had no points to either direction, and as such I personally consider Ms. Pac-Man a needles exercise in hindsight despite it becoming extremely popular. Nights into Dreams on the other hand was designed to be androgynous from the get go, both in gameplay and character designs. It even has a boy and a girl character, Elliot and Claris, who have very different dreams for their life.

As games have evolved, contact between the two cultures have become more frequent. One could argue that open world games that contain as much non-physical social confrontation as they do physical are mixing these cultures. MMORPG’s and other games that offer larger interaction with real life people also supports the idea of supportive interaction between girls while offering brotherly confrontation and rivalry boys’ culture has. This sort of neutral space in gaming requires both sides giving something in, and in real life this can cause some argumentation and fighting between children.

Stereotypical girls’ games tend not to be remembered. Purple Moon folded in 1999 and merged with Mattel, and their games were not without criticism. Their games were called to be called sexist, stereotyping the characters and themes, a thing that can be extended to a lot of other girls’ games, especially Barbie games. The space where these games were set in was another major factor.

Space is a keyword here. The pinball culture if the mid-1900’s was very masculine and based on long-standing tradition of penny arcades. When these games began to appear outside their initially designated areas, e.g. pinballs in restaurants and shopping centres, it was seen as a positive progress as anyone, women included, could now access these machines. As games moved away from spaces that were largely seen as dominated by men like universities’ IT-departments and penny arcades, the view on them changed. Pinball is not associated with violent rebels any more, but as a classic game everybody can play. Similarly, the advent of Japanese games in arcades and the renaissance of electronic gaming after the second Video game Crash introduced further colourful and fantastic creatures to the electronic game culture. Pac-Man, Mario Bros., and their like, despite being competitive, offered visuals that weren’t all about blowing shit up, but also attractive colours and challenges that weren’t just about the abstract.

It should be noted that games like Super Mario Bros., Sonic the Hedgehog and Abe’s Odyssey garnered players from both sexes, and both games shows that in the end, the player character doesn’t really matter as people don’t tend to see themselves in the character. If there is a character creation, sometimes people make themselves, but often it’s an admired, a fantasy version of themselves. They create a fantasy persona, and similarly each player character out there is a fantasy persona that the player doesn’t exactly identify with. After all, the player character is largely unimportant, the game world is what matters.

Perhaps the only truly neutral game between the spaces and cultures is Tetris. Tetris wasn’t just a game that can be described a perfect game and neutral, but a game that was everywhere. It was on home computer where anyone could play it and it was on the Game Boy where everyone could carry it with them. There is no true confrontation in the game, and despite the having a competitive goal in form of scoring, the gameplay is from neither side particularly.

Whiskers against moustache

The thing with Pokémon design is that there are no rules to follow, outside the usual make them look strange and fantastic. It’s not like in Digimon, where everything goes and you are free to do essentially whatever you want. However, most of the time people tend to bring the argument that most Pokémon tend to be based on real life animals or mythical creatures. It’s a good one, and it could be argued further that most of the best designed Pokémon stick with real life approach in their sort of simplicity combined to the whole reality-is-strange approach, like with Bulbasaur. It’s a strange dinosaur like thing with a bulb on its back. It’s simple, rather cute and pretty damn neat design. Pokémon evolution is more like a metamorphose which expand on the concept. Bulbasaur grows in size as does the bulb when it turns into Ivysaur, and in Venusaur it gets this huge appearance with the leafs and flower on its back. It loses its cuteness and is somewhat grotesque in its original appearance, but this sort of ‘growing bigger’ is what Pokémon at their core do. Digimon are the ones that go to wildly different directions, sometimes having no connection to each other thematically or otherwise. That’s pretty great on its own right, allowing large amount of variety in somewhat small range of sample.

