The thing with me and Pokemon


 Hell yeah i have!
On Friday, i finally caught them all. Well, kinda caught them all, as i only completed the Unova Pokedex in Pokemon White, which encompasses 153 Pokemon right now. As opposed to the National Pokedex, which has grown to an incomprehensible 649 Pokemon over the last 15 years.

Still, this marks the first time i've filled any Pokedex. It's also the first time i've really gotten into a Pokemon game. I previously dabbled in 2007's Pokemon Pearl, but eventually got distracted after just a few gym badges. Thus, i consider Pokemon White to be my first proper Pokemon experience. 

You might find this surprising, considering that Pokemon has been one of the most ubiquitous franchises for a long time, and especially considering that i was around 10 years old during the big Pokemon boom of the late '90s. I can vividly remember my classmates in 5th or 6th grade, discussing the intricacies of catching wild Pokemon, freaking out about Pikachu plushies they'd bring to school. The hype train was going full steam ahead, possibly only rivaled by the comparatively short-lived Tamagotchi craze a few years earlier, and i was in the perfect spot to jump on board with all the other kids. Yet, it took me until 2011 to get into Pokemon for good. 

 "Really? No Pokemon?"
Why? Well, it certainly wasn't for lack of wanting it. See, when i was a kid, my parents were quite strict about the games i was allowed to play, the media i was allowed to be involved with. Without opening this can of worms any further than necessary, let me just tell you that i never even owned a Game Boy, and Pokemon was outlawed and forbidden, and that was that. It sucked back then, and while i can now clearly recognize it as a first world problem, i still never really got over the fact that i didn't get to play Pokemon with the other kids. 

I never gave up on it though - i just delayed it. You know, for over a decade.

A decision was made that this year's Pokemon games would be a great time to finally make things right. So, because twelve-year-old me was so utterly deprived of Pokemon, early-twenties me spent about 125 hours with Pokemon White over the last two months.

I overcompensated. It was utterly cathartic, and i have no regrets.

A newcomer's thoughts about the series


  Secretly the best Pokemon.
Besides these personal reasons, without which i certainly would have enjoyed the experience differently, i found the game to be of impressive quality. Because it's the first one in the series i played, i got to see all the cool stuff Game Freak put into Pokemon over the years, all at once. To fans, i assume that it must be disheartening to play game after game and only ever see slight variations and additions from one release to the next. But first-time players like me, i feel like we're the big winners here, because we get to play this amazing, massive game that has been improved upon for over a decade. 

I still would not defend Nintendo's conservative approach to Pokemon. While it clearly makes fiscal sense to do what they have been doing, it's also quite lazy, and they have missed great opportunities by continuing to capitalize on what are basically remakes of Pokemon Red and Blue from 1996 (like, how about a real console Pokemon RPG, in full 3D?). 

Yet, i can't ignore that, between these downsides to Nintendo's Pokemon strategy, there is this one massive upside: With every iteration, they have gotten better at making Pokemon games. They have mastered the formula. Pokemon Black and White are the result of their 15-year learning process, and it shows.
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I have a huge spreadsheet about games and here's why that's cool

Hey! Know what's awesome? This baboon is awesome. 
                   

 Look at this Baboon. His jaw is a weapon of mass destruction. His pecs are hard as steel. His hair is majestic.   
You know what's also awesome? Data. 
 
(Ethan knows.)

mhhh... so juicy...
And that's why, a couple of years ago, i started maintaining a spreadsheet about games. It helps me to keep track of upcoming games i care about and already released games i still intend to play when there's time, and i also use it to track various data points about my game playing habits. Most importantly:  

  • Various game details - title, platform, release date, region (since it might be an import), etc.
  • The day i started playing a game. (Full game, not demos.)
  • The day i finished playing a game. (Some games obviously can't be finished; this is for games that have some kind of end point.)
  • Some other stuff, like game clock if the game measures the time spent playing. Sadly there is no real standard for how to measure that, so it's kinda worthless as a hard data point.
  
There are now 437 games in this spreadsheet. Keep in mind, these are all games that came up since ca. mid 2007.
 
