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Competitive vs. Playground

Posted August 28th, 2011 at 10:16 AM by Kip

OK, first off before any of you get all offended and start posting comments in big, red capital letters, I want to say the following:

** I have a lot of respect for Competitive battling and battlers, and I think it's a fantastic expansion on how the game is played. I am not saying (nor am I implying) that Competitive is in any way 'wrong' or 'bad', because it just isn't. I am not attacking Competitive. If you could read through the blog before making any comments I’d very much appreciate it. Cheers. **

Competitive Battling. It is the widely accepted standard for battling against actual, living people, and variations of it are used in tournaments everywhere. It is also the basic standard practice for battles over the Internet too, with whole websites dedicated to setting the rules and regulations, and also providing lessons and classes for people who want to join in the fun. It's a practice that requires a little bit of know-how, and involves a fair bit of number crunching, various tactical plans and combos, getting the right natures, EVs, IVs and all of that stuff. For many it's the only way to battle against other people and to get any real fun out of the game, what with the careful, calculated training in-game and pitching your efforts against others in the arena.

And now we come to the point where I mention the other crowd, a few of which have, quite rightly, been ridiculed. People who go on about "Ohhh no i HATE it cus i rais my mons wiv luv!!1", and constantly attack Competitive battlers for crimes such as 'ruining the fun' and 'having no life'. This is quite often because they don't really understand how it works, or are horribly bitter when they always lose and feel they need to maliciously attack people to satisfy themselves. Usually both.

Now, it's this sort of behaviour that has really put me in a difficult spot, and I want to make plain that I am not one of them. It's this sort of thing that makes people like me a little hesitant about suggesting alternatives to Competitive Battling, because the backlash against it is bound to be brutal (of all spectrums including reasonable, intellectual arguments and snide abuse (or combinations of the two)), and we're afraid to say anything because we feel we may be branded along with the bitter noobish lot automatically.

I was exactly the right age group when Pokémon invaded the western world, and a lot of us had the Pokémon games on our GBCs. At the end of every year in primary school there had always been a tradition of bringing in toys and board games for the class to have a nice play day. In the late 90's, that all changed for us, because it was the time we actually battled against each other via. our good old friend, the Link Cable. Battles back then were very simple - there were no level restrictions, no EVs, no IVs, no natures. Everyone just battled with the Pokémon they liked the best at whatever level they were at (often without switching for type advantage because we knew so little), and if you lost, you simply needed to train some more, raise a couple of levels and give it another go. That was basically all losing meant - the fun came from having a very rare chance to battle with your mates and from having the battle itself; winning and losing didn't really come into it. The only rules we had were that Pokémon were vaguely around the same level (say, within 10 or 15 levels), and we either battled Legendary or Non-Legendary, and that was it.

I tend to dub this way of battling 'Playground Battling', or PG (since 'Non-Competitive', 'In-Game' and 'GameBoy Style' aren't really adequate for it).

That's the sort of battling I personally find the most fun. With the risk of sounding cliché, the whole Competitive Battling thing does take the fun out of it for me. I like it when I just catch the Pokémon I like the look of or simply plain like, not even look at the stats screen, just train it and use it in my team (and quite often nickname it). Of course, really basic stuff like type balance is important, don't get me wrong. And building a team that's workable, yeah - you can't beat the game otherwise and employing absolutely no tactics at all defeats the point. But all the grinding and constantly catching the right Pokémon with the right natures in the right combos... it's not my cup of tea. I like it when people just battle the team that they have, just for the fun of battling with someone, where winning isn't the objective.

Now I'm not saying that Competitive battlers are entirely the persecuted - I've seen plenty of Competitive battlers brand this way of seeing things as 'noobish', 'childish', 'wussy', 'stupid', 'pansy' or just plain 'wrong' (wrong as in 'incorrect'). I've had people openly laugh at my teams before, effectively saying that I wouldn't last five minutes out in the Competitive world. I realise too that it is very easy to take advantage of the Playground ethos ("battle with my favourites? so my favourite is Dusknoir. zing!! loll"), and if you bring one Competitive Pokémon against a Playground team it would easily wipe the floor with them. They also say that that Competitive rules are there to protect everyone against this sort of advantage-taking, and to make it a fair and even playing field with opponents. Yes, this is all perfectly true. But the fundamental principle in Playground Battling is that winning isn't the ultimate goal, and if you battle against someone who truly understands this, then there isn't a problem.