Original Pokémon design was restricted by the Game Boy itself. There’s only so much you can cram data on its screen and the colour, or the lack of thereof, puts up restrictions. Pokémon is a good example of a game series where you can see how the designs don’t get better when more freedom is given to the designers from the hardware side. Nowadays Pokémon come in all forms that make little to no sense, like ice cream and keychains. Vanillite and its forms are the most retarded Pokémon design out there, competed with Klefki, Rotom’s forms and Trubbish. They showcase the example of designers having the problems of coming up new Pokémon, and rather than basing them on real life animals and making variations of them. We could have shitloads of more Pokémon based on different breeds of animals rather than take some good shit and come up with bad shit like Binacle or Kling. A goddamn metal gear Pokémon for fuck’s sake.

The new Alolan form for Rattata is an interesting case study the mentality of modern Pokémon design in many ways, mainly how that certain simplicity is gone and things have to be more busy, more mean and extreme to satisfy the designers’ wants. The same applies to Mega evolutions, but they’re a whole another thing I could rant about. Let’s just stick with Rattata now.

Aloha ratattatataatatatatatatata

The changes are numerous. The posing is the same, but the silhouette has been changed. Rattata is just a rat with some peculiarities to it. It’s design is straightforward and just works, so to speak. Not!Hawaii Rattata on the other hand has revamps that don’t really mesh well. You can even see that the Alolan Rattata has lost its belly and its backside has a smoother curve. The pattern on its belly is not jagged rather than a smooth. Claws have been elongated and the fangs are less beaver like with a more taper to them. The tail is thicker and shorter with hair protrusion at the end for no reason. The ears share that protrusion , and they really add nothing to the design. Those, and the solid moustache, are good examples of how modern Pokémon designs just put on elements that add nothing to the design. They exist there solely to make designs more busy than what they need to be and they degrade those designs because of that. On top of that, the shading above Alolan Rattata’s head makes it look angrier. Gotta have them look more angry for the American audience, just like Kirby. It’s nose also is more on the front, with both holes visible. There’s a fan made comparison floating on the net how a modern Charizard would look with a supposed Generation 1 Garchomp next to it.

It can be understood why Alolan Rattata is like this. It’s supposed to be the Dark-Type to standard Rattata’s Normal. It’s supposed to look a bit meaner, but it ends up being DeviantArt tier edgy redesign. One could argue that Dark as a type is edgy in itself and the design matches it, let me remind Sableye, Scraggy, Sharpedo and others don’t fall into this trope. Pangoro the least, it being a damn bancho. That’s a whole another trope.

Some of the other Alolan Forms we’ve seen thus far do better or worse. Sandshrew is an igloo on two legs while Sandslash looks stupid with its spikes just being straight like that. Vulpix and Ninetails work the best of the bunch, striking a level of Marilyn Monroe like appearance in them. Alolan Exeguttor became a meme for a damn good reason, and Alolan Meowth is a sassy black woman. Marowack’s complete type change and new design is pretty laughable, but nothing can really compare how Alolan Raichu lacks any of the sharpness the original had. It looks like a Chinese knock-off now.

Alolan forms are designed the way they are for the sake of adding something new to the older Pokémon. Pokémon has always had a gimmick to it after the first game, and these Regional variants is Sun and Moon‘s. It pisses me off that Game Freak really doesn’t stack their gimmicks on top of each other. Day/Night and Seasonal cycle on top of Mega evolutions and these Regional variants, that I hope will stick and will be appearing in future games in various new forms to mess with the metagame, but just abandon them for what? Keeping each game unique? Perhaps, but obsoleting their older games would do them some good. Pokémon has barely changed in its twenty years of existence when it comes to gameplay, and revising the game play model they’re using would have an impact. The overall sense is that Pokémon hasn’t changed, and that may play in some part it losing to Yokai Watch in Japan. Pokémon Go‘s success is without a doubt part because it is Pokémon game, and that it breaks the usual mould. Then again, it has given the franchise certain recognizable stability, something that isn’t reflected in the creature designs.

Monthly Three; Plays and parlors

A game is an interaction between at least two individuals under certain rules to achieve some sort of goal or achievement. These rules can be shared between the parties and can contradict one side. This idea has not changed with electronic games, and they are not the first ones to have a non-living party. Just like card games have a card deck as the opposing party alongside other human players, electronic games use their device as the party to oppose the human player. In the end, modern video and computer games use the same rules and point calculation methods used past games and plays, be it sports or card games. After all, Super Mario Bros. is just a continuation of our play culture.

