Pokémon Games Should Be Messier And More Annoying

Pokémon Games Should Be Messier And More Annoying
Image: Bulbapedia

When I was younger, I liked to overtrain my Pokémon until they stopped listening to my every command. You could do this in older games and risk the consequences. I found it thrilling to know that, at any moment, maybe in a crucial battle, my Pokémon might not do as I say. Now that I’m the proud owner of four pets, I understand why I loved something that was meant to be a punishment and I’ve developed a new sense of how I wish Pokémon in these games would behave.

Pokémon games typically gate a player’s progress by requiring you to get a new badge before you can train your Pokémon beyond a certain level. Pokémon beyond level 30, for example, may not always listen to you until you get your fourth badge.

You could spend hours in the grass slowly powering up your buddies beyond the recommended level, but generally, it’s not worth it. Your power advantage could be eradicated by unruly monsters with no care for your strategies. Better to progress at the rate the game wants you to.

Anyone who has played Pokémon probably had this happen to them at least by accident. I loved to do it on purpose, even though the consequences enraged me later on. I’ve had gym battles go sideways because of a missed play, for example.

It sucked back then, but I look on it fondly now. I still remember the moments where my Pokémon defied me or annoyed me, and given the thousands of hours I’ve spent in Pokémon games, that’s notable. But why?

A while ago, I adopted a rambunctious terrier puppy with a history of abuse. He was a small little thing, nervous to the bone, and with severe separation anxiety. Still, training him was surprisingly easy: he picked up new commands quickly, to my delight.

I’ve never met a creature or person who was so devoted to me, and wanting to make me happy. I can’t even look at him without him standing up expectantly, hoping that I’ll call him over to sit on my lap. I am my dog’s entire world.

Still, it’s been tough to live with my dog. What I wasn’t told when I initially adopted him was that he was a breed with endless amounts of energy, which is difficult to navigate when you have a demanding job and hobbies. Even on days that he spends running for hours, you still can’t tire him out. He always wants more.

That, combined with his anxiety, makes getting him to actually listen a tricky proposition. He’ll do commands, but he’ll do them so fast he messes them up – if he does them at all. He’ll eat my underwear. He’ll bark at friends that he knows if they come over, and won’t stop even as they pet him and give him treats. I tell him to stay there or do this and he’ll refuse if he sees another dog or person.

He’ll start whining excessively if I so much as cross the street without him. The list is long. I know what they say: there are no bad dogs, only bad owners. I’m working on all of this – he’s on anxiety medication, he’s getting extra training from a professional, I try my best to undo some of the damage of abuse. The problems are there, though.

My cats are ‘worse.’ They destroy furniture, scratch me so hard that I have scars, steal my food, and push their dirty asses in my face. Every day my oldest cat climbs over a tall bookcase and nearly knocks it over.

I think it’s only a matter of time before one of my cats breaks my TV, because they like messing around near it too much. One of my cats always bolts into the fridge when I open it and the others always try to run out the door when I’m leaving. They all love to get in the way. I mean, they’re cats.

They do what they want, and they almost never listen. If anything, they will manipulate me into giving them what they want, the furry bastards.

On any given day, the number of annoying or unwanted things my pets do seems to match the number of joyful things they do. But that’s part of the charm. Pets aren’t meant to be robots: they’re living, breathing creatures with needs, wants, and flaws of their own.

My relationship with them deepens whenever we overcome things together or survive one of their dumbass decisions. I might curse at my cat every time she goes into the fridge, but there’s also a small part of me that knows it’s going to happen and thinks it’s kinda cute. All the poop and pee I’ve had to clean for my puppy has, in a strange way, only brought me closer to him.

I may not like any of it in the moment, but I notice that I miss it whenever I’m away from my babies. The rebellion, the trials and tribulations, and the frustration are all part of the experience. The happy times would be meaningless without some friction.

Owning pets is all about the good and the bad. The bad eventually becomes the good: I look forward to every single painful biscuit my cats make on my bare skin, even if it means waking me up at six AM.

In Pokémon, there’s barely any of this. By design, video games are things we want to master and dominate, so when you tell your Pokémon to do something, you expect them to do it. Otherwise, they will never do anything you don’t like. You can only win the game and become powerful if everyone does as they are told, which means that you generally don’t want to over level your monsters.

