Ten early impressions of Wii Fit
Hail Freedonia!

Sheepish gaming

Pikachu_car Like most of you, I'm guessing, I don't mind identifying myself as a gamer. In fact, I use that moniker more than ever these days, and I'm often pleasantly surprised to find colleagues or acquaintances genuinely curious about what systems I own or which games I'm playing. In my circle of friends, video games have replaced weather as the go-to topic of casual cocktail conversation, and I couldn't be happier.

While I'm always pleased to dispel misguided notions about GTA IV, offer in-stock Wii sightings, or trade Guitar Hero tips and tricks, there's one video game franchise I rarely discuss or admit to playing, purely out of sheepish embarrassment: Pokémon. I take no pride in saying this, but for some reason I never bring it up, and I've been known to close the lid of my DS mid-battle when I see a friend approaching. What's up with that?

Sure, Pokémon has a kiddie reputation, and I'm sure that's a big factor, but a few months ago I was gladly evangelizing to all who would listen about Zack and Wiki, another addictive and mentally engaging game wrapped up in a shiny jangly saccarine sweet candy wrapper.

Games like Hot Shots Golf and Power Pro Baseball - with their big headed, doe-eyed, cartoon players - look downright childish next to their mo-capped face-mapped next-gen cousins Tiger Woods and MLB: The Show. Yet I have no problem admitting that I typically prefer the non-sims and find their gameplay more satisfying. Heck, I'll even happily cop to enjoying many of the Mario Party games, and those max out the kiddie-richter scale at about an 11.

Most recently I've been playing the latest Pokémon Mystery Dungeon game for a PopMatters review, and I've noticed an odd and embarrasing shift in my attitude. Suddenly, I feel perfectly comfortable discussing the game because, of course, I'm not playing it out of any personal interest or enthusiasm. Oh no, not at all. This Pokémon game you see stuffed inside my DS is there only for the purposes of review. It's an assignment, really. I have no perverted overgrown adolescent fascination with these silly games. I'm just a reviewer with a job to do. I'm not enjoying this at all.

While it's true that I'm not happy with this particular Pokémon game (I'll explain in my review), it has nothing to do with those absurd Pokémon critters or the "kiddie appeal" of the game. Yet for some crazy reason, *not* liking the game makes it easier for me to talk about it without feeling a little ridiculous. I am seriously not pleased about this, but if I'm honest I must admit it's true.

Why do I feel so sheepish about admitting that I like - no, strike that - that I love playing Pokémon games, especially Red/Blue and Diamond/Pearl? Anybody else an occasional sheepish gamer too?