It’s truly a great achievement that Deadpool 2 was made. Let us not forget that the first film only exists because of the combined efforts of a very dedicated starring actor, Ryan Reynolds, a passionate director, Tim Miller, and an almost animalistic public that went above and beyond the call to get the film made. By all rights such a film shouldn’t exist. It was the first modern comic book film to get an R rating, featured a fairly obscure character for the general public, and is placed within a universe that already had several films with tons of continuity problems. It was a monumental achievement not because it was a great film but because it came with so much risk. And yet it did extremely well and lived up to the expectations of comic book fans young and old. Because of this, we were lucky enough to get a sequel.
Deadpool 2 is not as good of a film as its predecessor. The main reason for this comes from the arrogance that clearly affected the writing process. While the first film was unsure of itself and had to be at least somewhat cautious and subtle with its jokes and digs at various things, this film has no inhibitions. They didn’t show any restraint or caution with how they wrote this film and that actually hurts the dialog a lot. Too many of the jokes were current pop culture references and overly obvious. The best example being that Deadpool actually calls Cable (Josh Brolin) Thanos in one scene. This is lazy writing. It’s an obvious joke that required no effort. It’s not particularly funny and it’s not a timeless joke anyone will appreciate years down the road. Many of the jokes in this movie are like that. They didn’t feel the need to be subtle or try particularly hard. They just went for the easy laughs. And I will admit that I laughed quite a bit, but I don’t believe I would laugh at many of the jokes during a second viewing. I have watched the first film multiple times and I still laugh every time. In my opinion, this is the biggest problem with the film and it comes from the fact that they knew they could get away with pretty much anything this time around. That being said, the credit scenes were some of the funniest jokes in the whole movie, but were also very on the nose.
The general narrative of the film isn’t as strong as the first movie either. The characters are more plentiful and better in multiple cases, but the story isn’t as cohesive or powerful. While the first film is a focused narrative about Wade Wilson and his transition into Deadpool, this movie lacks a well-defined character focus and arc. The first half of the movie is about Deadpool and his dealing with a tragedy. It’s a strong plot that follows the first film well. But about halfway through the movie it shifts into being a story about other characters that just happens to have Deadpool in it. Making a film not focused on Deadpool isn’t a problem if it had been sold that way and wasn’t called Deadpool 2. But that wasn’t what happened here.
Though it did unfocus the narrative, the addition of several new characters with a decent amount of screen time was not a bad thing. Some of them were extremely well done. Domino, as the best example, was an absolute joy to watch. I genuinely didn’t think that character would work on screen with her powers being done in a sensible, believable, and entertaining way, but they did an excellent job with her. So much so that I left the theater hoping for a Domino solo film. There were other good additions as well, plus a few great cameo appearances.
Visually speaking, I would actually say this was better than the first film. The violence is upped considerably from the very start. Even just the number of severed limbs is increased exponentially and they did not hide or censor the actions leading up to them at all. The CGI was also very good with great mutant battles, some very well-choreographed fight scenes, and multiple brutal Deadpool injuries. This is a gruesome movie and that’s exactly how it should be. I was also happy with the music. I think they handled it similarly to the first one where they did a mixture of serious seemingly out of place romance tracks with hilarious joke songs that were written specifically for the movie.
Ultimately I very much enjoyed Deadpool 2 but must state that the first one was a better overall movie, comic book or otherwise. This installment in the Wade Wilson franchise took too many liberties in a way that was lazy and lacking in authenticity. I think it works best when they write a serious film with over the top comedy elements rather than an over the top comedy with serious elements, which is what happened here. I will need to watch it again once it’s out of theaters, but I wouldn’t pay to see it a second time on the big screen. Definitely hope to see more Domino in future films though.
More than 20 years ago, when I was just a boy, my parents bought me a backpack. I was going to attend a church camp in the summer and they required all students to bring a backpack. My mother didn’t want me to use my school back pack so she decided that I needed one specifically for activities. It was a simple all black Everest brand backpack. It had two pockets in the front, one smaller pouch behind those, two netted side pockets, and then the main pouch. Even by today’s standards, it was a pretty nice simple back pack. Today you can’t even find a four compartment backpack from them on their site or Amazon that still falls within the normal backpack category. What I did not know then was that this backpack would be my closest companion for two straight decades.
