No Right Explanation

The Pusher Wins in Minecraft Vs. Pokemon


Last week the guys debated which game is the biggest timesink and this week they continue that debate in print for your pleasure.


Chris: I am ever so pleased this week! I’m always looking for some way to talk about Pokémon but usually I have to sit in a corner and use Splash Attack as neither Dan nor Kyle know much about Pokémon or particularly care to know much about Pokémon. I at last had the opportunity to bring up the magnificent franchise way back in our Best Anime Ever episode that Dan trolled everyone with, myself included (you may remember it better as Pokémon vs Digimon). Well I was able to force it into a debate that included timesinks as it really is one of the largest recipients of my time or yours!

But it’s not all about Pokémon and my love of catching ’em all. Rather, I have to look at the bigger picture, that I beat Kyle in a meaningless debate on the Internet. Ah, that indeed feels good, especially after losing to him last week in Best Cutscenes Ever. Of course, both of us probably could have fought harder, and indeed there were a few minutes cut here and there to fit the video for time, as usual. So what could Kyle have said to help his case?

Well, to his credit, he never took the low road and swept the legs, by which I mean brought in the whole age debate regarding Pokémon. “That’s for little kids!” Nope, he didn’t say it once in the video, or even in the cut footage, and I applaud him for that. Granted, it would only have enraged me to the point of using Skull Bash, but there’s still something to be respected for not even trying to say such horrible things that can never be taken back. Because Pokémon isn’t a kiddie game for kids. It’s simple on the outside and downright masochistic at the core, as commenters were quick to point out, what with IVs and EVs and chain breeding and ugh, I can’t even go there, but it’s intense as a Gyarados’ left tailfin.

Another point that appeared in the comment section as if I were walking through tall grass was the notion that because Minecraft can so easily be modded, it is superior as a timesink. Kyle may have had a great angle there had he played that 1st edition holographic card, but he did not. I would have instantly spun upon him with Mirror Coat and reflected his Special Attack back in his face by arguing about the fact that any game can be modded, then point him in the direction of Pokémon Black (you know the Creepypasta). I’d even pull up Missing No. as that’s an end-all beat-all conclusion to hardcore players cracking the game open and Fire Blasting the ever loving Shinx out of its rules to make the game do as they say. Sure, Minecraft makes modding easier, but again, no game is impervious to a good mod if the willingness is there and the nature is Bold.

My last point had Kyle in a pretty tight corner as it was the final argument and therefore could not be refused, no matter how hard he used Struggle. I opened things up into the realm of phenomenon by pointing out that Pokémon transcends just the games themselves and permeates every facet of media, meaning you cannot escape its clutches. The show, the cards, the movies, the endless supplies of merchandise, all of these are unavoidable, serving as a constant reminder that you belong to Pokémon, mind, body, and soul. Minecraft has a good bit of merch and its own convention, but Kyle was unable to say anything since I went second and spoke last, though I’m still sure it wouldn’t have mattered since my arguments have a 10% chance to cause flinching and Kyle’s arguments are like trying to use Hyper Beams against Ghost-types: They have no effect.

However, my debating skills are akin to using Thunder during a rainstorm since my chance of hitting is 100%. He couldn’t withstand my barrage and soon whited out, dropping $200 in the process. But hey Kyle, it could be worse. At least you weren’t in the Nuzlocke Challenge.

…This time.


Kyle: Big issue that everyone took with the decision this week: What?! No World of Warcraft?!

Nope. Sorry, but going by the drug analogy at the end of the episode, if Pokémon is crack and Minecraft is marijuana, then World of Warcraft is clearly sex.

Addictive, sure. Wonderful, absolutely. But in the same category as the others? Not quite. You see, WoW puts you in a world where interaction with others is pretty much required, and commitment to other real humans is encouraged. One could argue that this makes it a much more worthy pursuit of your time as a gamer, rather than a time-sink.

Anyway, back to the issue at hand: Pokémon versus Minecraft. I think the problem here is that Pokémon has too many opportunities for the player to say, “Hell with it. I’m finished.”

As Chris points out, you can trade through multiple games, but it isn’t necessary if you haven’t got the cash for it. You can search for all the Pokémon in the game, or in all games in the series, and call it quits there. Or you can also build that perfect team of six and take on the world whatever-the-hell-those-games-are-about.

But the big aspect is that you can decide for yourself when you’ve reached the bloody end. Your end conditions are there for you to choose. But in Minecraft, there’s just no such thing as an end. I might get bored and stop playing – Fat chance, have you seen my underwater pavilion that leads up to an indoor movie theater inside a mountain? – but I’ll never reach a predetermined end.

