Opinion Piece: Meta vs. Casual Play and PVP

This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately between things like competitive Pokemon, Fire Emblem Heroes Stat/IV Calculators, and a lot of debate on things as simple as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.

I’ve always been a bit odd in the sense that I am constantly kind of at both sides of a place. I like to feel like I’m achieving something and for the most part, I’m a completionist, but I also prefer to be able to play the way I like as I work towards that and it’s something that I feel is becoming harder and harder to do in most games where that line is suddenly blurring and rather than the far-end reaching can be things for a general sense of achievement, a lot of actual things people may want to try for suddenly get tied to it.

Like Smash Brothers. Starting in Brawl, an achievement-based system was put in place and suddenly, you had all these extra things to do with characters that maybe you weren’t particularly good at. It’s one thing when sure, maybe you had to beat Master Hand with each for their final trophies, but at least you can do them on Easy and maybe work yourself up to hard. And I think that’s one of the big things for me because I’ve always loved the trophies and collecting them, but suddenly it feels like a lot of my enjoyment is forced to learning to get to know these characters for this one achievement that has a trophy locked behind it (and there were never enough hammers).

And it can be fun to work towards things and see how far you can go. There have been plenty of games where I pushed the limits or like Maple Story where I frequently managed to get to places that were much higher level just because I wanted to explore. And there’s a lot more fun in choosing that option over feeling like you don’t have that choice because you want to achieve all of a certain thing.

And that’s part of what’s slowly really killing Pokemon for me. When a large amount of the Post game is just an IV Arena for the “best” Pokemon, it ruins a lot of what Pokemon has always meant for me. And I find it harder to ignore every single game between attaching ribbons to it (and sometimes other things as well) and just general “Your party sucks” or “Why don’t you evolve *insertpokemonhere*?” comments that just tend to keep happening. I’m just expecting more and more of the game to end up slowly expanding that part until the Elite 4 literally requires it if not the gyms as well. Like fine, have some battle arenas just for that, but at least don’t tie exclusive items and things to it. Most of the people doing it don’t even care for those things. And the day I stop using my favorites for Pokemon with better stats is the day I just am no longer truly playing Pokemon.

It’s also one of the issues I run into a lot with Fire Emblem Heroes. I’d rather just use my favorites, but with the Arena (which is the main way to earn feathers), special quests for orbs which requires all four characters to live, and the chapters getting harder and harder (and who knows how many there will be–we’re definitely not near the end of the story though), there will eventually be a point where I won’t be able to somehow pull it off. I can barely do the everyone staying alive quests at this point, if any at all. And defeating in 6 turns while trying to not completely die in 10-5 on Lunatic was terrifying.

“But Jen,” you may say, “You don’t need to do it on every difficulty!” which is true, technically, but considering Orbs are the main way to get characters and I am unfortunately not in a position where I can just buy as many orbs as I want and not have to worry, I’d really like to earn as many as I can. I’m still sad I was never able to do all the full team 10th Sanctum quests last time.

In general though, I think any game that kind of encourages the idea of playing with characters you like and then has big focuses on why you should use specific characters instead is just kind of… frustrating.

Overwatch kind of does okay with this because while there are gold weapons in competitive, everyone can earn them eventually just by playing that mode even if they’re not particularly good. I still don’t really care for the mode due to how toxic people can be, but at least there is an option. There is, however, an extra spray and icon for anyone in the top 500 which I have mixed feelings on. At least it’s mostly just an animated version of the one anyone who did the qualifying matches get, but wow do I really like the one for Season 4.

In general though, all of these things also add up to why I also just am not too fond of any kind of PVP thing. When it comes down to it at this point, I know I’m in the minority and when everyone I know is figuring out the best stats for their characters, the best kart pieces and character for their kart, and the best load-out/skill tree to use, it suddenly becomes a lot less fun. And heck, there are times I’ve still managed to pull out a win despite by all measurements being “weaker”, but I don’t really want to play against anyone who is constantly all about the numbers over what they actually like.

And that’s the thing–when it comes to any kind of multiplayer party-esque game, whether it be a fighting game, Mario Kart, Mario Party, or similar things, I actually really don’t like doing anything against people I know. If I’m playing Mario Party, I only steal coins and stars from the Computer because I’d feel guilty otherwise. And I’m like that in pretty much any multiplayer experience I do–I’m all about co-op, not versus play.

For now, I’m just going to do my best to keep playing games the way I enjoy them most, but it’s hard not to worry that eventually that way won’t actually be able to exist anymore.