I Want to Be the Very Best

Today marks the very first day of my new life’s work. I’ve decided to follow in the footsteps of many great trainers before me and abandon any attempt at being a productive member of society. Instead, I am going to wander through the wild parts of the world, capture creatures with funny names and huge powers, and then train them to battle other, similar creatures owned by people like me. All of my money will be earned by robbing the people I defeat, I’ll sleep in the woods, and I’ll rely on free healthcare to keep my captured monsters in peak fighting condition at all time. I may make friends along the way, I may encounter a friendly or combative person frequently enough to designate them my rival, and I may rise from obscurity to sit at the peak of the monster fighting league so that everyone in the world knows my name. Unfortunately, none of those things are guaranteed, but I know I’ll definitely have a great time along the way, bonding with my new pets and crying when I’m forced to say goodbye to them.

If you haven’t guessed what’s going on, I’m talking about my plan to finally go on the Pokemon Journey reality has always denied me now that Pokemon Go finally introduced trainer-versus-trainer battling. I imagine battling will change significantly as time goes on since it’s clearly in favor of people willing to spend money or who have done nothing but play Pokemon Go and the whole “use a shield to block a charged attack” thing is just plain weird, but I’m glad they finally got something out there. So far, I’ve declared one of my roommates is my rival, battled him a few times (we’re tied for wins and losses right now), and done absolutely nothing else with it because society is demanding I do my day job so I can pay my bills and afford to live in my nice house with my actual pets. Someday, perhaps once the holidays are over, I’ll go on a short Pokemon Journey to test the waters. After I’ve figured out how the battling scene is going, that’ll be it for me. I’ll quit my job, pack up everything I own into a backpack that breaks physics, and head off into the great unknown in order to find new Pokemon, battle new trainers, and become the legend I’ve always dreamed I could be.

I imagine it’ll be difficult to live off the land and spend all my time traveling between major cities, but I think I can manage it. I’m single, have no societal obligations that I’d miss, and am a rather hardy individual. I can walk for long periods of time, assuming my pack isn’t as heavy as a typical Pokemon Trainer’s backpack must be, given that it holds hundreds of pokeballs, healing items, berries, cases, bicycles, and so forth. If it’s a bit more realistic and not able to hold a limitless supply of whatever I want (if it removes the weight of the things I put in it, that would also be pretty cool. I could work with that), then I imagine the first couple weeks would be rough while my feet adjusted to the constant walking. After that, I’d be unstoppable.

Unfortunately for me, I seem destined to become a gimmick trainer. Likely a Hiker with a heavy focus on rock-type Pokemon. I could get behind such a gimmick, of course, but only after becoming the best there ever was. Then I’d go find some mountain path to live on and challenge every trainer who passes through before making my team of Geodudes all use “Self-Destruct.” The trick would be that I have a sixth Pokemon, maybe a Mew or something super cool and rare. It would also use “Self-Destruct.” That would be my gimmick and then I would become a different type of legend. I’d become even more famous than when I toured the world as an unbeatable Pokemon Master and trainers would come from far and wide to see if they could beat my team. Unfortunately for them, all my Geodudes would be immune to one hit knock-outs and the final Pokemon would change on occasion so they’d never be able to defeat me. Every match will end in a draw and I will establish myself as an unbeatable Pokemon Trainer. It will be glorious!

I will have to wait, though. Pokemon Go is still in its infancy and we’ve yet to see if it will truly last the tests of time. There’s also no move in Pokemon Go that functions like “Self-Destruct,” though I remain hopeful that they will either eventually add more game-like features to Pokemon Go or replace it entirely by creating Virtual Reality Pokemon. I would be all about that. Nothing quite like immersive games in virtual reality to make you feel like you’re not stumbling around your home while waving your arms dangerously close to every precious and fragile object you own. Heck, maybe they’ll figure out how to make Pokemon robots and then we can go on Pokemon adventures in theme parks. That’d be super cool.

Since none of that is happening right now, I’m just going to focus on battling my rival, enjoying the new combat feature of Pokemon Go, and trying to remember who half the people are on my Pokemon Go friends list so I can remote battle people without feeling weird about initiating an interaction with someone who is effectively a stranger. The feature was difficult to find and it still doesn’t make a whole lot of sense about the way it works, but it’s fun to play. I think the Stardust and Pokemon Candy requires for learning additional moves are egregious, since it’s almost impossible for most players to afford something like that. Only people who play constantly have access to that kind of stardust and enough candies for powerful Pokemon or legendaries. I mean, I spent most of my candies and stardust just powering up Pokemon fairly recently, so I can’t afford to give anyone an extra attack, which means I’ll be vulnerable to anyone who has one since they’re great for countering Pokemon that typically counter whatever Pokemon has the second attack. The fact that you can add extra moves is a huge break from their established methodology, so I’m interested to see where they continue to take.

Whatever they do, though, it’ll be fun. I can’t wait to get out there and start playing again!

NaNoWriMo 2018 Day 18 (11/18)

Yesterday went alright. I got exactly three thousand words write for my National Novel Writing Month project, which was a ton of fun to realize. I hadn’t planned it, but when I went to update my word total on their website at midnight, I discovered I’d written exactly three thousand words. That felt like a good place to stop since I’m not under any particular crunch other than the “I want to catch up before the end of the month” crunch that I’m familiar with. I’m only about six thousand words behind at this point, so a dozen days of five hundred extra words will do it. I know I can handle an extra five hundred words a day, no problem, and I’ve still got thirteen days to go so it should be easily handled. I may try to do more today than I did yesterday, but I’m not going to push it. I’d like to do more, but I definitely need to avoid over committing myself to things like I usually do.

