Should Pokemon Go Get Rid Of Skill-Based Throws?
My partner isn’t much of a gamer, but she’s always excited when a Pokemon Go Community Day comes around because it's something we can do together outside (as someone that plays and writes about games for a living, you can imagine how rare it is to find me outdoors). Though we’re both pretty casual about Pokemon Go these days, we both like doing all of the Community Day challenges and finishing all of the missions before the end of the day. But there’s one challenge that stops her dead in her tracks.
Research Assignments typically aren’t too demanding – walk a kilometer, throw five berries, catch 20 weather-boosted ‘mons – but there’s one that she can not, and will not do. It often poses a huge inconvenience to me too. Those challenges that require you to make a specific kind of throw can be so frustrating, especially the ones that make you throw three or more in a row. They can quickly return a relaxing experience into a stressful one, and I’m not sure Pokemon Go even needs them anymore.
There are good reasons to have skill-based challenges in Go. Adding variety to Go’s gameplay isn’t easy, and these difficulty spikes help change up the pace and give players a challenge to overcome. That’s the foundation of most video games, but I’m not sure it’s a great fit for Pokemon Go.
My partner just refuses to do them. The stress she experiences when she’s made two of the three Excellent Throws she’s required to make isn’t worth the meager rewards, so she either finishes the day without completing the Research Assignment, or she makes me do it. I’m pretty consistent with my throws, but making multiple Excellent Throws or Curved Throws in a row is still a challenge, and multiple failures can be pretty frustrating, especially for such an easy-going game.
It’s not entirely a skill issue either. When I switch from my phone to her smaller, older phone, it’s a lot harder to make those throws. Big, faster, more expensive phones make difficult catches easier. There’s no other aspect of Pokemon Go where the quality of the phone can give you an advantage – not even in PvP. Doesn’t that seem a little bit pay-to-win?
Some recent events have allowed players to avoid skill-based throws if they want to. At last summer’s Go Fest, you could choose between three different research paths: Catching, Battling, or Exploring. If you didn’t want to risk facing these kinds of multi-throw challenges, you could opt for Battling or Exploring and avoid them. That’s a fine solution for Go Fest, but there are still Research Assignments that don’t let you bypass the throw requirements.
When it comes to any kind of challenge, I always prefer a system that rewards skill and time investment equally. This is a fundamental design principle of most RPGs, including Pokemon. If you’re skilled enough, you can take on the Elite Four with a sub-optimal team. If you aren’t, you can spend time grinding levels to make the challenge easier. I think Pokemon Go should adopt the same strategy for throwing challenges. There should be an alternate, longer path if you aren’t able to Make 3 Excellent Throws, like making Ten Great Throws instead.
Pokemon Go isn’t the kind of game that should block progress over a skill-gap, especially when the rest of the game’s challenges, like egg-hatching and evolving Pokemon, are all about your time investment. Players shouldn’t be incentivized to save scum in Pokemon go by turning off their 5G before making a difficult throw to ensure a miss doesn’t count against them – as some players advocate to do. Skill-based challenges are fine for the people that enjoy them, but Go should always offer an alternative.
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