On Completing the Kanto Dex

When I got Pokemon: Let’s Go Eevee last year, I wrote that it was everything I’ve ever wanted in a Pokemon game. It allowed me to pick a non-traditional starter (in this case an Eevee) and allowed me to dress it up like a pet and let me dress up a character that got to be a younger version of myself as I was doing the Kanto run. Longtime readers will know that I have played almost every Pokemon game that has come out except for a few of the fighting tournament ones and the one weirder JRPG one that I don’t think any American played. And if you have been reading the blog for a while, you also know that I am an avid Pokemon Go player and one of the things I’ve especially loved about Let’s Go is its integration with Pokemon Go. That integration comes in the form of a very clever little feature that allows you to transfer Pokemon over from the mobile game to the console game. And since I’ve logged too many damn hours in playing Pokemon Go and a nearly questionable amount of hours playing Let’s Go, I’m about to hit a milestone. I am one Pokemon away from finishing up the original Kanto Pokedex.

Now, I’m giving myself a pass on two Pokemon since Let’s Go comes out during a strange time in Pokemon History with well over 800 Pokemon and that pass I’m giving myself is Meltan and Melmetal. I don’t need them for the Pokedex and they take too much effort to evolve. I’ll get there just not today.

Let’s back up for those who have not managed to sink two decades into the Pokemon franchise. The PokeDex or Pokemon Index keeps a tally of all the Pokemon you’ve seen and/or captured during your journey. Each new region in the Pokemon world has their own Dex and completing the Dex is one of the ultimate goals of the franchise. It’s given to you early in your Pokemon journey and shows you how far you’ve come or how far you still have to go on your quest.

I’m competitive. Most people who know me know that. But on a first glance, I don’t come off as a very competitive person. This is mostly mitigated because I play a lot of games by myself. It’s hard to be outwardly competitive when it’s about beating your personal best and the few games that I do play with others tend to be more friendly. It’s one of the reasons why the boys (Ricky and Carlos) and I like Pokemon so much. Even though there is a bit of friendly competition, of course there is, it’s more about helping each other, supporting each other and talking about the game with each other. That was especially true during our run of Pokemon X/Y and Carlos’ fervor to complete the Pokedex had its benefits, I got Pokemon I wanted while still playing the game at my pace. Here’s a funny thing about me. I tend to rush. I am very goal-oriented. My goal when I play Pokemon is to be the very best and that means completing the main story. During my Kalos run, I beat the main story in less than 24 hours and I missed a lot of side quests and caught only the Pokemon I wanted and that I thought were cute and/or useful to me. But I didn’t mind that because it wasn’t like I’d never return to the game again. Since then I’ve logged over 200 hours in the Kalos region and have explored many small homes, trash cans and skated around not-France France while flirting with a very hot regional professor.

Carlos was determined to complete the Kalos Dex as he had not played a Pokemon game since Hoenn but I was content to spoil my Fennekin and enjoy all the clothes I could buy. We just play the game differently and there’s no wrong way to play. One of the benefits of Carlos’ desire to be the very best was the occasional message where he’d offer up a legendary or a shiny because through extensive trades he had a surplus of legendaries for some reason.

But it’s just never been my primary concern to finish the PokeDex especially as the number of Pokemon ballooned from a daunting 150/151 to now well over 800. I’m content to collect the Pokemon I want and keep the ones I like and the rest of the Dex be damned. Especially because most of the games now have many game-locked types of Pokemon from game specific legendaries to different types of Pokemon entirely based on which one of the game you get. Fortunately, between me and the boys, we typically have each variant game covered so if someone really wants a particular Pokemon, there is a friend who likely has it.

But with all the hours I have logged in Pokemon Go I have amassed quite the collection of Pokemon and the ability to transfer from the app to the game I was able to fill in many of the gaps I have in the PokeDex from my race to be the Pokemon League Champion.

It actually took me a while to sync up my app to my console version of the game. I was having fun running around playing with my Eevee and exploring the very familiar nostalgic region that is Kanto: where many of us started our Pokemon journey decades ago.

It was when I finally did start to sync some Pokemon in that I realized that I was very close to finishing up the coveted Kanto Pokedex. Something I have not done, well, to be honest: ever. I for sure didn’t care about catching them all when I was 6 and by the time I was more serious about the games around the time Crystal and Ruby/Sapphire came out, a Dex of a few hundred seemed daunting and like a challenge. It took a few transfers to really make me understand that I was very close to doing something that was quite a challenge.