Despite how crazy things have been lately, yesterday was actually pretty calm and normal. I needed that. In fact, my only complaint about yesterday is that I spent most of it with an incredibly sore neck as a result of spending most of my night scrunched up against my headboard. I have no idea why, but that happens sometimes and I always wake up with a headache, sore neck, and stiff shoulders. I should probably look into the ways I sleep and actually get a good mattress, but those are both long-term tasks. Neither of them will be simple solutions since it’s difficult to figure out the physical aspects of my sleep since I’m, you know, asleep for their duration. Getting a good mattress requires a lot of research and some time spent investigating at a mattress store so I can figure out if I prefer more firm or less firm. So far, my mattress buying has been entirely driven by prices and convenience. I’d like to get an actually good mattress just to see if it can help me deal with my various sleep issues. I’ve got enough of them that I’m willing to try just about anything for a while, to see if it helps.

I should probably try “go to bed at a reasonable hour” since I haven’t gone to bed before one in the morning since… I honestly don’t know. It’s definitely been more than a week. I think. A lack of adequate sleep is really bad for your short-term memory so there are something things that have faded from my mind a bit…

I joke. I don’t always check the clock before bed and, without an actual hard number to attach to the thought of going to bed, I lose most of my sense of when it was beyond “late” or “reasonable.” I really should work on not pushing myself below a minimum of six hours a night, since I’ve managed to handle it this past week without too much of a problem but I can’t explain why. Unless, of course, therapy lights help deal with sleep deprivation side effects. Or maybe most of my tiredness from not sleeping enough was tied to my depression and, since the light helps lessen that, my exhaustion levels never got quite as high as they usually do.

Truthfully, it shouldn’t matter. I know I need six hours of sleep a night at a minimum. I shouldn’t be starting these posts at midnight, I should be finished with them and in bed by midnight. I shouldn’t put off my daily NaNoWriMo writing until ten at night, I should be doing it right away when I get home from work. Video games can wait and they’re a bit easier to stop doing. Aside from, you know, that Pathfinder Kingmaker game I’ve been playing that kept me up until three and two in the morning on subsequent nights. That was a really poor choice on my part and I will own up to that. Nowadays, I’m sticking to Pokemon games with a focus on the new one, Pokemon: Let’s Go. It’s pretty fun, but I wouldn’t recommend playing it if you want a new experience. If you want to relive the Kanto region, already own a Nintendo Switch, and can have a realistic reaction to something that resembles something else, in that you don’t immediately hate it because it’s different, you should play Pokemon: Let’s Go. If all of those things are not true, then you probably shouldn’t play it. Especially if the last one is true. No one wants to deal with that, so just avoid the game.

I am optimistic about how much I’ll get done today. Yesterday wasn’t amazing, by any means, but it was a solid day. I’m hoping today will be similar. I’ve got Dungeons and Dragons planned for the late afternoon and early evening, so that’ll be fun. It has been a long time since we’ve played, for various reasons. Some of them have been my fault, some of them have been the fault of one or more of the players, but we’re finally ready to play again. We were at a good pausing point since the party returned to their caravan, so  it should be a relatively painless restarted. There will be hiccups because there always are, but I’m really looking forward to it. It’s going to take up a good chunk of my day, about four hours of running the game and at least two of preparation since I’ll need to refamiliarize myself with all the notes I wrote during previous sessions in addition to planning what we’ll do tomorrow. Rough plans are good enough for most sessions, but I need to have a more solid one since this is our first session in a while. The smoother it goes, the more likely it is that we’ll actually get through this chapter of the campaign by New Year’s Day.

Anyway, I hope your day goes well! I hope you’re all caught up on your goals and that you’ve been enjoying this chance to rest and recharge for another week of writing and, for the people of the US, navigating the difficulty that is the holidays. Whatever the problems are, whatever petty bullshit comes up, just remind yourself that you’ve got a story to tell. Plotting and working through scenes makes for a great distraction from the messily unfolding drama that often shows up during the holidays. I hope your day is great and I wish you the best of luck!

 

Daily Prompt

What are your protagonists hobbies? What are they interested in? The things that hold our attention and that we care about influence the way we think. I enjoy video games, so I tend to view most of the stories in my head as a cross between a video game and a movie. I can pause and move the camera around to look everywhere, but the story is happening on it’s own so I can miss it if I look away. It influences the way we talk, the metaphors we use, and how we relate to people. How does your protagonist’s interests influence their interactions with other people? Write a scene showing them bonding with someone over a shared interest or perhaps them struggling to connect with people who are disinterested (or maybe even people who dislike) what they care about.

 

Sharing Inspiration

I’ve been working at this crap for over a year and, let me tell you, believing in yourself will only get you so far. There will be a day when that belief runs out, when you have nothing left to push yourself forward. For those days, I have a few things to remind me that I’m not the only person who believes in me. One is the speech my creative writing professor gave when she awarded me a scholarship for creative writing and fellowship. The other is a birthday card from a good friend filled with heartfelt words. The first I only have in electronic format, but I’ve memorized it so I can recall it at will. The later is pinned above my desk so I all I have to do is look up to be reminded that I’m not working in a vacuum. There are people out there who see how hard I’m working and are excited to see where I’m going to go. Believing in yourself is important and should be your main goal if you’re just getting started. Having someone else who believes in you is super helpful for getting there, though.

