yours, tiramisu

covid-19 rebound and revisiting pokémon

As it turns out, just because you think you're done with COVID-19 doesn't mean COVID-19 is done with you. I thought I was in the clear after consecutive negative tests, but after a week of freedom my runny nose, headaches, and fatigue returned. While the symptoms closely resembled their predecessors from earlier in the month, they were mercifully less severe (notably no sore throat this time), and once again I quarantined in my room.

I've been explaining this episode of COVID-19 relapse to bewildered friends and coworkers as 'Paxlovid rebound', dubbed after the name of the antiviral I took. But I found out today that this term is misleading, since it mistakenly implies that the drug causes the rebound, rather than the virus. Henceforth, I will refer to it instead as 'COVID-19 rebound'.

I just tested negative this morning, which hopefully marks the end of my month-long dual citizenship in the land of quarantine. In my boredom I've watched more movies (The Prince of Egypt) and binge watched an entire show in one day (All or Nothing: Tottenham Hotspur), but more notably, revisited a nostalgic childhood pastime: playing Pokémon.

The first gaming console I ever owned was a white Nintendo 3DS, and the only two games I ever had on it were Pokémon Diamond and Pokémon Ranger. I loved them (well, just Diamond: Ranger was a stupid game from what I can remember), but because of strict parenting I rarely got to play and never got far into the game. Now that I finally have the autonomy (and time, momentarily) to play to my heart's content, it feels like time has passed me by. I don't even know where my 3DS is anymore; Nintendo has long since discontinued it. To make things worse, these days Pokémon games are a sad bloated mess of forced, unoriginal Pokémon, poorly disguised attempts to milk every last drop out of a popular franchise.

In order to scratch my nostalgia itch, I downloaded a DS emulator for iPad (which is also significantly harder than it used to be, after Apple all but prohibited sideloading apps), found a Pokémon Pearl ROM online, and dove in. I played for the better part of four days straight, and I'm amazed at how much I still enjoy these games.

Since I now know slightly more than my ten-year-old self, I appreciate the game and all its intricacies far more. The soundtrack is calming and diverse, but even though there's not a moment of silence in the whole game the music has never gotten on my nerves. My poor attempt to code a crude Gameboy Advance game for a college class left me in awe at the game's polish and bug-free gameplay. And finally I marvel at all the beautiful ways the game depicts inspirations from the real world, like how the buildings on Valor Lakefront look remarkably like Santorini's white homes topped with deep cyan domes.

picture of valor lakefront

Other than just gawking at sights and sounds, I approach the game more cerebrally now. In my blissful childhood ignorance I just did whatever I thought seemed cool. In hindsight, I'm sure I got stuck a lot and made a lot of boneheaded decisions because I never had the patience to read what now seem like obvious signs. Now I consult the Wiki when in doubt and take a deeper interest in the underlying game mechanics. Does spending so much time on careful research detract from my enjoyment of the game? Maybe, but I think what I lose in fun I gain back in satisfaction, satisfaction from understanding how the developers created such a complex game. I've come a long way from not knowing the difference between Attack and Special Attack (or even caring about it, for that matter).

At the end of the day even though I've thoroughly enjoyed re-acquainting myself with an old friend, I can't help but rue how ephemeral gaming can be in our capitalist and consumerist society always looking for the next big thing. I think about my Nintendo DS, my Wii, and my Xbox 360 collecting dust. My Xbox has been played so much the controllers are failing, but fixing them or finding new ones would be more of a hassle than just buying the latest console. And even that doesn't solve the ultimate catch-22: new games don't get released for my old consoles anymore, but I can't even play my old games on new consoles. Am I the only one that's bothered by this?

As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts, and thank you for reading if you made it this far.