So by the time you’re reading this post, I’m likely tormenting a Goldeen because Seaking is the last one I need after I move one Mew over (that’s why it doesn’t count in the tally: I already have the Mew).

And that eagerness to finish the Dex, finish the list, be the best has been thrilling. I feel like it’s an accomplishment. At the end, you get a little certificate for finishing the Dex and the thought of having a little set of pixels that said I did something is a pretty powerful motivator.

I’m not delusion. I know this is a game made for children but I’m genuinely excited. Every time this dumb fish Pokemon gains a level, I’m one step closer to my goal. One step closer to a goal 20 years in the making and a bond decades old with Pokemon and me.

I’m on my way to being the very best like no one ever was and I couldn’t be happier about it.

You Miss Every Shot You Don’t Take

“Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.” ― Søren Kierkegaard, The Concept of Anxiety_ A Simple Psychologically Orienting Deliberation on the Dogmatic Issue of Hereditary Sin (2).png

Another post about Pokemon Go? Really? I know, I know. This may be suprising to no one that I’m still talking about this little game but hear me out.

Today I want to talk about risk, anxiety and taking the shot.

In Pokemon Go’s recent update, you (the trainer) are on a hunt to track down the legendary Pokemon Mew. Your journey to track down Mew involves completing a bunch of mostly mundane tasks in the game: spinning PokeStops, catching certain Pokemon, going after gyms and finishing up raids. But the recent tasks often involves attempting to catch elusive Pokemon like Ditto who hides in plain sight. The thing is, Ditto never appears as it is. You have to try and catch a common Pokemon and hope that it’s the rare pink blob. And I’ll emphasize rare and try: Ditto is not common and never has been. There will be many wasted attempts on common Pokemon and that will stress me the math out. On top of that, it often means hunting specific types of Pokemon and attempting different throws which will mean plenty of trial and error, many wasted Pokeballs and lots of energy expended on a game that I’m probably too old to still be playing.

Risk is something I’ve never been fond of. It’s one of the big reasons I love and hate paneling. I have to put in a form and it’s almost never a promise that I’ll be in. I have to trust that I’m good enough at what I do to secure a spot. Anxiety means hating the unknown. And most of life is hilariously unknown. Because of those things, I do my best to remove as much risk from my life as possible. Well, the unnecessary risks. It’s impossible to remove all risk and that’s what makes anxiety at times so painful. But it means that I am super careful even when doing something as simple as playing a video game. I go after safe bets and do my best to never go into a bout that I don’t feel prepared for. And losing in a game is one of the best things I’ve found to help me cope with my anxiety. Losing in Street Fighter makes me face challenge head on. Trying to be Champion in Pokemon keeps me honest and makes me train my whole team and go only when I feel I can handle it.
Losing keeps me humble but it also stresses me out.

While normally, I’m pretty good at being mature and celebrating when my friends win fair and square (seriously, you should watch Carlos and I duel. I’m usually so proud when he defeats me.). But in some games, it actually causes me a fair amount of emotional distress. Picking up Street Fighter again to play against the boys has been an emotional rollercoaster! I feel inadequate for losing and not picking up motions despite me being excellent at this game when I was younger. I’ve gotten over some of that stress but I do my best to continue to get good enough to one day defeat one of the boys.

But it isn’t just video games that are sometimes affected by my aversion to risk. I don’t often try new television shows either. That’s a bit of a double reason, though. I use television often times as noise so it’s comforting to have a rerun on in the background while I write or sew. Something new will take up all of my attention. But I’m also afraid of being bitterly disappointed by a new show. I’m scared that I won’t like something and that there’s something wrong with me for not liking something that is popular. I pick safe bets and franchises that are familiar because there’s no chance in being disappointed by a rerun.

It also means being afraid to try new foods or new bars. I’m scared that I won’t find a safe menu item that won’t reveal the fact that I’m a secret picky eater. I’m afraid I won’t like a drink as ordered. I’m worried that I’ll be bored during movies because that’s not socially acceptable.