 

Helpful Tips

I know you probably have a place you like to write, with a specific ambiance and location, but you can write at pretty much any time. Bring a notebook if you prefer to write by hand, and take whatever time you have during your day to write down some ideas or make a big of quick progress on your National Novel Writing Month project. If you don’t really care how you take notes or work through things, set up a writing application on your phone and just type it out there. I’ve got Google Drive set up on my phone and most of my writing projects are stored as documents in my Google Drive. Two aren’t, but that’s because they’re so big they cause my browser to crash or hang when it tries to do the whole “dynamic saving” thing that google documents likes to do. It apparently doesn’t like anything that passes one hundred thousand words since that’s when it starts to get buggy. But it’s still great for quick edits, taking notes, or having an easily accessible place to do some five-minute bursts of writing throughout my day. I suggest you check it out to see if it will help you.

Let’s Talk About Pokemon Go’s Newest Adaptation

There’s a new Pokemon game coming out for the Nintendo Switch, called “Pokemon: Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee!” If you aren’t aware, it’s basically a remake of the original Pokemon games with a few changes. The biggest ones have to do with wild Pokemon and the player’s interactions with them. In previous iterations of the standard style, you would wander around in the grass until you spawned a random encounter with a Pokemon from wherever the grass is located. Then you fought the Pokemon until it was weak enough to be captured or you defeated it. Now, you actually see the Pokemon walking around and can pick which ones you encounter.  Additionally, you catch them like you do in Pokemon Go. You use a berry if you want to, select your ball, wait for the circle to be the right size, and then attempt to throw the pokeball so it lands inside the circle. Then you either catch it or you don’t. There’s no battling involved, except with the occasional trainer.

This was one of the first things we learned about the new game and it upset a lot of people. More so even than the fact that it was a third remake of the first generation of Pokemon games. The change is a pretty big departure from the core games. Battling wild Pokemon in order to gain XP and level up is such a core element of the game that felt like spending money on this game would be a waste. Wandering around, training Pokemon, and collecting XP has always been a core aspect of the games for me because I use them primarily as a way of shutting my mind down for a few hours or as a way of quieting my mind when I can’t sleep. That’s going to be a lot harder to do when I actually need to look at the game and employ motion controls with any degree of accuracy since you only get XP if you catch the Pokemon. How am I supposed to just cruise through the game with an overpowered team if I can’t dedicate a few mindless hours of battling wild Pokemon to each area between cities or gyms so my Pokemon stay above the curve by five to ten levels?

Thinking about it like that, it made it clear that this wasn’t a game for me. News that has come out since then, about other things that will be different about Pokemon: Let’s Go has made it clear that this game wasn’t meant for me or anyone like me. This game was meant for people getting into Pokemon for the first time. Children who have had to try to pick up the games that are always at least partially targeted toward older audiences, casual gamers who want a quiet couch game that doesn’t involve a lot of meta-analysis, or people who haven’t really played many games before but have started now that Pokemon Go has proven so popular and accessible. It’s a reintroduction to the series that somewhat mirrors the way the first game was simpler than all the ones since then.

For instance, Let’s Go won’t have eggs or breeding. All of the highly competitive aspects of the game that stem from that won’t be present either. There will be no breeding for natures, IVs, or EVs. Egg moves, secret abilities, TM/HMs won’t get passed down through generations to create the perfect Pokemon after a dozen hours of breeding, walking, and hatching. Now you need to catch the Pokemon or send them over from Pokemon Go if you want to try for a specific nature and all of that is more or less random. Sure, there are elements the game has that the originals did not, but it’s stuff like playing little mini games with your Pokemon to make it like you more or handing over surplus Pokemon for candies that boost your Pokemon’s stats (which actually maps pretty well to IV/EV stuff and the various stat-boosting items you could get when you inevitably wound up with more money than you knew what to do with).  Everything they’ve added fits within the relatively simple and less competitive framework of the original game. Your only real competition are the friends you battle against using the system link or the game itself, most of which is pretty optional.

In order to entice the older, more competitive audience as well–and I’m willing to admit that this idea has gotten me interested in buying the game again–they’re adding “Master Trainers” to the game. These trainers are the specific master trainer of one type of Pokemon and you will have to battle them with that specific Pokemon as well. Your Charizard will have to battle their Charizard, and it’ll actually be a tough fight since their Pokemon will allegedly be specifically geared toward fighting its own species. Gyarados has been able to learn thunderbolt for a long time, but trying to beat one that knows that with another Gyarados? That sounds like an incredibly tough challenge that would require me to not only level up my Pokemon, but maximize its potential stats and find a way to give it an unbeatable set of moves. Which is exactly what most of the super-competitive Pokemon players where saying this set of games lacked. I’m not that competitive, but the idea of being declared a Pokemon Master after all these years sounds incredibly tempting, especially for my favorite Pokemon.

I’m still curious about how the game’s going to go once it comes out, but the twin powers of nostalgia and disposable income have convinced me it’s worth buying. I doubt I’ll try to get anyone else to buy it and just make up for the lack of a trading partner with Pokemon Go, but I expect it’ll be a good time now that I’ve started looking at it the right way. This isn’t a remake, it’s a reintroduction, and I think that’s a great thing. I hope more people online start to see it for what it is as well.

