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Pokemon 100 Percenters Are Mad

Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw | 12 Apr 2011 16:00
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It's no new observation that Pokemon is a pretty fucked up concept when you think about it. Capturing wild animals with the ability to shoot lasers and manipulate the fabric of reality, and a demonstrable degree of self-aware intelligence, then forcing them into a cock fighting league which, like football in the UK, appears to be the basis for an entire culture. Although that analogy would only work if English footballers were hired as assistants in virtually every industry and spent a lot of time in grassy areas dogpiling unsuspecting passers-by.

So that's one reason why I said that Pokemon is a game for mad people. The other reason is that it's one of the few games I can think of that's specifically designed for 100-percenters, which is another word for mad people.

There are many reasons why people play video games, this is another reason why it's a much more interesting form of media than most. I mean, you could watch The Piano and Lethal Weapon 4 in the same cinema but there's little common ground to be had between Wii Sports enthusiasts and Street Fighter 4 leaguers. Some people play games to socialize, the weirdoes. Some play to get through a story. Some like to explore a new world, some like to build a character to be the strongest they possibly can be.

And then there are the 100-percenters, whose driving motivation is to collect everything in the game there is to collect in order to max out the completion percentage, and for no other reason. They're kind of like the World of Warcraft players who fight to have the biggest numbers, except with a clearer upper limit and without the slim justification that comes of competing against other human beings.

Now, most sidequests in games have a good reason to do them. They might end up providing you with a special powerful weapon or item that you can't get a hold of anywhere else, like getting the Nemesis weapon in Cave Story. They might end up giving you an extra or alternative ending, like finding all the health upgrades in Prince of Persia Warrior Within. They might just make you lots of in-game money to spend on treats or act as a source of experience points if nothing else. All of these are good sidequests that have a right to exist.

But what I'm talking about are the quests that only exist for their own sake, the ones that appeal only to those mad 100-percenter types. The classic example would be the gold skulltulas in Zelda: Ocarina of Time. That does have a reward, namely a bigger wallet. And Zelda games always tend to have a massive, bulbous arse hanging under them in which you can only hold an embarrassingly wee amount of rupees and you have to start leaving treasure where you found it because you came into the magical dungeon without your roomy tights. But the gold skulltulas are scattered all over the game world, and by the time you have collected them all it'll be near the end, when most of the issues a bigger wallet could have solved will have long since passed. Anyone who went out of their way to find all the skulltulas, knowing the reward or lack of same, is a 100 percenter, and therefore mad.

Staying with the same series, Zelda Wind Waker had a curious example. Its psychotic 100-percenter quest was to take a photo of every character, monster and boss in the game and take them to a guy who makes them into figurines. Now, the camera you had could only store three photos at a time, and the figurine guy was on an isolated island in a game notorious for its lengthy travel time. On top of that, some characters, especially bosses, would offer extremely few opportunities to take a happy snap, and you'd only know if the photo you took was actually usable once you gave it to the guy. While you did get some reward, in that you could then closely examine the figurine from all angles if you're that into video game visual design and each one would get a bit of extra flavour text, it's scant compensation for the equivalent of working several full-time shifts as a design consultant.

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