If backpacks could talk, the story mine would tell would be more interesting than the lives of most people. It has been to multiple states including CA, IL, WI, PA, TX, MI, NC, AZ, CO, NV, FL, AL, and NY. It has been to and lived in multiple countries including the USA, France, Hong Kong, Thailand, and Taiwan. It’s transported thousands of dollars in products like laptops, gaming systems, mp3 players, and countless articles of clothing. It’s aided in crimes like transporting illegally obtained alcohol (past cops), smuggling alcohol into college dorms for underage drinking, and pirating digital content. It’s been used regularly in multiple jobs, been to countless theme parks and tourist attractions, and has traveled more than 100 miles by bike and on foot. It’s truly lived an amazing life for a backpack and I’m surprised it’s lasted this long.
Sadly, my backpack is ready to retire. I honestly thought this day would come sooner and I’ve been worried about it for several years. The inner lining is pretty much gone, the main zipper has bunches of threads caught in it, and it only has two of its six original zipper pulls. But it stuck it out for a very long time. And honestly it could last even longer if not for the weather here in Taiwan. After so much wear and tear, the main seam finally popped and the hole is slowly growing as more and more of it opens. I could try to patch it but the threads are already pulled so much that it would be cheaper and less time consuming to just buy another back pack. And with the amount of rain we get here having holes, even when patched, is no bueno. But this back pack has been so good to me for so long that I felt it needed a proper memorial in the form of this blog post.
I’ve had this back pack longer than most of my friends. My relationship with this backpack is four times longer than the one I have with the woman I will most likely end up marrying. It’s been with me through thick and then. I’ve been homeless with it. I’ve traveled around the world with it. It’s been with me through multiple relationships, jobs, and adventures. I can honestly say that if I had to choose between saving my backpack and a complete stranger I’d have to think about it.
It’s been a great run, but all good things must come to an end. The hard part now is replacing such a backpack effectively. I own other backpacks I’ve acquired in one way or another over the years but none of them can replace this one. They’re either too big and bulky or too small and fragile. I need something at the same normal size with the same quality, which is much harder to find in today’s cheap mass produced production system. And it needs to have just as many pockets. I’ve been using a temporary backpack I already owned of similar size and style, but it doesn’t compare. The pockets are all in the wrong places, it’s of a cheaper overall quality, and it’s a pull string and buckle main pocket instead of a zipper, which I hate. And already the buckle is giving me problems after just three days of use because of low quality workmanship. I’ll have to explore the markets of Taipei and find a replacement backpack worthy of the mantle. I don’t know how long it will take, but I won’t rush the decision and I’ll spare no expense. Well maybe that’s not entirely true, but I am willing to spend a decent amount of money for a solid backpack to replace this one. I don’t want to have to replace it for at least another 20 years. To that end I say farewell backpack. Thank you for your service, loyalty, and strength. Good night sweet prince. I bid you adieu.
*After writing, but before publishing this piece I was able to find a new backpack that met all my conditions. All black, has the two front pockets, a smaller pouch, and main pouch, zippers with pulls, and two netted sides. It also has some amenities old faithful didn’t like a laptop pocket inside the main pouch. I’ll probably use for my Switch though. Plus I was able to find it for a very fair $13.41 including taxes. Hopefully this is the last post like this I make for another 20 years.
I got my Nintendo Switch in December of last year. Technically I bought it in November but I didn’t open it until Christmas. I was always going to buy one but I had been waiting till the right time. Up until that point I didn’t see the value in buying one yet. But it was Super Mario Odyssey that finally pushed me over the edge. From the very first E3 reveal trailer, I couldn’t wait to play that game. I no joke was on the brink of shedding tears watching those trailers leading up to the release. So it should be no surprise that Odyssey was the first game I played when I finally opened my Switch. But it wasn’t the only game I purchased when I picked up the console. I actually bought several games at the same time and the other one that I was most excited about was of course The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
In 2017, Super Mario Odyssey and Breath of the Wild duked it out for Game of the Year. Both won high profile awards. But even the creators of Odyssey stated publicly that they thought BotW was the better game. Both games were highly praised and both games also had haters in the form of trolls and keyboard warriors. And of course because so many people don’t buy Nintendo, there was a lot of noise about how neither game mattered enough to warrant being GOTY. But I wanted to decide for myself which game was actually the best. So I played them back to back with BotW going second.
For me it was important to find out which game is actually better from both subjective and objective standpoints. I wanted to get the full experience of each game and be able to make an informed final decision about not only which game I liked more but which game is actually better based on the objective standards that all games are compared by. This meant pursuing 100% completion in both games.
