I was excited for the launch of the Combiner Wars subline for Transformers, because I really like giant robots that transform and I really like when those giant transforming robots themselves transform into combined robots. But I was also apprehensive, because I had a pretty strong feeling that it was going to mean a whole bunch of the same thing we see every time. And sure enough, we have another Optimus Prime, and the first two combiners are the Aerialbots and the Stunticons.
This was not altogether surprising. As we prepare for another Spider-man movie that yet again sets the clock back to the earliest stories, it’s worth asking the question of why we keep feeling the need to retell these stories until we’re all blue in the face. It’s not that there’s a problem with remaking things; I quite like when someone takes something familiar and puts a new twist on it. I am, however, less thrilled when that “new twist” is just an update in the time of release.
Have you ever thought about how weird it is that Pokémon doesn’t actually care if you catch all of the various little monsters?
I mean, it does, totally. The series tagline is “Gotta catch ’em all!” with more exclamation points added depending on how the writer feels that day. Obviously the game cares if you do, in fact, catch them all. Failing to catch them all means that when you reach the end of the game, you…
Well, that’s just it, isn’t it? Even if you do have hundreds of pokémon by the end of the game, you’re still not going to be using the vast majority of them. Even in the first games, you couldn’t be using the vast majority of them, since you had 150 total monsters and six spaces for your field team. Catching literally every single monster does not award you anything different except more breeding options, and the vast majority of the monsters you can potentially catch aren’t useful for that, even. The game in no way cares about you catching them all… except for that tagline.
I’m writing this before my favorite holiday on the Internet has happened, but you’ll be reading it afterwards. Yes, Halloween is my favorite holiday of the year by far, but my favorite time to be online is April Fools’ Day. I absolutely adore seeing people be creative with elaborate, amusing, and entirely absurd jokes centered around games, online culture, and our general tendency to take everything far more seriously than is entirely healthy.
I especially like all of the various gags put forth by MMO companies, but you probably would guess that.
Oddly, I also see a lot of people posting about how much they hate the day, which strikes me as counterproductive. Literally all of the skills you acquire on April 1st are applicable to the online environment year-round. Part of the fun of the day, I find, is the fact that almost everything you’ll see online is explicitly a joke… but it’s never a joke you can just outright ignore, because it has elements of truth. It forces you to do a critical reading of everything you see, which is something you should be doing anyhow.
In real life, overcoming challenges sometimes leads to rewards. Emphasis on “sometimes.” Sometimes overcoming challenges just means you’ve overcome a challenge. You climbed to the top of the hill, and your reward is seeing the other twelve hills ahead of you while you climb down this one. Or you climbed halfway up the hill when a falcon randomly deposited a sack full of money at your feet. How hard you work has some connection to success in real life, but it is not a perfect correlation by any means.
Games are not dissimilar. The notion is hardwired into gaming that a challenge equals a reward so long as the challenge was not completely self-inflicted (playing Metal Gear Solid one-handed is definitely going to be a challenge, but the game isn’t going to reward you for your determined efforts to make it harder). Yet there are challenges with rewards that seem either far too big or too small for the effort put in, because it turns out that properly balancing a challenge and a reward is really difficult.