A Game By Any Other Name Would Be As Bleak

23 May

I have no idea if that title is appropriate for what I want to say, but I thought it sounded cool. Like how I used to think that the following MSN Messenger (damn right) names were appropriate:

  • Suicide Slug
  • Noxious Butterfly
  • Malificer

I stopped using the nickname “Suicide Slug” when i received an e-mail from a Suicide Prevention charity. I realised perhaps the name was in poor taste. I never looked back since. Merrymaker Mortalis is definitely a more cheerful alias. Speaking of Merriness; the Pokemon competitive community is kinda awful.

Pokemon Showdown (and Youtube comments as ever) lets you see the awful nature of some of these players. Either if you battle someone in Showdown they’ll even say “you suck” at the end of a battle. Or they’ll just leave immediately after the battle finishes. They may as well be battling against an AI. What’s the point of battling humans if you aren’t going to interact with them? You do something get nicely little chats afterwards, but they are very rare. That’s even if the opponent doesn’t forfeit. The only times I do forfeit is if I am testing a specific Pokemon tactic and my opponent KOs a key Pokemon. I explain why I am forfeiting and forfeit.

Now, I am speaking about perhaps a very small % of the whole community. But it’s enough of them to affect my enjoyment of that aspect of the game. I was using Pokemon Showdown the other day testing out some things. I was testing an idea for how to use some Pokemon. I like doing it. I’ve always enjoyed thinking up strange ideas on how to play a game and then immediately practise the idea. After a few games, i decided to stumble into one of the chat channels and exclaimed “I wish Heatmor had access to Sucker Punch this Generation”. I was met with a general tone of “shut up” with swear words thrown in. I critiqued the use of language and I was told “It’s like you’ve never seen swear words before”. That’s not the problem.

The problem is:

  • I don’t know you. You are a stranger. You are a stranger who is being unreasonably obnoxious. You are speaking in text, therefore I have no idea what tone you’re meaning to convey. Perhaps if you were speaking to me via voice or if I knew you, it could be a different matter.
  • Pokemon is rated E or 3+. Therefore, a child as young as 3 could (though unlikely) be interacting in the competitive scene. If not, they have internet & computer access and have discovered Pokemon Showdown. Is it really a good idea to speak like that to a stranger who could be just a child. Would you really say “<swearyswear> off” to a child?
  • Pokemon is a game. It is a game for E or 3+s. Why are you taking the game so seriously that you have to be rude to someone who you think is wrong. If someone holds an opinion which you disagree with, explain why you disagree with them. Being brash isn’t going to help at all. The person who you disagree with will just be reassured of their possibly incorrect belief. Hype is considered the second most powerful emotional force. Spite and Vengeance is the first most powerful emotional force. Congratulations.
  • A health competitive environment relies on a dynamic and shifting “Meta”. Meta is sort of like the strategies applied to win. An effective tactic will develop which the player base will adopt as the most efficient way to win. Since everyone uses the same tactic, the deciding factor is the player who can execute the tactic the best. However, there maybe ways to counter this tactic. The best counters are the counters that require a little more effort to execute than the thing they’re countering. The response to the counter becoming more popular is to change tactic to something that isn’t weak to the original counter. And then a new counter develops. In games that are actively updated and balanced, the meta can shift more dynamically. With Pokemon, the only major upsets comes from transitions into Generations (or Move Tutors that offer new abilities to Pokemon get added into future games in the same generation). The meta therefore can only be changed if the player base wants it to. If you’re going to be rude towards someone before hearing what they have to say, you will never learn any new insights. Something that might shake up the meta. Or you may put off a future asset to the competitive scene. You gain nothing by being rude.

This behaviour isn’t exclusive to Pokemon. All competitive gaming has this toxic side to it. It’s like the act of “battling” another human brings out the worst in people. Why can’t we play games for fun? Why do we have to play them to dominate and belittle others? It’s just more depressing when it’s in the family game Pokemon. The game preaches about love, respect and care. Yet, the competitive scene doesn’t feel like that. The toxic is the minority. But there is enough toxicity to affect enjoyment.

One must ask; what sort of person will behave so toxically towards another player in a family game?

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