Pokémon Legends: Arceus: Fighting Against My Clean Inbox Tendencies

I’m a minimalist. *looks around at the stacks of books and physical media* Ok I like to think of myself as a minimalist. Ideally my environment has minimal clutter and things sorted nicely and put away neatly. My brain likes the organization even if the organizational skills are lacking. For example, I don’t mind stacks of papers as long as they’re stacked neatly. Should they just be in a stack on my desk? Is that actually an effective way to organize? Absolutely not, but the fact that they aren’t spread out works for my brain. I’m also not afraid to get rid of things that are taking up space. I love a minimal email inbox and to that end I keep lots of small folders that things get filed into or otherwise they are deleted. My work inbox currently has 20 emails and I’m already making a plan to get that number cut in half.

What the hell does this have anything to do with Pokémon? The same rules apply to catching and keeping Pokémon. I don’t want a cluttered box full of duplicates that I’m probably never going to use. Ideally I catch a Pokémon once, fulfill their slot in my Pokédex and then battle any additional duplicates of this Pokémon. Traditionally I haven’t been into breeding Pokémon or hunting for IVs or Shinys, mostly because I didn’t know about the latter things until the arrival of Sword and Shield. I’m also not playing to catch all the Pokémon and play the series as a more traditional RPG. I assemble a team, enhance them as best I can, and plow forward through the story and battles. I’m here for the type match ups and turn based battling and usually dump the games after I finish that story. Even as a kid I would continue to power up my team so I would continually steamroll the Elite Four over and over. I just never had a need to have multiple Pokémon and liked the look of a clean PC inbox.

Pokemon Arceus Zubat Joke

That is until Pokémon Legends Arceus. Arceus shifts the Pokémon formula by making catching and collecting Pokémon just as important as battling Pokémon. You’re part of a research initiative run by Tram Galaxy to catalog and understand the Pokémon of Sinnoh region. Arceus takes place in an early era of Pokémon, based on Hokkaido during the Muromachi period, before the industrialization of Pokemon cities, gyms and leagues. Team Galaxy are new colonists to the region and come with advanced technology (Pokeballs and other tech conveniences) as a way to capture and study Pokemon. They have made a peaceful alliance with the region’s tribes, the Diamond and Pearl clans, who have coexisted with Pokémon in the wild and have never before used devices to capture them (more on this later). Your protagonist, who’s from our present and sent back mysteriously into the past (????), will partner with members from all the groups to go out into the wild settings to fulfill Galaxy’s requirements of studying Pokémon and settling great Pokémon that have gone berserk.

This overarching mission is given to the player as tracked activities in your old school Pokédex. To fully understand each Pokémon you’ll have to fulfill a unique set of tasks that range from capturing x amount, battling x amount, catching x number of varieties and sizes, catching them at certain times of day and much more. This means that you can tackle these tasks however you want. Prefer to go the more passive route? Complete the catching checklist tasks. Would rather not bother with all the Pokeball throwing? Pull out your Pokémon and battle. It doesn’t matter what tasks you choose from the Pokémon as they all work to raise your Pokédex level and also translate to exp for all the Pokemon in your party. That means if you’re like me you’ve been sticking to the catching route and bringing home ridiculous amounts of Pokémon.

Pokemon Arceus Silcoon Joke

It helps that catching is the best part of the game. The more open world areas allow you to explore and sneak around to capture any Pokémon you’re looking for. Arceus rewards you for sneaking up on a Pokémon and catching them unawares, a horrific move as the creature realizes that it’s being abducted from its home (more on this later). Regardless I’ve had a great time finding the right paths and Pokeballs to use when trying to complete my Pokédex. That also means I’ve captured multiples of 5 for just about every Pokemon I’ve come across. Every time I go to switch up my party I get freaked out at the unordered menu that appears before me. Which Ponyta did I want to take out again? Was that the Haunter that was with me before? My usually tidy inbox has become overrun with multiples and also rans of some of my favorite Pokémon. They’re all nicely displayed at the town stable where the Pokémon run around together in a fenced area. I’m getting concerned that I might be pouring too much Pokemon into one place and that maybe we haven’t thought through how this storage might scale.

