Ranking My 2019 Reads – Part 1

At the end of last year, I decided to take a look back at all of the books I’d read in 2018 and provide some ranking to them. This was partly because I like lists, but also partly because I wanted to provide some objectivity to how I felt about the various books I’d read for the first time. I’ve decided to repeat this exercise in 2019, albeit with a much larger list, as you can see below. As was the case last year, if there was a book you read that’s on my list below, I’d love to hear your thoughts. I read a ton of good books this year, so there’s some books I loved and would have been top five in last year’s list — such as 10:04 by Ben Lerner — that are relatively low on this list. This is largely driven by the fact that there were several good books recommended to me. For the most part, these recommendations did not disappoint.

This post is part one of two in this series. For part two, click here. Once it’s posted on December 30th, that is.

I have a few books I’ve chosen not to rank for various reasons. Those books, along with why I’ve chosen not to rank them, are listed in alphabetical order below.

  • Computer Machinery and Intelligence by Alan Turing – I read this solely as research for my work in progress and nothing more. It’s a super interesting read, but it’s way too short to be considered a book.
  • Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu (Translated by John Minford) – Considering this translation is 85% analysis by people other than the actual writer, I didn’t feel it fair to judge Lao Tzu’s work based off of this specific copy. Plus it’s a religious text and people get antsy when you do that.

Also, spoilers ahead for many of these books. If you care about that sort of thing.

31. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig

aka: Just because a book is famous doesn’t mean it’s good.

No. Just no. This might make my list of worst books of all time. I generally love philosophy books, but this was cringeworthy. If I wanted to read a book rebuking education, I’d read Ayn Rand again. At least that’s transparent about being horrible philosophy.

30. Sunburn by Laura Lippman

aka: How many unlikeable characters can you cram into a single book?

Never judge a book by its cover — or its back cover blurb. After I finished a book that appears much later on this list, I realized that I wanted to read another psychological thriller immediately after because of how engrossed I got in that book. So I picked up Sunburn, drawn in by its well-designed cover and the synopsis that the back of the book gave me, only to be majorly disappointed in how flat the book fell. It’s almost as if the author tried to see if they could write an entire book solely with characters who have no redeeming qualities. Which was super confusing, as I’ve really only heard good things about Laura Lippman as a writer. I finished the book so that I didn’t give up early on another book I didn’t like1Waves at Jim Gaffigan., but Sunburn felt like a waste of a week and a half of my commute more than anything. The final 10% of the book in particular was infuriating. Sure, lots of bad people got what was coming to them in the end, but the least likeable character in the book gets the happy ending. Why? At least the audiobook reader was good?

29. The Bassoon King by Rainn Wilson

aka: The old baha’i and switch

I genuinely went into this book assuming I’d get a biography of Rainn Wilson. My hope was that there’d be a decent amount of focus on his time on The Office, however, I knew that he had done other work, so I assumed we’d get into that. Instead, the book was just as much an exploration of Wilson’s spiritual journey and relationship with drugs in his youth as it was anything else. Wilson is funny — I laughed harder at certain parts of this book than I did at many books higher on this list — but I spent more of the book wondering why I was reading this than genuinely being interested. Its highs are very high, but the lows are frequent and extended.

28. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

aka: Everyone’s a little bit racist…and lying

Here we have a great premise of a book and a story style I love — the murder mystery — ruined by rampant stereotyping and a final sixth of the book that falls flat. Most of the characters in the book spend time talking about how Brits are stuck up and reserved or how Americans are pragmatic jerks or how Italians just love to stab people. I get that it’s not a long enough book to develop a cast of nearly 20 characters all deeply, but nearly everyone was a walking stereotype (mostly driven by how others spoke of them). Even if you want to go with the defense that the book is just “a product of its time”2Don’t. That’s a terrible defense for a book written just before the outbreak of World War II., the first 80% of the book is spent setting up an entire plot line, only for it to be thrown out for the final 20%. Then, after the final 20% of the book builds up a second narrative about the book’s true killer, the final page of the book decides to say fuck it and none of it matters. I was left wondering why I’d even read it.