I of course started out with Super Mario Odyssey. As I said, this was the game that made me finally buy a Switch and it came out first so it was the same experience that everyone else had when judging between the two games. It took me 60 hours to get a full 100% completion in Odyssey. That’s 1000 power moons, all costumes, all possessions, all souvenirs, all collectibles, and time spent playing Balloon World after the fact. I have a full understanding of the game and everything it currently has to offer. I can say without hesitation that this is the best 3D Mario platformer they ever made. It was perfect. Challenging at times, but totally doable, including the final challenge level. The lite open world aspect running as a singular continuous experience rather than pulling you out every time you got a power moon was a vast improvement over the classic system. The graphics are beautiful. The sound effects are great. I wasn’t super impressed by the music, but I can’t really remember a Mario game where I particularly was outside of the original Super Mario Bros. for SNES so that’s no real detractor for me with this specific franchise. There actually was a bit of story in this one that went past save the princess. It really is a glorious game that’s the culmination of the hopes and dreams of all Mario fans who have been playing since the original Super Mario Bros. more than 30 years ago.
What I especially appreciated about Odyssey was that it was the perfect length. It wasn’t a game that’s too short where at the end you think that was amazing but I wish there was more to do. It also wasn’t a game that felt like it dragged on and just wouldn’t end. When I finished it I felt perfectly content. I didn’t want to play anymore and I didn’t feel like I hadn’t played enough. I have always subscribed to the $1 should equal around 1 hour of play theory and I think the fact that game took me 60 hours is very perfect because games cost about $60 today. Super Mario Odyssey Is objectively an excellent game, which we can see from the reviews and many awards it won. But it was also a great game in my personal opinion. I had a blast playing it and I truly hope they just make a sequel instead of milking it to death with paid DLC.
I ultimately did not get a 100% completion in Breath of the Wild. I wanted to and I spent most of my time playing it under the impression that I would. But eventually I just burned out. I put 160 hours into that game. It is a magnificent gaming experience from start to finish. Beautiful scenery, different gameplay then we’ve ever had in a Zelda game before, actual character development, more than three main characters, a much more robust economy, tons of gameplay variation, way too many armor sets, and more puzzles of various types and sizes than I can remember seeing in any console adventure game ever. But it gets to be too much. 900 korok seeds to find, 120 shrines, 16 full armor sets, 18 single armor pieces, most of which need to be leveled up, and fairly challenging and lengthy DLC, which I also completed.
Breath of the Wild is the kind of game I would have loved as a kid. Back when maybe one game a quarter came out that I genuinely had to have. Back when I couldn’t afford to buy games so I had to wait till my birthday and Christmas to get games. A game this long and epic would have been amazing. I would have played it forever and did every single little thing. But today who has the time? I don’t personally know a single person who got all the seeds. Most people online say they didn’t get that far. I didn’t get all the armor sets. I only maxed out four complete sets and a few single piece items. It’s just too much. Especially with the ridiculous and ever growing backlog I already have. I started the game on February 27th. I played it multiple days a week up until April 19th when I finally went and defeated Ganon because God of War was coming out the next day and I wasn’t going to delay playing that.
I don’t have too many complaints about Breath of the Wild. And a game being too long is the best complaint a game can get in 2018. The issue comes down to the fact that the length is often padded with monotony and collecting, the worst type of padding. You spend so much of the game trying to find resources rather than new things. Once you have all the shrines, which takes quite a lot of time, you spend most of your time trying to find materials to level up armor and korok seeds. Both of these tasks are not really fun. They’re enjoyable the first few times because you’re learning and discovering things. But by the end of the game you’re just warping to map points waiting for minerals to respawn and setting up campfires waiting for star pieces to fall out of the sky and dragons to pass by, since you can only get one of four types of materials from a dragon a day. And there are three different dragons to deal with . . . It’s just a lot of tedious work in the late game. And that is a turn off when you have plenty of other games to play, as most do in the current gaming landscape. That’s not to say that the game’s not worth the money. It absolutely is. I got way more than 60 hours of enjoyable organic gameplay. Even if I had never taken the time to beat Ganon, it would still have been worth the money. But it begs the question of how am I supposed to grade the game? Do I say that because I got more hours of great gameplay than in Odyssey that it’s length is better even if I ultimately felt like it was too long? Or do I say that the length wasn’t balanced enough and because I left the game feeling like I hadn’t finished it that took away from my overall enjoyment? Hard to say. But I can say that I most likely won’t ever dive back into the game. I wouldn’t say that about Odyssey if they added more free content though. I’ve already taken the time to go back in to get added costumes by playing Balloon World for quick coins.