This Game was the Very Best

All hyperbole and theme song references aside, Pokemon Blue was my introduction to handheld gaming and set me up for a lifetime of fun. It holds a very special place in my heart and I will always remember standing in my backyard, on the deck my dad had recently built (with the assistance of my uncles) while I powered on my very own copy of the game. I remember seeing the large, turtle-monster with the cannons sticking out of its back and thinking that was the coolest thing ever. I, of course, picked Bulbasaur as my starter Pokemon because a frog-plant monster seemed even cooler. Also, one of my friends said it got this move called solarbeam and, at the time, that was the most badass thing I could think of. Fire blast was pretty standard and hydro pump sounded kinda dull because my dad was a civil engineer and hydro pumps were things that just moved water around, so Bulbasaur was clearly the best option. Thus began my deep and abiding love for the grass type starter. The only Pokemon game since then where I’ve ever picked one of the other options has been Gen II (Silver/Gold/Crystal/HeartGold/SoulSilver) when I picked Cyndaquil because I was watching the anime at the time and Cyndaquil was my favorite of Ash’s Pokemon.

To get the first part of this nostalgia trip under way, I honestly miss the old days. Back before the internet made it possible to nail down the exact appearance percentage of all the Pokemon in every clump of grass, all you had was your friends. You found everyone with a version of the game, red or blue, and compared notes about where you found each Pokemon. Eventually, someone splurged for a walk-through and then everyone passed it around, trying to figure out where to find the best Pokemon. Then someone got a link cable and you all clamored to trade with each other until someone finally captured all 150 Pokemon, earning them the neighborhood crown until someone else revealed the secret to getting Mew. I was never the first to catch them all, for any version or generation of the game, and I’d never gotten a Mew in my life until Pokemon Go came out, but I was one of the best at figuring out where to get all the pokemon or remembering how to use the glitches so you could use Master Balls on Safari Zone Pokemon.

Back in Gen I, and even in Gen II, the games seemed so much simpler and more appealing. There was no meta to care about, no one even knew IVs or EVs existed, and everyone who tried a link battle with their friends inevitably lost to the other person’s team of level 100 Pokemon or their level 100 Mewtwo, specifically in the battles where we agreed no one would us Pokemon trained up using the Rare Candy glitch since they’d always pretend they’d leveled him up honestly and nothing beat a level 100 Mewtwo even with Same Type Attack Bonus boosted moves (Parasect was your best bet, but even that couldn’t hack it with a forty level difference). Back then, the games told a story and we got to watch the world and the people inside it change from one game to the next and even battle our previous player once we beat all of Silver or Gold.

Even setting aside the “crotchety old man” stuff, I miss the wild rumors that would circulate about the games. The wild speculation we all engaged in about Lavender Town and the ghost Pokemon you fought. The first Pokemon games coincided with my friends and I starting to get our first opportunities to access the internet and one of us inevitably came across some of the original “creepypasta” rumors about the first Pokemon game and we’d delightfully terrorize each other with stories about the old man in Lavender town killing all your Pokemon or the horrors of Missingno if you actually capture it. We all learned glitches we could use to duplicate Pokemon and convinced gullible people to do them since they had a tendency to delete all your save data instead.

The thing was, there was a community around the games and it lasted for years. Even as my friends and I get the new games, the feeling just isn’t the same. I’m still the best when it comes to knowing where to find Pokemon and I tend to have the highest Pokedex completion percentage, but the way the games are set up now makes competition pointless because you either cheat, trade your rare Pokemon away, or go to events to get limited legendary Pokemon that aren’t available through normal gameplay. Right now, there’s a “year of legendaries” event going on and my initial plans of taking advantage of it every month quickly fell apart as life intervened. Now I have no way to get those Pokemon unless I trade away something far rarer since everyone who has one knows they can ask for anything they want because it’s easier to restart and replay the entire game than get a specific event Pokemon. Sure, Mew was an event Pokemon and Celebi was as well, so it’s been going on since the beginning, but it’s so incredibly difficult to get them all now that it would take years to get all the event Pokemon and I don’t even want to know how much many in travel expenses.

I definitely enjoy the new games, don’t get me wrong, but I feel like I enjoyed Pokemon as a whole more back when I didn’t know as much and when I had a little less information available to me. When things were simple and I played under the covers of my bed using the plug-in game light I told my parents was for car rides, Pokemon seemed like this amazing world that I would step into and explore. Now, because of the meta, because of Pokemon natures, and because of the ever pressing need to figure out where I need to go each month to get event Pokemon, it’s much less a world for me to explore and much more of a part-time job that doesn’t reimburse your travel expenses. I’ll still play each one as it comes out (though I might take a pass on the “Let’s Go” series coming out soon) because I still get hours and hours of entertainment out of it, not to mention assistance with my insomnia issues, but I miss the days when it felt more real to me.

To once again continue the theme of reflecting on old games, today’s post is about Pokemon! Listen to me wax nostalgic, play the part of a grumpy old main yelling about change, and consider the pitfalls of the more modern games.

Saturday Evening Musing

Some days, there are no words. All you can hope for is people who will rally around you without needing to know the details. Sometimes you just need people to help take your mind off of things, to fill the space between your few words with words of their own without expecting much in response. Sometimes you need a push into doing something that you want to do, but can’t muster up the effort to begin on your own. Some days, all you’ve got the energy to do is to let people know something is wrong and then hope that they offer to help.

