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Editorial

Pokémon Go Could Revolutionize Pokémon…Or Not

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So last night, I was flailing around in a hyped up tizzy. I happened to catch a tweet from Bulbagarden announcing that a new Pokémon mobile game was announced (and the minute I’d heard Nintendo was going to be developing for mobile, I’d been waiting for this announcement) and that it was called Pokémon Go.

And that it was an augmented reality game. Where you walk around the real world and catch Pokémon.

Oh man, I just got all excited and dizzy again.

Details are sparse, but the game supposedly tracks and leads you to Pokémon in the real world and it’s up to you to follow the tracks and find them. How cool would it be to find a Bulbasaur in the woods behind your house? Or a Pikachu wandering around your school? Or a Jigglypuff sitting in your chair at work when you get to the office? Insanely cool, that’s how cool it would be. It would be like the coolest guy on the planet wearing three sets of sunglasses levels of cool.

That is super cool.

From the looks of it, the game doesn’t, like, superimpose pictures of Pokémon over the real world or anything like some AR games might. But I’m still a child at heart, so I am quite capable of pretending.

The game is even being developed by Niantic, Inc., which was founded by Google Earth co-creator John Hanke, who has worked on AR games utilizing Google Earth in the past. It seems like a winning combination.

Even just based on what little we know, the game seems like it’s doing a lot of things right, namely getting people up and active in their pursuit of Pokémon. My very first thought after my hype wore off enough for me to even have thoughts was, “This might actually get me to play outside.” And that’s a good thing. Anything that incentivizes activity is good. Gamification is a very real, very powerful concept, and gamifying exercise, even simple exercise like walking and exploring, is pretty awesome.

But with so much up in the air, I have a hard time not letting my cynicism getting the best of me, and the one red flag that stuck up in my head over any of the excitement and hype was the fact that the trailer teased PvP content. Namely, in the trailer, it looked like someone was notified that their Pokémon was being attacked.

Now, my opinions of Pokémon PvP have always been relatively negative. I love the concept of challenging people with a hand-selected team of your favorite Pokémon, but it’s not like the animé. Chances are good that your favorite Pokémon aren’t on the short list that allow them entry into PvP…i.e. they’re just not viable. The game has a painfully restrictive roster of viable Pokémon and if you hope to be competitive, you damn well better stick to those tier lists or you’re going to be laughed right out of the room

Sorry Spinda.

My personal opinion aside, I ultimately have nothing wrong with including PvP in the game. It’s kind of a neat concept (though the idea of just running around attacking people’s Pokémon without an actual, official Pokémon battle being declared offends the Pokéfanatic in me…but that’s just my purist nature speaking). But any time a mobile game – particularly a F2P game like I’m choosing to assume Pokémon Go will be – announces it will have PvP, I am immediately wary…because whenever you mix PvP and microtransactions, you have a recipe for disaster.

Competition is a very powerful motivator and F2P developers have long taken advantage of that need to be the very best (like no one ever was) to bilk them out of inordinate amounts of money. I’ve been there. While I’m not the most competitive guy on the planet, I’ve sunk more than my fair share of cash into games like Defenders of Texel and Clash of Clans and Final Fantasy Record Keeper (which didn’t even have PvP thank God). Because if I’m going to play a game, I want to be good at it. Maybe not the best. But as good as I can be.

So Nintendo’s going to be walking a fine line here. While I want to believe Nintendo’s going to be reasonable with microtransactions like they have been with DLC (more than reasonable, really. Nintendo’s DLC has, thus far, blown everyone else out of the water), the temptation to make more money than a game is worth will always be there. Also, Pokémon Shuffle was also recently released on mobile and that game has one of the most aggressive, bullshitty monetization systems I’ve ever seen, so I’m not filled with a great amount of hope there.

But more than just my fears about what the bad things the game may do, ever since my hype wore off last night, I’ve been wore worried about what the game won’t do. Namely, I’m afraid Nintendo won’t be thinking outside the box to give us a new experience.

