It’s no secret that I’m fond of the occasional bout of Pokémon. Every now and then I like to indulge in their stunning world of friendship and rivalry. And by “every now and then” I actually mean any time I’m awake! In recent years, I’ve probably put more time into this series than I have any other gaming franchise. Adorable little creatures with elemental powers tearing each other to shreds for the entertainment of humans? Now that’s the child-friendly fun that I want from my video games! From the outside looking in, it may look like a vile, super powered take on cock fighting, but once you step into one of the many regions on display in these games, you’ll quickly find out that this is not the case. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
In each Pokémon game you are greeted by a well respected wildlife professional who wishes for you, a 10 year old child, to rush out into the big bad world, filled with villains and vicious animals known as pokémon to complete their life’s work for them... completely unpaid. Now this entire concept can pretty much be viewed in one of two ways. Firstly, you can choose to see it as complete exploitation of your young character as you take off across Kanto or Unova as a walking sweatshop. If you want to split hairs and raise controversy, then this is the option for you. However, if you’d rather see the game for what it really is instead, then you’ll discover that it’s about a small kid on an enormous adventure.
So what is in it for burly old me? Well apart from becoming attached to these pokémon and raising them with love and care, there’s also a huge amount of strategy to invest my time into. From a competitive gamer’s point of view, Pokémon is a vast well of opportunity and mind games to lose myself in. The amount of depth on the tournament circuit is absolutely mind blowing, considering how cute and cuddly the game may seem from the outside. Taking advantage of a huge range of statistics and utilizing each animal’s skill sets to their maximum potential adds endless hours of gameplay and tense battles into the mix.
And what about the children that Lovejoy wants us to consider? Well, this game has just about everything for them. It’s got adorable creatures that they can feed and care for, while rubbing the monsters’ fluffy bellies. The game teaches them to respect animals and how the world needs them in order to survive. It explains the importance of natural environments and how we should take care of the world we live in. It encourages playing with others in order to trade and swap you creatures, and even features slight horror themes like haunted houses and creepy forests to add a little tension to each region. There is also a great deal of simplistic logic, based within the realm of physics, which acts as an underlining to how the very game itself is played. Couple this with the bonds formed between player and pokémon throughout the duration of the story, and you’ve got yourself and perfect game for children to enjoy. How else would they possibly learn that in order to make friends you must beat them within an inch of their lives, keep them within the refines of a small cell and simply wait for Stockholm syndrome to take its course?
Once your sons and daughters bring home their newly acquired cell-bound human friends from the schoolyard in this fashion, what should they do with them? Well, handing them a pair of joypads and plopping them down on the couch in front of a Lego game is a fairly safe option. This is a series that hit the ground running back in 2005 and hasn’t even considered the possibilities of slowing down since. In fact, it’s gained so much momentum in the last decade that it’s become an absolute gaming juggernaut, Cain Marko-ing its way through many of the world’s most famous fictional franchises and uniting them all under one single name- Lego.
The game’s personality presented itself in similar manner to that of a silent movie. There was no dialogue here, instead each character had over the top cartoon like movements that would tell the story. Ironically, this slapstick recreation was a lot more believable than what we had seen on the big screen. The player would take control of an adorable little Lego character and quickly become accustomed to an incredibly simplistic control scheme which allowed them to jump, attack and build. Each character type would also have their own specific special move which must be used to advance through the game’s various puzzles. Players would never be alone however, as they’d be accompanied by an AI controlled character at all times, which they instantly could switch to whenever they chose.
The real fun, however, came when the AI is swapped for a secondary player. Suddenly this cute, action packed little game became one of the most enjoyable and relaxing co-op experiences this side of the Dagobah system. Flipping Lego blocks to build bridges to otherwise inaccessible areas or creating iconic machines from the movies was amazing amounts of fun while working together to solve a seemingly endless amount of simple puzzles. This, coupled with the drop in/drop out system that allowed second players to come and go as the pleased, made Lego Star Wars a family favourite and an instant classic.
In the aftermath of Lego Star Wars’ release, the flood gates for Lego adaptations of popular franchises were flung wide open. First came Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy, much to the delight of mothers, fathers and older siblings the world over. Then came a torrent of titles spanning everything from Harry Potter to Marvel Super Heroes. No matter how diverse the licenses were, whether it was Pirates of the Caribbean or Indiana Jones, the same simple format applied- Cute characters, cartoon logic, pick up and play controller configurations and a character swap mechanic that allowed for a second player to join or leave the game as they saw fit. There was no unnecessary commitment involved here. You didn’t have to play until the end of the level. No, your kid and their kidnapped friend could enjoy the game at their own pace. There was no pressure.
However, if all tastes are truly catered for in video gaming, then why on earth do people continue to buy adult games for children? Why is this still a thing? We live in an age when the mothers and fathers know more about these games than the kids do, yet they still buy them Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto titles to keep them quiet. With such a huge amount of Helen Lovejoy approved video games available, from Skylanders to Mario Maker, buying children games that are not suitable for their age bracket is quite simply ignorant and stupid. It needs to stop! The gates only swing one way with these titles- Everyone should be able to play kids’ games, preferably together, but only adults should be able to play anything that’s marked “18s” or “M for Mature”. It’s quite simply really. So much so, that even having to mention it sickens me. If apparently responsible parents don’t begin to realise this then gaming will forever remain in that limbo state of being a scapegoat for everything that people dislike about the world. Perhaps if people spent some time playing some of these wonderful games with the younger ones in their families, instead of giving them the controls of whatever happens to be the major seller at the time, gaming wouldn’t be seen a bad guy any longer. Won’t somebody think of the children? I think it’s time parents began thinking for themselves and reconsidering their roles in society.
Why do people gravitate towards top tier characters in the world of competitive video games? Also, why do they fear an adorable electric squirrel? Spud looks into tournament trends in his latest blog, Chasing the Edge.
Don't just stand there, get over to our Mind Games section to check it out.
Let's fighting love!
Veronica Taylor, the original voice of iconic pokémon trainer Ash Ketchum, took the time to speak with HSN at Pokécon Ireland recently about animated role models, voicing pokémon creatures, the possibilities of returning to the show and a whole lot more!
Join Spud as he spanks the monkey and slaps the chuckles out of hyenas on his quest to become The Lion King in this classic 16-Bit Super Nintendo game.