The Pokémon Superstition That Will Not Die

The Pokémon Superstition That Will Not Die

Some people think that walking under a ladder is bad luck. Some people knock on wood so they don't tempt fate. Some people avoid the number 13. Some people even press "down B" after they throw a Pokeball in Pokémon games, because they think it will help them capture whatever monster they have set their eyes on. Wait, what?

Ever since the release of Pokémon Red and Blue, there has been a constant superstition in the Pokémon fandom: if you press something specific, you can alter how effective a Pokeball is whenever you try to capture a Pokémon. The specific button presses I've heard about the most is "down B," which involves pressing down on the D-Pad while simultaneously pressing the B button the second that a Pokeball closes around a Pokémon. There are variations of this practice. I've heard of "up B," I've also heard of only pressing B. Hell, I've heard of alternating mashing both the A and B buttons.

The most fascinating part of this superstition is that most Pokémon players know it doesn't work. The only things that can affect capture rates are the type of Pokeball you're using, as well as the health and status of the Pokémon you're trying to capture. The more damage a Pokémon has taken, and the more status effects they have, the easier it is to capture something — especially if you're throwing a higher-grade Pokeball into the fray. There is no special code or button presses that can change the capture rate of a Pokémon. And yet, a sizeable chunk of Pokémon players press Down B whenever they throw a Pokeball anyway.

Why do they do it? The reasons are varied, as I found out after polling my Twitter followers. Some people press Down B because it's a habit — it's pretty common to hear that people have been pressing down B since childhood, when they were initially tricked into thinking the button presses had an effect. Others press Down B because it's comforting. Here is some of what people said to me after I asked them why they pressed Down B:

The Pokémon Superstition That Will Not Die
The Pokémon Superstition That Will Not Die
The Pokémon Superstition That Will Not Die
The Pokémon Superstition That Will Not Die
The Pokémon Superstition That Will Not Die
The Pokémon Superstition That Will Not Die
The Pokémon Superstition That Will Not Die
The Pokémon Superstition That Will Not Die
The Pokémon Superstition That Will Not Die
The Pokémon Superstition That Will Not Die

To my surprise, I found that Pokémon superstitions vary depending on the generation of Pokémon game in question. For old-school fans that have been playing since the days of the Game Boy, the superstition involves buttons you'd find on a Game Boy system — in this case, the D-Pad and the A and B buttons. Somehow, though, younger Pokémon players developed entirely new superstitions for their games, all of which incorporated features that the newer Nintendo handhelds offered. Specifically, I heard superstitions revolving around a handheld's microphone:

The Pokémon Superstition That Will Not Die

Sometime around 2006 or 2007, a more ridiculous version of this superstition appeared: some people believed that if they said "GOTCHA" into the microphone, then it would increase the likelihood that their Pokeball would be successful at capturing a Pokémon.

The Pokémon Superstition That Will Not Die

It's difficult to pinpoint where the original variation of the rumour started. With the microphone superstitions, the origin seems clearer: there are actually mechanics tied to the microphone in Pokémon. Or there were, at some point: https://twitter.com/xpatriciah

Now with the advent of Pokémon Amie, a feature that lets you interact with your Pokemon via touch screen and camera, the belief that you can talk into the microphone and affect your Pokémon in some way has stayed alive. If your Pokémon can see you via the camera, what's to say they can't also hear you? And if the game uses the microphone, what's to say there isn't some sort of hidden mechanic that will give you a small boost whenever you try to capture a Pokémon? It's easy to see how the inclusion of the microphone snowballed into what it is now, despite how outlandish it is. The idea that you can affect your game via a secret mechanic is just too seductive — nobody wants to let go of it.

What makes the latest variation of the Pokémon superstition so incredible is that it popped up during the age of the internet, when nothing is a mystery. Nowadays, it's way harder to start a myth like "you can revive Aeris," because everything is a simple Google search away. And yet this Pokémonsuperstition continues to live on, each time morphing to the specific capabilities of the handheld system people play the games on. I have no doubts that players will develop new superstitions that are tied to the specific features of the 3DS, too. In the mean time, Pokémon veterans like myself will happily continue to press Down B, regardless of how effective it is. Some things just never change.


Comments

    I thought mashing b helped in the OG games after a friend told me as much. It felt like a gameplay element with good feedback, It would have been good game design!

    If pokemon were made by Platinum it would have been a real thing (and they wouldn't have told anyone about it).

    Its just confirmation bias. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confirmation_bias)

    This kind of thing is prevalent in games because they're opaque systems that players are forced to rationalization based on observations. There was a very similar issue in WoW with Onyxia's Deep Breath and the kind of voodoo players thought they could do to reduce the frequency of a boss' random attack.

    Up+B. It's always been Up+B.

      Down+B. You're trying to use reverse psychology on the Pokeball, so you press the negative direction and the cancel button to convince it you don't really want the Pokemon that much.

      #science

        Down B, because you're telling the pokemon to stay down in the Ball.

    But the weird thing is. Up + B gave me almost 100% catch in all situation, except legendaries of course. They are made to intentionally break at least 20 of your balls.

    Last edited 07/04/15 2:16 pm

    I've been doing it since I got Pokemon Blue back in 1998 & nothing will ever stop me doing it. Even the truth!

    OF COURSE IT WORKS! IT HAS TO WORK!

    Plus, it's basically something to do as you go through the capture animation.

    B+A+Up, and you have to push them down in that order, that's how it spread in my childhood. We assumed it stood for BAll UP, just like how in Pokemon Puzzle Challenge, a lot of the codes involved spelling ball using the B, A and L buttons.

    Up up down down left right left right B A Start! Works 100% of the time.

    When I played Fire Red on GBA, I always used to mash A and B, and the D pad.

    Is it weird that played all of the old Pokemon games but never even knew there was a weird superstition like this. I must have been playing my game in a basement.

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