I am not lost…

September 5, 2016

Memory vs. Reality, IRL Edition

I’m jumping back into a topic I was talking a lot about earlier, but it’s been a while, so now you’ve forgotten how manically I was posting about Pokémon there for a while.

…no? You didn’t forget? Well poop. Sorry?

In any event, this is something I came across back when I was relaunched into my childhood, looking at Pokémon and seeing what I spent so much of my childhood on. I found my old Game Boy and all my games, and set out to see what my character looked like, where I’d left them all those years ago.

And I got a bit of a surprise.

So in my head, I’ve beaten all the early Pokémon games. I know I haven’t beaten a lot of the more recent ones: Black, Fire Red, Soul Silver… I got them later in life, and my focus isn’t what it used to be. Also, these are worlds I don’t know and Pokémon I don’t know, and that makes it harder for the purist in me to just float through it. How am I supposed to know how to make a team when I’ve never heard of any of these Pokémon before? WHAT TYPE IS HOUNDOOM? (Answer: dark/fire.)

And sure enough, when I fired up my copy of Pokémon Red, I found my huge team of Level 100 Pokémon, all ready and raring to beat the Elite Four. I actually took just the team I had on me at the time and went to the Plateau–and sure enough, beat everyone easily. My pride as a Pokémon Master was immense.

But when I fired up Blue to do the same, I was met with a shock.

I couldn’t Fly to the Plateau. …You only can’t fly to places you haven’t been yet. Had I really not beaten the Elite Four on my copy of Blue?

I started looking through the computer, trying to find my highest level Pokémon. Sure enough, they were the ones in my team…and they were something like level 30-40. Not even close to strong enough to take on the Plateau. What had happened? I swear I’d beaten both of these games! Had I really somehow missed the Plateau on one of these games? It didn’t seem to make any sense.

My copy of Yellow apparently corrupted its save data, so I can’t see whether or not I beat that one. (I think I did? But then again, we see how accurate my mind appears to be.) Silver has the same trouble. I know for a fact I beat Silver, because I remember where I was when I did it. But the game is glitched badly enough that I can’t access the file. (Actually, I’ve just gone back and checked: while Yellow actually says that the save file is corrupted and can’t be accessed, my copy of Silver doesn’t even have that. It just opens up like a brand new game, no save file even listed as occurring. Yay.) So while I can’t prove that one, I have a distinct memory of being at a sports game of some kind (probably my cousin’s soccer game) and beating the Elite Four, and then waiting for him to finish the game so I could tell him.

The mystery is still Blue.

Is it possible that I beat Blue, and then later in life decided that I wanted to go through the journey all over again–and just didn’t want to reset my copy of Red? Yes, that’s absolutely possible. As I think of it, it’s actually incredibly likely. But I don’t remember, either way. That’s kind of baffling, and a little scary. It proves how bad memory can be–and how little we can trust it. We’ve all heard the statistics about people who witnessed crimes later trying to recall what perpetrators looked like; nine times out of ten, they get everything wrong. Our brain fills in blanks, and we don’t necessarily know that it’s done it. So did my brain fill in a win, because it wanted to believe that I was a true Pokémon master? Maybe. Did I just forget restarting the game so I could relive my childhood? Also maybe. I will likely never know, and that’s something I need to come to terms with.

It’s also a nice piece to remember for my writing. The unreliable narrator is something of a joke trope nowadays; we all say everyone’s an unreliable narrator, whether they really fit the bill or not. But the truth is, that everyone is going to be unreliable in some elements of their storytelling. It may not be to the extent some narrators are (Holden from CATCHER IN THE RYE, Jay from the web series Marble Hornets, any amnesiac ever, etc) but we see right here that there are elements in everyday life that we forget. So maybe that character who’s blocked something so far out of their mind they’ve forgotten they ever knew it isn’t so far off base. (I spent three days trying to remember the name of the town an ex lived in. A town I once planned to move to. Yeah. At least three days.)

But for now, I’ll just buckle down and be the master trainer I know I am…and whether for the first time or not, I’ll beat Blue. I’ll climb the Plateau and take on the Elite Four. And this time, let’s hope I’ll remember doing it.

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