Game Expression: Pokemon and “ennui”

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Game Expression: Pokemon and “ennui”

Why do we only catch a single copy of each Pokémon?

I explained two weeks ago that rewards and incentives keep us interested in playing a game. Rewards range from leveling up, flashy lights, happy sounds, and chuckles from friends. However, boredom comes after repetition. Humans have an emotion called “ennui”. Ennui is a feeling someone gets when they get tired of something that was once fun and exciting. Pokémon, to me, fits this definition well.

Pokémon is one of those games that people play in different ways. From Nuzlocke challenges to speed runs to competitive battling, it’s rare for people to catch the same Pokémon twice for the sake of using in battle. Looking at the more recent Pokémon games, wouldn’t it make sense for the player to get 6 of the same Pokémon with type advantages against the current gym leader? Yet, as I played Pokémon White and Pokémon X, I would run into a gym with only one useful Pokémon.

There are multiple ideas that can be associated with why this happens, from wanting a heightened challenge to wanting things one does not already have. Have you ever trained a whole team of the same Pokémon before?

I went back to the original Silver version a year ago and tried to train a level 9 Unown to level 20. Since Unown only knows Hidden Power, it wasn’t fun using the same move over and over again to try to take down an army of Woopers and Zubats. Imagine having to train an army of Unowns to level 20 when they only know one move. This is a bit extreme of an example but that’s why we don’t catch the same Pokemon twice (unless you’re aiming for competitive battling and need specific EVs).

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One of the more popular Pokétubers, JWittz, mentioned how the repeat ball is one of the worst Pokéballs in the game. As an opinion, you don’t have to agree with that, but how often does one catch another Ratatta or Pidgey? As much as I like Blitzle, Azurill, and Ampharos, I’ve never caught another one of these Pokémon a second time in the same save file unless I was trying to breed them for some sort of competitive play.

Pokémon would be an entirely different game if they didn’t give you the chance to catch over 100 different kinds of Pokémon. Look at the different kinds of games out there that feature a set number of usable characters. As games like Final Fantasy have shown, variety is still essential for long games regardless of how fun they are. Once someone gets too comfortable using one thing for too long, it gets boring and tedious. In other words, our “ennui” kicks in and we don’t feel like doing that one thing anymore.

Thus, we catch all sorts of different and varied Pokémon during our Pokémon journeys. We don’t do it because we have to but because the game would not feel as fun as it could be if we didn’t add continuous variety to our collection. We don’t want to get too used to one Pokémon and get bored with him/her/it. Having varied teams make the game more challenging and enjoyable because there’s a sense of discovery, from new moves to different stats and typing that the player has to deal with. If you only trained Gyradoses, as good as a Pokémon as it is, it’s not as fun as trying to train a whole party consisting of all sorts of good Pokémon.

Different Pokémon can be compared to college courses. You start with your pre-reqs (starter Pokémon and Route 1 Pokémon). Then, you’ll work your way up to higher level courses with various types (types of Pokémon and evolutions). You’ll have your majors and favorite classes (main team) and soon, you graduate and get on with your life (beating the Pokémon League). You don’t want to retake classes in the same way you don’t want to catch Pokémon. Well, you don’t want to retake classes because that costs money, but if given the choice to retake your best classes, why would you? You already know all of the material from that class and you already aced it. In other words, why would you train a second Gyrados when there are a boat load of other Pokémon that are just as good but different enough to make you a better battler?

It would be boring not doing anything new, thus, using Pokémon as an example, unless we’re breeding for certain traits, we catch only one of every Pokémon we find. Also, it’s because the Pokédex told us to.

by Matthew Maravilla

About The Author

Matthew Maravilla

A game designer/developer who's only trying to make sense of all of the things he's doing through writing about those things or just plain doing them.

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