The Pokemon controversy and “the right to criticise”

I’m talking about outraging fan bases again, my favourite.

The current big drama that people are getting up in arms about regards the news around the upcoming new Pokemon games on the Switch. When, I heard that Sword and Shield weren’t going to support the use of every Pokemon, like many fans, I was bummed out.

Really though, that was the extent of my feelings. Like a lot of these contentious decisions from video games developers, when you think about them for a few moments, they make total sense. Something like this happening was inevitable. There were eventually going to be too many Pokemon for them to make all of those models and keep up with the demands of making an entire game around it. The days of static sprites are long gone.

Additionally, with this being the first new Pokemon game on the Switch, I’d like to think Game Freak would be a little more ambitious in their approach to designing this game. As a result, it’s difficult for me to get angry about this kind of thing based on nothing more than a few public statements, especially when the game is still months away from release.

As usual though, as people whip themselves into a frenzy, individuals begin directing their anger towards Nintendo and Game Freak. Something I never really understand. It’s as though this single unpopular choice acted as the tinder for everyone to start unloading into the franchise with every minor grievous they’ve had with the games in recent memory.

One of the more common sentiments I’ve seen floating around is that Game Freak have been getting lazy in their approach to the Pokemon games for a while now. Really? X/Y saw the jump from sprites to polygonal graphics and added mega evolutions. Following that was Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire, which amongst the best games they’ve ever made.

I’ll put my hands up and say I was not the biggest fan of the games in the Sun/Moon generation. But that comes down to their design choices. Calling them lazy seems like an insane accusation, especially when talking about a series that is, at its core, very formulaic. Sun and Moon, if anything, were more ambitious with their chances to the established formula.

With the being the general level of criticism being thrown in the game’s direction. I inherently find it difficult to take any of the excessive anger seriously. It’s fine to be upset, but the fact that fan’s can’t express a negative emotion without losing their minds these days makes me want to distance myself from all semblance of fandoms altogether.

I’m a rather big proponent of protesting something you don’t like about a product or service by denying them your time and your money. At the end of the day, these are products, as much as people like to pretend otherwise. If you don’t like like something, you’re better off simply not interacting with it. You’ll be happier about it, and if enough people do the same, then the creator will certainly get the message.

If I had to make a choice between a full Pokemon roster and a more feature rich Pokemon game. I really would take the latter.

Especially in this modern age of content creation where everything has a long tail or needs to be part of some shared continuity.

When it comes down to it, being the angriest person on the internet is no longer anything special. I should know, I do it as a hobby. Sure, if enough people shout loudly enough, the people behind the game will notice. But it’s getting that I think most of them are becoming desensitised to it, especially in game development. Generally, by the time we get to this stage and people are complaining about things they’ve seen in trailers, development is far too advanced for them to do anything about it.

Game Freak have had their vision for these games set in stone for years now, so in their press statement regarding the controversy, their message, in the politest terms possible, was tough shit.

As you’d expect, this didn’t go over too well either. And you get an escalation of people like me; who want to give the games they enjoy the benefit of the doubt, butting heads with the angriest people who just want to argue with anyone an everyone.

I’ve been called a fanboy, a sheep and other less savoury names all in my attempts to mediate what is usually an extreme and unnecessary reaction. My favourite of which is “I’m just exercising my right to criticise/things don’t improve without criticism.”

People seem to grasp onto this concept that criticism is some holy sword that they can use to single handedly smite anything and everything they don’t like about any form of entertainment.

The statement from Pokemon game director Masuda in which he basically tells people to deal with it.

What none of them seem to realise is that true criticism can only really come from an expert in the field. One who has spent years, maybe decades gaining a reputation and respect from their peers. Any shmuck with a Youtube channel does not automatically become an expert, just because them yelling loudly got them a million subscribers. A large reach does not automatically mean your opinion is more valid than the blogger with the same knowledge behind them.

If anything , their “influencer” status comes from them overreacting to everything and a fear that comes from marketing departments as they whip up a (usually) baseless frenzy over a matter. People start to mistake being popular with being correct. Thus you get big Youtubers who regard themselves as critics when their entire shtick is to get excessively angry with everything. I like to think I approach things with a more even temperament, but I don’t regard myself as a critic, not even close.

But even if I did. The concept of a critic seems to becoming increasingly dated as the aforementioned influencers and opinion aggregators like Metacritic and Rotton Tomatoes help people make up their minds based on popular opinion rather than a professional one. Even I am guilty of this, pointing out the discrepancy between the audience reaction and critic reaction between Godzilla: King of Monsters when the professional average didn’t match up with how I felt.

The problem with all of this is that games and movies get reputations and stigma surrounding them before they even get a chance for anyone to experience them firsthand. The drama surrounding this Pokemon game is going to be something that lingers with it for years after its release. It’s something that can make or break a game based on little more than misdirected rage.

Pokemon is a large enough franchise that they can take this one the chin and it won’t bother them. And in a few more generations time, not having all of the Pokemon in a game with be the norm. These kind of snap reactions can make or break smaller games and developers, when they’re generally based on everyone thinking their opinion is important.

Even professional critic’s opinions are not infallible. As media is increasingly requiring context and prior knowledge that not every professional can be expected to have. But I’d still expect a professional to know what is “objectively” of high quality, even if that’s not necessarily a factor in my enjoyment of something anymore. Instead, we follow whoever is shouting the loudest and take them as the general mood, even if we don’t agree with it.

When ironically, the quietest voices are the ones we should be listening to, drowned out by the incessant noise of people getting angry over puddles.

4 thoughts on “The Pokemon controversy and “the right to criticise”

  1. I really wonder how much of an effect this will have on the games. It’s odd but from where I’m standing their are many more people who are willing to buy the game just because a good section of the fanbase has been bashing it. Like a strange inverse ratings bump, where people get tired of the people bashing the games and decided to buy the games just to piss people off. I see this a lot in the comments on twitter and on youtube.

    But we won’t know for sure until the games come out.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If this were another game, I’d wonder the same thing. But Pokemon is such a gargantuan property that I’d say 80% or more of the people who will eventually buy the game will have no clue this controversy even happened.

      If you think about it, this is still essentially a children’s franchise, who will still make up a bulk of their audience. And then there’s the additional neutral interest that came from the people that came to the franchise via Pokemon Go and the impressive sales of the Switch on top of that.

      I think this game is going to be just fine. This whole corner of the internet getting angry about this issue makes up an inconsequential percentage of how this game will eventually sell.

      The only thing you’ll be getting is constant comments whenever the game comes up on social media asking whether they’re going to patch more Pokemon in… which they might.

      Sorry for the longwinded reply haha. Thanks for commenting.


      1. You may have a point, when you live on the internet you are more intune with things like this and tend to forget that not everyone can pay attention to every controversy.

        In addition part of me wonders, if this might affect Pokemon Home sales more then Sword and shield sales. Since the people who care about this are the people most likely to subscribe to home.

        I guess we will know soon enough.

        Liked by 1 person

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