Steve Russel’s famous By gosh, it’s a Pinball! is a good contrast how not even the first computer game was, in the end, nothing new. After the Second World War, game parlors had become the cradle of youth culture, and pinball game parlors (or game arcades) became the place where young men and their girlfriends could escape to from the world, essentially becoming their own little separate worlds from the oppressing reality. This world was from the reach of mainstream culture and its moral guardsmen, allowing the youths to let their suppressed side to blow out.

Originally released 1969, this song is iconic representation of the time

Pinball Wizard is an anti-hero, an abused young man who is shunned by the larger world. However, in the game parlors he is able to convey himself to his peers, becoming one with the machine.

As such, it should be no surprise that parents would be worried about these parlors. After all, penny arcades before had been seen as place of vagabonds and men with beaten past. A place where people with less fortune could come together and entertain themselves with cheap coin operated machines, while possibly making connections to the criminal world. Different leagues and mafias controlled these penny arcades at during the 1930’s America, and as such it’s understandable to see people shunning arcades well up to the 1980’s. That shadow never left these places where men could get together and play games. It could be argued that even the games we have nowadays are suffering from similar complains, where moral guardians blame games for ruining whatever they deem valuable. In this light it is interesting to note that it is more than probable that many parents bought computers and game consoles to keep their children out of the arcades later down the line to keep them away from entering the wayside paths of life.

While my text is largely based on American culture, it’s not to say that the rest of the world saw these parlors in any better light. In France, Jean-Claude Baudot banned all coin operated machines in 1937 to prevent the disease penny arcades were seen as. According to Baudot, this law was still in effect up to the early 1980’s, though the law had been eased and circumvented in all ways and manners. In 1981 Ferdinand Marcos, the president of Philippines,  banned all arcade video games. To enforce his rule he smashed arcade machines in public. This is the same man who banned Voltes V  and other similarly themed cartoons just before the series’ final episode. Both of these men echo events that had taken place during world history time and time again, and events like these would be repeated after them, like how Pokémon was seen as the tool of the Devil by some religious forces. In Colorado Springs, 1999, pastor Mark Juvera took a 30-inch sword to a Pikachu toy in front of 85 children and calling Pokémon poison, not to mention the claims of video and computer games causing players to be more violent. Neither of these points are anything special, they’re just continuing  the same backlash games and other media forms have experienced throughout the ages.

It is somewhat ironic to note that television was seen as one of the remedies to keep these rebelling young people at home, as the 1950’s saw it entering mass markets despite not many having the money to buy one. Television didn’t give solution to the problems parents saw game parlors to be, as the problem was social and parlors were not the originator. Turned out that these young people watched television and took themselves to play pinball with their mates. Basically everything that was seen a solution to a problem would later be deemed a problem in itself as well, as seen with books, movies, amateur radio and maybe some day with games too. The problems were real to an extent, they are always more about the stereotypical view the mass culture takes at them. Books, amateur radio, television and games share the same blame that they keep people, children and adults alike, inside rather than “allowing” them to go outside and play, or do something more worthwhile.

Arcades, as we now remember them, didn’t come from nowhere during the 1970’s. They are just those game parlors with a new name and new machines, just like penny arcades before them. We can trace these places back to the game events held before mechanical games existed. In Herrad von Landsberg’s manuscript from the 1100’s we can see a pair of knights fighting each other through controlled marionettes. While it would be easy to compare this to modern era Vs. fighting  game, that would be far too direct. We do not know whether this was a common event or not, nor whether or not this is a real depiction as intended.

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Nevertheless, the core idea of contest and games are still present, even in the physical games. In the same extension, cock-fighting has been compared to Pokémon and other similar games. This is not rare in any way, as all games have their roots in some form of other plays and games. Majority of first person shooters are based on war games, strategy games are war board games, platformers are adventures children have in forest and elsewhere and imitates jumping form rock to rock, fighting games are rooted in physical combat and so on. Plays and games the adults play do stem from the childhood games, and to certain extent adulthood work and politics are just grander, more serious form of these games. It should be noted that video games especially have stemmed from boy’s play culture (and still reside there due to the competitive nature of it), thou arcade games like Pac-Man and Breakout are more or less neutral in their approach.

