Games of 2022: Pokémon was the best vicarious experience
Gotta watch 'em all.
Surprising literally no-one, my Game of the Year is Elden Ring. It exceeded my Erdtree-sized expectations and, despite some absolute corkers being released this year, nothing else came close. The games that made me happiest, on the other hand, are games I’ve hardly played, if at all. Pokémon Legends Arceus and Scarlet brought me more joy than all the Elden Rings and Immortalities and Marvel Snaps put together.
I’m not a player of these games. I’ve tried a few, but I’ve never finished one, they’ve just never grabbed me. My fiancee Rune (yes, they’re non-binary, why do you ask?) on the other hand, absolutely adores them. Sun & Moon were the first releases after we got together and I’ve been dutifully ensuring they have every new Pokémon game to hit the shelves, even during some tough times.
It’s totally worth it though. Nothing compares to their delight as they experience the heady joys of something so comfortingly familiar liberally sprinkled with new surprises. I help with the all important starter selection and contribute to the names. (Would you believe that, as a games journo, I’m pretty good at puns?) Making them laugh is good. Making them groan and hit me with a cushion is even better!
I love that mainline Pokémon games are on the Switch now. Instead of having a handheld screen shoved in my face every couple of minutes, we snuggle up on the sofa and I can see all the action as it happens. The whole thing has evolved into a big event now. We even get snacks. I won’t end up watching the entire game, but you can be sure I’ll be alerted whenever a new Pokémon is discovered, or an evolution is about to happen.
It’s helped me to gain an appreciation for other parts of gaming and fandom that I don’t think I really saw the appeal in before. Watching streamers play games is never going to be something that interests me, I’d much rather play games myself, but I’ve realised that the game itself isn’t really the point, it’s seeing someone else enjoy themselves.
Likewise, I’ve never understood how people can be casual fans of things. I either like something, or I don’t and when I do, my instinct is to go all in. I’ve been on a huge Star Wars kick of late, and my front room is currently a mess of Black Series action figures, RPG books and Legion miniatures. I’ve rewatched a bunch of movies and series’ and finally finished off Jedi: Fallen Order. (How good is that ending?)
With Pokémon, I’m content to enjoy the news and rumour surrounding a new release, to smile at fan art and have an ever-growing list of favourite Pokémon (with Bulbasaur always at the top.) It’s quite nice. And considerably cheaper than my usual way of engaging with media.
What I’ve realised is that some of the best bits of games can be enjoyed without playing them at all. Unpacking was my GOTY last year and I experienced that start to finish through watching Rune play it. I probably enjoyed it even more than if I had played it myself, as we pointed out all the little details and speculated together. I played through the aforementioned Immortality on my own, but I wish I’d been playing it with someone else. Tunic is another wonderful 2022 title that would have been better together. (And having someone else do the godawful frustrating combat would have been a blessing!)
What’s your favourite game that you’ve never played?