Also, there seems to be a whopping ton of things I can decide to do in Minecraft. As I said in the episode, I can either collect diamonds all the live-long day, or I can collect books because of how damn hard they are to make. Or I can skip collecting and just beat the ever-loving piss out of some creepers. Or I can build a boat and get lost in the draw-rate looking for land.

Meanwhile, in Pokémon, I am pretty much sandbagged if I can’t get past some dickwad in a funny jumpsuit and his level seven Giggle-Balls. There’s nowhere left for me to go, and I can search the area I’ve unlocked all I want … but I only find crappy Goldeens.


Dan: Does anyone know what the heck Chris is talking about in this article? I assume it has to do with Pokémon, because it resembles the five minutes of footage I had to leave on the cutting room floor for time. Random words strewn together with hit points as the verbal mortar, I have always had a tough time with the card games.

I chaperoned a field trip at a summer camp once, and the kids kept begging me to play Pokémon. Refusing on the basis that I had no idea how to play didn’t deter the little Pokémasters, and they gave me a crash course and plopped some cards in my hand. I watched as four children calculated the exact move to make, finally settling on the perfect cards with which to destroy their teacher. Very unsure, I laid down a single card and watched as their faces dropped. Evidently I won, a fact they had to explain to me as they packed up their cards and shuffled away.

Someday I will be called upon as Dan, the last Poké-bender. I await my destiny.

This was a fun one to judge, due to the enthusiasm supplied by Chris and my personal love of Minecraft. Kyle brought the heat and grabbed the first point with the argument that Minecraft is meditation. Besides a break now and then to pour saline in your eye, the game is everything and nothing at the same time. Harvesting, building, exploring … everyone can find something they like and that something is no more or less important to the game than anything else. Go spelunking, build a mountain out of lava, spend your nights hunting monsters … it’s all good.

Chris then spat out a series of words that I am sure mean something to someone, but did manage to make a good point. Unlike Minecraft, Pokémon has preset goals, and a lot of them. There is so much to do, and do correctly, that if you try to beat the game in every way the programmers intended, you might want to buy a new pack of razor blades. Cause you’ll be growing a beard. Even the ladies.

Kyle saw an opening and took it on the next point. Minecraft doesn’t have to end, and even though it recently got an “Ending”, there’s really no reason to shoot for said ending. Endermen and zombies don’t come to you and say “You’ll never defeat our dark lord!” and likewise the NPCs don’t go around begging you to save them from anything. With no real endgame, there can be no end. Infinity is a very long time to sink your time into.

Chris fought back with a real killer argument, the addictive nature of adding friends. The only reason I still play Minecraft is because I have a friend who plays it with me, but the game doesn’t require it the way Pokémon does. Having assistance in building is fun, but it’s not like there are structures that you can only build with help. Perhaps if the console, mobile and PC versions all talked to each other, but they don’t. Having a group of friends who all group-think and peer pressure into continuing a game so that they can achieve their own game goals adds years to playability.

Did someone say surprise Batcave? Kyle did, and it deserved a point. One of the more addictive aspects of Minecraft is the ability to be digging for resources and accidentally break into a massive and hellish cavern you didn’t realize was there. The claustrophobia and darkness urges you to plant torches, but you need coal and wood, so you look for them. While looking for them, you find another cavern … this one with lava! And so the pattern continues, cycling between exploration and creation. In Pokémon you search for creatures, sure, but they aren’t randomly generated. The sheer surprise of the unknown … I eat it up.

RPG. Pokémon is one. Minecraft is not. That alone gives an advantage to Pokémon in terms of addiction. People can’t turn a game off if they are just a few whatever’s away from leveling up; no matter how many times their boss asked if they were coming into work. Chris nabbed that one easy.

Kyle would have gotten a point for his final word, but he got it wrong. Simply mentioning Inception is not what he meant, and though he explained it to me off camera, it was too late. What he meant to say was that Minecraft is like the deepest level of dream in Inception, where Leo spent a lifetime building a city with his crazy French wife. Chris took advantage of this by belting out a tune and reminding us that even when you turn off Pokémon, there are cards, cartoons, and merch ready to remind you that it might be time to boot up again. Marketing is a powerful tool, especially when applied to getting you addicted to drugs.

And so there you have it. Minecraft‘s low learning curve and zen-like nature just couldn’t compete against the jittery mayham that is Pokémon. Chris is in an alleyway now, offering to level up your character for a dollar. I should really get him into rehab.

About the author

Daniel Epstein
Father, filmmaker, and writer. Once he won an Emmy, but it wasn't for being a father or writing.