Cheating in Video games? A counter perspective/ rant (With a Pokemon Focus)

Hey guys! Still working on retooling and re organizing the site. As I am going through the process it has made me wonder if I should  get rid of older, ramble-ly opinion pieces. But, I really want to make content in the mean time until I reboot other content, so for now, have some more of my ramblings.

Content warnings for multiple reasons below, because I am not sure if there will be stuff that will be an issue but it never hurts to have a warning just encase. Also, a lot of these rants may center around Pokemon cause holy dick, I have been playing a lot of it recently. This particular writing shouldn’t have any spoilers for the newest games, but again, warning just to cover bases.

SO. There is a feature, that can actually be traced all the way back to the first games that a lot of people associate with “cheating” in Pokemon. It’s first iteration? The EXP All.

A quick refresher just encase people reading don’t have any idea of what the dick I am talking about. Basically when your Pokemon does anything of value, it will measure it’s progress through Experience and levels. More experience points you get, your level goes up, more cool shit you can do with your Pokemans and the more badass it becomes (some more than others). For anyone who played pokemon ever this isn’t really news, and though Pokemon go is a tad different? It follows very similar concepts, even with minor tweaks.

Now, The Exp ALL means that it isn’t just the Pokeman who did the thing who gets the points. It’s everyone on your team. So the argument is that, it’s cheating, isn’t it? I mean, Pokemans who didn’t do fuck all are getting rewarded and becoming more badass even when they didn’t do anything. Also, they becoming more badass means it is easier to take on more badass trainers. Did you really earn your right to face against the most powerful trainers in game if some got a free ride?

And here’s the thing. In the first game it didn’t matter as much for two reasons: 1) you got the item so late in the game you would have made your dudes put in the work anyway to get that far, and 2) sigh… the gen one item is god damn useless. 

SERIOUSLY WTF. Like, Hey, the Pokemon you choose at the start of the game beat another trainer. They get 1000 exp, and everyone else gets 6. HOLY HELL WHAT A COMMUNIST NIGHTMARE SOCIALISM IS RUNNING THE WORLD.

Yeah, it was pretty awful. Now, when it came to things like say taking a pokemon that was useless and trying to get it to change into it’s badass form (*cough cough* Magikarp) this item was useless and didn’t change much. It was almost easier almost to level them up the way you did for your other Pokemon in the beginning of the game. On that note of Pokemon that were a pain to train, the next generation of Pokemon games  added a new, special feature that was necessary to make some other Pokemon get stronger, called “friendship” or “happiness.” This stat would be a painful, annoying little thing to turn super cute but ultimately push over critters into more tough ones through the power of being nice to them (you totally thought I was going to say “the power of friendship” lol). Here is the thing. If that Pokemon lost a battle (meaning it can take more damage, was fainted, and had to be healed up) it would lose happiness points.

Both the examples above show not really an increase of difficulty in the game, but more of length. It wasn’t necessarily hard evolving these weak Pokemon or getting them to be friendly (in some cases it is) but in reality it just makes a process of turning your team into a stronger, happier force into a longer one.

The solution to this problem is simple. Take the Exp All from the first game and retool it, giving reasonable rates of exp to all the pokemon on your team so they get stronger,  so they can participate in battles themselves, and earn EXP for the rest of the team. If you give the item to the player earlier in the game, the more likely they can take a weak Pokemon that requires happiness to evolve and making it stronger earlier. Making it more likely to get more happiness, evolve, and be bad ass.

See, so later games did that. They changed the EXP ALL to the Exp share and made it more accessible. This also meant either you were going to make one team member do all the work even more, cause everyone was going to get EXP anyway, or, that it would be easier to make use of other members on your team earlier on and allows younger and more inexperienced players the same chance to have similar variety or strategies and teams as those players who are older and better at the game.

And this becomes the controversy, it makes the game “easier.” But really, the thing that surprises me about that argument is, well for one: you can turn the item off?  Whether you use it, how often you use it, what you use it for and when is up to YOU.  If YOU find it makes things to easy, don’t use it?

Also, it’s weird to me about how adults talk about how easy a game is, especially when 1) some of them play competitive levels that are always going to be harder than the main story, 2) that is customizable to the point you can make your own level of difficulty if you really wanted, and the point I can’t stress enough, 3) its made for children. It’s a children’s game. I mean they can through all the references to the old stuff, or add old characters in it… but it’s a franchise that will probably always be focused on kids. Adults whining about how easy a game for kids is kind of ironic, because it enforces one awful stereotype of Adults who do enjoy these games: that they never grew up/ are whinny and entitled.

But before I slam people some more and seem like I am being heavy handed and unfair, there is a fair counter point to the last statement. Kids aren’t dumb. The idea that kids need hand hold-y, do everything for you games is a little condescending.  Especially when a lot of the kids who first played these games did beat them and did a lot of the hard stuff. But all that is why point two from the above paragraph is so important. With a game where you choose your team, and the very moves your team uses, and which items you use to support your team, it would be really easy to make the game harder for yourself if you chose to do so. Though I am not a fan of  “Nuzlocks” myself, really that very concept is doing just that: creating a harder difficulty with an established set of additional rules to add difficulty to a kids game. So those who aren’t challenged enough by the original games can get exactly what they are looking for: making the game more challenging.

