Everyone is talking about Pokemon right now. With the incredible popularity of the Twitch Plays Pokemon stream, Pokemon has definitely been on the brain. And for good reason, too. It's a beautiful thing, watching 50,000-100,000 people all trying to make progress in an eighteen-year-old game that is ostensibly for kids. I mean, the stories are incredible, the fan art is hysterical, and even some of the streams inspired by Twitch Plays Pokemon are fucking brilliant. They've been playing for over eleven days straight now, and have six of the gym badges. They managed to beat several parts of the game that were deemed "impossible" by fans, while seemingly trivial things had them hung up for days at a time. Simple things you wouldn't normally care about became incredible trials. Every trip to the PC was a nail-biting experience that could have (and has, on several occasions) ended with the release of their best Pokemon. The whole thing was an inspired idea, and I plan to keep following it even when it's popularity dies down (something that is bound to happen soon if they don't figure out which fucking direction to go next.) All this inspired me to pick my copy of Pokemon X back up and sink in a few more hours.
And then everything changed.
While casually strolling around with Pokemon that were clearly too OP for anything in this game to stand up to, I decided it was time to give the "Battle Maison" a shot. The Battle Maison is a post-game feature that allows you to pit your team against a series of computer opponents, with a catch. Every single Pokemon is evened out to level 50 upon entering, and the "switch whenever you KO an opponent's Pokemon" mechanic is no longer present. It's like battling online, something I've always been too terrified to do, but against an idiot AI who is incapable of judging you.
It's a feature that's been in the games for a very long time, but it's always been something I've ignored in favor of the grind to level 100. But I had been stomping face in Pokemon X, and was looking for a new type of challenge to satisfy me. I walked in, ready to steamroll the competition as usual, when a funny thing happened. I lost. I lost over and over and over. I got wrecked. My Pokemon that could almost take on the entire Elite Four singlehandedly could barely get a hit in. I was getting fucking worked by this shitty AI, and I had to find out why.
This thirst for knowledge led me to some interesting discoveries about things I had previously not been capable of giving a shit about. Did you know that speed is in Pokemon battles, to the point where entire matches are decided almost entirely by that one stat? Did you also know that no matter how well you train a pokemon, unless it was born or bred lucky, it will never, ever have the best stats it can have? Did you know that the stat-boosting moves are actually incredibly important and shouldn't be totally ignored?
These were all things I discovered in about fifteen minutes of searching. There's an entire world of competitive Pokemoning out there, just under your nose. And it's crazy. In my search, I stumbled upon Youtube rants by a guy sporting a Typhlosion hoodie about how a certain website's rules were stupid and not the rules people should follow, complete with a sea of comments arguing strongly for or against either side and 50,000+ views. I read about different "tiers" of Pokemon, and learned about all sorts of crazy Pokemon terms I had never heard of like "Phazer" and "Revenge Killer." I came across a hyper-religious and ultra conservative website that also dabbles in competitive Pokemon guides. It looks like it fell out of 1999. There's an entire page devoted to "Scripture in Pokemon" that I'm too afraid to look at. I also found myself deep in year-old forum threads, reading the darkest shit about breeding a Pokemon with it's own parents to get perfect stats.
You know what's sadder than all of that, though? I started breeding a perfect Pokemon anyway. I sifted through some scary parts of the internet, and lost enough pride along the way to follow its advice. After god knows how many hours of breeding, I now have a perfect 5IV Alakazam with the Magic Guard ability holding a Life Orb, with 252SPA/252SPE/8HP for its EVs. If that sentence made no sense to you, be grateful. You still have your Pokemon innocence. It's lonely in this Pokemon rabbit hole.