Some days, you need your friends to help prop you up when all you feel like doing is collapsing.  When you feel like a deflated balloon, friends are usually the best people to inflate you again, or at least keep enough air circulating that you aren’t completely flat. They are some of the few people who know you well enough to know what you need to keep moving or to stay distracted. If they’re really good friends, they also know when to call you out on it when you try to take it to unhealthy levels.

They say friends are the family you pick, but I think that’s a dumb comparison. Families have constant problems or old wounds that occasionally tear open, but everyone sticks together because you all grew up together and know that you’re basically stuck with each other until you all die so you’d better figure out how to get along. Friends may have grown up together, but you’re never stuck with them. Friends are much easier to leave behind than family, on accident or on purpose, and friendships with constant problems or old wounds that never fully heal generally don’t last that long. Friendships require maintenance and fixing problems if you want them to last, but you do it so you can stick together rather than because you’re stuck together. You choose to do the work to keep your friendships alive and vibrant, but you often feel obligated to do the work to keep your relationship with your family positive. Maybe I’m projecting here, but I feel like I’ve heard similar things from enough people to say I’m probably not projecting.

You can always be friends with your family, of course. That’s still a choice you’re making, though. Your familial relationships just fall on the friend side of things. That’s another reason I dislike the comparison. It fails to account for all the people in the world who are friends with their family. To be entirely fair, most of the time I see people say friends are the family you pick, it is someone who isn’t very close or friendly with their family. Pretty sure that biases the evaluation.

Today, I am recovering from a hard decision. It wasn’t fun, it is making me unhappy, but it was the right one. Everyone agreed that it was the right one. For now, it sucks. Eventually, things will be better and I will hopefully be happier. Or at least less upset all the time. I’d take either one, really. But for now, this was all the words I have in me and I’m going to go back to my friends where I do not have to talk. A nice evening of quiet hanging out, that’ll turn into games of some kind, following on an excellent Pokemon Go Community Day outing in downtown Madison. It was not the day I had planned, but it was still a wonderful day.

 

Time’s Wasting, Let’s Get Pokemon Going

I have a complicated relationship withe Pokemon Go. If you look back in the recesses of my original posts (I’ll link it here so you don’t have to), you can find me writing about how cool the game was and how excited I was to play it. Since then, my excitement has cooled. Initially it was because it was nearly impossible to find Pokemon in the wild (which was the reason most of my friends stopped playing), but there was no way to directly interact with your friends until they added raid battles. Gyms were a nightmare because connectivity problems kept coming up and it was a pain in the ass to train up a gym so it would be strong enough to survive everyone trying to take it down. Even the eventual fix to gyms, which makes turning them around and maintaining them a lot easier, was less than ideal because it puts a big limit on the number of in-game currency you can get without buying it.

My current apartment not having close proximity to anything (there’s one stop within half a mile’s walking and everything else requires crossing the highway) and I don’t earn much money with the gym access I’ve got, so I’m constantly running out of items. I don’t really have the space in my weekly schedule to spend three hours to drive somewhere with a bunch of stops, walk around for an hour, drive home, and then have to charge my phone. There are so many things I’d rather be doing with that time than spending it trying to maintain the high level of participation the game requires when you don’t have easy access to the in-game resources.

Playing it now doesn’t take much time. I hit the local pokestop on my way to work or I hit the one at work while I’m getting lunch. I can sometimes get a gym each day (for my fifty coin daily maximum) if I spend fifteen minutes after work stopping at one of the ones near my workplace. I open the app a couple of times a day and whenever I take walks, spending the mental energy on Pokemon Go when I would otherwise be letting my mind idly wander. It doesn’t cost me any time aside from gyms, but it does cost me energy. There’s a certain amount of mental effort that goes into remember to do my daily tasks, remember which Pokemon I don’t need for evolving something (to avoid wasting my precious Pokeballs), and planning out the extra commute time I’d need to stop for a gym or pokestop.

For almost two years, I’ve unfailingly spent that energy every day. Even during the last few months when I’ve exhausted myself to the point of pretty much crashing as soon as I’m done with my responsibilities each day, I still spend energy on Pokemon Go. Now, as I’m taking a look at my life and trying to decide what is really worth energy as I try to find a healthier balance, I’m really questioning if it is worth it. And Pokemon Go isn’t the only thing on the chopping block. One of my favorite no-energy time-wasters is Imgur and that generally doesn’t do anything for me but help time pass quickly. There are games I play online with my friends that I don’t really enjoy but I play anyway because I’ve got people to play alongside. My life is full of things like this, things I once enjoyed but only continue to do because of habits and because they help me pass through the hours of my worst days.

The thing is, I have a lot of other stuff to help me do that. Ever since I ran out of that stuff in college and had to deal with a horrible night where I had nothing to do but think and stare out the window, I’ve made sure that I’ve got at least forty hours of mindless entertainment. I’ve got whole TV shows I bought on DVD that I’ve only watched long enough to know I’d enjoy. I’ve got a pile of emergency books and every Pokemon game ever created (I enjoy the “standard” version Pokemon games way more than the mobile game). Yet I still play Pokemon Go every day. I still have half a dozen boring games installed on my computer. I still have all the social media and time-wasting apps on my phone so I can disappear from the world for hours at a time.