Pokemon Arceus Miss Fortune sisters

Arceus also surfaces a lot of the weird ethical issues that are inherent to the series. There’s the weird setup of the story (no not the time travel) of the colonists essentially introducing captivity to the indigenous people. The two clans have done just fine with Pokémon before and have even befriended them without the use of Pokeballs. You would think this would cause concern from the tribes but instead they seem to think it’s just a neat new technique. There’s a lot of “o thank you new colonists for your insight” rather than questioning just what the ramifications of their mission might be. I can only question what the impact of me removing all the natural animal life for a given area would do. My Pokeballs and I are devastating the ecosystem one Great ball at a time. 

I’m still having a great time with it despite the weirdness of the story and my OCD around my Pokémon inbox. The new open world and mission based template is an exciting addition to the Pokémon template that requires you to engage with its systems in a whole new way. I’m having an amazing time capturing and collecting Pokémon where before it was merely a formality to create a battling team. It’ll be interesting to see what pieces the next mainline games, Scarlet and Violet, take from Arceus. Sword and Shield experimented with condensed open fields whereas Arceus has created an entire game around them. Running around the open world and completing my missions almost makes me forget about all my other irritations.


Let’s Play Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden

Exciting news: I have officially launched my first Let’s Play! Join my partner Emily and I as we traipse our way through Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden.

Released in 2018 and developed by The Bearded Ladies, Mutant Year Zero is an RPG based on the tabletop game of the same name. Well be exploring the post apocalypse and engaging in turn based battles with our crew of mutant characters. I’ve been meaning to check this one out for a while and it has proven to be exciting already. These will be going up weekly and you can check out the first episode now. We meet our new friends, start our quest, and learn valuable tactical lessons by making mistakes.

TV Uncategorized

Twin Peaks, Meditation, & the modern push-back to Mindfulness

After years of light (read: constant) suggesting, I’ve finally gotten my girlfriend to watch Twin Peaks. It is one of, if not my actual, favorite shows of all time and this will be my fourth time through the main series and second watch of The Return. Much to my relief she is really enjoying it and has allowed me to not feel completely like the annoying film boyfriend who won’t stop lecturing his partner about movies (I very much am, but I’m working to improve everyday). There’s so much to love in those original seasons: small town drama, over the top drama and characterization, supernatural mysteries that are just the right amount of dark and ominous. I knew she’d love Dale Cooper, the charismatic oddball and lead protagonist, but I didn’t guess the reason why. As a writer, she covers topics related to modern mindfulness and mindset and Dale Cooper is the embodiment of being present. He is always in the moment, paying attention to the shifts in nature and is constantly curious and interrogative of his surroundings. Dale’s personal practices had me reflecting back on mine and how his meditative practices are interpreted today.

Mindfulness and meditation are very much modern buzzwords and for good reason. The act of grounding yourself and centering your mind back on the present has widely benefited people. It’s easy to get lost in your brain, constantly reflecting back on past mistakes or worrying about the future. As someone with lifelong anxiety, finding meditation helped me tremendously. Learning to identify when I have negative recurring thoughts has allowed me to identify triggers and create ways to help manage them. My anxiety also manifests in the creation of long to-do lists or minute weekly schedules; taking even ten minutes to breathe and let my mind wander helps me dismantle these rigid checklists before I let them spin me out.

It’s these types of benefits that has people evangelizing mindfulness, but a lot of talk about it is overly prescriptive. The way meditation is often described sounds much more like a magic cure all, a way to remove or erase those negative side effects related to mental disorders. There’s been a push-back to this narrow definition and in some instances has made people feel worse for not being able to tap into the “amazing” positive benefits it’s supposed to yield. There is more than enough outside stimulus and mental health side effects that prevent individuals from being able to tap into this practice. The best discussions of mindfulness discuss it as a tool to be incorporated into your mental health toolbelt (and to toot my partner’s horn, something she does quite well in her writing). On my best days, meditation can help calm my anxiety and leave me feeling centered. On even my mediocre days, it can be an exhausting experience and leave me discouraged that I wasn’t able to fully ground my mind. Meditation is very important to me, but being realistic with its benefits is what truly allows me to keep my practice. I will always have anxiety and it will not solve my mental health problems, but it has allowed me to process my trauma. This does not mean that meditation and mindfulness is right for everyone though.

