Exit 179. Poor, naive me. I’m a n00b.

As I’ve mentioned before (once, twice), I have a complicated history with Pokémon Go.  The TL;DR version is that I didn’t grow up with Pokémon , and I didn’t get into Pokémon Go when the game was first released in mid-2016, but last summer I started playing while hanging out with a friend who was playing, and I was pretty much instantly hooked.

Last weekend, a different friend invited me to hang out and find some raid battles.  We drove around downtown Sacramento looking to see where the raid bosses were, while checking a Pokémon group on Discord to see who else was out raiding.  (For my un-Pokémonned readers: a raid battle is where multiple players gather in the same real-life location to battle a powerful Pokémon, and after the battle each player gets a chance to catch a Pokémon of the species they just battled.)  I haven’t done a lot of raid battles, since I’m usually playing alone.  I’ve won three raid battles of fairly low strength raid bosses alone, and each time I was able to catch the guy after the battle.  But I hadn’t gotten together before with other players to take down a powerful boss, like my friend and I were planning on doing.

Eventually, someone on Discord said that there were six “accounts” waiting at a certain nearby location, and that they wanted at least nine to go into battle.  Poor, naive me.  I’m a n00b.  By six “accounts,” I assumed that this meant that there were six people, each signed in to their Pokémon Go account from their phone, ready to battle this raid boss.  I was wrong.

When we got there, there was one guy sitting at a table with four phones and tablets in front of him.  He was playing four games of Pokémon Go simultaneously.  (I think the rest of the people in the battle were only playing one each.)  When the battle started, I asked him if I should be trying to dodge the raid boss’ attacks, as I would do with a regular non-raid battle.  He said sure, if I can, but he couldn’t dodge the attacks since he was frantically tapping on four devices simultaneously with different fingers and hands.

We lost the first time, but we tried again and won, and I caught the boss.  After that, all of us decided to look for another raid battle.  Instead of walking around like the game designers intended, the guy who had the four accounts went to this other third-party site (i.e., not part of the actual Pokémon Go game) and pulled up a map of all the raid battles currently happening.  As he was trying to explain to us what this site is, one of the other players who came to this raid battle started telling about this other third-party site where you can figure out exactly how to know all of your Pokémon’s detailed statistics and how to tell if the one you caught is the most powerful possible.  I couldn’t really hear what was going on.

We found a second raid battle about a mile away… interestingly enough, it was in the middle of a cemetery.  We won, nothing special happened there.  Then, as we got to the bonus round where we try to catch the raid boss, someone bumped into me from behind and made me drop one of my Poké Balls.  The guy who was talking about how to know all of your Pokémon’s detailed statistics started going on and on about that again, repeating everything he had said before about three or four more times, and with all the noise, I couldn’t time my throws properly.  I didn’t catch it, and I was probably a bit more visibly annoyed than I needed to be.

This is the kind of situation that makes me feel like I can’t call myself a gamer anymore.  In my childhood and teen years, video games were simple little distractions.  I could get home from school and spend about half an hour playing Super Mario Bros. or Tetris, then put it aside and move on with my life, still leaving me plenty of time to eat dinner, do homework, and watch The Simpsons or Full House or Home Improvement or Roseanne or whatever show my family was watching that night of the week.  That isn’t true with modern video games.  In order to be a true gamer today, it seems that one would have to immerse their entire life in the world of the game, spending hours each day on their quests and battles and, often, paying a subscription fee or paying extra for features not available to all players (in my Pokémon example, that would be the four tablets that the one guy had, in addition to the various optional in-game purchases that can be made).  Back in the day, I didn’t have to use some third party service to tell me the statistics of every Koopa Troopa that Mario stomped on, and I didn’t have to play four games of Tetris simultaneously in order to increase my chance of getting a long straight block.  And I just don’t have the time required to immerse myself in modern video games.  I have a demanding career, and I value other aspects of the real world too much as well.

People like the Pokémon players I met take the fun out of video games for me.  It is really unfortunate.  I know that not all games are like that and not all players are like that.  And I guess I just have to find ways to make video games fun and enjoyable for me.  That’s probably why I still like a lot of retro video games.