As I spring-clean my life, I think it’s time I got rid of that stuff. I took this week off of work, and even off of blog writing (this was written ahead of time), so I could rest and try to see my life through clear eyes. Part of that is going to be ridding myself of all the things I’ve collected to insulate myself from having to pay attention to my life when my life wasn’t something I wanted to pay attention to. Things are better now, even if I still struggle, and I don’t want to feel like I’m wasting my time anymore. I don’t know if I’ll uninstall Pokemon Go because my girlfriend still plays it frequently and it is good to have things you can do together, but I think I’m going to take it off my home screen.

Gotta Catch ‘Em All

I’ve been playing a lot of Pokemon X lately. I’ve finally gotten past the place where I stopped last time, even after falling into the same hole of earning tons of money and XP fighting in the Battle Chateau because I’m a completionist and would rather spend two hours walking in circles to find the last Pokemon than move on and breed it from the evolved form I already caught. The problem is, there’s no real “complete” moment with the battle Chateau, so you can level up Pokemon endless or make sure that your wallet is always sitting comfortably above one million Pokedollars.

The other thing I’ve encountered, since I’m actively working on catching all of the Pokemon these days, is just how many Pokemon there are in this game. I’ve caught or evolved over two hundred so far and I’ve only just gotten the fourth gym badge. If I never caught another Pokemon and just evolved the ones I’ve already caught, I’m certain I’d break three hundred. Every route I enter, and even some of the cities, has new Pokemon to catch and there are few overlaps. Thankfully, I’m an old hand at walking in circles and can afford to just throw Ultra Balls at everything because I just go to the Battle Chateau every day so I can achieve my dream of eventually earning a billion Pokedollars. Specifically, having a billion Pokedollars at once, if that is even possible. If not, if the money counter doesn’t run that high, I will settle for having had a total of one billion Pokedollars. I’ve been tracking my expenses so far and I’m a little over two million right now. Only nine hundred and ninety-eight million to go!

I did the same thing with all of my Pokemon Moon play-throughs, and am currently doing the same thing with my Pokemon Ultra Sun play-through. There’s a lot more overlap in Sun and Moon, though there is also variation in what Pokemon can be found on a route depending on which patch of grass you’re in. If I didn’t use a location guide to find out which Pokemon are available where, I’d have missed a few dozen, for sure. That being said, I prefer Sun and Moon’s methods to X and Y’s. I don’t feel trapped on routes as much since I know I’ll be able to find the Pokemon on other routes, much of the time. The biggest downside trying to catch them all in Sun and Moon is that you never get the customary National ‘Dex.

The National ‘Dex was introduced by that name in the third generation of Pokemon games, Ruby and Sapphire. In Gold, Silver, and Crystal, it was referred to as the “Old Pokedex Mode” but it was essentially the same thing. Ultimately, it is an organization of the Pokedex to include all known Pokemon, listing the Pokemon by oldest to newest. It has been a staple part of the core Pokemon games and they completely abandoned it in Sun and Moon. I was devastated! I was looking forward to compiling all of my Pokemon in these new games only to find out that I could, but I’d have no way to actually track them in-game aside from portioning out PC boxes and figuring out where to place Pokemon that way. Which is why I spent the $5 for the Pokebank because you can do the same thing there, but it is a lot easier since it directly interfaces with most of the games. Only one transfer required and you can access it from any of the modern games.

The National ‘Dex available in the Pokebank is likely to be the only National Pokedex available going forward. Since it will be able to interface with all future games and will help solve the problem of cross-generation trading that was such trouble from the very beginning, I can’t see it going away any time soon. Since it is essentially cloud storage for Pokemon, we’d need some kind of big jump in technology for it to be worth changing the system to use something new.

While it isn’t as fun to use the Pokebank to check my National ‘Dex, I can see the value. Nintendo and the developers of Pokemon can just upgrade the one app and the Pokemon in the cloud can be made available to any device people use to access it. Portability, safety in the face of lost systems or games, and ease of access. I just wish there was some character who would give me things for completing it like there was in all of the games leading up to Sun and Moon. I want my ultimately meaningless recognition and prize, dammit!

Video Games and Me: I Can Quit Any Time

I have a complicated relationship with video games. They’re an excellent source of interactive stories, they can take me away from my problems when I need some breathing space, they can make me feel powerful, and they can help bring me together with people I’d otherwise have nothing in common with. At the same time, they take up a lot of time because they’re easy indulge in, they make it harder for me to write because escaping via gaming is easy than escaping via writing, and they can make it difficult for me to do the self-care things I need to do but do not want to do (like paying bills or eating properly or getting daily exercise). Managing my time investments when it comes to video games is always tricky and I probably fail more often than I succeed.

When it comes to video games, I tend toward extremes. Most weeks, I don’t play at all because there are things I need to do every evening like write blog posts, try to work on a book, pay bills and do chores, or take some time to let my mind calm down without anything else stirring it up. The weeks I do play tend to be in the middle of the month when bills aren’t due and usually involve me doing nothing but playing video games in my free time. When I manage to play on only same days in a week, I still stick to extremes. I’ll either not play at all during a day or I’ll do nothing but play video games during a day. I’m not very good at only playing for an hour or less before moving on.

