Category Archives: gaming

Midnight at the Pier

Friends,

This story was inspired by the following prompt from r/writingprompts. Enjoy!

Times are tough and the world is not what it used to be. You have no choice but to become an illegal pokemon trader.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

Midnight at the Pier

Mirko stood on the dock watching as the crane loaded the last seacan onto the ship. The dull boom it made as it was set down was met with his cathartic sigh. They wouldn’t be out of the woods until they were in international waters but Mirko always felt better when the loading was done. It meant the worst was behind them; the deed had been done and now they just had to slip out undetected. As the crane pulled away and the deckhands started strapping down the last of the cargo, he texted his client:

“LOADED. DEPART IN 5”

He allowed a smile and pulled a pack of Marlboros out of the left pocket of his leather jacket, withdrew a cigarette with his lips and pulled out a lighter from his right pocket while his left hand returned the pack. He lit the cigarette with his left hand covering the flame and took a long inhale, allowing the smoke to fill his lungs and waited for the head rush and euphoria to hit before exhaling through his nose.

It seemed to be a another routine shipment. This was good. This was expected. They had bribed the right officials. They had operated at night and they had acquired their merchandise without incident.

Well, mostly without incident. There had been that one Lopunny a few days ago. It’s trainer had come home just as his men had finished bagging it. Luckily the sentry by the door had been able to knock him out with a pistol just as he pulled out a pokeball which contained a Charmeleon. In the early days they would have taken the Charmeleon too, but the years had shown that to clientele of more …discerning tastes, Pokemon had value beyond just battling. They were willing to pay a higher price for Pokemon which were less of a liability to transport, less of a liability to own, and less of a liability to keep as…pets. Mirko willfully abandoned this train of thought as quickly as he had set upon it. He preferred not to think about what his clientele did with their acquisitions. To him it was all business and he used that rationale to stay detached.

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Pokemon #428: Lopunny

“They should have killed him” he thought to himself dispassionately of the Lopunny’s trainer. From a strictly pragmatic perspective it made sense. Stealing from trainers was certainly a more consistent means of acquiring merchandise than trying to capture in the wild, but it also carried the risk of trainers tracking them down and coming to retrieve their property in force. One of the reasons Team Rocket had collapsed was because it grew too big, got too caught up in its own notoriety and made too many enemies. Sure, they had procured some of the strongest Pokemon, but they were so flagrant about it that the most powerful trainers put aside fierce rivalries and united to stop them. Giovanni had tried to play both sides: he wanted to be the bad guy and the legitimate gym leader. At one point he had even tried to reinvent himself as a Robin Hood of sorts.

“Doesn’t work that way though. You are what you are. Piss enough people off and one day there’ll be no peace for you anywhere in this world. Better to operate this way” Mirko thought, “No making a name, no uniforms, no trying to go legit. Better to be shadowy, amorphous and adaptable….like a Ditto.” He chuckled at this last observation, but  this drew him back to a train of thought he didn’t enjoy as much.

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Pokemon #132: Ditto

“Christ! There’s even a Ditto in the manifest,” he reflected. “Seems that some clientele are more discerning than others in their tastes.”

The most in-demand merchandise he dealt in were the small, furry and more feminine mammals; Vulpix, Lopunny, Eevee, etc. And while he found those predilections distasteful he could at least understand the interest on some level. He’d gotten to know some of his clientele and they seemed well-adjusted (by eccentric millionaire standards) so maybe it was some faulty wiring; who was he to judge? Even Ponytas and Rattatas he could understand when push came to shove. But Ditto just seemed bizarre to him. Sure it could turn into whatever the client wanted, provided they already had one on hand, in which case it was a moot point. But its cost was so prohibitive that it made more sense to just buy one or more of the desired species.

“Unless the client has a taste for a pink gelatinous blob” he thought. His reverie was interrupted by the arrival of one of his men.

“We work while you stand and smoke, is that it?” the man asked in a jovial, familiar way.

“Ah but Zdravco there is a visible labor and an invisible labor, and just this moment I am thinking,” Mirko replied.

“Please enlighten me as to what a two-bit smuggler philosophizes about” Zdravco asked while reaching out his hand for a smoke.