But what are the original electronic or mechanic games that can be called as the firs physical grandfathers of modern computer and video games? Perhaps the first ancestral machines are the automata, with machines offering entertainment and awe to the audience. However, games require interactivity, and one of the first proto-interactive machines that allowed the user to dictate some elements of the entertainment was the mutoscope from the late 1800’s. It was deemed to cause moral decay and was blamed to corrupt the youths for the pennies they cost. Pornography was a thing, and mutoscope is most remembered for those kinds of movies. We shouldn’t forget shooting galleries and the like as one of the proto-interactive game machines, as Nintendo’s Zapper and the games it used are pretty much a straight continuation.

1900’s saw all these machines to become everyday objects, and despite the bad rap they got, they spread like wildfire throughout the world. UK created their own machines alongside Americans (a lot of mutoscope’s UK had were either destroyed or exported to the Denmark during coin change in 1971), France and Germany had their own similar history with coin operated machines and Japan had adult-only pachinko parlors in 1930’s Nagoya. It’s not a large step from these mechanical devices towards electronic games, and through that, into computer and video games.

They’re bringing the red cat ghost franchise here too

Youkai Watch has been stirring Japan for some time now, and I’ve been trying to keep my big yapper shut about it, but screw it. Jibanyan has been able to beat Pikachu in many fields for now, and the question is whether or not Game Freaks will tackle this challenger head on, or will they allow Pokémon franchise to grow old. The thing is, Pokémon was a great children’s franchise. Not so much anymore, where it’s a franchise modern parents remember from their childhood, or still follow strongly. The games have essentially stayed the same and the cartoon has more or less stagnated in many ways for some time already. Fans will of course argue that Natures and other little things have changed the game, but those barely make an impact to the now true and tested catch, train, get four attack slots and six monsters.

I’ll be frank; if Pokémon will not reinvent itself as a franchise this decade, it’ll end up in a sad state.

As I mentioned, Youkai watch has been successful in Japan. Immensely so. Youkai Watch 2 surpassed five million copies sold in Japan. Jibanyan has even replaced Pikachu’s central throne in the Next Generation World Hobby Fair. It’s safe to say that Youkai Watch has gained a strong position as one of the new main children’s franchises in Japan. A franchise that has not changed with the times in almost twenty years nor has reinvented itself at any point will have a hard time to stand against something new. New is not necessarily better, but when new challenges the old this hard (and topping it), the old is doing something wrong.

With Youkai Watch slated for Western release, the question that everybody asks if it can challenge Pokémon outside their native soil. After all, both of them have some Japanese culture in them, Youkai Watch is the one hard-rooted to the culture from the get go. In order for West to accept Youkai Watch in the same way Pokémon was, the localisation work needs to be spot on.

The otaku culture in West hates dubs, generally speaking. I’m not sure whether or not this is due to the stupidly purist nature at large, or because people simply regard Japanese better for their ears. Sure, there are differences in the quality of the dubbing, yet the arguments are from universal.

Dubbing is not destroying the original product or anything similar. Dubbing is expensive, costing about $10 000 per episode for a Saturday morning cartoon. Dubbing a movie can be even more expensive, and with each failed take the time ticks, spending more money. As such, dubbing historically has been done to series and movies that have been regarded high quality enough to get such treatment. Dubbing was and is still done to show respect towards the body of work, not the opposite. Dubbing also ensures that the largest possible audience will have an easy access to the product. While reading the subtitles has been in the local culture for a long time, this does not apply to other cultures.

