The Pokémon Letters: Chapter V

Editor’s Note:

If we’re late this week (and I suspect we will be) you can once again blame me, this time for vastly underestimating the time commitment involved in a game of Pokemon Red/Blue, and also for ignoring absolutely every piece of advice my comrade Owen Grieve tries to offer me. 

For the past few weeks, we have been trudging through this children’s computer game, hand-in-hand, our Game Boys tethered, and our penises docked. All along we have been discussing, right here in public, what I am disingenuously agreeing to call ‘the experience’.

It’s been a long, long road. So far, my in-game clock shows over 24 hours, which some of you will recognise as the same number of hours it takes to get through 24 Sainsburys oven-ready lasagnes in a row. Although time spent alt+tabbed into pornography, or distracted by that weird woman on Masterchef, is not accounted for in that total. So the truth may never be known.

Not that I resent throwing my dwindling supply of time away on this nonsense, mind you. I assume somebody out there is reading and enjoying all this. Somewhere. Also, this one is long. Too long.

This week: Saffron City!

Dear Owen,

Fucking hell. What a chore.

You graciously warned me via The Tweets that I’d need to get cracking early doors on this week’s episode. So, because I’m intelligent, I started this chapter on Wednesday instead of Thursday. Forward thinking, you see. Turns out it still wasn’t enough time.

There’s fucking tons to be getting on with, so let’s just plough in, and I’ll try and pick up your questions from last time as we go.

♂COBRA♂ quits the Celadon gym, leaving the shattered remnants of his heart on the floor. Off he goes, look, out for a melancholic stroll around town, set to REO Speedwagon. This Team Rocket jackass is instantaneously up in my grill. I remember these goons from Mt. Moon, but I don’t remember what they were doing.

Somewhere or other, we pick up the word that Rocket are running a gambling joint in town, so at least we know where to look for trouble.

This is that restaurant you mentioned, isn’t it? I can’t honestly remember how old I was when I first ordered a meal by myself, but I’m undecided how I would feel about the locations in this game if I was playing it as a child. Would it feel like a glimpse into an enticing grown-up future of hotels and casinos; or would it just feel boring to be kicking it around cafés and museums? I’m not sure.

I can kind of see the overall metaphor for personal growth and change (especially when you consider the backbone of the game is the idea of evolution), but the problem with that is summed up for me by the little hotel encounter you detailed last week. A kid looking at this game from the perspective of a kid is pretty well guaranteed to miss that point, consciously at least. And I wonder how many of this game’s older players honestly give a moment’s thought to things such as that over and above the thirst for violent conflict and sexual repression which drives sales of almost every wildly successful computer game series, this one especially. That’s not simply rhetorical bollocks, either, I’d genuinely like your insight.

I forget where this happened, but what we’re seeing here is Pokéworld’s equivalent of Wikileaks, cheerfully shredding Team Rocket OpSec.

On second thought, Owen, perhaps you are right about the theme. Like pretty much every ‘adult’ experience, the Rocket casino is initially enticing and mysterious…

…but upon closer inspection, it turns out to be just another soulless battery farm for idiot-cash. No child is dim enough to be impressed by this.

I’ll let you guess how quickly I got bored of this, and how close I got to winning even the shittiest of the ‘prizes’ on offer.

Thank god we picked up that clue from wherever it was, eh readers? This guy immediately pounces on us – naturally, he gets immolated, and then he runs away. Cool guard.

This marks the beginning of three particularly shitty sections of this game, to which I am cursing you for introducing me.

Tons of fights, tons of wandering around, a weird maze that reminded me of a sliding puzzle, and two more fights – and then, the big denouement…

…another fight!

Now I’ve netted the Silph Scope, that means I can go back to Lavender and tackle that tower and get whatever thing I’m supposed to get there.

Instead, I wander everywhere I can trying to find a way to get to the end of this episode without feeding an entire evening to it. Turns out it needed two evenings and a late night, but oh well. Eventually, I pitch up in Saffron – after resolving a weird crisis involving dry-mouthed border guards – spy the gym, and imagine my troubles are over.

How naive of me. I thought we just cleared out the entire Team Rocket headquarters. So what does that make you, a refugee? An asylum seeker? A drifter? I pay taxes, you know. I don’t have to stand here and listen to your garbage. Why don’t you get a real job, and then we’ll both be out of one another’s way?

Our appeal to this young man’s decency and self-respect falls on deaf ears, and we are forced to find another way to evict him.

Broken Britain, 2011.

Fucking hell fire, eh? Click here for page 2!>>

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