The video game sweep: solution to all the problems of life

Recently I’ve been in one of those times where no video game will do, where I’ve been chasing a game – something – through download libraries and subscription catalogs and a few drawers of cupboard in vain, a quest through the game’s ribcage and shoulder blades for a wandering, ineffable itch I can’t scratch. I suspect I’m not the only one in this one, so if you ever find yourself in the same place, may I suggest: cleaning.

A narrated tour of the Isle of Armor and Crown Tundra expansions for Pokémon Sword and Shield – ideal places for a cleaning session.

Raking takes many forms. For me, somewhat uncreatively, it’s the task of completing a “living dex” in Pokemon – catching one of every Pokemon ever released and storing them all, in order, in one place, including all the many different forms and stages of each evolution. That makes it a bit longer than completing a regular Regional or National Pokédex, because you can’t just catch, say, an Abra and then turn it into a Kadabra, then Alakazam, crossing out all three at once – you need that. one of each in your possession simultaneously.

The challenge is really irrelevant, however. A good cleanse, I think, will always have some common elements. The first is that it happens, by definition, at the end of a game you’ve largely completed – think of completing side quests, eliminating the last surviving enemies on a given list, clearing the last factions of a map, etc

It’s a lot like hunting for trophies and/or achievements, but there’s one crucial difference, which is also another constant of a good cleanse: it must be inherently satisfying. As in, the things you do in the process must feel good to doregardless of any kind of additional, external (I refuse to say “extrinsic”) rewards or incentives to do so, like that telltale little clink of Platinum that erupts once you’re done.


Pokedextracker.com is a very handy tool for sprawling tasks like a living dex.

Finally, an essential ingredient: a small amount of bullshit. It’s hard to quantify – everyone has different tolerance levels for this sort of thing – but this is where Pokémon’s nearly endless endgame becomes such a good example. Catching Pokemon is easy on paper, but in practice it’s as hard as you want it to be.

For example, catching wild Pokemon the old-fashioned way – lowering their health, blasting them with a form of sleep and/or paralysis, throwing Poké Balls – is the easiest of the many methods you’ll need to master to complete a Pokédex. living. You can do this with any old Pokemon on your team, but soon enough you’ll find that it starts to get slow and awkward. Your team may be too high level to chip away at a wild monster’s health without knocking it out completely, so you’ll want to teach it False Swipe, a move that, at most, will only do enough damage to leave a opponent with 1HP remaining.


A screenshot of your Pokémon storage box from Pokémon Sword and Shield showing my Pokémon Gallade catcher highlighted
Lovely Gallade, and Bisharp in reserve, served me well.

But not all Pokémon can learn False Swipe! So you might need to grab one – and you might need to find the item that lets you teach False Swipe in the first place. And what about those movements that induce sleep or paralysis? He must also know them if you want to get through this quickly. One of each, as some Pokemon can’t sleep and some can’t be Paralyzed – and some, namely Specter-types, aren’t damaged by False Swipe either. At this point, you might as well get yourself a “Catching Pokemon” – one that can learn four entirely useful moves to cover (almost) all eventualities – which takes time to do on its own. Then you want to upgrade it, then you can start. And remember: this is one of many methods you’ll use along the way.

It’s that faff, that loosening up, that jog in place, that work of spinning the starting gate wheel before work that is part of the joy of a good clean. This means that once the cleaning begins, there’s an extra layer of satisfaction coating the surface, an almighty crackle that sounds every time you use your excessive, over-prepared strength to squash a big tick. in the next little box. on the list. Objective: annihilated.


A screenshot of the Isle of Armor map in Pokémon Sword and Shield
The Isle of Armor is the perfect place for this kind of sweet, endgame housekeeping.

Again: this is what makes a good cleanse a good cleanse. What I crave when I find myself grasping at this impossible game is, I have come to realize, a kind of paradox. I crave something immensely satisfying, that provides a sense of genuine accomplishment; but also something that gives me that satisfaction immediately and repeatedly – and also, tooat least a little healthy.

What I’m looking for is the rejection of what I’m often left with in other games, the extremes of immediately rewarding but overtly addictive stimulation – League of Legends’ double kills, the ft-ft-fit CoD headshots, FIFA goals, more than a 4X round, more than a RPG level, more than a daily objective of any service game under the sun – or, at the On the other end, the denser challenge of “higher” games that want you to win it, through mastery of systems or challenge or sheer volume of text.

I like these games, but I don’t like their baggage, the things they want or need from me. A Cleanse, unlike these, is something you do for love – because you just long to have one of every Pokemon. Because they are cared for. In fact, a cleanse is really a regaining of control. A reorganization of power. A rare case of using your playtime as a gift to no one but yourself.

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