It is my opinion that there hasn’t been a new core Pokémon game since Pokémon Red/Blue/Green. While that’s not quite a fair assessment (I mostly say it for hyperbolic effect), there’s at least some truth to it. Nintendo has been markedly resilient to revolutionize the franchise by making something new out of it. There’s more than a little merit to consistency, of course (something Sonic Team could learn…sooner rather than later would be nice) and a lot of the spinoffs have been great (I personally loved Pokémon Conquest and wish the tactical battle system would be incorporated into the main series), but I would like to see them do more with the franchise than they have been.

What we have here, with Pokémon Go, is a chance for them to make something entirely new because they have an opportunity to make a Pokémon game that focuses on something other than battling. They have a chance to create a game that adds a completely new facet to the series. Because chances are in Pokémon Go we’re not going to get some attempt at a grand, epic storyline where we track Team Rocket around the real world and stop them from stealing the oil from Kuwait to finance their global terror scheme to attack the UN with Pokémon suicide bombers (that just got a little too real, sorry…but its silly enough that I think it proves my point). It’s much more likely, I think, that the game will focus largely on finding, collecting and training your Pokémon for battles with other people.

And, God willing, this means a new, increased focus on training and, perhaps, breeding.

I have been longing for a really good digital pet game on my mobile phone since I got the stupid thing. Something like the old Digivices of yore…or even some aspects of the Gameboy Digimon games (I actually super loved the idea behind Digimon World Championship, the game’s many flaws aside). But since Namco/Bandai seem resistent to going back to the series’ roots and what made it a worldwide phenomenon in the first place – or indeed with pesky notions like making an actual decent game – I thought this particular itch would have to go unscratched.

Until I heard that Nintendo was getting into mobile…and a itty, bitty, tiniest-of-tiny lights appeared in my cold, unfeeling heart.

Pokémon Go could provide the vehicle for such a digital pet game since there’s so little else going on (I assume). The idea that I can catch and store Pokémon is great, but I really hope that Nintendo allows us to train them to give them the experience, levels, and power that normally come from tracking down wild Pokémon and trainers to compete against.

Then again, Nintendo’s been all about forced socialization for a long time  and this game seems like a powerful vehicle for that, so that dampers my hopes in this regard little bit. But some sort of way to fill the gap between running around the real world in my nerdy version of an exercise regiment and challenging people to battles would be nice. And mobile games are all about time management and setting tasks to be completed…so it seems, on the surface, like a slam dunk.

Something else that Pokémon Go could give us is slightly less irritating breeding (if not revolutionary) mechanics. One of the things that has always kept me from PvPing in Pokémon (aside from the aforementioned aggressively-limited pool of viable Pokémon) is the fact that in order to be competitive, you have to sink hours upon hours into breeding, which is offensive enough, but it’s not even a time-burn that you can just set and forget.

Until now.

A mobile release could provide a great alternative to having to sit and walk your little avatar back and forth in front of the Pokémon Daycare Center for hours on end, even if it only substitutes making you walk around. But hey, more of that forced exercise, seems like a viable alternative and even then, it’s something you’re doing anyways, so you’re not burning your precious time. But even if it’s just making your match and then waiting a few hours for the egg to be laid and then a few more for it to hatch, that seems viable for a mobile release.

I would love to see more done with the breeding mechanics, making it a little more hands on and little less tedious (to make me feel like I’m earning those well-bred Pokémon rather than just putting in the necessary exorbitant amount of time needed), but I think a mobile release could take the pre-established status quo and make it a little more palatable.

So overall, Pokémon Go still has me more than a little hyped. I’m a little wary about some of the possibilities…and a little more than a little wary about the possibility of missed opportunities, but even if it only delivers exactly what the trailer has led us to expect, I think it could be a great way to bring Pokémon to the mobile market.

Pokémon Go has a slated release date TBA in 2016.

What about you, Pokéreader? Are you as hyped up for Pokémon Go as I am? Or are you skeptical? Let me know in the comments below.

Writer, journalist, teacher, pedant. Reid's done just about anything and everything involving words and now he's hoping to use them for something he's passionate about: video games. He's been gaming since the onset of the NES era and has never looked back.