It’s very difficult for me to ultimately decide which of the two games I liked more. Super Mario Odyssey was so fulfilling in every way. I’m also more of a Mario fan than a Zelda fan in general to begin with. Breath of the Wild was more than fulfilling. It was overwhelming. And it was overwhelmingly good. Super Mario Odyssey impressed me for a Nintendo game. Breath of the Wild impressed me for a video game. And that’s why it won Game of the Year. It might not be my favorite game ever, but it absolutely does everything at the highest caliber of quality.
So after playing both games for a combined total of more than 200 hours of gameplay, I have to conclude that Breath of the Wild is the better of the two games and was the correct decision as Game of the Year 2017. But in any other year that would have gone to Super Mario Odyssey easily. I highly recommend both games and I’m glad to have taken the time to play them. I’ve actually put more hours into my Switch this year than any other platform so far.
Writing a review for Avengers: Infinity War is probably the most difficult film review I’ve ever set out to do. First and foremost, what’s the point? The purpose of a review is to let people know if they should watch a move or not. But in this case that’s a pointless endeavor. If you’ve already taken the time to watch every MCU film going all the way back to Iron Man (2008), then there’s absolutely no way you aren’t already going to see this movie. Writing a review for this is essentially preaching to the choir. Conversely, if you haven’t taken the time to watch literally every single Marvel film going all the way back to the first Iron Man, with the possible exception of Ant-Man, then I would actually recommend you not seeing this film. And even though he doesn’t appear in Avengers: Infinity War, even Ant-Man is mentioned. So pretty much I have to write a review for an audience that is already going to see the movie no matter what I write while still saying something useful to that audience so as not to completely waste their/your time. That’s the first challenge of writing this review.
The second, and even more difficult, challenge of writing this review is saying anything worth saying without spoiling the movie. Avengers: Infinity War is perfectly crafted to reward you for watching every single MCU film to date. There’s a payoff for literally every movie in one way or another. I need to watch it again at home so I can pause and rewind things just to make sure I caught every reference. Pro-tip: You won’t catch them all on a first viewing. It’s genuinely not possible. There are payoffs all over the place. My favorite one goes all the way back to Captain America: The First Avenger (2011). So it’s very difficult to not ruin the movie in one way or another while actually talking about it. The cameos, call backs, payoffs, and general plot are all intentional down to the smallest detail. I can’t even use screenshots outside of what was shown in the trailer, which lies about certain events in the film by the way, for fear of spoiling the movie, and I won’t. So here’s my attempt to review this movie adequately, usefully, and spoiler free. If I failed at any of these stated goals then I apologize in advance, but I did the absolute best I could.
The first thing that needs to be said about Avengers: Infinity War is that it goes hard. I don’t just mean at the end you get a very dramatic conclusion, which you do. I mean from the start of the film this movie goes where Marvel films have never really gone before. They said in the marketing and press releases up to the film’s release that key characters would end up dying. That starts in literally the first scene. You’ve barely opened your Junior Mints and started eating your popcorn and already characters you’ve grown fond of since phase one are dying. Not just B characters either. A class characters start getting their asses handed to them in the opening minutes of the film. And not in some powerful, ultra-dramatic Erik Killmonger death sequence full of catharsis and grandeur. Like run of the mill stabbed through the chest and moving on deaths happen to main characters in this movie. The number of main characters that ultimately die in this is almost unconscionable. When the movie ended, my girlfriend was genuinely angry about it because she felt her heart had been ripped out and stomped on by Marvel.
As was stated by multiple sources before the movie released, Thanos is the main character in this. It is his story and it is done well, but I wanted more. This is one of if not the best villain in the MCU because he is the most pragmatic. He isn’t motivated by greed, vengeance, arrogance, prejudice, or any of the other motivations we’ve seen from the likes of villains like Loki, Red Skull, Whiplash, Ronin, and even Killmonger. He is a truly dispassionate villain who doesn’t see himself as doing anything wrong. Quite the opposite actually. From start to finish, Thanos is acting with what he believes is the best interests of the universe and has true conviction. It’s beautiful to see some of the emotional moments he goes through because of how his actions affect others but must be carried out. And they took the time to develop his motivations, which was very important. I just wish they would have taken more time to develop him as a person. We are told all about what he’s doing and why. We even get what experiences led to his decision. But the movie doesn’t take time to tell you about Thanos the citizen of Titan or the fact that he’s actually a mutant of sorts for his race. We don’t learn about his biological family or his upbringing. Most disappointing of all, the plot in no way references his love for Death, the physical embodiment of the concept of dying. This made me the most unhappy because Death is mentioned in the after credits scene in Avengers I so I expected it to finally get that payoff here. But I will say that Thanos’ motivations in this movie are actually stronger narratively than how the courting Death plot would have played out in a limited time live action film. So while I wasn’t happy about it, kudos to Marvel for making the right decision here.
