Let me tell you about someone that I met when I was young.
For as long as I can remember, I have been in special education courses. It’s not really something to which I’ve ever really given much thought. All I knew is that I learned differently from the other kids. I wasn't the social type and I didn’t like the things that others liked. Sometimes, I would say things that made sense to me which only resulted in laughter from the other children. I lacked the confidence in making friends, I saw fit to entertain myself most of the time. It wasn't much different at home. I rarely played with the other neighborhood kids and stayed in my room playing my Nintendo all day. It was all the fun that I could ever hope for.
Things improved slightly in middle school when Pokémon was introduced. The cartoon was okay, but the video game truly captivated my interest as it did with my other classmates. I had a Game Boy and link cable for a long time, but Pokémon Blue was the first game that gave me a reason to use it. Suddenly, I was trading and battling with other kids during recess. The trading card game was eventually introduced a bit later which only served to keep me hooked to the whole fad.
Many kids at my school collected and traded Pokémon cards, even if not everyone knew how to play the actual card game. Pokémon had given me a common interest with my classmates and it also gave me my first real friend.
Many kids at school would collect and trade Pokemon cards. We were still interested despite having no knowledge on how to play. While Pokemon had given me a common interest with my classmates, it also gave me my first real friend.
Joshua was similar to me. He was just as much into Pokemon as I was. He also had troubles making friends outside of it. He laughed at my inside jokes along with me and was someone whom I could discuss the game with in detail. We traded cards, but in retrospect I think he used his better knowledge of the game to swindle me out of my better cards with unfair trades.
The pride and joy of his deck was a first edition Charizard card which he used to win many games. When we didn’t talk about Pokémon, we talked about games in general. I remember Joshua distinctly saying that he had a dream to design video games for a living. It was something that I shared myself.
As a kid I had to be taught using many different methods to make up for my difficulties in learning. I learned eventually to communicate better with others. I also learned about things that were considered socially acceptable. While this was a blessing, I wondered if Joshua had received the same treatment.
There were a lot of times where he was obnoxious, rude, and suffered from mood swings. I didn't know if he was bipolar, but when he was in a good mood, he was fun to be around with. When he was in a bad mood, it was wise to avoid him like the plague. Luckily, I did have a few friends I could turn to when Joshua was in one of these moods. Sadly, my friendship with Joshua didn't stay on good terms forever.
It went downhill when one of my friends in school died in a car accident. It was hard for me. It was hard for all of us. Joshua on the other hand saw fit to take the opportunity and make fun of it. It wasn't something that won him over with the rest of the class and from that point on I started avoiding him altogether. I didn’t really make any effort to continue this friendship which I considered toxic.
Joshua's behavior in school gradually got worse. One time he even got suspended for assaulting a teacher. In the back of my mind I couldn’t help but wonder if my friendship with him had previously prevented him from getting in serious trouble. Near graduation he did something that surprised me. He gave me his beloved Charizard card. He did this despite the fact that I had abandoned him and I knew that he still thought highly of me. It was one of the nicest things that he had ever done.
High school came afterwards and with it a new generation of Pokémon. I bought a copy of Pokémon Silver but I ended up not getting as far into the game as I did with Blue. I didn't even finish it.
High school brought with it a slew of completely new problems and brand new faces. I still had the occasional class with Joshua, but I didn’t really speak to him. Pokémon was no longer a big part of my life and as a result, neither was Joshua. I actually remember very little if any about high school in general. All I remember is that during last semester, Joshua was nowhere to be found. I don't know what happened, but I thought that he had done something that he wasn't suppose to.
Eventually, I graduated and moved on into the working world. I had all but forgotten about Joshua.
Seven years passed. I had a job that I was doing relatively well in. I didn’t move up in my job, but I had enough pay to survive. One evening I decided to clear my head after a long day of work in a nearby park late at night. I don’t know why I decided to go out that late. I just wanted to. It was about 9PM but it was summertime so there was still some remaining sunlight. I sat down at a nearby picnic table and enjoyed the scenery. I was alone in the park with the exception of one other person roaming the park. I didn’t much of him until he approached me. Soon I got a good look at him. He was somewhere in his 20s, looked completely unkempt and had a patchy beard. He obviously cared nothing about his personal appearance, but back in high school, neither did I.
Seven years passed since I graduated, I had a job that I was doing relatively well in. I didn't move up in my job, but I had enough pay to survive. One evening, I decided to clear my head after a long day of work in a nearby park late at all. I don't know why I decided to go out this late, I guess I just wanted to. It was about 9PM, but it was summertime so there was still remaining sunlight. I sat down at a nearby picnic table and enjoyed the scenery. I thought I was alone until I saw someone else roaming the park. I didn't think much of him until he approached me.
