Every month, in accordance with dark prophecies written in the stars, I am fated to write an article on a topic chosen by my Dark Council, the conspiratorial conclave of readers who support me for at least $10/month on Patreon. This month, the decree of the Council was that I watch a video by Pokémon YouTuber Tama Hero (formerly Tamashii Hiroka) re-evaluating Pokémon: Ruby and Sapphire and use it as a springboard to revisit the characterisation of those games’ villains, Team Aqua and Team Magma. The video can be found here; you don’t have to watch it to understand everything I’m about to say, but I do think it’s worth your time if you like thinking deeply about Pokémon and game design. If you don’t know Ruby and Sapphire, the fifteen-second summary of Team Aqua and Team Magma is: Aqua likes the sea, Magma likes the land; they both want to wake up an ancient legendary Pokémon (Kyogre or Groudon, respectively) in order to “expand” the sea or land through floods or volcanic eruptions; they eventually succeed and very quickly wish they hadn’t; it’s now your job to clean up the mess.
So, I really liked this video. Jim the Editor didn’t, because it’s framed as a review but doesn’t really succeed at being impartial, which… is true, but not in my opinion particularly relevant. The way I see it, the ship has long since sailed on any kind of rating-oriented “review” of Ruby and Sapphire, but this discussion left me with a much clearer understanding of what those games were trying to do and a keener awareness of both their successes and failures in that attempt – and that, to me, is good media criticism, of the kind that I aspire to. Honestly, to me it often feels like saying at the end of a piece “I liked this Thing” or “I didn’t like this Thing” or “here is how much I liked this Thing out of 10” obscures a lot of what you actually thought about the Thing, which may be a lot more nuanced than your conclusion captures. I almost think there’s an argument for having no introduction or final summation at all, utterly refusing to give a condensed verdict just to force people to decide for themselves whether your analysis revealed more good points or bad points.
(There is a counterargument that this would needlessly cultivate an antagonistic relationship with one’s audience; however, the beauty of Pokémaniacal is that you bloodsuckers already know I plan to bring about the end of time so I can sacrifice you all to the dark gods I truly and ultimately serve, so really we have nothing to lose here.)Continue reading “Ruby and Sapphire Revisited”