We all have a video game that is, for us, a refuge, a place to return to when we need some peace. And it can be both a specific title and a saga, a platform or a graphic system. What’s yours? For a few years now, my refuge has been the pixelated stage of Pokémon on Nintendo DS.
In the middle of 2022, it seems increasingly evident that the trend of the video game is to want become useful, that is, in something that serves more than just entertainment, as if that were bad or insufficient. Right now we are immersed in the controversy of the NFTs. It is assumed that their integration will allow players to obtain exchangeable goods with real value; that is, playing to get something that can be exchanged for money. The idea behind this concept is not new. We buy battle passes that set specific objectives for us to fulfill day after day. And we fulfill them although many times we don’t want to play to that video game. I usually buy the Magic: The Gathering Arena battle pass myself, and I set aside time every day to play a few games and continue to accumulate experience points, for it. The matter of monetizing our leisure, and giving it a reason beyond fun, does not end here. How many of you have played popular titles on your Twitch or YouTube channel, not because it amuses you, but to generate followers and subscribers?
I say this from experience. I’ve been analyzing videogames for more than 10 years, which is another way to play for money, and doing so does not get the same pleasure as playing for playing. I will always remember when I had to analyze Sekiro. I blew it for playing it fast and wanting to get to the embargo date on time. Because earning money, followers or a reward that goes beyond fun is already something obsessive and, unfortunately, typical of our day to day. To feed this insane situation, the video games themselves do not stop asking us for more money once we buy them; What if DLC, what if to acquire content from a new season … and of course, if they ask you for money, you wonder how to give it and earn it. The unfortunate thing is that this ends up turning the video game into something very similar to work, and disconnecting from it, from studies and from routine should be one of its main characteristics. In the end, if you think about it, the question: “what are you playing for?” its meaning has changed a lot from the early 90’s to today. And precisely for that I need videogames-shelter free from all this.
For a few years now, my saga of videogames-shelter is pokemon, but not all deliveries, but those corresponding to the Nintendo DS stage. There are several reasons why they are. The first is due to the exquisite use of the pixel in this era. Before making the leap to Nintendo 3DS and Pokémon X, Y, the saga mixed elements in two dimensions with others in three, which gave the scenarios a mixture of verticality and well-defined pixels. Anyway, the pixel art of Pokémon Platinum or Pokémon White is not that it was exceptionally rich or detailed, but it had magic and a lot of intention. Pokémon forms a universe that needs the image not to tell everything because there are too many things that lack sense, so much, that it is better not to try to explain them. Six-foot-tall Pokémon hiding in tall grass? Do you really need to fight each other to bond with your coach? And how is it that they do not die, but yes, but well, but only weaken? That little point of archaic indefiniteness of this stage, added to the richness of its colors and those first steps towards 3D, is just right. the place where I like to take refuge.
I adore the pixel of the Nintendo DS stage of Pokémon
I know that now you will say: “but at that time those graphs were already totally out of date!” Does it really matter that a technical section is at the forefront? No, what matters is what you get to count on, and how you do it. It matters how you handle your vagueness or visual definition. The pixel, at this level and at this stage, gives a very suggestive air to descriptions of Pokémon such as Haunter: “it likes to stalk in the dark and touch the shoulders of its victims, who stay shaking forever“. Because of the type of pixel it is, I cannot see neither the shoulders of the characters nor if they tremble or not, but their lack of definition and this text invites me to imagine. The move from Pokémon to 3D, and now with the next Arceus Legends, has not taken care of this aspect so much. Now we see more, with a greater definition, but, what is shown us is at the level of what we could see? I think this balance was well resolved on the Nintendo DS, and that it was messed up in the following installments. More technical muscle demands more artistic responsibilities.
Only by playing with your Pokémon will you be able to see them fullyRight now I’m playing Nintendo DS Pokémon Platinum Version, not the Switch remake developed by ILCA. The reason is that this translation of the Game Freak pixel to those big-headed characters it doesn’t seem honest to me. I think it’s a distortion of the artistic intentions of the original game. It does not make sense to eliminate the layer of certain indefiniteness that the pixel gives, but not to provide in return more information to what we see in the form of animations, more detail or more life. Artistically and narratively, it hurts the original work, I think it detracts from it; I also believe that you have to know how to better understand what is positive about an artistic style from the past, even though it seems old. This extreme defense of these pixels is not done by me alone. The tremendous community of Pokémon fan game creators who, making Nintendo their own, build their own worlds of creatures, is passionate. their own video game-haven.
The most interesting thing about these fangames is also the coolest thing about the original Pokémon; I explain. Right now Leyendas Arceus is being criticized a lot for its graphics, but, on the other hand, fans say that these criticisms make no sense because Pokémon is not about graphics. The funny thing is that there is a similar attack and defense when the lack of difficulty of the series is mentioned, then, What is pokemon about? In my opinion, and that is how I enjoy them, Pokémon is about getting lost in its world, getting hold of all the Pokémon, enjoying the crazy descriptions that Game Freak writes and not playing with the initial Pokémon, but setting up different teams to as you go through the adventure. So you do not earn so much and you will know more to each of your creatures. I like, at the end of a Pokémon adventure, and as the days go by, to remember what team of strange creatures I made it with. This calmer way of playing is not something I can do when analyzing games, which is why I like to do it here. And it is a form of enjoyment favored by what the pixel hides: only by playing with your Pokémon will you get see them at all.
What is your video game-refuge?
Classic video games are free from that mania that they have to be usefulAt the beginning of this very personal article I mentioned that to the question “what are you playing for?” it was answered in a very different way before than now. In 2008, the launch date of Pokémon Platinum, nothing mattered other than having fun, having a good time, live a fun experience and share it with your friends. Playing retro video games is that at heart, and I don’t think it has anything to do with nostalgia. For me, my video game-refuge is Pokémon, but these same sensations are found in Golden Sun, in A Link to the Past, in Super Mario Bros., in Illusion of Time … because classic video games are free of that mania that they have to be useful, work or mechanisms to earn money. In his wonderful book Play Matters, Miguel Sicart said that “games have to guide us in a festive way in search of freedom, expression and truth”, and that is what I am looking for in these video games in which I want take refuge; no DLC, no NFT, no patches, no season passes, no mention of money or work, this to me is the essence of the video game-refuge. And mine is Pokémon and its suggestive pixel, what is yours?