He was somewhere in his 20's, looked completely unkempt and had a patchy beard. He obviously didn't care about personal appearances, but back in high school, neither did I. He asked if I remembered him. I shook my head. He came closer and looked me directly in the eyes and smiled. His appearance was unsettling to me, but I did get a good look at him and soon realized who he was.
I asked Joshua how he had been, he said nothing and pulled out a shiny red Nintendo DS with a copy of Pokemon Diamond from out of his pocket. He asked if I wanted to trade my Palkia for a Stunky. When I informed him that I didn't play the game and had moved on, his mood turned sour. He accused me of abandoning what brought us together. He said that I had a lot of audacity to simply give up Pokemon considering that if it wasn't for the game and my friendship with him, I wouldn't be who I was today. What he said next was nervewrecking
He told me that he could of beaten me up like he did with everyone. Then he made it sound like he really did beat me up on a regular basis. This sounded very strange to me as I never recalled him hurting anyone when we were kids. Joshua didn't look all there and I couldn't imagine he had learned to deal with others. I excused myself, left the park, and headed home. The next day, I headed for the same park, this time it was a little earlier. I didn't want to take any risks, so I carried a pocket knife with me. I didn't want to use it though. Sure enough, I found Joshua sitting at a picnic table. He wasn't at the same table, he was sitting in a area that was distant from the playground equipment. I approached Joshua as friendly as possible. He didn't seem to be in the mood to talk, he seemed disturbed by something.
I asked him how he was and that is when I learned about what had become of him since we parted ways. It turns out he never did anything after high school. In fact he was kicked out which explained his absence during my senior year. He never moved out of his parents’ house. He never held a girlfriend, but then again neither did I. He never got a steady job except for the occasional fast food job which he couldn't keep for long. At this point he seemed really upset and suddenly ran off, leaving the stack of papers behind him.
I tried shouting for him to come back since he had left these papers behind, but he was soon out of sight. I looked at the stack of papers. They were bound with metal clippings on one side like a book. I took them home and went straight to bed.
The next day was my day off, so after some breakfast and a shower, I decided to finally take a look at the stack of papers. The cover sheet simply said “Pokémon: Joshua's Legacy: by Joshua". The stack was quite thick and bound together on the side of the pages like a book. I started to flip a few pages and soon I realized what this was. It was a fully fleshed out game design document (or GDD) for an original Pokémon game. It seemed like Joshua had toyed with the idea of being a game designer after all.
Sadly, the reality was that this GDD was unsolicited and unlicensed, it could never be turned into a official Pokemon game from Nintendo. The only way this could work is if Joshua had knowledge in programming and he didn't seem to be the type to do so. I thought that if anything, these stacks of papers should be neat to read.
I flipped through a few of the pages and found some poorly drawn fan art of the cute monsters. All of them were recognizable except for one which looked weird. It looked very unsettling. It had three giant deformed infantile looking heads and it's body looked pale. It's tail was a umbilical cord. I had no idea what the hell this thing was suppose to be, it looked to be a ghost type, but I can't be sure since no name or type was specified. I never played any of the newer Pokemon games, could it of been fanmade?
I went past the "artwork" for the game and read that the game would stray very far from the normal Pokemon handheld formula, even the Mystery Dungeon series. The document called for a role playing game played in real time with free exploration and a multiple Pokemon party system. There would be no trainers, no one-on-on restrictions, just a party of Pokemon that would be carefully selected and adventuring together in an open world and facing perils as a team. The GDD described this system to be like the party aspect of games like Baldur's Gate and Might and Magic with the open world aspect of The Elder Scrolls and Grand Theft Auto series. It could be a interesting idea, so I read on.
According to the document, you would start off with four Pokemon of your choice from a roster of twenty. They would each have a handful of special moves reflective of the original game and they could evolve in time as before. I flipped through a few more pages and looked up information on locales and noticed that while there were plenty of caves and over dangerous locations, there was no mention of places to rest and no shops.
It then mentioned the availability of the occasional berry, but there would be no other healing items. It went even further to state that if a Pokemon's HP was reduced to 0, they wouldn't "faint" but were rather killed. There would be no means of reviving it. It seemed like he drew even more inspiration from other games that I didn't know about, but it seemed rather morbid for a kid friendly series.
I read on and eventually came to the section detailing the makeup of the game world itself. It described the dungeons in great detail and had a section listed about the nature of the difficulty of dungeons. It said the following:
The dungeons should all be inhabited with hostile Pokémon that are stronger than those outside. Since battles take place in real time, there is no “Run Away” command which means that even if the player flees, the hostile Pokémon will still chase after them for awhile. Furthermore since there are no berries that grow in dungeons and Pokémon can only carry one held item, expect the players to take quite a beating unless they are really skilled. On average, expect at least one of the Pokémon in the player’s party to die if the player is a newbie, It shouldn't be uncommon for the player to wipe completly in the first dungeon on the first attempt.