This is one of the biggest ensemble casts I’ve ever seen. They bring back just about everyone. The only heroes missing, other than of course Quicksilver, are Ant-Man and Hawkeye. That’s a ton of characters to address in one movie. And remember, this is a standalone movie. There’s no Avengers: Infinity War Part II. You get a full plot here. There are questions left unanswered of course, but you won’t leave the theater wondering what happens with the Infinity Stones and Thanos’ plot. But somehow in a less than three hour movie they adequately addressed pretty much every important hero in the MCU. Some are more important than others, but they all get a fair amount of time. The pacing is a bit off because the characters aren’t all together at the same time at any point in the movie so there’s a lot of jumping around. But everyone gets their screen time. Even a lot of B characters make appearances. I do wish they would have explained why Black Widow is blonde now, but it’s not a plot relevant issue so meh.
Visually, the movie is of course stunning. You get new Iron Man tech, plenty of time spent in outer space and on other worlds, graphic battles, new facial hair for multiple characters, of course Infinity Stone powers. Marvel never disappoints in this area and they didn’t here so there’s really no need to draw that topic out. Same goes for sound effects.
Music on the other hand, I wasn’t impressed by. It’s not that the music was bad, but that it wasn’t new. The only songs listed in the credits were already used theme songs for past MCU films and a single Star-Lord classic track to introduce the Guardians of the Galaxy, because of course there was. You didn’t get some epic Thanos theme or some new Avengers fight song. They pretty much just rehashed pieces of the MCU soundtrack, which isn’t that impressive to begin with, to play on your nostalgia. Which works fine for a movie that’s built on interconnected references and plotlines. But it’s not impressive as far as scoring films goes.
Overall, I have to say that this is in many ways the most fulfilling MCU film ever made. It has something for everyone; features all your favorite characters, has real consequences, completely changes the perceived future of the MCU, teases at least one new hero, is emotionally devastating, and stands alone plot wise. It’s the most impressive culmination of an interconnected film universe ever done. You leave the movie feeling like the last 10 years of devotion was worth it. This movie earned you taking the time to watch 18 (17 if you don’t count Ant-Man) other related films. At the same time though, it’s a terrible standalone movie. What I mean by that is this was made exclusively for MCU fans. You can’t be new to the franchise and go watch this movie expecting to understand anything important that takes place. You can get the gist of what happens. But you won’t be able to follow why specific characters do what they do. Why certain characters dying and others not is important. Who these characters are and why they interact with each other in the ways that they do. The movie is lost on new viewers. Which is why again I will say make sure you take the time to watch every MCU film before seeing this movie. And if you don’t remember watching them all, take a refresher.
There’s really no way to prepare you for what goes down in this movie without spoiling it. I’ve done my best here, but I can’t even say for sure that I’ve done a good enough job. Just strap in and have no expectations because you won’t know what hit you. This is like no other MCU film in any way, shape, or form. It makes Avengers I and II look like Justice League. Just go see it, which you were going to do anyway. All I can really say, for the third time because it’s that important, is if you haven’t taken the time to watch any of the films in the MCU, definitely take the time before going to see Avengers: Infinity War and watch all the after credits scenes.
It’s been a while since I did a Gaming Photography post, but I finally “finished” Breath of the Wild so I thought this was more than worthy of such a post. I’m actually going to do a longer “review” of this game but for now I just wanted to take the time to appreciate the stunning visuals of this game.
I took more than 1,600 pictures in this game because there are just so many great moments in it. Though I could never hope to capture this game with enough screenshots in a post like this, I’d like to present my top 30 photos from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I also post game photos on my Twitter and Instagram often.
*If you’d like to see the full resolution image please right click and press “view image”.
Please let me know what you think of my shots. Any feedback is appreciated because I would like to improve my gaming photography skills.
This is gonna be one of those blog posts that are way too serious about an issue that’s at most not that important and at worst absolutely stupid. But it seemed kind of interesting and a bit funny to write about so here we are.
I’ve been playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild for the past several weeks. I’m currently at more than 115 hours of play. Around hour 90 I realized that I had made a drastic change in a certain aspect of how I was playing the game; specifically how I was interacting with the natural environment of the game world.
Depending on the game and how it works, I try to apply my own real world ethical views to how I play most games. This affects how I answer in conversations and make decisions in games like Mass Effect. It informs how I progress through TellTale Games titles. It even affects how I deal with the game’s environment where applicable. Obviously there are exceptions, but in general this is how I approach games. In real life, I’m an environmentalist. No I’m not a vegan or some other such annoying person on a moral high horse. But I do believe that the environment and its preservation are crucial to the continued survival of humanity. This too affects the way I play video games and I don’t think my views on this issue have ever affected me as much as they have while playing Breath of the Wild.
