I’m Watch Da Birdie and this is the first installment of Gaming Memories, a reoccurring segment on my blog where I talk about a childhood memory and how it relates to gaming. Some will be funny, some will be sad, but I hope you enjoy them and think about the effects gaming has had on your everyday life in unexpected ways.
Today’s memory is what I call The Legend of the Shiny Dusclops. If you’re not a Pokemon fan let me explain what “Shiny Pokemon”, or “alternate colored Pokemon” as they were previously called, are. Basically in every Pokemon game starting with Gold and Silver you have an extremely small chance of encountering a Pokemon with a different color scheme than usual accompanied by a sparkling effect which earned them the name “Shiny Pokemon”. Actually there’s one Shiny Pokemon that everyone will encounter in Gold and Silver, and that’s the Red Gyarados as part of the central plot, but the chances of encountering another Shiny Pokemon in the game was roughly 1/8192. Needless to say many players probably didn’t realize Shiny Pokemon were a thing (though the anime highlighted it through Ash receiving a Shiny Noctowl), and may not have obtained any no matter how long they played.
In 2016 Shiny Pokemon aren’t as rare as they once were since there’s various tricks one can use now to increase the odds of obtaining one, and that’s not even considering how easily they can be hacked into the game now, but in my opinion it’s still an amazing feeling encountering one unexpectedly in the wild as opposed to going out and spending hours purposefully breeding for one. In truth Shiny Pokemon aren’t different from the regular Pokemon beyond a unique color, and using one nowadays is almost cliched especially if it also happens to be a popular Pokemon to begin with. And if you use Shiny Legendaries, well, most people probably are gonna assume you hacked those and they’re probably right.
Back to the topic at hand though Shiny Pokemon are fun to encounter, though it’s also possible for you to encounter them under extremely unfortunate circumstances. I’ve seen stories of a Shiny Pokemon appearing in the World of Pokemon segment before the game begins, Shiny Pokemon appearing during the tutorial where a NPC teaches you how to catch a Pokemon, and recently a Shiny Pokemon appearing in the Sun and Moon demo that couldn’t be transferred to the actual game. I was one of those unfortunate souls to run into my first Shiny Pokemon in an area where it was uncatchable, and that was in the Battle Pike in Pokemon Emerald.
The Battle Pike was a battle facility located in the post-game Battle Frontier in Pokemon Emerald, a theme park of sorts where players could have fun battling against the CPU under a variety of conditions and while it could be cheap at times, it was far more challenging than anything else in the series at that point in time. For those of us who didn’t have a lot of friends around to play with, and this was before WiFi of course, the Battle Frontier was the first time we really experienced some of the higher level strategies that Pokemon hides behind its deceptively simple battle system. It was one of the best new additions of Emerald and its absence in Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire still remains a sore point for many Pokemon fans.
The Battle Pike is one of the odder battle facilities and also probably the easiest, as you don’t have to fight that many Trainers. You go through different doors as you travel through the tube and behind each door is a randomized room where you’ll either fight a Trainer, fight two Trainers in a Double Battle, fight a Trainer followed by your Pokemon getting healed, fight Wild Pokemon who live in the room, be inflicted with a negative status effect, or just run into a friendly NPC that will let you pass without posing as an obstacle. It’s the luck-based facility (though all of them involve some luck) and thus even if your Pokemon aren’t perfectly trained it’s easy enough to stumble through. You earn silver and gold symbols based on how many times in a row you clear each facility and two clears of the Pike earned you silver while ten clears were required for gold, though at the end of the second and tenth rounds you had to fight the Pike Queen Lucy. I only managed to get silver, and that was the only Battle Frontier symbol I ever earned, but I was satisfied.
Luck was not on my side though when during one playthrough of the Battle Pike, I believe the playthrough where I managed to defeat the leader of the Battle Pike Lucy for the silver symbol, upon entering one of the Wild Pokemon rooms I ran into my first ever Shiny Pokemon—Shiny Duclops! Sure, I technically had a few Shiny Pokemon I grabbed using an Action Replay, but this was the first legit Shiny Pokemon I ever encountered and I just had to have it since I liked Dusclops. But, that’s not possible in the Battle Pike as you can’t use items thus I had nothing to catch it with. I had to faint it unfortunately, and that was pretty upsetting.
Now so far this post has been all about Pokemon, but there’s another part of this story which is a bit more personal—this event occurred the weekend my aunt died. It was the first major death of someone close to me, previously I had lost a great grandma but I was too young to really comprehend it, and I had trouble processing it. As a kid I was somewhat shy and awkward and often hid behind my Game Boy in many social situations, such as when visiting relatives or out at a restaurant. Nowadays doing that seems extremely rude, and perhaps because I got that out of my system as a kid I don’t whip my phone out when I’m out with family and friends now, but as a kid it seemed natural and my parents never really punished me for it.
I didn’t bring my Game Boy Advance to the funeral or anything like that, but I remember playing it whenever we visited my aunt at her house when she was suffering from cancer. I’d talk to her of course, but while the adults talked about depressing matters I used video games as a way to distract myself from the fact I was likely going to lose her. Looking back I feel horrible for all the times I took her for granted, especially as my brother and I thought of her as the cool aunt because she always brought gifts with her, and thus here’s a situation where games both comforted me during tough times yet I feel guilty for using them for that purpose.
Regardless of how I feel about it now, playing Pokemon Emerald that weekend whenever I had downtime between all the funeral services and such was sort of my way of dealing with death. And though I was disappointed at losing that Shiny Dusclops, at the same time it was a moment of levity for me—a minor loss in a week filled with loss—and in a way that event cheered me up. “Life goes on” was the takeaway message for me, and though I still have issues accepting death I feel that was a moment of growth for me.
That’s not to sound callous about the whole affair, like I care more about a piece of data than my family, rather I just think it helped me see things in a better perspective. I may have lost my aunt, and it’s natural to be upset about that, but I still had all my other relatives. It was around that time I quit playing video games as often in public and became more social, and that may be because I realized how I needed to spend more time with the people around me while I still could.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering it was in 2011 when I finally found another Shiny Pokemon, a Shiny Leavanny in Pokemon White, and managed to catch it. It later gave birth to a Shiny Sewaddle, and not long after that I caught a Shiny Ferroseed. I found a Shiny Spritzee and Shiny Rhyhorn recently in Pokemon Y, so I now have five Shiny Pokemon to call my own. Not going to lie though I hope to run into that Shiny Dusclops again one day…