Playground is certainly not suited for tournaments, and it isn't meant to be. It's not supposed to be superior or better than Competitive, and it is in no way inferior to it. They are simply two different ways of doing things. Both sides have their extremists, but neither side should be automatically judged by those extremists. Playground is not made up of a load of babies and sore losers attacking something they don't understand, and Competitive is not made up of a load of elitist smug people who consider themselves better than everyone else. Yes, there are elements of these in both camps, but I am prepared to bet that the overwhelming majority are not like this, and no-one should stereotype on either side.

What I'm saying is the Competitive Battling is not the only way to battle online, and I don't think people should be excluded from battling online just because they don't battle competitively. Because this is what is happening. If you like battling Playground, you should be able to battle Playground with someone else. The two standards are basically two different ideologies, neither is right and neither is wrong, they're just different people who have fun doing things in different ways. And some can easily find fun in both. :D

So I guess if you see me saying ‘Anyone want to battle PG?’, please don’t hate me for it. And don’t go thinking you are required to learn how to battle Competitively in order to battle online at all. Don’t go thinking that either way is better or worse, just go with the one you like the best, and no one should give you stick for it.

(OK, now you may post your angry comments in big, red capital letters. Gogogogo.)
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  1. Old Comment
    Oryx's Avatar
    But all the grinding and constantly catching the right Pokémon with the right natures in the right combos... it's not my cup of tea.
    And Kip's a Brit...he knows his tea.
    Posted August 28th, 2011 at 10:47 AM by Oryx Oryx is offline
  2. Old Comment

    I totally understand where you're coming from. I, being a competitive battler, am stuck in that mindset when I battle. I sometimes wish I could revert to more innocent times where I used whatever I want (such as Chimecho) and didn't give a care about what nature / IVs / EVs it had. I miss those days where I could simply build a team based on type-combinations, and my movesets had very little strategy other than to get a STAB. :[ Whenever I play ingame now, I'm haunted by the fact that I sometimes get a poor natured pokemon (like Timid Snorlax or what have you), and I tend to either hunt for another of the same species with a more desirable nature, or soft reset for something like a legend. I'm also very particular about the movesets I use, which is nice I guess, as it's not that big of a deal, but I miss the days when I used something like Hydro Pump / Surf / Waterfall / Water Gun Blastoise. xD

    I'm sure no one will rage at you. :] Competitive is fun in it's own right, and casual battling is in its own as well. Some people just prefer one over the other.
    Posted August 28th, 2011 at 10:47 AM by .Aero .Aero is offline
  3. Old Comment
    PokéSwimmer's Avatar
    Amazing blog post Kip. I agree with you 100%. Ever since I learned how IVs, EVs, and Natures all work, it has almost completely ruined the experience of simply playing through the game. It wasn't until I attempted a Nuzlocke challenge (in which it is almost impossible to care about IVs and Natures) that I rediscovered how fun the games can really be. I have loads of respect for competitive battling, but casual is simply more fun in my eyes.
    Posted August 28th, 2011 at 11:25 AM by PokéSwimmer PokéSwimmer is offline
  4. Old Comment
    Xyrin's Avatar
    I agree with you. Competitive battling isn't fun for me.

    This reminded me when I was on the irc the other day and somebody says everybody comes on PC for competitive battling and nothing more. He said i should stop playing Pokemon completely since I don't do competitive. >_>
    Posted August 28th, 2011 at 12:22 PM by Xyrin Xyrin is offline
  5. Old Comment
    Competitive battling makes me dislike Pokémon. I don't find it very enjoyable.
    Posted August 28th, 2011 at 1:34 PM by
  6. Old Comment
    Vrai's Avatar
    gosh you crazies

    Posted August 29th, 2011 at 1:34 AM by Vrai Vrai is offline
  7. Old Comment
    Shining Raichu's Avatar

    I do in a way wish that the whole IV/EV/nature/competitivenessblah system was never introduced, because it made the whole concept of Pokemon a little too srs bsns for my liking and it has created this divide among Pokemon fans where before there was none.

    Having been made fun of by quite a few competitives myself, it just makes me nostalgia hard for the old days where we could all just have fun and not have to think about it and all you needed to do to guarantee victory was Missingno your way to a Lv. 100 Pokemon

    But yeah, it's here now so everybody stfu and let people enjoy Pokemon however they want to lol
    Posted August 29th, 2011 at 2:30 AM by Shining Raichu Shining Raichu is offline

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