The original Godzilla movie is an example where localisation did not only dub the product, but went their way to give it an extra localisation in form of Raymond Burr’s inclusion. This allowed wider spreading of the movie, but also lowered the bar for people to see the movie. The localised Godzilla movie is not a lesser product in any sense from the original Japanese production, but it is different enough to say that it is its own entity and a worthwhile entry. Unlike with some later dubs, it had both proper budget and approach to make justice to the film. Later in the line with Godzilla movies, budgets were cut and quality became a lesser concern. It wasn’t until later that purists and extreme fans began to regard the localised Godzilla as a lesser product, a thing that nobody though at the time, not even Toho. History has been rewritten by fans in this regard, and it is only rather recently that even the fandom has began to accept the localised version with the high regard it deserves.

Youkai Watch will be a show I will follow relatively closely in the beginning, because it requires similar approach as with the original Godzilla. The franchise is getting ready to be pushed by all fronts; Nintendo publishes the game, Hasbro manages the toys and Viz will push out the cartoon and comics. Whoever is/are in charge of the core translation have rather large responsibility to bring in a good translation. Not necessarily accurate to the word, but something that will go well with the Western audience. Youkai Watch is facing an uphill battle already, and doing a half-assed localisation will only yield lacklustre success.

I have peculiar history with Pokémon myself. Cyber Solider Porygon was aired in Japan on December 16th, 1997. The same day the news broke out about the epileptic seizures it caused, and I remember watching the news that day and seeing the footage. I’m not sure why this caught to my mind then, but about two years later sometime in 1999 I recall reading a magazine in a hospital about the incident and how the series would be coming to local television. Pokémon began to be pushed in the local market around the same, games actually hitting the shelves and so on. I find it weird to get interested in a series because a news piece on television stuck to my head.

After Pokémon hit the television and games became widespread, I too got swept by the mania and for a good reason. Pokémon was a big damn hit with long lasting effect, and proved to be a franchise that impacted the cultural mind. Pokémon was sort of last of its kind, a game that wasn’t a hit with the hardcore gamers and stayed in the Red Ocean. One thing that the series is being constantly criticised of is its unwillingness to change any of the core mechanics or implement all the changes from preceding games to the new ones. For example, the Generation 3 lacked the Day-Night cycle introduced in Generation 2. Then again, Game Freak’s staff is barely able to optimise Pokémon games for the 3D on the 3DS for stable framerate, a thing multiple third parties are able to do just fine.

I want to see Youkai Watch become a successful franchise in the West, to become a new Pokémon to in Pokémon’s place. Much like how I have grown too complacent with the shit I write, so has Game Freak and Nintendo become too complacent with Pokémon as a whole. I can’t fault them really, as the franchise has been able to bring in stable revenues. Digimon has been regarded as the only strong contender against the Yellow mouse machine, but even then Digimon has been mismanaged to large extend, and actually the Digimon movie is an example where the source material was not treated with respect during the localisation. I’m sure Youkai Watch was a surprise to Nintendo, even if it is a game that ensured software sales for their system. This may be a good enough reason for Game Freak and Nintendo to sit back and do their stuff and allow Youkai Watch to become the top dog, but then we can always ask if that is enough from them. Companies should want to keep their top dogs where they belong. It’s easy to do so when there’s no competition, but whenever a challenger appears, one should be willing to tackle this challenger to the fullest extent of their abilities.

In other news, Discotek Media has licensed Giant Gorg.

Monster Hunter and multiplayer could be even more open

Few of my friends have been asking me to get back into Monster Hunter with MonHun 4G. I did enjoy MonHun on the PSP despite the controls being rather atrociously laid out. Claw Grip is one of the unhealthiest and hand hateful position you can have your hand in. Despite my stance against CAPCOM products due to their awful customer and business practices, my interest to play with my friends took the better of me.

Or it would have if Japan would still allow worldwide multiplayer as a standard.

It’s not surprising that CAPCOM divided servers. The division between East and West has been a standard, but there’s no real good reason to create the split. They can give reasons ranging from server problems to connection speeds to language barriers. Any and all customers who are even a bit tech savvy can call out on their bullshit. Language barrier wouldn’t even be a problem, if it was treated in a proper manner. 3DS’ own regional locking is not a problem either, as there’s more than enough games that don’t give two shits about regional lock in Online multiplayer, but for some reason you can’t play local multiplayer with different region consoles/games for some God forsaken reason. Granted, regional promotions, events and addons could pose a problem, but even in that the following example shows how it’s done. Much like with Pokémon, it would be possible to have every language mingle with each other with no problem, and regional things would only apply for that region. For example, if a Japanese and English version players would play together, Japanese would see チャージアックス (Charge Axe) while English would see Charge Blade. This is a matter of coding, and it would seem that CAPCOM doesn’t want to put that extra effort in making the series a worldwide experience.