So let's take a look at some charts: 

 
(larger) 
What does this chart say? In the last couple of years, i cared about games pretty evenly across all current platforms. Sometimes old stuff comes up too -  the SNES games at 1.72%, for example, could either be games i played or games i intend to play in the future.
 
Now, before i pulled the numbers i did not expect the PC to be my number 1 platform. My PC was built in early 2006, thus i stopped playing resource intensive games on it a while ago. Yet 18.97% of the games on my spreadsheet are PC games. I just underestimated how many relatively simple games (technologically speaking) i played over the years, e.g. Plants vs. Zombies, World of Goo, P.B. Winterbottom, stuff like that.  
 
I now realize that PC gaming has been diversifying more and more, and i didn't really think of it all as the same platform. 
 
Next up: More charts! 

2010 isn't over yet, i know. 
The first impression here might be that i start a lot of games but don't finish them. While i certainly sometime abandon games before i've seen the final cutscene, there's also a lot of games that don't have a traditional end point, e.g. fighting games, some music games and simulation-style games. 
  
So, why did i start playing almost 70 games in 2008, vs. 43 in 2009 and 39 in 2010?  
 
  1. It was a great year for games.
  2. I was still catching up on games that came out in 2007 (an even better year for games, remember?).
  3. I first got a PSP that year.
 
 Note how the amount of games i finished per year stayed about the same. Let's look at started & finished broken down by month: 

 Cumulated. That's the all months of January from 2007 to 2010 combined, and so on.
(larger)
This nicely demonstrates how more games tend to come out during fall than during the rest of year, and by extension how i play mostly newly released games. Not surprising, but still neat to see. 
 
Note that i finished most games in August. I think this is because i was trying to make sure i get games out of the way before the holiday rush starts. I don't really know though! 
 
Here's a timeline: 

    
 
(larger)
  • Again, 2007 was a crazy year for games.
  • See the decrease in activity during late 2009 and early-mid 2010? During that time i had a job that kinda messed up my priorities.
  • See how shit went nuts in the last few months? That's after said job ended... aww yeaaah. I caught up on tons of games during that time.
  • April 2010 was the only month since late 2007 where i didn't start or finish any games. Might have been playing a lot of FFXIII.
  • This data doesn't indicate how much time i actually spent on games. For example in periods during 2009, i was playing Rock Band every day, at least 5 hours a week. I wish i had that kind of data, but tracking it manually would be too tedious. It'd be cool if the console makers gave us access to it, since they're obviously tracking it.
 
Here's another timeline, games started per month, separated by platform: 

 
(larger)
Not sure about this one. The main takeaway is that there haven't been many PSP games i care about recently. I still haven't played Valkyria Chronicles II and Peace Walker yet, though. 
 
Also interesting is that the PC line doesn't show notable spikes during Steam holiday sales, even though Valve always gets me to buy a lot of stuff. And then i never play it. It sure seemed like a great idea at the time to buy that train simulator! 
 
Various fun facts i discovered in spreadsheet-land: 
 
  • Examples of games i finished on the same day i started them: Halo 3LimboPenny Arcade Episode 1And Yet It Moves.
  • Examples of games i finished on the day after the day i started them: BioshockSilent Hill: Shattered Memories, Heavy RainGears of War 2.
  • Longest recorded time between starting and finishing a game: Ouendan 2 on the hardest difficulty, at 414 days. Second place: PixelJunk Eden at 194 days. That's not including Encore, which took another 33 days.
  • I generally don't beat games more than once these days. The only exceptions since i started collecting data are Portal, MGS4 and Bioshock. Started a second playthrough of Gears of War but never finished it. There is some ambiguity here with certain games, e.g. Gitaroo Man Lives!, which i beat on regular difficulty and then again on the hardest one. I'm not sure if that should count due to the nature of that game. Then there's stuff like Rez, which i have probably played through more than 15 times, but it only takes about an hour to do so i'm not counting it.
 
 See? Data is fun! Imagine how much more interesting this will get 5 or 10 years from now. 
  
 Does anyone else keep track of their games like this? Please do share. You're also free to criticize my charts.
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