Breath of the Wild is an amazing game because of how much freedom it gives you to interact with the world. If you want to ride a horse, you can literally run out to a field and jump on a horse’s back. It takes patience and effort but you can do it. And doing it is a great feeling. Then, if you choose to, you can keep that horse. You can befriend it. You can stable it. You can release it. The game encourages you to build relationships with your horses and only allows you to own a limited number of them at any given time. It asks you to name them and build relationships with them. Then if you get a horse you like better, usually one with better strength and speed, you have to decide which horse to release to make room for it. It’s an overall beautiful and personal experience. But horses are just a small part of how you can interact with the environment in this game.
One of the biggest ways you interact with the environment in Breath of the Wild is by farming natural resources. There are many types of resources such as insects, minerals, meat and other wild life products, and plants. For me, the most personally impactful resources in the game are meat from animals and wood from trees. Unlike the other Zelda games, this is an RPG. That means you need lots of resources to accomplish various things such as leveling up your armor, completing quests, and often most importantly, making money. Money is very scarce in Breath of the Wild. It’s not like in the other games in the series where you can just cut grass and get rich in a matter of minutes. As I said, I’m more than 115 hours in and I still don’t have that many rupees. The game asks you to spend quite a lot and offers you very little money for free. Instead you have to actively earn the money you need to accomplish things like buying armors, refilling your supply of arrows, and purchasing a house. Yes that is a thing you can do in this game. In my opinion, the quickest way to make money is by selling meat skewers. These are obtained by collecting meat from animals, cooking them, and then selling them to any vendor. Another way you constantly interact with the environment is by collecting wood, which is used for starting fires, crafting certain items, and is even required to complete certain quests.
When I first started playing Breath of the Wild, I was extremely conservative with how many trees I felled and how many animals I killed. I was pretty much only taking what I needed at the moment. I often accidentally knocked over trees and I felt bad about it every time. I always felt like I was hurting the environment and I felt actual guilt about this as I played the game, even though trees grow back rather quickly. When it came to animals, I killed them when I could to harvest meat, but it was never for selling. I saved all the meat I collected and used it to make healing items. The interesting part is that on Twitter I discovered that I wasn’t the only one who felt like this while playing the game. But eventually my environmentalism became too big a hindrance to my gameplay. With trees, this started when I was doing the “From the Ground Up” side quest line. This required you to give an NPC tons of wood. More wood than I had even collected up to that point. Suddenly I found myself indiscriminately destroying trees one after the other in the pursuit of large quantities of wood. I distinctly remember a moment where I had wiped out all the trees in a specific area and I felt genuinely bad about it. Caring about respecting the environment within the game had forced me to have to spend like an hour harvesting wood. And by the end of this ordeal I was done with respecting the trees. If I was going to be asked to provide NPCs with such large quantities of wood then I wasn’t going to stop farming it until I needed it again. Suddenly I was downing trees all the time while working on other stuff just to grow my wood stores in case I needed a bunch of it again.
Killing animals had a similar trajectory for me. At first I wasn’t killing them too often and I was using all the meat for myself. Then Reddit told me that selling meat skewers was the most effective way to make money. After many hours of not being able to afford the items I wanted and having to struggle just to buy additional arrows, this information was a godsend. I could hunt animals for pretty much free with my bombs and melee weapons and could never kill enough of them because I needed so much money. And really there is now end to the amount of money you can have because there’s no wallet limit, at least none that I’ve managed to reach yet, and you will never not have things that would be useful to buy. Especially when it comes to ancient weapons, which have a finite lifespan. I was killing animals a lot more and specifically for profit. I was even targeting specific animals because of higher quality meat yields which sell for more money. I had become the equivalent of a fur trapper in the colonial United States, mindlessly killing whatever animals I could find for profits. But this wasn’t even enough to satisfy my greed. Then I unlocked the Master Cycle and eventually made my way to Tabantha Tundra. This is straight up the North American wilderness at the beginning of The Revenant (2015). Except I have a motorcycle and the ability to wield a spear while riding it. I blaze across that frozen plain killing every animal I can find (wolves, moose, and rhinos) for a hefty return of meat. I can quickly farm several thousand rupees this way in under an hour. If I could somehow collect the meat without having to leave my motorcycle it would be a perfect system.