That’s actually a point that should be emphasized. Monster Hunter has always been a game where you gather your party and go hunt some monsters, despite certain issues earlier in the series or the limit of access to other players. In Japan, AdHoc play is extremely easy as you could find Hunters in almost every corner of any of the larger cities. You could find a hunting party during your train trip and have a short session with the before the train trip ends. Not so much elsewhere in the world, locally practically impossible. I don’t expect Japanese developer to understand different cultures, as it is apparent not even Nintendo wants to deal with West. It’s sad to say, but Japan doesn’t give two shits about Western markets. That is the reason you see Monster Hunter most on handheld consoles rather than on home consoles nowadays. The average Japanese person has no time to sit down and play their consoles anymore. Then there’s the sad fact how the number of children in Japan has been in a steady decrease, which translates to whole lot of other problems to those who wish to create successful kids’ franchises from the past decades. As such, tapping to the Western market would be their absolutely best deed they could do. I can even offer an example in form of Nintendo; during the 80’s and mid to late 90’s, Nintendo had a strong Western presence. They worked with Western developers and have Howard Lincoln as their contact person, who communicated between the two sides. However, after Lincoln moved on, Nintendo’s attitude towards their Western developers, which at that point was essentially Rare, went cold. It’s all cultural of course, and Japan’ long history of being only with themselves and excluding everyone else is well known. It’s sad to see this sort of paradigm has not vanished with time, but has taken numerous different kind of forms.

If we could create the most idealised MonHun game, I guess that one would be Monster Hunter World, where CAPCOM would put every and any content from past games into one massively comprehensive game. Like the given title, the game would be worldwide, calling any and all players to join one massive community of hunters. All the differences the players would have from any point, they all would be connected by their wish to slay dinosaurs and dragons. Basic MMO solutions with servers and whatnot of course would apply, but the point is to bring people together without limitations. Knowing CAPCOM, this is impossible due to their ineptitude to properly satisfy their customers to a large extent. Otherwise it would be completely possible for them to do something like that, it’s not like CAPCOM has seen this sort of products, just in a more limited form.

In the modern era of online multiplayer gaming, exclusion is far from good form. There is no reason not to create an all inclusive multiplayer experience, where everybody could play with anyone from anywhere from the world. Connections can (and often will) vary from bad to worse, but that’s all part of the experience in the end. There’s a lot of people across the world with various attitudes and ways to communicate, and we can’t really understand these people unless we can mingle, even if it is through a hunt of Rathalos. The standard messages most online multiplayers have are often enough to convey the feelings and meanings of the players, but more than not the gameplay and how they act during it allows us to see the similarities we share. There are those who are there just to hunt and help others, there are those who are there to compete for the best pieces and some are there to show the ropes to all newcomers. It’s all about the experience, and limiting who we can play with is directly taking a piece out of that experience.

Of course, one problem is that Monster Hunter is far more popular in Japan than in Western regions but perhaps the more free multiplayer could help in this.

In the end, I could always buy an European 3DS or N3DS Flanders, but to quote a wiseman; Fuck that shit. While I understand why Nintendo chooses to go with region locking, I agree with all the people criticising it. It’s an old method to control a market, and both SONY and Microsoft have opted for better solution to some extent. I have to say that I am rather fond how PSN overall works with its regional differences, as it allows the gray area market to work full force via PSN codes, for SONY’s benefit no less. Screwing with customer can end up the customer screwing with you, and then it becomes a never ending cycle. For companies developing consoles, keeping an eye on the hack scene and what is most popular function among the users would be a good place see what the truly core customer may want to see from you.

