Play Pokemon (and every other game) as early as you can

We've written about the benefits of being late to the party--why playing weeks, months, or even years after a game's release can bring with it a multitude of plusses. Many of those advantages come at a price, though. For one, you're inevitably going to miss out on the joy of discovery.

It's a point that's became particularly clear to me as I conducted my review for Pokemon X and Y. See, Nintendo has gone to great pains to keep most of the secrets of Pokemon X and Y under wraps. In order to play an advance copy of the game, I had to sign a lengthy non-disclosure agreement that restricted "spoilers"--that is, I had to stay mum about much of the game's story, and there were certain Pokemon and game mechanics that were also off the table.

Nintendo's use of the word "spoiler" struck me as odd. I've never thought of a Pokemon game as something that could be "spoiled." The narrative of the series has always followed a similar setup: you are given one of three starting Pokemon; you travel the world and battle eight gym leaders; you stop Team Rocket, or Team Plasma, or Team Flare or get the idea; you challenge the Elite Four and become the Pokemon League Champion. The narrative is so formulaic that it's practically impossible to ruin for pretty much anyone.

Now, for the past two weeks, not only was I one of the only people in the world who even had access to the game, but Nintendo's ironclad NDA kept the few of us who did have it from uttering the slightest peep. When I encountered a new Pokemon in the wild, I couldn't look it up to see if it had a good set of stats, or a cool-looking evolution, or even what type it was--the Internet didn't know. And you know what? I loved it. It's not the story I had to worry about spoiling, it was the Pokemon.

I felt like I was 10-years-old again, playing Pokemon Red on the playground after school. I caught Pokemon because I was curious what moves they would learn, or what they might evolve into--if they even evolved at all. When picking my starter, I didn't even know what its final evolution would be--at least back in the schoolyard I knew that my Squirtle was one day destined for Blastoise-dom. I realized that by looking up movesets and stat totals and evolution chains, I had been spoiling my Pokemon experience without even realizing it. I might as well have been firing up Wikipedia on the first episode of Game of Thrones and reading exactly when and how [redacted] gets [redacted].

Of course, not everyone can play games before they hit the store shelves, which brings me to my point: playing a game as close to launch and avoiding "spoilers"--be them delicate plot points or Pokemon movesets--can make for an entirely magical experience.

American gamers have a rare opportunity with Pokemon X and Y, thanks to Nintendo's simultaneous worldwide release, to play a game "unspoiled by the Internet." Back when Pokemon games had been available in Japan for months prior to their U.S. launch, there was no chance of a stone remaining unturned. And now that Nintendo's NDA has expired, everyone is free--both players with advance review copies and those snagging it from store shelves--to post whatever they please to the vast information receptacle of the Internet.

So play the game now, before everything has been discovered. As much as we might try to self-impose restrictions on, say, looking up how to get your Eevee to evolve into Sylveon, it's easy to miss out on the magic of discovery when the answer is just a quick Internet search away.

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