The video game industry's answer to the Tamagotchi craze, Pokémon plays like most traditional RPGs with one notable exception. Rather than wiping out endless hordes of monsters for fortune, glory, and (of course) experience points, Pokémon encourages captivity over annihilation. So much so, that collecting, trading, and training the stubborn little pocket monsters make up the heart of the game. Theoretically, it sounds like a perverse electronic version of the Beanie Babies/Furby viral culture that has swept the nation. But in practice, the game proves to have more substance and legs than your average passing fad. Tapping into the object-collecting proclivity of our inner-child, Pokémon (while not designed by Shigeru Miyamoto) is a Miyamoto-esque experience in the truest sense.

I was totally engrossed in the complex dynamics of the Pokémon microcosm. While the game on the outside is visually primitive (sporting 8-bit sprite-based graphics), the gameplay inside is fully realized and rich in depth. There is an endless amount of specifics to be learned and remembered about the 150-plus Pokémon and the world in which they reside. Fortunately, the game's intelligent execution doesn't allow too much to be thrown at the player at once. The adventure proceeds progressively, allowing the player to naturally absorb the game in its entirety. What stands out most about the design is the amount of freedom and customization given to the user. It allows players to essentially fight, train, and develop favored Pokémon while discarding and trading others. This is what makes the game truly engrossing. Pokémon stands as a testament to those who believe in gameplay over graphics; a 2D oasis in a 3D desert of video games. Rating: 9 out of 10

Chi Kong Lui

Chi Kong Lui

In the 1980s, Chi grew up in small town on the outskirts of New York City called Jackson Heights. Latino actor, John Leguizamo referred to the town as the "melting pot of the world," and while living there, Chi was exposed to many diverse cultures, as well as a bevy of arcade classics such as Pac-Man, Space Ace, Space Harrier and Double Dragon. Chi's love of videogames only seemed to grow as his parents finally caved and bought him an 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System (after being the only kid in the block without one). In the 1990s, Chi finagled his way into the prestigious Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts.

Somewhere between all the gaming, Chi some how managed to finish high school and get into the New York Institute of Technology. At the same time, Chi also interned at Virtual Frontiers, an Internet software consultancy where he learned the ways of HTML. Soon after acquiring his BFA, Chi went on to become the lead Web designer of the Anti-Defamation League. During his tenure there, Chi was instrumental in redesigning and relaunching the non-profit organization's Web site.

Today, Chi is the webmaster of the American Red Cross in Greater New York and somehow managed to work through the tragic events of September 11th without losing his sanity. Chi considers his life's work and continues to be amazed that the web site is still standing after the recent dotcom fallout. It is his dream that will accomplish two things: 1) Redefine the grammar of videogames much the same way French film critic Andre Bazin did for the art of cinema and 2) bring game criticism to the forefront of mainstream culture much the same way Siskel & Ebert did for film criticism.
Chi Kong Lui

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