But without risk, there is no reward. I remember hearing that a lot from Carlos during this most recent panel season. A convention took a while to tell us whether we were in or not and I spent weeks in emotional limbo. Carlos spent a lot of time telling that I would miss all the shots I didn’t take. I’ve heard that before but it always rang hollow to me. Even when I was younger and playing softball, I would rather walk to a base than strike out. Sure, you miss some but pitches are unpredictable and stressful. You never know which way that ball is coming, so sometimes it’s best to stand still and calculate that risk first, right?

If I didn’t take a risk on paneling, I wouldn’t have found it to be one of the most rewarding things in my life. If I didn’t take the risk of moving away, I wouldn’t have found my own voice and my own two feet. If I didn’t take the risk of removing and adding people to my life, I would never have found the support group that I cherish.

And that doesn’t mean I don’t get to relish in some of the thrill of the unknown. I never know how any one panel will go and the thrill of the stage can be as exhilarating as it is exhausting.

You do miss all the shots you don’t take. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t understand or empathize with the fact that risk is utterly terrifying sometimes.

I’m still hunting for that Ditto. I’m still trying those tasks in the game that make me uncomfortable or take me out of my comfort zone. That isn’t all bad. I couldn’t imagine that when I picked up Pokemon Go years ago that it would end up being so therapeutic. It became one of the many ways I connect to the people I care about. But the game makes me focus on a goal and task and that is very useful for someone who struggles with the abstract concept of just being alive on this planet.

UPDATE: I did catch the Mew.

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621.4 Miles Later

I downloaded Pokemon Go because it was popular and I sold my soul to Pokemon many years ago with Pokemon Ruby. I added the app to my phone because I was sold on a trailer that promised me Pikachu in my apartment. The early parts of the game were…buggy. And I admit, I stopped playing for a while. But then, after being laid off, the game became a way to reconnect with friends and gave me tangible goals that helps me deal with some of the darkest moments of the depression that followed my unemployed stint.

I’ve given this game plenty of time, none of my reason money (as of now) and it’s caused conversations, arguments and rivalries both friendly and less than. I’ve taken the long way around to find a Pokemon not in my Dex yet. I’ve ducked out of places early or late to find something new and I’ll stop to take over a gym or to get more items.

So as I get my “Jogger” badge: which is claiming over 1000 km, I wanted to talk about Pokemon GO and being committed to a game.

 

Let’s go over a few basics first:

Team: MYSTIC.

Favorite Pokemon: In the current gens available for the game probably Eevee.

Most Worthwhile Catch: Girafarig probably.

Favorite Event: Halloween Ghost Event!

Favorite Starter: In the current gens available is probably Squirtle.

Pokemon That You Want the Most: I want another Lapras.

Best Egg Hatch: FUDGING LAPRAS.

 

But my feelings around the game have not been all positive. I struggle with how disconnected I feel from the rest of the world. I admit I think it’s rude when people play in front of others and I feel rude when I play in front of others. I don’t like the divisions people created by the team designations. I dislike how I’m now sort of tied to the game and hit a bit of a pay wall. I’m now an advanced enough level that getting items and things is actually sort of hard without putting money into a game I didn’t initially pay for and there is a lot of opinion in the gaming world about paying for free games.

But a year and a half on and 622-ish miles, I’m still playing Pokemon Go. Despite flaws, arguments and catcalling and turf battles: I’m still playing and still racking up steps, gym battles and eggs.

Here’s to many more gym takeovers and more raids. Here’s to questionable night time catches and going out of your way to hit a PokeStop.

 

Catch on, my friends.

 

At Least I’m a Pokemon Master Now

its-not-stress-that-kills-us-it-is-our-reaction-to-it-hans-selye-1

[UPDATE: This post was written before I started a new position. I’m happily with a company now and I couldn’t be more thrilled! That doesn’t mean I don’t want to share this post with you, my loyal readership.]

I’m not a mental health expert. I’m not a guru. I haven’t found enlightenment. But this is the story of how Pokémon Go helped me combat my anxiety. 

I recently found myself out of work, worried and anxious. Painfully anxious. In the West, we have a terrible problem: we assume that our entire worth is tied to work. And since I wasn’t working…who was I? It didn’t matter that I was Amanda the Cosplayer or Amanda the Bon Viveur; what mattered was that I was out of work. I obsessed. I put in countless applications in a day. I sat by the phone and waited for it to ring. I sat and I sunk into sadness and melancholy. I fell to the call of Acedia and Tristia and I felt awful.

