Counting Steps: Pokemon Go!

General info:

Official websiteWikipedia entry

  • Developed by: Niantic
  • Published by: Nintendo, Pokémon Company
  • Original release date: July 6th, 2016
  • Platforms: Android, iOS
  • Written in Unity

I was late to the game with Pokemon. My generation was in elementary school at the height of the Pokemon craze. From what I hear, it was a grand ole time. Due to some satanic-panic logic (that remains unclear to me) Pokemon was forbidden in my house, growing up.

In fact, that was the reason behind most prohibited activities of my childhood. No Casper. No Power Rangers. No Pokemon. All of that exclusion kept me away from the cool kids’ table. Nobody deserves to be bullied, but looking back, I wasn’t any of the things you usually see in kids that get picked on. Not being an obvious target wound up hurting me in the long run. “How could you get picked on? You’re the biggest kid in class!” I was. Eventually, I had to figure out how to get with it or get left in the dust. 

Not only was it banned at home, most of the disciplinary action I witnessed in grade school revolved around punishing kids for bringing Pokemon cards to school. That prohibition was my “in.” After confiscating a large quantity of Pokemon cards, teachers carelessly tossed the collection in one pile onto the floor. 

Predictably, there were dogpiles. Whatever lay on the floor was up for grabs. I was left out of the conversation, but I certainly overheard them. What 9 years old could resist the opportunity to brag about their 1st edition Charizard? Or their holographic Pikachu? The kids making fun of me gave away exactly which cards I should steal from them. With everyone’s eyes on the prize, nobody noticed the only kid in class who couldn’t play Pokemon joining the ambush. On a few occasions, I’d crawl out with quite the score. 

My brothers obtained their own collections over time. Only, they would get caught. Every time one brother was busted, I’d overhear my parents threaten to search every bag in the house. While they sniffed for clues, I’d ditch my cards among the discarded contraband in the kitchen garbage to save my skin. In the end, every heist proved fruitless. My name’s Eric Fellner, and I stole my friend’s and classmates’ cherished Pokemon cards so I could throw them in the trash.

July 2016. Imagine my surprise the day Pokemon Go comes out, and my mom has it downloaded on her phone. After all that effort! After years of enforcement! 

Possibly the allure of augmented reality swayed my mother’s feelings on the matter? Maybe she admitted to herself the ban never had any rationale to start with? Whatever occurred, Pokemon Go was my first game in the series at the age of 23. 

It was a good summer to start! I had returned from a month-long stay in Brooklyn, which was honestly the time of my life. I had booked my first show for my return to North Carolina. A month of walking around the city got me into great shape. To my knowledge, the relationship I was in was going well. July 2016 was starting off as the peak of my “Jordan-year.”

Additionally, the whole world seemed united in (at least novel) interest in this game. And I could finally buy-in! My co-workers at Starbucks would dip into the parking lot catching Pokemon while they took drive-through orders. All hours of the night, pods of kids and adults alike crowded what was suddenly considered “landmarks.” In search of resources. Battling over gyms. Trying to “catch ‘em all.” You’re familiar with the game.

Counting on!

Personally, I loved using the game as a pedometer! It kept me in great shape. Endlessly running through the neighborhood and shopping centers felt as true to the core gameplay loop of Pokemon as you can get. Only, there was slightly less animal violence.

Then, July came to a close. One night, I stopped in late to see my grandfather who lived in town, Popop. We had open plans to visit a 24-hour bakery in Charlotte called Amelie’s. Unfortunately, he passed in his sleep sometime before I arrived. 

Between that night and the funeral, the girl I had been seeing ended things over text. The next week, I played that show I had booked while I was in New York. Due to similar circumstances in the other bandmates’ lives, the band immediately disbanded. 

After a month of riding high, things crashed spectacularly. My enthusiasm for Pokemon Go died amid the chaos and depression of the time. I didn’t feel like running. I didn’t want to see people out, people together. It’s no exaggeration that week in August took years to recover from. Not just emotionally. Regaining the sense of momentum I felt that summer took time. Pokemon Go forever resides in my memory as the pop-culture phenomenon that coincides with that period of my life.

February 2020. After a couple rough years, I was quitting the worst job of my life (thanks for nothing, Target) to teach guitar full-time. Playing music, for a living. Then, wouldn’t you know it? COVID-19 struck! 

Boy did it. And the job I just went all-in on was at high risk of being yanked from under me. Reflecting now, I wonder if the sink or swim of the moment shocked me into a state of flow. One day, my boss and I devised a plan to transition the entire studio to a remote format. The next day, the admin team and teachers were executing that plan. We were infinitely fortunate. We never missed a single day of lessons.

My girlfriend lived two hours away in Raleigh, and we decided to lock down together while I could work remotely. Despite having some work, I still had a considerable amount of free time. We were 5 miles from Moore Park, the center of downtown Raleigh, with everything in the city closed. As that normal set in, I found myself running across Raleigh playing Pokemon Go. Me and my Snorlax, Popop.

Normal is hopefully starting to shift yet again, and I continue to log (slightly fewer) kilometers in Pokemon Go. I’m no longer interested in Pokemon to get along with classmates, and if tragedy strikes, I’m a little better prepared. Pokemon Go is more of a glorified pedometer more than augmented reality, but my fondness for it still runs deep.

This piece is part of a larger collaboration, Pokemon: Creator’s Catch. Click here to check out all the work by other great writers and artists!

Rant #005: Modern gaming never grew up.

Thanks to my girlfriend for making this for me.
Thanks to my friend for making this for me.

Let’s face it. The modern games makes the current gaming market a totally different market. You can’t deny it, it’s simply a fact that games lately are getting easier and easier and that you can’t go without a tutorial, even for an easy game. People always go nuts about the graphics and some things no longer matter for them. Is this current gaming market still as good as the old gaming market? Are retro games truly better or is it something else? Let’s rant!