There’s no push and pull, no negotiation, no unwanted behaviour that might still be a quirk you can love. Your main consideration is how you’ll train a monster, where you’ll dole out stats and moves.

Newer Pokémon games have broken this ultimate obedience model a bit by allowing creatures to perform surprising feats in the middle of battle. Your Pokémon might survive a lethal attack, or hit a little harder if you become close enough to them. Pokémon Amie, a feature introduced in X and Y, also helps the illusion of Pokémon-as-companions by letting you pet them.

Depending on where you rub, your creature might happily close their eyes, lean into you, and enjoy your touch. Or, they might get mad and push your hands away. None of this goes far enough, and most of it is presented as utility to the player. Friendship levels gained by petting your Pokémon are just another mechanic to master and take advantage of, because you know it will eventually serve you in battle.

What I want from mainline Pokémon in the messier side of pet ownership: the disobedience, the annoyance, the anger. The anime understands this dynamic well.

Pikachu is special because it refused to go into the ball. Charizard made us all cry because he was such an arsehole to Ash. Ash was way out of his depth, and that made the eventual friendship all the more meaningful.

I want my Pokémon to have a will of their own, even if – especially if – it messes up my game. Then it will feel a little bit more real.


  • This article is a confusing mess… You say the disobedience mechanics sucked but you look fondly at it now (so basically just nostalgia) and the new games have added more mechanics you like but now you think it sucks again? I’m not sure if you think they’ve removed the old disobedience stuff or not but they haven’t. Also not sure if you actually remember the original (and current) mechanics correctly;
    Pokémon games typically gate a player’s progress by requiring you to get a new badge before you can train your Pokémon beyond a certain level.
    Like this right here, isn’t true. Badges gated the players with HM usage, not pokemon levels. The only pokemon that would disobey you were traded, cheated or gifted pokemon above that level. Pokemon you catch would always obey you, regardless of level. This is how it’s always been and still is today…

    • Although everything you said was true, the part about captured Pokemon isn’t. I caught a Pokemon in Ultra Sun and leveled it too much before receiving the corresponding Kahunas blessing and would regularly disobey and loaf around.

      • That’s interesting! I’ve only had it happen once in all pokemon games. Happened in Gold version, traded a bellsprout for Onix, was really happy with how quickly it levelled up and then it suddenly started ignoring me. Mind you, this is a version I finished with a single pokemon (Totodile) the first time I completed it and had no issues with over levelling.

      • That shouldn’t have been the case, even the Pokemon wiki claims “An outsider Pokémon will often not obey the player’s commands if its level is too high and the player does not have the appropriate Badge, Stamp, or number of Badges.” Sounds like you had a buggy game, a pokemon used a move to do it or something else, because that should not have happened.

        • Yeah it was weird I stated below under saberscene comment that I can’t remember specifically the circumstances but in that I may also be incorrect in remembering.

      • That’s strange, I was sure it was just traded pokemon but before posting my original comment I checked on bulbapedia;
        Where it specifically mentions ‘outsider pokemon’ as potential disobedient ones. It seems to be more vague with the description for Gen V onwards though so I may have misunderstood that and they changed the mechanic there (in B/W), or Bulbapedia is just wrong.

        • Yeah I never had a problem with other versions, until playing through Ultra Sun. I can’t remember the specifics but I do remember calling BS on it when it happened. I think it was the second island and was my starter pokemon I believe, but I could also be wrong.

    • It’s not a confusing mess. It’s a conscious personal essay about the conflict between depth/love and machinelike obedience.

      Apparently that went over your head, because you failed to read words and follow another human beings feeling or reasoning. Which is perfectly clear in the article.

      It’s also just rude, self-centered, and obnoxious to call the article a confusing mess, when your problem here is transparently and embarrassingly your own shortcomings, specifically lack of literacy and probably lack of emotional intelligence at this point in your life.

  • This is easily one of the worst suggestions I’ve heard for a Pokémon game. Like, up there with “I want all the regions in one game” or “Pokémon but Skyrim”.