I have well over one hundred games I’ve never played, thanks to Steam. That’s not a sizable amount, compared to many, but I haven’t actually bought a game I didn’t intend to play and, when I go scroll through my Steam library, I still want to play all of the games I’ve bought. However, there’s never enough time. If I want to work a full day with a little bit of overtime, I’m out of my apartment for 10 hours. Mark off another two hours for meals and hygiene,  two for blogging and social media (trying to build a twitter following is no joke), two for working out or exercising (and related clean-up), six for sleeping, and I’m down to two hours. Only two hours for whatever fun thing I want to do, for working on a personal project (like a book), or for doing chores each day.

That’s all the time I get in a day unless I cut down on sleep (like I did during NaNoWriMo), work less (which is also a thing I did during NaNoWriMo), or forego all responsibility in favor of taking as much time for myself as I can (which I did last night). This is why video games tend to wind up being entirely ignored or done to excess. It feels so good to leave everything behind and just play until my eyes feel sticky with exhaustion and I’m blinking at my cell phone’s display as it tells me that I will be getting up for work in three hours. Even now, I have to struggle to focus on writing this and not turning on my TV so I can play some Breath of the Wild or Skyrim on my Switch. I have to exit all of my game applications when I write because the call of Overwatch or my recent Borderlands run-through is too strong to entirely ignore when all I have to do is right-click an icon to start up a game.

I’ve made a habit of making the tough decision to ignore my desire for immediate satisfaction or reward in favor of doing what is best for my life in the long run. Loan payments get made, extra money gets tucked away for paying off loans, and I make myself work an extra hour or two every day so I’ve got enough financial padding to make it from month to month without worrying about being short for all of my bills at the start of every month. All of this practice goes out the window as soon as I start playing a video game. There is no stopping at a set time, or playing for only an hour. The best I can do is play only one match of Overwatch, but that’s generally only possible when I’m feeling burned out on my favorite PvP game.

Extremes work pretty well for me. I’ve made 79 blog posts in a row because I’ve made a rule that I’m not allowed to miss a day for anything. My most-successful diet was done by removing most food from my potential menu and allowing myself only certain meal plans so I made sure I got a balanced meal along with basically my target number of calories. 100% committed to whatever I do with no wiggle room to make excuses or try to justify taking a break. “Taking a break” is how every period of working out eventually fell apart. Playing no video games or nothing but video games seems to fit right into that habit. New games are my “taking a break” moments that result in me doing nothing but playing the game for a while. I played Clustertruck for 5 hours the night I bought and downloaded it. All I had planned to do was open it up and fidget with the settings, to see if I could donate it to the Steam arcade we’ve got at work.

The only game that doesn’t really cause the same problems is Pokemon, but I feel like the only reason it doesn’t is because I’ve conditioned myself to quickly fall asleep while playing it in a reclined position. I don’t have to worry about staying up too late playing Pokemon when I literally play it so i can fall asleep right away most nights. Rumor says there’s going to be a new Pokemon game for the Switch, so my conditioning will think it is different enough to let me play it for more than ten minutes at a time once it has come out…

Pokemon Through The Ages

I’ve been a fan of the Pokemon games ever since the first one came out. I have dim, partial memories of standing on the deck at my parents house, looking at my brother’s Red Version cartridge, and deciding I wanted blue version because I liked blue more than red. I remember how amazing it was that you could have your Pikachu follow you around in Yellow version. I even still have the game guide and Pokedex my brother got for Yellow Version so he could complete his Pokedex. Back in the days when there was only “Special” instead of “Special Attack” and “Special Defense,” breeding wasn’t possible, IVs were unheard of, and Pokemon abilities weren’t even on the horizon, I built my team in Blue using the Pokemon I thought were the coolest and my Yellow Version team as a match to Ash’s team, since I watched the Pokemon Anime religiously.

As I grew and more games came out, I played at least one of every version up until the Black and White generation. I tried to convince myself that I didn’t want to play new Pokemon games at that point since I was in college and there’s no denying they’re basically all the same game, but the reality of the situation is that I was too broke to buy them. To this day, they remain the only generation I haven’t bought or played. Pokemon games don’t really lose value and they’ve been coming out with new ones at a pretty regular frequency, so I’ve never really been left wanting a new Pokemon game.

I primarily play Pokemon as a way to relax. For me, it is all about having something easy and calm to do that I can use to deal with stress or anxiety. If I’m playing Pokemon, I’m too busy to be stressed or anxious, but not so busy that I can’t quietly work through stuff in the back of my mind. The games can be kind of boring at times, if you’re going for Pokedex completion, but it can also be rewarding to come up with plans, look at models for the appearance frequency of various Pokemon, and to calculate which Pokemon will make for the best addition to my team.

Unlike some of my friends, I’m not into the competitive scene. I have no interesting in fighting Pokemon battles against real people via online competitions. I’m not super interested in the strongest Pokemon and maximizing their stats,  but I definitely enjoy Pokedex completion more than they do. I’m the only one of my main group of friends who actually takes the time to collect or works on creating a full Pokedex using the “Pokemon Bank” service, something that allows me to store Pokemon from the more recent games on a server somewhere. This allows me to transfer them between games whenever I so desire and is not limited by in-game storage capacity.

