Twitter is now my favorite place to consume gaming content. Quick, easy, visual, and the ability to 1v1 anyone on their very literal latest opinion or creation. I was nonchalantly scrolling on my battered phone (probably ten centimeters from my face because I have no depth perception) before coming across this tweet by Girl Tribe Gaming.
I tapped it, ready to input my two cents by replying to the tweet as I don’t have a Reddit account, and then froze, mentally reprimanding myself. I couldn’t answer that question. My horde of 100 followers couldn’t know that the first time I ever played Street Fighter was in my first year of university, or that I caught my first Pokémon ever in 2016. They couldn’t know that I was a fake! I even have an illustrated Twitter icon, the hallmark of ‘I’m professional, yet hip; approachable, but discerning in the ventures I have dotted about in my bio.’
And then I realized that I should probably address this.
The year 2016 has definitely been a year for the reboots, remasters, remakes, sequels, and prequels—even before we talk specifically about gaming. At E3, Tekken 7 was announced and Microsoft Studios showed off the Gears of War 4 demo in all its high-def glory. Naughty Dog bestowed the huge news of a Crash Bandicoot trilogy remaster and release on PlayStation 4, which sent long-lost fans into a completely understandable frenzy.
Pokémon Sun and Moon gameplay were also displayed, and audiences both physically present and streaming the conference online cast opposing opinions on the new Pokémon. Some adored them, efficiently dispatching doodles and parodies onto social media, while others criticized the Pokémon for not being as interesting or inventive as the creatures from the original games.
Finally, Hideo Kojima emerged on stage from the shrouded rumors at Sony’s conference, stating simply: “Hello, everyone. I’m back!” The audience loved it. I remembered Kojima was important for something, but not what. A quick Google search before watching the Death Stranding trailer filled in the shameful gaps in my memory.
Fast-forward from a 45-minute talk at E3 2016 to now: the world has bore witness to the success of Pokémon GO, which has been the word on everyone’s lips—even presidential candidates. How could it not be? The game monopolizes the “same generation hypothesis.” Kids of the ’90s and early 2000s are hooked in by the heady nostalgia, accessibility, and ubiquity of smartphones over handhelds.
Excluding in-app purchases, Pokémon GO costs nothing to the player, removing the hassle and expense of buying a separate system. Additionally, exporting this Pokémon format onto the smartphone enables people to boot up the game (servers permitting) whenever and wherever they’d like to, making it an easy distraction during a coffee break or catching the bus to work. Pokémon GO moves with the stresses, bustle, and speed of life for young people in 2016—not against it.
I am honestly in awe of the number of factors and the difference in importance and weighting that have harmoniously synchronized to allow Pokémon GO to be the app that has more active users than Tinder, and soon, Twitter. In a world that seems to be spinning out of control, I’m proud of my generation’s devotion to virtual critters that make them happy.
This feeling doesn’t actually make sense, seeing as I never played any of the games as a child, nor as an adult. The Pokémon games are child-oriented, not adult- oriented, trading off the dream of being the very best like no one ever was. It’s special to those children that grew up with it and will grow up with the new Sun and Moon games now. I am separate to both of those groups.
Bereft of the Pokémon series and nearly every other mainstream game and console of the early 2000s, I was primarily playing on a PC. I had a selection of historical city-building games; Caesar III, Pharaoh, and Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom. I was afraid of conflict, anxious that the 2D sprite armies would ruin and pillage my beautifully planned gardens and residential areas, and ruled peacefully and balanced the moods of the gods with well-received festivals and offerings.
My cities thrived, but my micro-managing skills were not to be trapped in the past. I also played Theme Park, Theme Hospital, Zoo Tycoon, and its successor Zoo Tycoon 2. I bred several generations of Tyrannosaurus rex and cured afflictions from Broken Hearts to Uncommon Colds across many hospitals before I was riding my bike without the stabilizers. If only I could put this on my CV.
My gaming childhood was characterized by simulation games only, epitomized by the fact that my first Nintendog was named after a pre-made Sim in the The Sims 2. (It was Dustin Broke, if anyone was wondering. And he was a Miniature Schnauzer.)
As games progressed, we all grew up, and my personal interests developed, I felt intensely isolated from the group I desperately wanted to be a part of. I couldn’t relate to Call of Duty memes shared constantly on my Facebook feed, and I had never touched an Xbox 360 controller up until June of this year. I could be a relatively convincing poser through sinking many hours of my free time into YouTube Let’s Plays of the latest releases, and anything I didn’t get, well, Google is always your friend. Forging the missing pieces of my knowledge and ‘culture’ like this, however, is not a substitute for innate familiarity with this industry and its evolution.
I can’t help but frame my gaming childhood negatively! I want to write about it objectively, but I’m shown every day that it doesn’t count. It didn’t tick enough boxes. Do I even know all [insert number here] Pokémon in the first Pokémon game? I had to force myself not to research that number. And to not look up whether it was Pokémon Red or Blue that came first. Or if it even is ‘Red’ or ‘Blue.’ Maybe I’m thinking of Digimon? That was a joke.
That makes me nervous about where I stand in the crowd. I really want to continue writing about games past, present, and future, but if I can’t open my article with a cute, nostalgia-infused statement about Crash Bandicoot, is what I’m saying worth anything at all?
I mean, even writing this gives me anxiety. I’ve placed a metaphorical megaphone to my mouth and yelled “I’M A FAKE! I THOUGHT STAR FOX WAS A WEB BROWSER UP UNTIL RECENTLY! I DON’T HAVE MUSCLE MEMORY OF THE KONAMI CODE! I’VE NEVER PLAYED MAJORA’S MASK, AND TO BE HONEST, IT LOOKS A BIT WEIRD!”
Games are culture. I wouldn’t feel this way if they weren’t. But if one delves into the debate of what is and isn’t culture, and what is and isn’t a real game, it starts to get a bit offensive and restrictive. Our experiences are valid, whether we started playing Skyrim in our seventies, or we play Candy Crush Saga in our breaks between classes, or New Super Mario Bros. Wii is the only game we’ll ever need.
Instead of being petrified that one day my ‘poser’ status will be exposed and I’ll have to run for the hills, I should calm down and eat some fruit. I have nothing to worry about. It’s just a game, or few, after all.