After farming large quantities of meat in the tundra several times I realized that the amount of animals I had killed had grown exponentially. Meanwhile, the amount of meat I was actually eating had shrunk to almost nothing because of the advanced healing power I had attained coupled with much improved armor. No longer did I even need the meat for sustenance. I was just killing animals for profit. It got to the point where I had so much meat that I started using base quality raw meat for motorcycle fuel because it wasn’t valuable enough to take the time to cook and sell like the higher quality meats. I had/have become one of those greedy venture capitalists of the colonial era, destroying and taking everything nature has to offer for my own personal gain.
What really got to me wasn’t so much what I ended up doing to the environment of the game as much as the transition to that point or more accurately the lack thereof. There was no moment where I actively decided that I was no longer going to care about my in game environmentalism. I just became irritated with being poor gradually and slowly found more efficient ways to deal with my resource problems. I hopped on that motorcycle and started hunting from it without a second thought. It was just faster and after so many hours of play I really wanted to speed things up. It wasn’t till far into this behavior that I had even realized it had happened.
Now I don’t have some profound point I’m trying to make here. I’m not going to change the way I play the game this close to the end because I’m actively trying to complete all my goals as quickly as possible so I can be done with the game and be ready for God of War. But I do wonder what the game would look like in the end if things didn’t instantly grow back when you teleport to a different area. It would be very interesting and probably depressing for me to see what the world would look like after I ravaged it for personal gain.
I started playing Pokémon GO on July 7th, 2016. That was the very first day that the app was available for download here in Taiwan. I started with the declared goal of catching ‘em all. Let me clarify that for me that only includes the original 151 Pokémon from the base set in the Kanto region. For me, that’s Pokémon. I started with Red and Blue (and Yellow), played through Gold and Silver, and then stopped playing. I’ve never really had an interest in the Pokémon past the original set, with a few special exceptions. So for me Pokémon GO was always about catching Bulbasaur to Mew. I finally accomplished this feat last week after 1 year and 9 months of continuous play. By continuous play I mean playing every day without fail, often for hours at a time. I’ve walked 2,411.3 km, caught 21,123 Pokémon, and spun 24,745 PokéStops. Finally I’m done. And let’s be very honest. There are players who have walked, caught, and spun way more than me and still don’t have all 151. That’s not a good thing.
I am a serious gamer. By serious I don’t mean I spend a ton of hours gaming, even though I do. I don’t mean I own and buy a lot of games, even though I do. And I certainly don’t mean that I play PVP at competitive level, which anyone who reads this blog or follows me on Twitterknows I absolutely don’t, because I hate PVP. What I mean when I refer to myself as a serious gamer is that I take my gaming seriously. As in I think about and play with a consciously serious mindset. I’m not the type of person to say things like “as long as it’s fun that makes it a good game”. I’m not the kind of person who buys a game, plays it for 30 minutes, gets bored, and then moves on to another game. I play games with intent and I think about them critically at pretty much all times. I set target goals for the games I play to specifically define when I’ll consider myself finished with them and what I need to accomplish before I stop playing them. This is true regardless of genre, platform, or hours spent. Some games I play with an achievement based goal like how I platinum every single Ratchet & Clank game that gets released. Sometimes I play just to get to the end of the single player story campaign like with most of the Final Fantasy games. Even with multiplayer PVP games I tend to set a target goal like achieve prestige level 1 in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. And as I’ve already stated, with Pokémon GO my goal was to catch all 151 base set Pokémon.
At the end of most games I complete, regardless of what my goal is/was, I’m usually happy to finally be done with them. With such a long backlog, I really like to clear games as quickly as possible. And some games are so long that by the time I get to the end of them I’m just completely burned out. But every so often when I reach the end of a game I want to play more but there’s nothing left for me to do. With most games I play, this occurs only when the game is very good, such as with Super Mario Odyssey. But for the first time in my life, it’s the opposite situation. I have finished a game, Pokémon GO, and would like to play it more but won’t because it’s not a good game.
Pokémon GO is not a good game. I have played hundreds, maybe even a couple thousand, hours. I’ve played in four different countries. Though I’ve never spent money in the game itself, I’ve spent more than my fair share to play it with travel fees, phone data fees abroad, and of course time spent. With all this experience under my belt, and of course the many years of gaming and reviewing games I have and had long before ever playing Pokémon GO, I can say without hesitation that it’s not a good game. If not for my serious commitment to gaming with a purpose and completing my declared goals, I would have stopped playing months ago. I have grown to love catching Pokémon just like I did as a kid and genuinely would like to keep playing the game because there are still more Pokémon for me to catch and new ones being added in the future, even if I don’t have any sort of personal connection to the later gens. But there are just too many problems for me to keep wasting my time with this game considering how many other games there are to play.