Exit 78. That’s okay, because you can have some leftovers and reheat them in the microwave.

The full trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens was released earlier this week, and advance tickets for the movie, which opens in mid-December, also went on sale.  I completely missed this.

There was a time, specifically most of my 20s, when I was on top of all Star Wars-related news.  I didn’t exactly grow up with Star Wars.  I remember seeing it on the big screen at one point; I think it was during a theatrical re-release around the time Return of the Jedi was first released.  But I was too young to fully appreciate what was going on, and since I didn’t have a lot of the toys, and I didn’t keep watching it as an adult, I wasn’t really that knowledgeable about the Star Wars universe.  I remember seeing bits and pieces of The Empire Strikes Back on TV over the years, but I know I never saw Return of the Jedi.  I really got into Star Wars during the 1996-97 school year, my third at UC Davis, when I had a roommate who was a huge Star Wars fan.  Coincidentally, this was also the year that the movies were re-released with new footage (and, thus, when the “Han shot first” controversy first erupted).

So what changed?  Why am I not following Star Wars as closely now as I used to?  I really don’t know.  It isn’t because I don’t like Star Wars anymore; that isn’t true.  It isn’t because I was disappointed with the prequels; I’ve said before that my opinion of the prequels is less unfavorable than that of most people I know.  I still don’t know what it is, but I think the major factor is just that I don’t have time to keep up with movies and entertainment franchises at that level.  I have a very demanding job, and I only have so much time.  Also, society has changed.  Activities like cosplaying, binge-watching, and “Geeking Out” (whatever that means) have become mainstream hobbies that also include adults (at least among the people in my world).  I simply don’t have enough time to devote to this.

Don’t get me wrong here; I’m not going to be like some of my conservative Christian brethren and say that when adults who are into this sort of thing, it reflects a profound lack of maturity that must be fixed and prayed for.  Cosplaying certainly isn’t any less mature of a way to spend one’s time than golf or fishing or shooting or motorcycles or any of the other things that the people who say this think that adult men should be doing.  If being a full-time geek is your thing, good for you.  Have fun with it.  I enjoy hearing your stories and seeing pictures of the costumes.  It’s just not something I can devote that much time to.  And I really don’t appreciate the way some people try to put me down for not being enough of a geek.  That takes the fun out of it and turns those people into bullies.  In addition to all the people who act incredulous when I say I don’t follow Star Trek, or those who think I’m wrong for not hating the Star Wars prequels, or those who get all high and mighty about how dumb sports are when I say I also like watching sports, I’ve also had people put me down for things as ridiculous as saying that pi is my favorite number instead of e, phi, Euler’s constant, or other far more obscure mathematical constants, because liking pi is “too pedestrian.”  Really?  This is how you’re going to treat people?  Asshat.

So back to my point.  So far, I have not bought tickets or made definite plans to see The Force Awakens.  The only person who has invited me along so far is going to a showing late at night as soon as it opens.  I have to work the next day.  It’s not worth the stress to me to call in sick the next day.  With my job, the early morning start time is pretty inflexible, and it’s actually more stressful to plan not to be at work than it is to just go to work (which is why I really hate getting sick).  I’ve told this to my friends before, that I don’t see a lot of movies these days because my friends all go at midnight, and I can’t do that with my work schedule.  Some of my friends have responded by saying that most of them would gladly watch the movie again, another time, and I can go with them then.  Thanks, but this really isn’t helping.  For one thing, most of the time, that never happens (although thank you for those who have in fact followed up that way).  More importantly, though, it still makes me feel excluded.  It’s like my friends saying, “Hi, we’re all going to go out to a great dinner, and we know we’re planning it at a time when you’re unavailable, but that’s okay, because you can have some of our cold leftovers and reheat them in the microwave.”  Gee, thanks.

The problem is that there really isn’t any alternative.  I don’t feel right asking my friends not to have their fun just because of my work schedule.  So if I do see The Force Awakens, there’s a good chance it’ll be either going to be with people who have already seen it, or alone.  And there’s a good chance it won’t be on opening night, since a lot of theaters seem to have sold out before I even heard that tickets went on sale.  But plans could still change.  We’ll see.  Always in motion is the future.