Due to my penchant for starting the games over multiple times (mostly so I’ve got actual objectives beyond just catching Pokemon, because that can get kind of boring at times), I’ve now got enough evolutions of the Pokemon in the recent games, Sun/Moon and Ultra Sun/Moon, to complete my Pokedex simple by moving Pokemon from the Pokemon Bank to my game. I’m still working on getting ALL of the 800+ Pokemon now, since a lot of the rare ones are event-specific and I suck at going to the events or even turning my game on at the right time to get them.

I would say my favorite generation was Gen 2, the Silver/Gold/Crystal generation and their remakes, HeartGold and SoulSilver. I prefer the remakes since your lead Pokemon follows behind you and I’ve always enjoyed that. Generation 2, especially the remakes, had the most story elements in them, though the recent ones probably have the largest story (though it is a lot more straight forward and less complex). I also really enjoyed being able to get more than 8 badges and was really sad when Gen 3 didn’t continue that trend.

I can understand that a lot of people aren’t always enthusiastic about each new Pokemon game and I’ll admit that I rarely play the older ones now, but I can’t deny that they hold a special place in my heart. They were the first video game franchise I ever bought into and my longest-running. Half of my handheld games, if we exclude the Switch, are Pokemon games. I’m constantly on the lookout for cheap copies of the games so I can complete my collection. My love for the games also instantly provides common ground between myself and other people as most people my age have played at least one of them.

Aside from the easy identifiers such as apparel and knickknacks, Pokemon fans are usually easy to identify. All you have to do is drop the name of a less-popular Pokemon. If you get a look of confusion, you know to avoid Pokemon. If they recognize the name, the conversation will usually take at least a momentary aside to talk about Pokemon. With the advent of Pokemon Go and its continued popularity, the game is reaching more and more people. I’ve got a coworker in his early 50s who likes to talk about Pokemon as a result of the app, even though he never has and never will play any of the console/handheld Pokemon games.

I can’t even criticize the games for being money grabs because I’m happy to give the studio and Nintendo my money so they can keep making more of these games and other wonderful stuff in the future. The games bring people together, they help me relax when I’m stressed or can’t sleep, and they’ve been a part of my almost as long as I can remember. What more can you ask of a game franchise? I really hope they’re still making these when I’m 80 and enjoying my retirement in a space-station retirement hold. Don’t have to worry about breaking your hip or falling if there’s no gravity!

NaNoWriMo Day 19 (11/19)

I’m still behind, despite my plans. And because of my plans. I am getting more done every day now, so that’s good, but I’m still far enough behind that the number of works I have yet to write is rather prohibitive. But I’ll finish. No matter what. I really can’t say that I should have spent my time other than I have, it’s just hard when so much that’s going on right now is a high priority for me.

It feels dumb for me to be complaining about not having time this month. I’ve got too many good things I’m trying to do all in one month. Sure, my depression and my anxiety show up now and then to screw up a day or two, but it’s mostly a good, if tiring, trek through my days as I rededicate myself to writing, fill my spare time with all sorts of wonderful video games or books, and try to keep things running smoothly with my girlfriend.  I mean, my choices are between writing until D&D starts at 6pm or playing Pokemon until 6pm. The horror.

That being said, writing is a lot harder than playing Pokemon. I’ve discovered that the story I’m telling involves allegorical references to my previous job, a lot of people I’ve known throughout my life, some of the troubles I’ve faced growing up, and a lot of the things I struggle with from day-to-day. This book is almost literally born from my pain. Most of the major bad things that have happened to me and a lot of the things that have hit me the hardest are going to be a part of this story in some way or another. It isn’t all that fun to write, but it’s shaping up to be a good story. More significantly, I can already tell that this is going to be an important story, if only for me. I think I’m going to keep at this one until I finish it, NaNoWriMo or not.

 

Daily Prompt

Self-sacrifice can be a good thing. If someone does it for the benefit of society and the benefit to the whole far outweighs the negative to the individual, convention says we should all sacrifice. At the same time, the mantra of “sacrifice of yourself so that others will benefit” is easily perverted to something like “you are not worth as much as everyone else is.” Write a scene where your character struggles to mark the difference between the two, maybe in reference to whether they should do a particular thing that is self-sacrificing or maybe in reference to whether or not they are giving too much of themselves in general. This is a great place to examine your character’s motivations.

 

Sharing Inspiration

Today’s inspiration is an “old” YouTube video by a guy who does mostly comedic reviews of video games. A lot of his early stuff is childish humor mixed with teenage idiocy, but most of his recent stuff is actually pretty decent. It came out right around the time Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild came out and was probably one of the best reviews I’ve seen of the game because it actually let the game speak for itself. It was clever, it was silly, and I laughed the entire time I watched it through when it came out. I definitely recommend giving it a watch. That being said, you probably shouldn’t watch it if you don’t care for swearing.

 

Helpful Tips

Writing can be draining. Don’t be afraid to indulge a little in the things that make you feel good. If you want a candy bar, make yourself a deal that, as long as you get today’s writing done, you can have a candy bar. Wanna bury yourself in a pile of stuffed animals and lack the last dozen you need to complete the pile? Buy yourself one for every week you write every day. Not getting enough sleep from day-to-day but also trying to find healthier alternatives to just chugging coffee? Create yourself a caffeine schedule so that you’re coming off the last of it as you’re getting ready for bed and don’t worry too much about using a crutch for right now. Self-indulgence can be bad, but as long as its only for this month, you’ll be alright. Just, you know, probably don’t try to use drugs and alcohol to fuel your writing. I literally cannot find a single person that has worked out for in the long run.