E3 2019

Gender and Race Representation at E3 2019

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E3 2019 Diversity (Deathloop, Wolfenstein Youngblood, Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order)

Despite making up around half of the gaming population, women remain underrepresented in video games. More Hispanic and Black people refer to themselves as “gamers” than white people, yet minorities remain a rarity in modern titles. E3, which recently came to a close for another year, is gaming’s largest annual event, demonstrating the interests of the industry. Therefore, the statistics from E3 are a fairly accurate representation of the industry as a whole. OnlySP has broken down five of the main conferences from E3 2019 to see how each publisher represents women and people of colour in the games showcased, as well as their presenters.

Some of the shows from the event—the PC Gaming Show, Kinda Funny Games Showcase, EA Play, and the Devolver Digital Big Fancy Press Conference—have been excluded. Previously released games receiving updates or trailers at the event, such as Fallout 76 or Final Fantasy XIV Online, were also excluded from the statistics.

Each conference is broken down into seven categories for gender:

  • Male: where the game features only a male protagonist (Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order)
  • Female: where the game features only a female protagonist (Wolfenstein: Youngblood)
  • Player Choice: where the game allows a fully customisable character (The Outer Worlds)
  • Both: where the game allows the player to control both a male and female character, but not customise their preference (Marvel’s Avengers)
  • Ambiguous: where the protagonist’s gender is unclear (Ori and the Will of the Wisps)
  • None: where the game does not feature a gendered character, including racing games (Microsoft Flight Simulator)
  • Unknown: where the game’s protagonist is yet to be revealed (Elden Ring)

The last five categories are repeated for race within games; protagonists whose race is evident are identified as such.

Microsoft

E3 Chart - Microsoft 2

Microsoft kicked off the main press conferences this year with far more games than the conferences to follow. Out of a total of 29 applicable games, almost a third featured only male protagonists. Thankfully, female representation is not totally out of the question—with 24% of Microsoft’s games allowing full character customisation and 10% featuring both male and female protagonists—but only three games with a sole female protagonist is a disappointing statistic.

Unfortunately, representation among the presenters at Microsoft’s conference does not inspire much hope either, with two of nine being women (one of whom appeared alongside a man). This is sadly representative of the company as a whole, with women making up only 26.6 percent of Microsoft’s employees.

In terms of race representation within its games, Microsoft is not achieving great results. While nine of the games showcased featured Caucasian protagonists, only one had an African-American lead. Thankfully, at least, Microsoft is still allowing the player to decide the race of their character in 21% of its games. Microsoft’s presenters were also mostly white—mostly American, with two Brits, one Canadian, and an Australian—with only one African-American presenter.

While Microsoft’s representation at E3 is better than most of the conferences that followed, it still has a long way to go.

E3 Chart - Demographics - Microsoft

Demographics of protagonists in games shown at Microsoft’s conference.

Bethesda

E3 Chart - Bethesda 2

Bethesda’s conference was short on new titles this year, with only six upcoming games showcased, but it had the strongest showing in terms of character representation. Only one of the six titles—Doom Eternal—featured a single male protagonist, and, that aside, the game is shaping up to be something special.

Both of the upcoming Wolfenstein games—Youngblood and Cyberpilot—feature female protagonists, and while two female-centric games is not a hugely impressive statistic, as an overall indicator it is quite impressive when compared to Bethesda’s other games. Two of the six games—Commander Keen and Deathloop—allow the player to select between a pre-determined male or female character; and in the case of Deathloop, both characters are African-American, so Bethesda’s representation expands beyond gender. However, only one title with a confirmed non-white character is not a very impressive statistic.

The same praise cannot be applied to the presenters of Bethesda’s conference, either; only two of the 17 presenters were female—one of whom has become a bit of an icon following the show. Of the 17 presenters, more than half were American, with only two Japanese presenters, two French, one Swedish, and one Puerto Rican–American. Considering Bethesda’s support of women and minorities in the past, seeing such little representation among its staff is a disappointing statistic.

E3 Chart - Demographics - Bethesda

Demographics of protagonists in games shown at Bethesda’s conference.