Twin Peaks Sheriff Department

Agent Cooper embodies the ideals of a mindfulness practice not only in his present focused mindset but in how he communicates it to other people. He is interrogative and curious about everything. His famous lines about food and coffee come from his well of presence. He notices the mundane and celebrates it because he’s present in those moments. He notices the trees and wants to know more about them. He notices peoples habits and body language, the sign of a great investigator but also the sign of someone who is in the moment. It’s a perfect example of the touted positive effects of mindfulness, being ever present.

Dale’s practice is deeply personal and it informs how he interrogates and investigates the world. He’s inquisitive and has learned to trust his intuition even if it’s a bit off kilter. The rock throwing scene from the third episode demonstrates this; the investigation is at an impasse so he uses his intuition to guide their next step. Each rock thrown represents a different person that could be involved with the case. A missed rock means they’re not involved, skimming the bottle means connected but not the person Laura wrote about, and the eventual bottle break means Cooper is dead on. The process is semi-spiritual as a discussion of the Dalai Lama precludes it, but it’s more about tapping into a gut instinct. Without any further physical evidence to go on, Cooper moves to a more grounded practice to inform the next step. The rock throwing is a guide into where to step next not a guilty verdict. He uses his practice to take a step back and tab into his unconscious.

David Lynch Twin Peaks

It makes a lot of sense that David Lynch has stated that Cooper is essentially a stand in for himself. As Lynch said “He says a lot of the things I say.” You can really notice as well when David Lynch left Twin Peaks in season 2; the sage wisdom tips and curious nature slowly drops away. When you read interviews with David Lynch or watch his new daily weather report, you can see a lot of the same mannerisms. David Lynch is a lifelong evangelist, saying it completely changed his mindset and creative process. It shows in his works, pieces of slow-moving, dark, interrogative pieces of film. The minutiae of life, everything from electrical sounds to blinking light fixtures, factor into the story and mood of his films. You can easily draw the parallels between his work and his dedicated transcendental meditation (TM) practice. 

In fact, he really pushes TM through his David Lynch Foundation. Their stated goal is to provide TM for any child that wants to practice it. The website and PR around his foundation has lots of incredible claims around the positive benefits of the practice and how it allows people to access a deep well of creativity and happiness. It’s unfortunately a really good example of what really pushes people away from mindfulness in the first place. Incredible claims around happiness and positive life benefits tie into that aforementioned image of the cure all. It implies that without the practice you won’t be able to access this deep well that the foundation alludes to. What if someone is unable to practice mindfulness? What about the outside factors that contribute negatively or prevent someone from having 20 minutes a day to set aside? It makes it all seem very out of touch and only accessible to the most comfortable of us (rich white Americans) especially when the social proof is from powerful white celebrities like Martin Scorcese and Hugh Jackman.

Which is a shame because it grinds against the depiction of Dale Cooper. He never glosses over the dark details; beneath his grin is someone with deep inner turmoil. His practice allows him to weigh both the good and the bad and presents a vehicle in which to process it. Mindfulness might have changed his life, but he doesn’t present it that way to people. When he offers advice, it’s practical in a way that’s accessible to others. And we can all learn to follow some of his best tips.

Competitive Games Uncategorized

Pokemon Unite Isn’t Worth the Hate

Pokémon Unite, the new mobile/Switch MOBA, was announced recently and with it the usual fire hydrant of hate that greets most Pokemon news. It seems fairly innocuous; a free to play, 5v5 multiplayer game where each player controls a Pokemon. This game however elicited hostility from two different camps. Pokemon fans were frustrated by a new side game rather than the new “Let’s Go” sequel that was rumored. Hardcore MOBA fans found that it looked too simplistic compared to the intensity of genre mainstays Dota and League. There’s nothing wrong with a little variety or a more sleight version of Dota. I don’t disagree that it’s not at least partially a cynical cash grab; MOBAs with dedicated player bases print money and couple that with Pokemon it’s practically destined for success. Even so I can only imagine that the game will be at worst a pleasant and easier way to jump in and out of a MOBA without eating up my schedule. This could also attract a much more diverse audience which will hopefully help skew away from the more toxic nature’s inherent to the two fandoms.