This brings me to another point. Pokémon death as we have said before is permanent and there is no means to bring the fallen Pokémon back to life. There is also no saving which means that if all of the Pokémon in a party die, there is no continue option. When a player gets a game over, there is only a new game option. Regardless of past accomplishments, everything must be done all over again.
To really drive this home, all Pokémon in a player’s party will be given names and talk throughout the adventure, given personalities that the player can identify with, and compliment others on their achievements. The player must feel like these Pokémon are not just monsters for battle, but people he can identify with. By doing this, it will make each Pokémon’s death all the more tragic and group morale will be brought down when one of the player’s “friends” dies on the screen, never to be brought back to share his joys, his pains, and his dreams ever again.
The game will not be indefinite. There is indeed a final boss. If by the grace of God the player manages to make it to the final dungeon with any Pokémon remaining he will find that the final boss cannot be beaten.
The most likely scenario is that the player will die before reaching him, but even if he takes the boss's HP down to 1, he can't be killed. Ultimately the point is that for all the player’s accomplishments, all the levels gained and dangers overcome, in the end it is all fruitless. All the player's friends eventually go away and the only thing the player can do is delay the inevitable defeat. Of course this will never be told to the player flat out. It is something they will get to experience firsthand and learn the hard way.
At this point I put down the game design document. I was stunned and wasn’t sure what to think anymore. I just sat there in the emptiness of my room, only the sound of the garbage truck outside broke the silence. I took the GDD and put it on top of my bookshelf, not really feeling like reading it anymore. In vain I hoped that if I placed it out of sight, I would forget about it. I walked out of the house and back to the park. I didn’t find Joshua at the park that day, nor did I find him there the next day or the day after.
I had no way to get into contact with him. I didn’t know his phone number or his email. I was stuck with his “legacy” and I didn’t know how to return it. I didn’t want to simply throw it away. It would feel like such a shame to destroy something he had worked hard on, even if I didn’t like it.
A few days passed and I had put the idea of Joshua and his game design document out of my head until one day when I was going through some drawers, looking for a spare USB cable. I didn’t find what I was looking for but surprisingly I found a red Nintendo DS and a copy of Pokémon Diamond. I wasn’t sure what to think. Just to make sure, I turned on the DS and started up the game. The player in the game was registered as “JOSHUA”. So this was indeed Joshua’s DS and game. Had he followed me home? Did he manage to break into my house without me knowing about it? A shiver ran up my spine. I called out his name and went around the house but no one was there. I now had Joshua’s DS and GDD and a feeling of dread came over me.
I had trouble sleeping that night as well as the following nights. My thoughts often turned to Joshua and his game design document and images of dead Pokémon. I didn’t want these thoughts in my mind. I didn’t want to have this weighing on me. I tossed and turned in my sleep. One night it got so bad that I jolted out of bed at midnight and stared at my empty room. Only it wasn’t empty.
I saw him sitting at the foot of my bed. He was grinning in the dark, staring at me like a hawk stalking his prey. Then all of a sudden he leapt at me and pinned me down in my bed. I struggled against him but he was just as big and strong as I was. Eventually however I managed to roll him over, which caused him to fall off the bed and me with him.
I don’t know what came over me just then. In time I had grown to hate Joshua and all that he embodied for me. So I punched him in the face. Then I hit him again. And again. And again. Harder and harder I punched him, beating the snot out of him. He once told me he beat me up, where I was beating him up. I couldn’t stop it. I didn’t want to stop. I kept wailing on with my fists until he stopped moving. I got up from him and stared down at the pile of meat that used to be Joshua. A pool of blood was spreading on the floor, staining the carpet into a dark red color. Just then I heard a hard knock at my door and a voice coming from behind it.
“Joshua! It’s midnight! What the Hell are you doing up so late and making all that noise?! Some people here are trying to sleep!”
I looked at the door. Then I looked at the floor. There was no corpse there, no blood stains, nothing. My hands were completely clean. I stared in disbelief at myself, at my surroundings and the terror of the reality of the situation gripped my heart. I turned to the door and answered as meekly as I could.
“It’s nothing, Ma. Go back to sleep.”
I reached for a nearby Pikachu plushie and crawled back into bed, crying my eyes out. Somehow after all these years I managed to finally overcome the darker nature of myself only to find that it had been shielding me from the truth. And now I found that my reward was a life I didn’t want and the broken illusion of what I thought was reality. This was my gift. This was my curse. This was my legacy.