Ubisoft

E3 Chart - Ubisoft 2

In regard to giving the player choice, Ubisoft easily beats the competition, with three of its eight new titles featuring full character customisation and two allowing the player to select between a male and female character. Diversity of representation, however, ends there; Ubisoft did not showcase a single female-led video game during its E3 showcase this year. Of the three games allowing character customisation, two—Rainbow Six Quarantine and Roller Champions—are multiplayer games; and of the two allowing both male and female, one is Watch Dogs Legion, which lets players choose between dozens of characters in their operation. Whether or not such a concept will lead to positive representation is yet to be seen. While no games from Ubisoft star an African-American in the leading role, hopefully the developer can achieve positive diversity by taking notes from its 2017 title Watch Dogs 2.

For its presenters, Ubisoft is better than its competition, with females making up four of the conference’s 14 on-stage personalities, but that statistic is still disappointing. If 29% is the best that the industry can do, it still has a long way to go in the years to come.

E3 Chart - Demographics - Ubisoft

Demographics of protagonists in games shown at Ubisoft’s conference.

Square Enix

E3 Chart - Square Enix 2

Square Enix may have had the most disappointing press conference this year in regard to gender representation. Of its 14 games, not a single had only a female protagonist, while over half centred around males. To the publisher’s credit, several of these games feature, in some segments, playable female characters, but to have so many male-centric games without a single sole female protagonist is incredibly disappointing.

Thankfully, five games shown at Square Enix’s conference allow the player to select between a male or female. However, even in some of these games, representation is not entirely clear—only one of the five main playable characters in Marvel’s Avengers, for example, is female, as is only one of the three in Outriders.

Unfortunately, the disappointment of diversity is only exemplified with the conference’s presenters. Only one of the show’s nine presenters was female, with her appearance taking place at the very end of the show alongside a male presenter. Square Enix has a long way to go with its female representation.

E3 Chart - Demographics - Square Enix

Demographics of protagonists in games shown at Square Enix’s conference.

Nintendo

E3 Chart - Nintendo 2

Historically, Nintendo is not known for strong female characters—Princess Peach is the figurehead for the damsel-in-distress trope—but it has made strides in this area with strong characters such as Zelda in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Unfortunately, none of these characters have been allowed to represent their own video game, constantly being shadowed by the male protagonist.

While six of the 17 new Nintendo games shown during its Direct this year featured male protagonists, not a single game featured a female protagonist. With three games allowing full customisation and six giving the choice between male and female, not all hope is lost with Nintendo, but diverse representation is better than customised representation. Being forced to take on different perspectives—as females must do when playing 35% of Nintendo’s games—is more beneficial to the player than choosing to play as an undefined character.

Nintendo only had three presenters during its presentation—deputy general manager Yoshiaki Koizumi, president of Nintendo of America Doug Bowser, and general manager Shinya Takahashi—but seeing some more representation of its female staff (as it does rather well during its Nintendo Treehouse live stream later in the show) would be encouraging.

E3 Chart - Demographics - Nintendo

Demographics of protagonists in games shown at Nintendo’s conference.


Overall

As a whole, E3 2019 was rather disappointing. While a third of the games showcased at the five conferences above featured only male protagonists, only 7% featured female protagonists. While developers are improving in regard to player choice—allowing either full customisation or the selection of a male or female character—diverse representation is a necessity moving forward, and the industry needs to look at improving.

Presenters Demographic

Demographics of presenters at the five conferences during E3 2019.

In terms of race representation, the statistics are even more abysmal. While an Americanised show is expected due to the location of E3, some diversity would be appreciated; with over half of the presenters being American, the companies are failing to demonstrate their diverse talent. The same can be said about the games; as seen below, 27% of protagonists in games are Caucasian, while 3% (only two games) feature African-Americans as lead characters. As aforementioned, developers are seeing improvement in allowing players to customise or select their characters, but specified diversity is a change that the industry requires.

E3 Chart - Games Demographics

Demographics of protagonists in the games showcased at the five conferences during E3 2019.

The industry has a long way to go.

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