I certainly sympathize with the hardcore Pokemon fan base. Being plugged into dedicated online communities means sorting through your own personal excitement for a franchise and half truth rumors. A sequel to “Let’s Go” is certainly exciting; the original was a great surprise and I’d love to revisit the Johto region from Silver and Gold in 3D. That doesn’t excuse the petulant online behavior though, a trend amongst the Pokemon fandom that reached a peak with the regional Pokédex. Anything that doesn’t meet the exact expectations is derided. The reception of a new Pokemon Snap is a great example; a new sequel to a beloved spinoff game was met with high praise. The Unite trailer however received lots of dislikes on YouTube. A new genre spinoff of Pokemon doesn’t have to be crushed by fan expectations. The series has enjoyed plenty of spinoffs that were retroactively embraced by the fandom. This game isn’t going to replace the mainline games after all; the Pokemon company would actually charge for that. This game isn’t diverting resources either as a developer familiar with mobile MOBAs is creating it. In other words, Unite is not taking anything away.

Pokemon Unite Battle

MOBA fans on the other hand are much different but no less dedicated beast. Especially in North America, MOBAs are only for the hardcore as the current most popular games require extreme dedication. The rules themselves can be a bit intimidating, but learning heroes and then team roles are even bigger learning curves. Dota 2 and League of Legends require studying and aren’t designed for easy accessibility. That’s not even mentioning match times which are usually at the minimum 40 minutes. This has bred a toxic player environment, a badge of honor that you were dedicated enough to understand the game. The intense cooperation necessary leaves players open for harassment too. 

This is a bit of a narrow view for the genre. Since the initial MOBA explosion at the beginning of the decade, there have been lots of mobile versions that have sprung up in Asia. These are much friendlier games allowing for a wider variety of players to pick up. These haven’t really picked up in North America though. The dedication for hardcore MOBAs hasn’t inspired those same players to pick up other alternative takes on the genre. The style of game also isn’t as ubiquitous; people may know what League of Legends is but isn’t hasn’t penetrated to wider cultural phenomenon. Without that existing buy in these smaller games don’t have a chance at the same success.

Pokemon Unite Hero Pick

Enter Pokemon Unite. Pokemon, with its friendly aesthetics and gigantic cultural reach, is the perfect property to graft on to the mobile MOBA formula. The brand is aimed at younger audiences so having an easily accessible game, both in price point and difficulty, will ensure a hit. The cynical side of this is that it’s an extremely savvy business move. There is an almost 0% chance that this game fails; at the very least it’ll have an explosive opening. A free to play price point (or “Free to Start” in the game’s parlance) ensures lots of microtransactions. Whether that’s gameplay inhibitive or strictly around cosmetics remains to be seen. The upside though is an easily playable game for a much wider audience than a traditional MOBA. Pokemon has the chance to bring in people who don’t usually engage with multiplayer games, especially since it’s available on mobile. An easy pick up and play multiplayer game is a great way to connect with friends who usually don’t engage in games. The fact that it’s all Pokemon is the icing on the cake.

That doesn’t mean Pokemon Unite is going to be for everyone or even great for that matter. It’s really a fairly innocuous announcement. The amount of ire it stirred up doesn’t match the scope of the game. Pokemon Unite has the capacity to be a multiplayer phenomenon but will probably skew closer to fun momentary diversion. That’s really all it’s aiming to be, a fun genre spinoff using the existing property. It’s staying power is completely besides the point. I’m excited to play as a Squirtle alongside 4 other friends, even if it’s only for a game or two.


I’m Back, Baby!

Good news! I’m restarting this blog! Not that you’ve missed it, since you probably haven’t seen it! But let me explain myself first.

I started this blog to practice my writing, specifically about my interests in video games, TV, movies, and possibly music. I wanted to make writing a habit and slowly flesh out this site with interesting posts on whatever I was interested in. That obviously did not work out.

So 2 years later, I’m trying to make this commitment permanent. I am going to write and write and write on anything and everything related to the subjects above. It doesn’t have to be new or even relevant. It doesn’t have to be long deep dives into a single subject. It just has to be a certain measurable length and it has to be once a week.

Think of this post as a treatise, a statement of purpose for going forward with consistent new posts once a week. I have some good ideas to keep me on track too. I want to have start posting series, blogs that are all around a specific subject. I want to also write about anything new that pops up (Ni No Kuni II in the mail!) Maybe I’ll even branch out into those TV and movie areas I haven’t even broached yet! Mostly, I’m just going to stop being hard on myself. This is for fun; I’m using a free domain so how serious could this be? I’m going to get out of my own way and do the damn thing. I’ll keep this short and sweet, look for more soon!

Evangelion GIF