Is Pokemon worse than Call of Duty?
For the last six years there’s been an annual trend in the video game industry. A new Call of Duty game is released, the internet bitches about it and yet the new Call of Duty breaks its own records; the latest game made $500 million in 24 hours. While I’m not an ardent supporter of the Call of Duty franchise, I find it difficult to argue with those numbers. Making half-a-billion dollars in one day is ridiculous; it’s near maddening that anything could make that much money in 24 hours. While I share many of the internet’s criticisms of the COD games, not too long ago I made an interesting discovery when I was examining the Pokémon games; another franchise that is continually selling well. The biggest criticism of the Call of Duty games is that few changes are made each year and that the gameplay has essentially been the same since 2007. I realized that this criticism applies to the Pokémon games too, so I asked myself: “Is Pokémon worse than Call of Duty?”
If you’ve played one Call of Duty game you’ve played them all; the player aims down the sights, shoots a bunch of bad guys, and follows a linear path of objectives for each mission. The online multiplayer hasn’t changed much either; the focus has been on customized loadouts with weapon attachments, perks and killstreaks. The loadouts are very flexible in design and accommodate a variety of play-styles. The player can choose from a large number of weapons from shotguns to sniper rifles. While Call of Duty doesn’t features vehicles, no other shooter can pull off a better team deathmatch experience. The gameplay is very smooth and responsive; it has an appeal for anyone who likes shooters.
Pokémon however, is about as hardcore as an RPG can get. The player catches and trains Pokémon forming a team of six. After each battle a Pokémon will gain experience points, eventually leveling up their stats and learning new abilities. The gameplay is turn-based combat, each Pokémon takes turns until one of them runs out of health. These battles take place through random encounters and trainer battles. All Pokémon are divided into types, these types are weak against some, strong against others (ie: Fire is strong against ice, weak against water). The number of practical strategies for a team of six is staggering; all in all the Pokémon games have a lot of depth.
But like Call of Duty, Pokémon hasn’t changed over the years. From Pokémon Red & Blue to Black & White 2, every handheld Pokémon game has followed this formula: Pick a starter Pokémon, a rival picks another starter, the player battles eight gym leaders to collect badges, battles the Elite Four and finally squares off against their rival. The Pokémon games have yet to deviate from this formula and by the looks of it, the upcoming Pokémon X & Y will also adhere to it. While Call of Duty certainly sticks with its own formula, there is some actual variety in the setting. For example. World at War, Black Ops and Black Ops 2 are all part of the same storyline and each game takes place in a different time period; World War 2, the Cold War, and the Future, respectively. A counterpoint to this is that the Pokémon games feature different subplots depending on the game. This could go back and forth forever, but my point stands that both games are equally guilty of being formulaic.
Call of Duty is also criticized for having repetitive gameplay and for attracting a very immature, pre-teen audience. While Call of Duty gets very samey after a while, with all the shooting the player is expected to do, Pokémon is sometimes as repetitive as a game can get. It’s a very grind-heavy game and building the best team of Pokémon often involves doing the same simple task over and over. A lot of the “depth” associated with RPGs comes the player repeating the same tasks without realizing it. Entire games have exploited this fact (I’m looking at you Borderlands). Pokémon being an RPG practically condemns it to being repetitive. As for its audience, Call of Duty doesn’t attract a mature gathering of players but I don’t think this is a fair criticism. For one, it has little to do with the choices of the developer and one must consider what the target audience for Pokémon is, after all it is a children’s product.
Putting everything in perspective I don’t think Pokémon is worse than Call of Duty, but I don’t it’s better by much (if at all). Both franchises are incredibly successful and have changed very little due to their popularity; this makes sense to me though. The reason these games are the same with each installment is because people do not want these games to change. Despite the lack of innovation, these games continue to do well and in Call of Duty’s case it’s actually selling better each year. If anything, change and innovation would be the worst thing for Call of Duty, at least according to the statistics and I think the same goes for Pokémon. All I have left to say is this. I have heard several Pokémon fans complain about Call of Duty but I have never heard a Call of Duty fan complain about Pokémon.