We are well into 2020 and expecting a deluge of games releases soon, like Final Fantasy 7 Remake, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and Doom Eternal. I’m still playing through the backlog of games I acquired during holiday season sales, and just wrapped up the story portion of Pokémon Sword and have started breeding a new team. So I took notice when some other outlets like Polygon and Jim Sterling recently commented on the boycott against Pokémon — about how the outrage didn’t seem to hurt sales. If anything, Sword and Shield are selling record numbers. It got me thinking, and it made me want to address the possible reason behind the outrage, and to say that sometimes it’s okay to take a break from the things we love.
Video games are an amazing medium that can cater to all ages and demographics. You have kids who are being introduced to gaming via Fortnite and you still have gaming veterans seeking their next thrill from an upcoming AAA release. There are also tons of indie games with unique, experimental gameplay, or are supported by small developers who pour tons of content (and love) into their games to keep players engaged. In a lot of ways, we live in an age where there’s a game for everyone. But what happens if you get too close? Oftentimes I find myself asking, “Why do I keep playing?” when playing long-standing game franchises like Call of Duty or Diablo. “Why isn’t there anything new for me to do?” “When is the next content drop?”
I think I reached the height of this feeling for the first time while playing Destiny. I wanted the new thing and I wanted new weapons and gear to chase, but the reality is that the playerbase is all-consuming. This isn’t anyone’s fault, players want to keep playing their favorite games and developers want them to come back. Bungie is an amazing studio that deserves all the credit they get for making a truly successful game-as-a-service experience where others failed. But even the top game-as-a-service can’t keep up with the demand! And tons of gamers are starting to fall into the category of wanting content drops as soon and often as possible. However, what has arisen is a disconnect between sustainable game design and players’ expectations. And recently Pokémon Sword brought that into light for me.
I didn’t play Pokémon Sun and Moon or the other versions that came afterward. The last Pokémon I played was Pokémon X on 3DS and honestly, I only played it for the main story campaign and left it at that. I didn’t hunt for more Pokémon, level up a competitive team, or attempt their version of the Battle Tower. There was a time when I would get every new iteration of Pokémon and do all those things like clockwork with each new release. However, almost every game nowadays wants you to spend your time (and money) on their new seasonal offerings. Most of my time is spent playing Apex Legends while balancing other games in between like Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order and Pokémon Sword. However, I know tons of friends and online communities that focus on only one game or franchise at a time.
As an outsider looking in, it seemed strange that Pokémon was catching flak for not meeting players’ expectations when Pokémon Go! and Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu and Eevee were highly profitable. It turns out that the biggest thing was Dexit (a cute portmanteau of Brexit and Pokédex). The Pokémon Company removed a large number of Pokémon from their latest games, claiming that it’s no longer sustainable for them to continue endlessly adding Pokémon to their games. However, hardcore fans rallied against the release of Pokémon Sword and Shield because of that decision. The game would get attacked for almost any new nugget of information that was even remotely negative. But once both games came out, outcries from hardcore fans diminished and everyone started enjoying Pokémon again.
Time for a BREAK!
Pokémon Sword and Shield released to rave reviews and tons of commercial success, so… what was the point of all that criticism? Are some of us too attached to this franchise that we expect more and more as we get older? I know for certain that I want Pokémon to grow and evolve in different ways and explore new avenues of game design. And we do get that in spin-off games like Mystery Dungeon and Pokémon Conquest (where’s Conquest 2 you cowards!). However, it’s become clear that The Pokémon Company also has a problem in their development. As the years have gone by, it’s become harder for developers to make games on a tight schedule, and Pokémon is a yearly franchise aimed at kids. And kids are easier to please than an aging fanbase who all came in during different generations of Pokémon.
All I’m advocating is for you to take a break from a franchise you love when you begin tiring of it. You can get too close to a fandom to the point where any good news just reminds you of what you don’t have. When Pokémon Sword and Shield announced their new expansion pass, I was hyped for it. But then you read the comments and discussions online and it seems like just another thing to complain about. Either way, taking a break from Pokémon rekindled my love for the franchise. I’m currently enjoying Pokémon Sword for the game that it is, and love the Wild Areas they introduced this gen.
Pokémon Sword does deserve some of the criticism aimed at it, like its poor environmental graphics and lack of animations. With the new DLC and Pokémon Home releasing soon, a full Pokédex will be available soon for those hardcore collectors. I don’t know if the 3DS Pokémon can be patched, but it’s great that the Switch games can be improved with new updates. The DLC will introduce new Wild Areas with more content that will hopefully satisfy those already enjoying the game. I know I’m ready for some new content but I’m still 1/3 of the way in creating a competitive team. Plus, adding Pokémon Home gave me more of a reason to continue playing Pokémon Go! as well. I already took my break from Pokémon and I’m ready to enjoy the content of this generation.
Was there a game you had to step away from only to come back to it and enjoy it more? Let us know in the comments below! Don’t forget to check out my interviews with Skip Stellrecht, Lauren Landa, and Evil Ted at ALA2020! For more great interviews, reviews, editorials, and news stay tuned to CultureOfGaming.com or check us out on OpenCritic.com!