In my other periods of unemployment I had denied myself of any pleasures of the flesh. I shied away from games, friends, food. My task and goal were only to get back to work and that perseverance kept me usually unemployed for very brief periods of time. But in denying myself the things that help me cope and deal with stress I rather quickly found myself frazzled and stressed out.

I am fortunate enough to have a loving support system around me and a common remedy was put forward to help get me out of the house and hopefully feeling a little better: walking.

Now, for those of you who are fortunate enough to know me in real life or to have met me at a convention or during a panel this may come as a shock to you but…I am not the bastion of physical health. I’m short, chubby and an asthmatic. I wilt in high heat and shudder in the cold. My flat feet mean that great distances wear on me heavily but I am absolutely one to find brief moments of Runner’s High. Brief. Very very brief. It may also be a surprise for you to know that until owning a car, my main modes of transportation were my own two feet and the local bus system. I walked miles in a day and didn’t think anything of it. I had good shoes and a sturdy disposition so that was all that mattered. As soon as I got a car, though, I found that I was walking very little.

So I decided to take on walking. It got me out of the house, didn’t cost much and it would help me avoid rickets but walking on my own with my sad music on my sad mp3 player wouldn’t do me any good. I needed incentive.

Pokemon Go is an AR (Augmented Reality) game that was released earlier this year. It’s an app that can be downloaded onto your phone and with it you can enter the world of Pokemon easily. I love Pokemon. I’m a dedicated Nintendo girl and the idea of catching Pokemon in real life was fantastic. However, schedules and resources made it difficult to play the game during its halcyon days. I also didn’t like a lot of the tension between teams: as a Slytherin, I am very sensitive to the idea of houses or teams being opposed to each other. That being said: Team Mystic forever.

Pokemon Go ended up being a huge deal. People mentioned constantly how it was helping them deal with depression and anxiety and to be honest, I found those stories to be a little silly at first. Depression, anxiety…those are serious illnesses. How can a game help anyone realistically cope with those issues?

One day, I decided that I’d go for a walk. Well, I was told I’d go for a walk after my friends admitted some concern about my lack of sunlight: jobless or not. I opened up the game, just to take advantage of one of the PokeStops that was just too far away from my apartment to normally enjoy its bounty. I collected the items from the stop and went on my day. I did this over a few days and steadily increased my step count and eggs. I walked about a block a day for close to a week. I was running out of Pokemon in my home territory so I decided to venture out just a little farther.

Woodlawn Lake isn’t far from my apartment. It’s a short drive and somewhat short bus trip. It’s spacious, lush and full of hungry birds and lights. In my first walk at Woodlawn Lake I chased down an Onix, tried to get an Electabuzz and walked just under a mile. I complained the entire time. I hated the heat, the ducks that chased me for my bread and was angry I didn’t get the Pokemon I wanted.

The next few times I walked for longer periods of time and caught better Pokemon. I took screenshots and shared my success with my friends and hearing them cheer me on was amazing. When I crossed over a mile and a half, I was praised by my friends and showing off the rare Pokemon I had caught gave us something to talk about other than the misery of our current situations. I was happy when my eggs hatched into beneficial or beloved Pokemon. I was happy to find something new. I was happy to keep walking, feel the sun and not feel too sore. It gave me something to look forward to. It gave me something to do. It made me feel happy, even if it was for a fleeting moment.

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Here are a few of the Pokemon I’ve captured on my adventures recently and some of the eggs I’ve hatched, too. [UPDATE: And these are the super early ones! I’m STILL playing Pokemon Go, I’m like level 23 now, so I’ll probably add more images later on!]

I’m a gamer by nature so I do feel the same endorphin release and feeling of accomplishment when playing a game (fun study on that here). It felt like a real achievement and was a solid reward after putting in between 5-15 applications daily during the week. I walked over a mile a few times and I was eager to keep walking. I planned my walks better, brought water with me and continued to share the photos with friends.

I struggled with the feeling  at first because it did feel like I was running away, well walking away, from my problems. I felt like I was languishing in excess and distraction. But it did remind me a lot of The Oatmeal’s lovely comic on why he runs. I walked away from the concerns of the world. I walked to distract myself. I walked away and turned my back to the issues and problems of the day and it is glorious.

And even though it’s intangible, even though it’s not real, even though it’s just a game…for a while, Pokemon Go kept me going. And I’ll be grateful for a long time to the game that helped me find my sanity once more.