So, the illustrious, pipe-smoking Adonis who is Rabid Ferret did to my Pokemon Silver walkthrough what Team Rocket gets up their ass every episode. I cannot, nor do I wish to be able to, go into that depth with the game. What I can do, however, is quietly contemplate on why Pokemon is such a long lasting series. When I was a wee lad, Red and Blue were the things to have, and now, for children of that age, it’s Black and White. Is it the simplicity of play, the (debatable) cuteness of the monsters? Here I’ll dive into a few possible reasons. But like any good analysis, there is no one true answer, and there is always a good argument for something else.
Keep it simple, Billy, and get off my lawn
No, I’m not necessarily contradicting myself with this one. Yes, if you want to get into high levels of play in Pokemon *snicker* *snort*, you need an in-depth understanding of a very complicated set of statistics. Do the kids who pick it up from Walmart with sparkles in their eyes care? Uh, no. The object of the game is really simple, even with seventeen billion different Pokemon to choose from. Here is a world with creatures in it, eight places that hold keys to unlock a final trial, with glory and fame at the end. The complexity comes after the wonder and wanderlust is satisfied. Each of your little friends knows only four moves, almost all of them malleable through CDs of various edibilities. The creators have not decided it proper to change this linear journey to Championship in fifteen years, because it works, and it appeals to more than just children under the age of negative thirty seven.
From children we rise
There’s not really much incentive to explore the world either. No obvious overarching plot when you set out. You are a just a child curious about the world. So you set out to discover. The towns aren’t dozens of miles apart. Instead, you spend maybe a minute or so travelling between them. Forests aren’t dark forbidding places, and caves don’t hide savage beasts ready to eat you (they want to fight your Pokemon, but not your flesh). The cities are filled with happy people always ready to give a good word or a free bike or a Poke-haircut for a low price. You mother wants only the best for you and no matter how many times you may fall in battle, the only real punishment is the loss of a few dollars out of your pocket. Your real enemies are deluded, cruel adults who you are fully capable of defeating and who you make understand the real meaning of companionship.
It is, in this sense, a positive reinforcement tool for all ages. Everyone wants their efforts to be rewarded, evil to be punished and the misguided to be shown the way. Some part of every child wishes for real independence from his/her parents, to go on some grand adventure in a world of mystery. Adults enjoy the safety of it all, the knowledge that in the end, things will work out all right. This is especially important in the uncertain, unforgiving real world. Teenagers, having tasted that independence while still very much under their parent’s control, enjoy the readiness with which the in-game mother bequeaths full freedom yet is still more than happy to support her child through thick and thin.
Give me stats or give me death (by fissure)
Now you may, correctly, accuse me of contradiction. While Sir Ferret von Handsometon’s explanation is far above my head, there are those who eat that stuff up. Correct me if I’m wrong (which I know you will), but Pokemon has a solid competitive community, or these stats wouldn’t really matter, right? The designers of Pokemon put in a lot of back end information that most players never even consider. Their efforts are rewarded by dedicated players unraveling these hidden codes and statistics to take their game to the next level.
A good parallel that comes to mind to me is Counter Strike. While not as old as Pokemon, nor even in the same genre, for that matter, the longevity of both is not to be denied. Also like Pokemon, CS has gone relatively unchanged in its twelve year history. CS:S was really nothing more than a graphical upgrade, engine tweaks and hitbox changes (to name some). I don’t really know if Global Offensive will do much more beyond cross platform play and more weapons. CS remains a game because of its base premise, solid front/back end coding and competitive grounding.
Pokemon’s is built into the single player; CS is multiplayer by default. Finding the best ways to optimize, or exploit, the systems in each game do not detract from their following. Instead, because there is such a static, but excellent, framework, the game grows until it needs some tweaking for the times.