    The extended analogy with your pets is also poorly formed. The part you like is their personality quirks, not their frustrating behaviours which you’re paying a professional to train them out of. So what you’re suggesting is not to make the Pokémon disobey the trainer, but to have more personality.

    You mention Pokémon Amie—which is called Pokémon Refresh as of Gen 7, by the way—as a way Gamefreak have already begun to implement this. Another would be the Pokémon’s Nature which alter their stats. Potentially you could have these Natures effect the way they behave in Refresh to reflect their suggested personalities. But to have a Pokémon arbitrarily fail to follow your directions would be ridiculous and frustrating—akin to the Pokémon being in a permanent state of confusion.

    Potentially you could alter the idea of Refresh so as to implement this disobedience you seem eager to have. Rather than giving stat buffs if they love you they would occasionally ignore you if they don’t. The game already uses a five “star” system, so let’s expand upon that. The default level, at which newly caught Pokémon begin, is 2. At 2, the Pokémon will occasionally disobey. If you treat it poorly (for the sake of argument, say fainting too often and not curing status ailments) then the Pokémon will fall to 1. At 1, it will disobey often. If you use Refresh to pet, heal, or feed the Pokémon, it will increase. At 3 it will no longer disobey. At 4 it will occasionally receive the already existing buffs. At 5, it will often receive the buffs and allow Pokémon who require it to evolve, to do so (i.e. Sylveon). This then gives Refresh a more significant, active reason to be in the game and allows your baffling desire for a “messier” game.

    With that being said, I’m not even sure it I like this idea. But I would suggest it’s a vast improvement upon what you, Patricia, have suggested.

    Pokémon games should not be “messier and more annoying”. No game should ever be suggested to be “messier and more annoying”.

    • Could you imagine if pokemon wouldn’t snap out of confusion and you had to literally heal them with a special medicine. Rage quit time.

    • You missed the point of the article if you think personality quirks are separable from frustrating behaviors. You should probably read it again. Remember that the point of reading is to understand another person’s thoughts. You seem obtuse and simpleminded but if you try really hard you might be able to understand another human being’s (mixed) feelings.

      “No game should ever be suggested to be “messier and more annoying”.”

      Actually, no one should ever suggest that a suggestion should never be made. See how I just arbitrarily made up my own rule while hypocritically saying your rule is wrong?

      • Obtuse and simpleminded? Mate, way to personally attack. I never suggested Patricia was an imbecile for saying the game should be changed, just that she hadn’t truly thought through the ramifications of such a change. And that she needed to give her article another once-over because, as @sabrescene said, it is a “confusing mess”, a point I also touched on. You say “the point of reading is to understand another person’s thoughts”; sure, but it is also to open a discussion. And if you fail to adequately communicate your thoughts then the discussion will likely amount to criticism.

        I also did not miss the point of the article. Patricia wants Pokémon to have more personality, and compared that to her pets’ personality quirks. She failed to mention how she wished to see this implemented in the game. Using her comparison—frustrating behviours and disobedience equals personality—I suggested a way this could be implemented into the game, which resulted in a middle-ground game-mechanic between my not wanting it and her desiring it. My calling her desire “baffling” is a result of her poorly argued writing in this instance. I’m not suggesting she is always wrong or that she never writes well. Just that in this situation she could have given her piece more thought.

        If you get your head out of your arse you might understand not every disagreement is a personal attack. See how I hypocritically just personally attacked you because you did it to me? An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.

        Putting aside your considerably rude approach to critiquing my comment, the only—and less than genuine—two suggestions you make are that personality quirks and frustrating behaviours are interchangeable, and that no idea should ever be refused audience.

        I suggested how the frustrating behaviours and disobedience could be implemented into the game, treating personality quirks in the way Patricia intended. Not in the way as I did. Thus, you missed the point of my argument. You should probably read it again.

        You also facetiously and sarcastically suggest that every suggestion should receive audience; a poor counter point to my assertion that no game should be made messier or more annoying, which, mind you, is a logical conclusion to my argument. By your logic, it’s okay for someone to suggest genocide. No. Sarcasm does not make for productive discussions.

  • If you wanna be mad at a pretend animal just play The Last Guardian or something.

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