Mirko reached into his pocket for the pack of Marlboros and extended it toward Zdravco as he smiled and leaned in close. Zdravco grabbed a cigarette but Mirko waited for him to lean in as well before he spoke.

“Would you fuck a Ditto?”

Zdravco responded without missing a beat: “Not even with your dick.” Then, “You have a light?”

Mirko chuckled while retrieving his lighter and lit Zdravco’s cigarette.

“Are we ready to disembark?”

Zdravco took a long inhale and sighed a large volume of smoke while going over the clipboard he carried. The smoke lingered above and between the two men for a few long seconds before dissipating into the chill night air.

“Yes….”

“But?”

Zdravco gulped slightly.

“Miro should have been here by now with a Jynx, but he is late and not responding to my calls.” Mirko pondered this. Miro had with them for only a few months and didn’t know too much about the operation, but he had proven himself reliable. Still, they had a deadline.

“Miro will have to catch up with us elsewhere. Tell everyone to get aboard. We leave in 2 minutes.”

As Zdravco began barking out orders over his walkie, Mirko saw a quickening of activity in the floodlit darkness, and he smiled at this. All of these men he commanded were “Pokemon Masters” in their own right. They had, as a minimum, obtained all of the badges in one league or more. Some of them had even beaten the Elite 4. Imagine their surprise then when they had had achieved such status only to discover that it didn’t amount to much. With so many trainers, gyms, and upstart leagues popping up over the last 20 years, the profession of “Pokemon Trainer” had lost some of its lustre. Now every bro with a backwards hat and a SILPH muscle-T claimed to a trainer. And the so-called masters? They were no longer those who had won league play but instead became those who could market themselves best on instagram and youtube.

This state of affairs might be lamentable if not for the opportunities it afforded a man of vision. Mirko considered himself just such a man. He never owned a Pokemon himself nor got caught up in the associated culture, but he had seen how others obsessed and decided to capitalize on their obsession and lack of opportunities. He tapped some of his boyhood friends first, those who had gotten starry-eyed about becoming trainers and ultimately been unable to build a life for themselves. He employed them to train Pokemon as pets for those with neither the time or inclination to go down the ruinous career-path of Pokemon Master. As his client base grew he started getting odd requests for specific Pokemon, usually the small, furry ones, to be trained in …particular ways. These requests typically carried an offer to pay more, sometimes double, the market rate. Initially these peculiar requests were a source of lucrative amusement, but as 10% then 25% of Mirko’s staff began specializing in this kind of training…this, pleasure training, he realized that this was the market he should focus on.

He had done well over the last ten years.

“I’ve built an army. An army with allegiance to no nation. An army which rivals that of most countries. The enlistment numbers of a superpower and the dynamic fluidity of a guerrilla band. Highly organized and responsive to my commands.” This thought brought a smile to his face. He took a last drag of his Marlboro and threw the half-smoked cigarette into the filthy harbour water below.

He walked up the gangplank and into his quarters.

The whore was waiting for him naked on his bed as he had requested. A big-titted, anorexic slut from Prague bent over wearing nothing but heels. She was laying face-down, ass-up, fingering both of her holes with curious hands.

“Fuck me, Niantic!” the whore moaned emphatically as he entered.

“What!?” Mirko demanded, “I didn’t hear you, slut!”

“Ooooh…fuck me, Niantic!” The whore repeated in her thick Czech accent as her body convulsed due to the work of her hands. Mirko could tell she had no idea what she was saying but she had learned perfectly the three words which she had been paid to learn. Mirko smiled. He was a practical and disciplined man with few indulgences, but one thing he liked was fucking Czech sluts while they called him by his underworld name.

He unzipped his fly and grabbed the whore’s forearms while entering her.

“Say it again, bitch!”

“Fuck me, Niantic!”

“AGAIN!”

“FUCK ME, NIANTIC!”

He smiled from ear-to-ear as he used up this young girl: “If everyone wants to be a well-known pokemon master, better to be an unknown ‘master of masters.’

THE END

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Nintendo: Once and Future Overlords of Gaming (and the World?)