Retro games are better!

Many claim that the original Mario is still better.
Many claim that the original Mario is still better.

Many gamers that are around the age of 20 or older will tell you that games of their childhood where better then the current games. Some will even stick with those good old games and play them even to this day, they are the so called retro gamers.

But if you ask younger gamers, they are going to look to games from 10 years ago and go bashing on the graphics or other things. Saying that they are old and actually saying they suck.

To make a long rant short, you can easily say that it’s a generation thing. Older people grew up with the old Mario and since it holds so many childhood memories, they say it’s the better game. Newer games don’t give that feeling of nostalgia that makes them prefer the newer games above the older games.

Yet, there are also gamers who always think the newer games are better. Graphics, gameplay, story telling… everything gets improved.  But what’s a better game? Surely, it’s personal preference. If I like to play older games, I’ll say that the older games are better. But it can work the other way around too. In addition to that, you need to look to the “quality” of the games too. Are the games actually good for that time period? Or are they garbage?

Flaws of the modern games.

Yearly we get a new Call Of Duty. Yup.
Yearly we get a new Call Of Duty. Yup.

Modern games aren’t perfect. Not at all. The biggest issue I have with them is that they are mostly focusing on the graphical aspect rather then the gameplay. Also, in one of my previous rants, I talked about how many modern games actually hold your hand and tell you what to do. There is no exploration in a game.

Straight or a limit amount of paths are the norm. Games with an open world like for example Zelda always have a certain way to stop you from progressing without an item. This way they manage to make the game extremely linear without you even realizing.

A big example for ranters to talk about is how the Call Of Duty campaign gets shorter each year. The game is a multiplayer game without a doubt. You basically buy it for being able to go online. One of my best friends was a fan of the series but got annoyed by it’s latest entries where his hand was hold for him to finish.

It would be stupid if we didn’t mention the fact that most gaming companies go milking the cash cow. If something sells, they make more of the same to get even more money from our pockets. Let’s take the cheap example of how many Mario games are sold. It’s an easy mascot that kids recognize and buy.

What mostly makes me worry is the lack of creativity in the current gaming world. Outside of the indy developers we barely see new creative work. It’s always the same thing and it the sequel the work out the flaws of the original, but it’s mostly the same idea. Or they cut out on things like Pokémon Mystery Dungeon – Gates To Infinity.

Let’s talk about the systems for a second. Give me one system that can’t run DVD’s or play your favorite music. The Wii & DS couldn’t do that, unless you illegally modified them. Modern gaming platforms are more aimed to the general multimedia lover instead of a gamer. This makes that games need to be aimed for a wider group so they can’t be too difficult.

Flaws of retro games.

Good old Metroid.
Good old Metroid.

One major issue is that some games are way too difficult. The infamous 1 hit death is a welcome example here. Also the fact that there wasn’t an internet to look for walkthroughs or cheats, makes games more difficult. Like some gamers say, when you couldn’t finish a game back then, that’s though luck for you.

In addition to that, there were many games that had cryptic area’s to make the game more difficult. In Zelda II – Adventure of Link for example you need to pass through a wall to finish one dungeon. Or Death Mountain, it’s a maze beyond belief.

Also, games were pretty fragile. Saving worked with an internal battery in the cartridge and when that one ran out, it’s no saving for you. Also when there was dust in the game’s connector pins, you had to carefully blow in the cartridge to make it work again. When the connector pins broken, your game was broken too.

Also the games where more flawed back then. The games where more buggy like the famous cartridge titling glitch. But I can’t count on one hand anymore how much internet memes are created because of the faulty translation of games. “All your base are belong to us.” is a very popular example.

The internet, a knife that cuts both ways.

A generic picture to fancy up the article.
A generic picture to fancy up the article.

If I had to point out something that is good and bad for the gaming community it’s the internet for sure.

The good thing is that indy developers now have more tools to release their work. If they make a website and do some promotion on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube for example; they are set. Another good thing is that (big) companies can now easier support their costumers. They can make FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) on their website so that their Q&A (Question and Answer) staff doesn’t have to answer the same question over and over again.

Yet the internet is such a bad influence to games as well. Walkthroughs are such a welcome invention. But I can’t deny that I have finished some games with a walkthrough at hand. Above that, the internet is filled with spoilers. If you are tired of the game and you want to know the ending, you can simply look it up. This defeats the purpose of finishing a game.

Oh, and don’t worry, I’m going to talk about it. The amount of hacks and cheats in a game that you can download on the internet. An aimbot for shooters or a X-Ray for Minecraft. It all exists. And people enjoy using it online. And it ruins the experience for gamers that want to play the game legit. Abusing bugs, I can live with that. But using wall hacks or other things makes my blood boil.

I have to admit that after finishing a game, I messed around with programs a lot that made my character jump higher or that I had unlimited ammo. It’s fun to do once to see how the game is made and how things work. But if you try to finish it for the first time, a lot of the fun is taken away.

Spoilers are also everywhere. If you play a game alongside with one of your favorite YouTubers, the comments are filled with things that will happen in the game. Bye bye thrilling game.

Modern games never grew up.

It’s nearly “pick your poison”. Both games have flaws that make me go nuts. Old games can be too difficult and new games can be too easy or unpolished.

Thankfully there are exceptions to the rule. Some games actually aren’t that bad. Some old games can also be extremely easy. But in my eyes, modern games never grew up to a new gaming level. Many improvements are made to the graphics but does that make for better games? I truly don’t know and I will surely touch upon this subject again. But for now I’m going to leave it here. Thanks for reading and until next time.