The saddest thing of all about Pokémon GO is that it doesn’t have to be a bad game. Niantic willfully makes it so. At its core level, it’s actually a pretty solid game. Certainly one of the best mobile games I’ve ever played. But the higher level mechanics are just wrong on so many levels. Almost all of which come down to a combination of greed and gameplay padding in order to arbitrarily increase play time. With just a few simple fixes this game could be something good that wouldn’t be constantly hemorrhaging players as it has since at least gen two. It could very easily be fun and playable for more than just us committed hard core players, and again the fixes necessary aren’t rocket science. The most important being adding PvE coins and rare candies, wild Legendary spawns, rotating spawns in any given area, removing all regionally specific Pokémon (as in distributing all Pokémon to all regions), making incubators acquirable at all levels by spinning PokéStops in unlimited quantities, prioritizing hatches to Pokémon players actually need, and adding trading, which in all honesty would become unnecessary if all the other changes mentioned were implemented.
What it really comes down to is that Pokémon GO plays like a game that only considers paid players. Like with most things by EA today . . . cough Star Wars Battlefront II cough . . ., it demands you to spend money not just to make the game better but to even make it manageable. I’ve been playing since day 1, yet I only have 500 spots in my PokéBank. I believe the current maximum is 1500 spots. Really these spots should be free, but instead they cost coins. Coins can only be acquired through sitting on gyms. Depending on where you are, this can be extremely easy or extremely difficult. For me, a person living in literally one of the most competitive GO cities in the world, Taipei, with no gyms that can be reached without leaving my block, it’s very difficult to get on and more importantly stay on a gym. And when I can there’s of course the 50 coin limit so I can’t even get my maximum potential coins in those extremely rare moments where I can actually keep a gym for several hours. For my friend, who literally lives on top of a gym, he has never gone a day since the latest gym update where he didn’t get his 50 coins. He of course has the maximum number of PokéBank spots available, even though he too is a free player. Of my 631 eggs hatched, I would say maybe 20% of them were Pokémon I could actually use. That’s Pokémon I needed to add to my Pokédex. This low number is due at least in part to the fact that I have such a limited number of incubators as a free player and the fact that I tend to get 5k eggs, which are the absolute least useful eggs in the game. Of the four Pokémon, not counting regionals, that I still need to hatch in order to finish the current available Pokédex, only one is available from a 5k egg and I have never hatched a single one. And to be honest, I’ve only seen one in the wild, which I caught. For the record, that Pokémon is Lileep. For the most part, these are all super easy fixes that would drastically improve the gameplay experience for pretty much all players, other than those who are willing to spend tons of money and can travel the world to catch a single Pokémon. But sadly those are the only players that Niantic considers when developing the game.
*After writing this but before I published it, I did see a second Lileep in the wild, which I caught, so I have actually now seen 2 Lileeps in the game.
Free players and casual players matter in Pokémon GO, as well as every other game with multiplayer elements. The fact is that GO makes a ton of money, but the percentage of paid players is relatively low. Yet if all the free players stopped playing the game would literally cease to work. You couldn’t have working gyms without players to fill them. You couldn’t complete raids without players to help. The game cannot work without your free player base because that makes up the majority of players that give all the paid players a reason to spend money in order to be competitive. So really it’s in the best interests of Niantic to do everything they can to keep free players happy enough to keep playing the game. The truth is that GO only still exists because of the popularity of Pokémon. If this was just a random game about catching monsters no one knew about it would have already collapsed due to the terrible management of the app. These flaws are why I cannot happily play this game anymore even though I would very much like to.
Let me be very clear about something. I don’t expect Niantic to fix their game. In fact I’m confident they won’t. But what I do hope for is that this post and others like it by gamers as serious as I am are seen by other developers looking to make similar games and hopefully they will take my feedback to heart when designing their own games. It’s not just about hour 1. It’s about hour 100. Mobile games like this only work with long term, dedicated players and many of them. As I said before, GO, in its current form, wouldn’t still be a thing if it didn’t have the advantage of Pokémon. We will soon be getting Jurassic World Live and I will be playing it. I haven’t decided what my goal for it is yet because I don’t know enough about it, but I do hope that the developers do a better job than Niantic at making a game that’s actually fun after the honeymoon period ends for all players, whether paid or free.
For the record, I have causally continued playing Pokémon GO at a drastically lower level of play since catching all 151 while I wait for Jurassic World Live to drop. Can’t say for how much longer that will be the case.