What started off as a self-imposed hard mode has now turned into a challenging phenomenon among fans of the Pokemon world. Originating from a simple series of posts on 4chan’s /v/ board, Nuzlocke has breathed new life into a game series with millions of fans the world over. The rules of Nuzlocke Challenge are easy to grasp:
…But carrying them out is unreal. We caught up with Nuzlocke to ask him about the challenge and what we could all learn from this.
Q: First off, how many times have you attempted your own challenge and in which versions? Are there any moments not covered in the web comics you think would be worthwhile sharing with us?
I think I’m at 3 attempts right now. The first two are the runs featured in Ruby: Hard-Mode and FireRed: Hard-Mode, but the third is kind of a funny story.
During July of last year, some guys threw together a sort of Nuzlocke charity event where several players would stream simultaneous Nuzlocke runs, with the assumption that the viewers would donate.
Anyway, I participated in the event and did a quick run of Emerald Version that was going pretty well, but never actually finished it. I planned to go back and stream the end of it someday, but unfortunately my computer got stolen last Halloween and I lost the ROM file. I doubt we’ll ever see a comic for the run, but who knows what could happen if I get bored enough.
As for things that don’t make it into the comics, you might notice that while Ruby is always entering new areas, you rarely see him catching new Pokemon. This is because I’m really, really bad at catching Pokemon, and usually end up fainting the first critter I encounter. I made a few jokes about it early in the run, but if I included it every time it happened, you’d basically be seeing it every single comic.
Q: So we know why the Nuzlocke challenge was created, but of all places on the internet why choose /v/ to post about it?
To be honest, I don’t know where else I would have posted it. At the time it was 4 short pages of sloppy stick figures and memes, I never imagined there’d be a wider audience for it.
/v/ has been a guilty pleasure of mine for a few years now. People always complain that it’s all “not vidya” these days, but I think some pretty great stuff still comes out of it, especially comics. Anyway, I doodled up the original 4 comics out of boredom and I figured at least one person would get a chuckle out of it, just a little way of giving back to a community that had entertained me for so long.
Q: Why do you think people take on the Nuzlocke challenge?
Well, obviously people do it for lots of different reasons. Some people do it for the attention their comics will bring them, and others (like me) simply do it because they’re bored.
I’d say the main reason most people take on the challenge is for the experience though. When you first hear about it, it can seem pretty stupid. After all, why would you want to limit/restrict your experience in Pokemon with extra rules? But if you check out even one Nuzlocke comic or story, you’ll see that what you’re missing out on. It adds risk and randomness to a series that can get repetitive and stale, and you always cherish things more when there’s a chance you could lose them.
Q: The fan comics have also seemed to take on a life of their own and the amount of them is just staggering. What aspects of the challenge do you think drive people to contribute?
I think most people do Nuzlocke comics because after taking the challenge, everyone has a story to tell. The basic story of each Pokemon game isn’t really that interesting. A kid catches some Pokemon, levels them up, becomes a Pokemon master and stops an evil organization along the way. With a Nuzlocke challenge, you never know what will happen. People want the world to know about their fallen bros and victorious comrades, and how exactly they overcame all the odds or failed trying.
Anyone can do one, and I think the lousy “art” in my comics makes the idea of putting something out there less intimidating. Someone once told me I was, “an inspiration to bad artists everywhere.” I’m not sure if that was a compliment or not, but I think it does back up my theory.
Q: What have you learned about Pokemon as a game series and the community around it since starting the challenge?
Well, the short answer is, “a lot.” I know all sorts of fun facts and advanced game mechanics from my dip into the Pokemon community. Before starting up this comic I’d played most of the games, but I would have never described myself as a hardcore Pokemon fan. I just played a lot of Nintendo games growing up, and Pokemon was one of them.
It’s gotten to the point where I have to occasionally feign ignorance in public. “UH, HAHA, YEAH. I DON’T KNOW WHAT A NOOZLEAF IS I THOUGHT THERE WERE ONLY LIKE 150 POKEMON, HAHA…”
Q: This past year we have also seen a few other Pokemon related trends online that really seem to hit the nostalgia factor, the Spirit Pokemon webcomics on tumblr and the Black Man Loves Pokemon viral video. Have you seen either of these and have any comments? Do you think the challenge also has an element of nostalgia to it?
Well, I’d never seen the Spirit Pokemon comics before now but I just got a good laugh going through them. As for the “Black Man Loves Pokemon” video, practically everyone I know in real life that knows I do these comics (not many, I guard my secret identity well,) posted that on my Facebook book wall, since I’m apparently their new authority on pokeemans. Anyway, the point is I lol’d.
I’d say the challenge definitely has a nostalgia element to it. Multiple people have told me that the Nuzlocke challenge has reignited their childhood love for Pokemon. Hell, nostalgia was one of the main reasons I started the whole thing in the first place, I hadn’t played Ruby Version in years. Pokemon is king when it comes to nostalgia, at least if you were growing up in the 90s, which basically made it impossible to not be exposed to one form of Pokemon media.
Q: Have you been contacted by Nintendo at all?
Not that I’m aware of. I think my little doodles are probably far too insignificant in the grand scheme of things over at Nintendo to even warrant a minute of their attention. If I do ever hear from them it will probably be a cease and desist, though.
Q: If Nintendo were to put in an option for the Nuzlocke challenge in a future game, what would be the rule set you’d have Nintendo follow? Are there be any other changes you would rather they make?
I think I’d keep it simple and stick to the main two rules:
1. Whenever your Pokemon faint, they are released.
2. You can only capture the first Pokemon you encounter on a route, maybe including the option of “first pokemon you haven’t already captured” instead, as this seems to be the most popular way to play.
Q: Finally, what are your favorite Pokemon and your favorite memes?
Charizard is definitely my favorite Pokemon and always has been, mostly for the nostalgia value. Doing the challenge has definitely put Sceptile, Absol, Pidgeot and Hariyama up there, though.
I tend to like those passing, board-specific, “flavor-of-the-month” memes, but I guess if I had to pick one that always makes me laugh I’d go with any of the “green text” related memes (>implying, >my face when, >FUCKING GAMESTOP,) if those even count as memes. They’re a guilty pleasure of mine, and while I’m a firm believer that memes belong on the web and not in real life, it’s seriously a daily struggle not “>imply” anything or explain what “my face is like when X.”
If you want to take on the Nuzlocke Challenge for yourself, learn more about the challenge, or read the many webcomics derived from the challenge, please visit the Nuzlocke Comics site. This interview was conducted by AJ Mazur on January 17, 2011.