Friends,

On July 6, Nintendo/Niantic released the “augmented reality” game, Pokemon Go. In this new instalment of the franchise, players are required to move around the world, the real world, in order to capture monsters digitally super-imposed onto the landscape around them and observed/detected/captured with their smartphone.

While an interesting idea, I was a little cynical when I first read up on this mechanism of the game. Why cynical? Well it seems to me that Nintendo has been trying to incorporate physical activity into gaming since the release of the Wii in 2006 (although in a broader sense they have been trying to get gamers out of the house more since the release of the Game Boy back in the 80s). While I appreciate this good intent, I remember that on the handful on occasions I played Wii, after the initial novelty had worn off, I kinda just wanted to play sprawled out on a couch in a dark room with the blinds drawn and wearing dirty track pants, like nature and God had intended.

But this is different. The memes tell the tale.

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Cm-LbeIVYAA2uJe

Or, most tellingly…

sorry-mom-ill-be-leaving-our-hometown-next-year-to-1213139

People are literally being mobilized to go out into the world in a way that video games have not been able to (nor sought to) make them thus far.

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Far-Fetched? Maybe, Maybe Not…

Why is this incredible? Well, Nintendo, or more specifically Niantic has figured out a way to not only get people to move around in the world, but has theoretically also found a way to get mass groups of people to all congregate in certain places at certain times. If you look at Niantic’s last augmented reality game, Ingress, you see a world where people try and dominate the global-digital landscape with whatever colour they have chosen, blue or green.

ingress-screenshots-r471x

They can “attack” and thus take over any region held by the opposing team provided they physically go to that area. However, beyond co-ordinated attacks or other such player-driven events, there is nothing driving people to be at a certain place at a certain time. In the case of Pokemon GO, all the Pokemon (at least those which have been released thus far) seem to be distributed more or less evenly in the countries where the game can played*, taking into account of course that certain types are only found in certain geographic conditions i.e. water-type Pokemon only found by bodies of water, etc. But as suggested by the above Bear Grylls meme, what’s to prevent Niantic from placing a Legendary (thus rare and prized) Pokemon like Articuno, somewhere inaccessible like Everest Base Camp? Nothing, save for the limitations of Google Maps.

But let’s take it a step further. What if Niantic released a statement saying that a certain incredibly rare Pokemon would appear only on the lawn of the White House, and then only for twelve hours? People would MOB D.C.!

……

Okay, this scenario is probably beyond a “step further” but I think you get my point. Even if Niantic did a 5-day Pokemon appearance event in a certain city, we could see mass-migrations of people. How serious am I about that? Well, according to Wikipedia, the app, after less than a week of being released, and then only officially in three countries, topped daily usage of Facebook, Tinder, Snapchat and Instagram. That means, it’s beating out people’s libidos and narcissism -no mean feat.

The effort put into capturing Pokemon may seem unbelievable to non-gamers, but is it that surprising? We take our games very seriously especially when there is a ranking structure and an opportunity to demonstrate our prowess and superiority. MMOs in recent years have seen this vulnerability exploited as people will stay indoors on a beautiful, sunny Saturday playing games online in order to take advantage of Double XP weekends. It’s about bragging rights and Pokemon GO differs only in one critical arena -your couch is the last place you wanna be.

Artificial Scarcity
I’m fond of talking about the power of scarcity to motivate people and games truly exploit that power. Whether it’s reddit karma, Pokemon in your pokedex or having a Vex Mythoclast in Destiny, these are things that take work to accumulate/acquire. It’s hilarious because they are digital constructs -lines of code, which by their nature are infinite. But, limit their available quantity or occurrence, attach some status to possessing them and all of a sudden people will scramble.

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For now, this is all guess-work and hypothesizing on my part. But it seems foolish not to make the thought-experiment. Maybe this potential hasn’t occurred to Niantic/Nintendo or maybe they are just waiting for an opportune time to mobilize their willing army of Pokemon trainers against the regimes of the world.

All I know is, if it turns out that there are to be different Pokemon in different parts of the world, I will be on the front lines becoming the greatest Pokemon master of them all.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

*The game has at this point only officially been released in the United States, Australia and New Zealand, but lo and behold, here is a picture of me playing it in Canada…

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Fuck the P0-lice!

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