It is also weird because when people talk about how difficult Pokemon games and who easier they are, are we still talking about the same game where for a long time people can’t even complete the game depending on where they live and certain times? See, certain Pokemon are so rare that you can only get them through special events, or, interestingly enough, cheating and exploiting the glitches or defects in the game to get said Pokemon. These events are easier to come by now because of the internet, but some of them a region exclusive, or only available for a small time, so sometimes it is literally impossible to complete the game and “catch them all.” One of the easiest games to beat the main stories can sometimes be the most difficult to complete, and so again how difficult the game is really depends on how you choose to play it.

Not true of all video games, but that fact that video games are participatory media means that a lot of video games can be as difficult as you make them. Like, If you beat the main plot of Skyrim and focus on very little else but the main story, it’s not that hard. But if your goal is to complete everything in that game, that is both long and no easy feat. How difficult it is becomes more about your personal choice, and really, since you are the one playing, that is really up to you.

So why does it bug me that people saying that using an in game item is “cheating,” or even that using guides (sometimes official guidesis cheating? Well, I guess because I feel there is a double standard routed in a more, interesting concern that is also more controversial in terms of video games. See, I tend to find that “cheating” that uses items like exp share or getting help from guides is more severe than, say, hacking a game for a rare item or creature or encounter or something. That, the “cheating” only matters really when it happens to make the experience “easier.” To me, defining an in game item as a cheat or a guide as a cheat more has to do less on what is an isn’t cheating, but how the gaming community views causal, new, or not as hardcore players. Some  sort of, “too easy” games or “baby game” or, ugh, “participation trophy syndrome.” ugh. 

Now, I might be over generalizing and a lot of people who play these games may not all have the same views. I mean, that was the whole thing I mentioned about “choosing your own difficulty” is that video games and how difficult they are can be largely up to the player, and what they are comfortable with. With that being said, as not everyone agrees on who to tackle a game, not everyone agrees on what is not good about a game, and sometimes what either “cheating” or making a game to easy is. So not everyone thinks that things like the EXP Share and the guides are cheating.

But I find concepts like “fake fans” or “fake nerds” and “casuals” are looped together and that they are the the cause or influence that games are “getting to easy.” Also, that they can’t enjoy a product or game as much as you do if they are not as good or know as much as you. That they can’t have the same input or love for the thing that you also enjoy if they enjoy it differently. This really relates to my own experience with Pokemon cause sometimes I feel like both ends of the stick. That, because I left Pokemon and when I was younger, I don’t know some stuff and “not a real fan,” but I also feel like I’m being a little bit of a douchey know it all when it comes to sun and moon because of just how into it I got. It really makes me think about my role in larger spaces of communities who enjoy the same content as me, especially as I try to be more aware and critical. I want to share my appreciation, not force people who don’t like it to like it, or say that I am right, or yadda yadda; as much as I want to be critically aware. But I that also means I, and I think others in the communities of gaming need to figure out better ways of insensitivity and sharing our love for our shit, and think about why we love shit.

But, before I go into that more, specifically my own experinces and grappling with the “participation trophy” thing more; I really want to come back to my original point (If I haven’t lost you all in my rant already). No where does it say in the Pokemon Sun and moon main game can you not use use exp share, and the only places you can’t your Pokemon are all Changed to level 50 (if above) and no one gets EXP. So I really do not think EXP share or using that is really cheating. And for people who say using guides or outside help is cheating, you aren’t breaking any established rules or re writing rules. Nobody says you can’t talk to your friend to find where a missing item is? This isn’t a University Final this a game! And sharing answers and helping out is how some of these communities are built are by sharing different experiences.

Yeah, okay, so if you can’t do a puzzle without it being explained for you step by step, I can understand how that would be cheating, or at least considered so. But, again, sometimes we need help. We ask our tutors, our teachers, our family, to help us when we get stuck. That isn’t a bad thing. And if Jirard the completionist needed a guides help to find one item or two to complete a game, is that any less of a feat? Is the game any less complete? Or anyone who has beaten a game that needed help finding a specific item to beat or complete all of everything a game has to offer, does it not count if they needed help?

I don’t think so, if you tried to figure it out yourself and you can’t, and you get a tip. There isn’t anything in most games that say you can’t do it, and if there was an event that said you can’t they would probably mention that in the specific event rules. I really don’t think it is cheating. I do think the reason that stuff like that is ties into the other stuff, the “you aren’t X good/knowledgeable/ much of a fan of Y so you can’t play with us” mentality. And I will try to connect those two better when I write the pseudo part 2 to this.

That might be a while, though, because there are some other video game things I want to rant about in the mean time. Again, all of this is just a practice in writing again and ranting my opinions. You don’t have to agree, I am just trying to find a way to better articulate why some opinions are bugging me a little. I could be 100% wrong, or misinformed. But it’s a good exercise to get me thinking and writting before I go back to classes in January.

I will write another one of these soon, but it will probably be on a different subject that might also be Poke related. Talk to you later.


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