The Nuzlocke Challenge is a thing on Youtube at the moment. The rules are simple: You pick any Pokemon game. You may only accept the first Pokemon encountered in each location. You must name all your Pokemon. And when a Pokemon faints, that's it. It's gone. You have to release it and pretend it died.
Apparently it destroys people emotionally. Moving on.
I honestly wasn't expecting to engage with the Nuzlocke Challenge at all, for two reasons. First, as you will know if you have partaken of any of my fine comedy products such as my critically acclaimed podcasts enjoyed by thousands or my Youtube gaming channel "Sex Talks About Apps," enjoyed by LITERALLY TENS, I am staggeringly arrogant. A no-death Pokemon run just didn't seem that threatening to me.
PvE Pokemon is just a matter of grinding yourself retarded and then tanking every fight. I've played Pokemon at championship level (would have won too if it hadn't been for some little snot with a Dragonite getting three critical hits in a row). I own a Team Rocket uniform. Well, I did. I wonder where it is now? Anyway, point being, all fainted Pokemon are perma-dead? Well, obviously I wouldn't be losing any Pokemon. Solves that problem.
Second, I dabble in evil. Especially when it comes to PvP. I spent months learning Dark Souls enough to finish the game at level 1, SOLELY so that I could hang out in the undead burg and jump people fresh off the boat with Chaos Firestorm. Thousands upon thousands of hours of Pokemon have completely destroyed any emotional connection it's possible for me to feel for the pixels onscreen. My Pokemon breeding sheds stretch to the horizon like a rapey concentration camp. My egg hatching programs make the foulest of puppy farms look like Hodgepodge House. I'm basically Johto's Cruella DeVille.
I dug out my copy of Heart Gold and got cracking. I used the system whereby your starting Pokemon is determined by your trainer ID number, and ended up with Cyndaquil. I was going to name it Spike after James Marsters' character in Buffy, but it was a girl. Instead I named it Adorabelle after Adora Belle Dearheart in the Discworld novels, because her nickname is Spike.
Second came, predictably, Hoothoot. This was going to be a major pain in the arse. Hoothoot is tankier than other starting birds and it gets Hypnosis early, but it levels up slower than Jim Sterling riding a segway across melted tar to a Randy Pitchford benefit lunch. I'd have to work with it. I named it Hedwig, because overthinking your Hoothoot's name is something that other people do.
Next it was time to hang a quick right through the checkpoint to pick up a Geodude. Completely OP for the starting game, this guy was sure to keep my team alive. I called him Geo Brando, so that when I took down a Gym Leader I could shout "You thought the winner of this battle would be you, BUT IT WAS ME, GEO!"
It was at this point I made a bit of a schoolboy error.
I headed north from the first city in the middle of the night. If I'd gone during the day I could have been ruling the world with a Pidgey or a Caterpie, but as it was I got a Spinarak. I wasn't immediately concerned. This, after all, was what the Nuzlocke Challenge was supposed to be about: getting you out of your comfort zone. I would level Hedwig and Neil (my Spinarak, I don't know why I thought Neil was a particularly spidery name) and I would learn to appreciate it, by God and Jonathan Holmes.
Now, I was running on set rule battles because I'm hardcore and 1337 and MLG and other words, so to split experience Spinarak would have to get one hit in before switching out. Off went level 2 Neil into a fight with a rando Pidgey. Neil used poison sting. Pidgey was poisoned. Good start. Time to switch out.
Before I could switch out, though, Pidgey attacked with a critical hit. Neil fainted.
My instant reaction was so visceral that it caught me completely off-guard.
"Oh, well, that's a relief," said the voice of the person who used to be Dalek Sex from somewhere at the back of my brain. "Now you won't have to dick around with Spinarak any more. It was not heeded. Lizard Brain and cold, dead emotional detatchment were driving the bus as I did the long walk back to the Pokemon Centre.
I put Neil in the box, and stared numbly at the "Release" option.
I felt sick. I was burying a Pokemon. I. Was. Burying. A. Pokemon.
I felt like a Victorian taskmaster forced to climb up a chimney to see what it was like for the kids. I felt like Tony Stark after his epiphany. I felt like an Apple Store employee taken on a tour of the sweatshops. I felt like Scrooge, visited by the ghosts of Pokemon Red, Green and Blue.
In short, I felt like a bit of a cock-end.
I'm staring at the DS now, its power light mocking me, wondering where to go from here. The first thing that springs to mind is showing up at Pokemon meetups and sitting there, militantly playing mini-games with my Pokemon and shaming people who use their Pokemon to battle. I could become a PJW. Obviously that would be a bit mental, but nobody has ever called my gaming patterns mentally healthy.
I checked the clock before I closed the lid of the DS. The Nuzlocke Challenge (and a baby spider called Neil who I knew for less than a day) had taken just under four and a half hours to unmake me as a person.
If you think my Nuzlocke Challenge is worth pressing on with, let me know in the comments. Part of me thinks this is the beginning of a harrowing and rewarding personal journey. Almost all of me wants to bury the cartridge in concrete, never speak of this again, and get on with the Chalice Dungeons so that I can get Bloodborne put to bed for my Four In February.