A time to finish

Timed games are something to be careful of if you’re a game designer. Your customers have so many ways of playing their games and the speed they want to finish them. An action game might be fast and pull the player into finishing the game fast, and some RPG might be more slow and demand the player advance slowly. Of course, this is just a black and white model we usually think in.

Speaking of Black and White, I recently heard something completely stupid in the latest Pokémon games. It seems that the game developers wanted the game to be played fast through, as it has two week time limit to finish the game all the way to the Elite Four or so, or you won’t get people and stuff in your version’s unique town; Black City or White Forest. That’s two weeks in real world time by the way.

What GameFreaks was thinking isn’t beyond me, but it’s completely and utterly stupid. Sure, we all know the reasons why such time limit exists, but the question is why it is punished to play the game the way you like? I enjoy playing Pokémon the slow way, balancing my team with every new area and testing everything out bit by bit. It usually takes me a month to finish the storyline, that is if I don’t rush. I’ve finished Pokémon games in a day or two without using traded Pokémon, so you can’t say that I can’t be fast. It’s the choice I opted for.

The two week time limit wouldn’t be bad if it was in-world, within the game. The game then should have it’s own time independent from real-world time. However, seeing the storyline in Pokémon games usually takes months to make any sense, this isn’t an option. You can always argue that yes, core audience will play it within the first week. Why would you want to limit your audience? I know working people who do not have enough time to invest into such endeavour.

This is completely different from, say… Third Super Robot Wars Alpha, in which you open a secret unit in the last stage if you’ve completed the game in certain amount of turns or less. Here you can reload your save to start a new game, so you can always try to get that secret again and again, but in Pokémon B/W if you lose your city population, they’re lost. You alone can’t do anything about it any more. If you want the population back, you have have a friend who has the population and link with him. It’s complete bullshit and they know it. I hope this kind of mechanic will never appear in Pokémon again.

On a side note, they should stop making Event-only Pokémon you can’t have inside the game, or make sure that everybody has a possibility to get said monster no matter what via WiFi or similar. Do continue giving special event monsters, but don’t cripple the games. Perfectionists will always be mad at you like hellhounds.

What the timed secret in Pokémon B/W has forced me is to restart my game. The game itself has no indication of the secret in any way, so I never knew this beforehand. Only few days ago I heard about this and I was astonished how stupid it was. Because of this I have no real motivation or reason to play it through the legit way. I traded few 50 and 70 level monsters from my other game and I’m currently breezing the game through just to get that one damn secret I barely give a flying duck about.


I’m currently giving more ducks to the current state of communism than what this game is

Another game with similar time limit is Final Fantasy IX. It has the secret weapon Excalibur II, which can be only acquired within certain time limit at the end of the game. Now, the speed run in NTCS is somewhat challenging, but SquEnix never took notice that PAL region games run on 50hz speed, making the challenge almost impossible. The time limit was never adjusted, and it’s completely stupid.

At this point we have four or five points why timed games are not a good idea. They’re a good idea when they’re not part of the main gameplay, or if they can be unlocked later on via replayed save or similar. Locking content from the player for a reason or another is not a good design choice at any angle you’re watching; it’s like buying a book, and never getting one of the chapters because you read too slow, or a movie on DVD is missing a chapter or bonus features because you never checked something in the menu or in the movie itself.

Customers have bought your product and expect to get 100% out of it. If they get any less you’re pushing them away. In games you may make the player work for the 100%, but never make it so that the player can’t access it. Game developers still make this and never realize that this design choice is rarely used for a very good reason.

This design choice is a good indicator that GameFreaks is losing their touch on their customers. Pokémon fans will eat whatever they’ll cater, but at the moment all new Pokémon games are intimidating as hell. I would still recommend people to play the first two generations, but anything after that stands far too firmly atop these two. People say that getting into Street Fighter is scary, but getting into Pokémon is far scarier. It’s just not as apparent at first.

I remember punching through every new Mega Man Battle Network game’s main story in around five or seven days. If I got the game on monday, I would spend all of my free time on it. Well, not all actually, just majority of it. I didn’t play it fast juts because it demanded it; I played it fast because it had much faster pace. I chose to play it fast and furiously.