27. The Internet of Us: Knowing More and Understanding Less in the Age of Big Data by Michael P. Lynch

aka: My biggest Twitter pet peeve, now formatted as a book

Have you ever followed someone on Twitter — let’s call them Account A — because one of your friends follows them? You realized from your friend’s retweets that Account A is interesting, insightful, funny, or whatever quality you’re really looking for in a good Twitter follow. Beyond that, Account A shares many, though not necessarily all, of the world views you have, reinforcing them from a source of credibility. But then, once you begin following Account A, you realize that they’re often talking to their followers like they’re kindergartners — treating the broader consumer of their content as having no knowledge of particularly prevalent concepts. Account A also retweets themselves constantly, not to mention retweeting people who talk about how awesome and insightful Account A is3There are two accounts in particular I follow on Twitter like this. I like following them because they’ll tweet super informative things that I don’t see anywhere else. That said, 95% of their tweets are either self-congratulating bullshit or are tweets marketing their own products thinly-disguised as actual content. Is that all you need to do to become a verified account? Because I can do that. ? That’s pretty much The Internet of Us. Amazingly informative book. But I felt like I was in a college class led by a professor who was only teaching the class because they were forced to (because they were super knowledgeable in that field), and were sleepwalking through it as a result.

26. Ulysses by James Joyce

aka: A rambling Irish odyssey.

Truth be told, this book was long, boring, and not particularly easy to follow via the audiobook. Perhaps I would have liked it better and/or understood it more if I were reading a physical copy, but I don’t have time to read an 800 page book just laying around in my week. I did that with Anna Karenina a few years ago and while that was worth it, Ulysses wasn’t. On the plus side, the audiobook performance read by John Lee had amazing voice work — to the point where it might be the best read book on this entire list.

25. The Personality Brokers by Merve Emre

aka: Personality testing and religion have a lot more similarities than you realize

Despite largely being a biography of the authors of the Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory rather than a breakdown of that test  (and other personality tests as I had hoped it would be), I had three primary takeaways from this book:

  1. Holy shit Katherine Briggs was a horrible human being.
  2. Personality testing is a lot like religion/faith. Neither has much, if any, scientific validity. That said, there is a lot people can draw out of each of them. Much of it can be good and be a positive way to improve peoples’ lives. But there’s a lot of ways it can be used to manipulate and oppress people, nevermind the fact that it can be used to reinforce someone’s own bigoted tendencies (see #1).
  3. People who use personality testing and an end-all, be-all way to control their employees’ careers is frightening…and more common than you’d think.

24. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

aka: Paint the bird feathers by numbers

This was one of the books that the internet recommended to me (though I sadly can’t remember where I got this recommendation from), so I was excited to read it. And considering the five month wait I had to spend on a wait list for the book, I expected this to be a showstopping book of epic proportions. Hell, I waited longer for this book than Michelle Obama’s book. That said, I can sum up this book in one sentence. Decent story, terrible ending. It was predictable chapter by chapter, particularly after reading a couple of other books on this list. I was interested in the story, hence placing it above the books below it on the list. But more often than not, I found myself wishing the story would go somewhere other than where it did with the turn of every page. I actively said ‘oh, goddammit’ multiple times as I read the book. At least Jumpin’ and Mabel were entertaining?

23. Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving by Pete Walker

aka: As I said in my first book, everything is your parents’ fault.

I read this book as research for my current WIP. In reading this book, I learned a ton about CPTSD, how it manifests itself, how people can cope with it, and several other topics. It was an immensely useful book roughly 75% of the time. That said, while part of the premise of this book is that CPTSD is driven by childhood trauma, there were several scenarios and ancedotes that the author blamed on childhood trauma that clearly were not caused by the child’s parents. The biggest one that jumped out to me was a story about how a sexual assault victim who was assaulted as a child also got assaulted later again in life. According to the author’s story, because the woman’s parents had done nothing to address the assault from her childhood, the woman was prone to getting assaulted again later in life. Just. No. Not even a little. Also, if you take a shot every time Walker mentions his first book, you’ll be unconscious by chapter 7.

22. Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain by Oliver Sacks

aka: As I said in my previous books, the brain is fucking weird.

If you take a shot every time Sacks mentions something else he’s written, you’ll be unconscious before you start reading. It earns the nod to being one spot higher on this list than the previous book solely because the stories in it were much easier to listen to. Granted, part of that is subject matter, but still.

21. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

aka: I fully understand why I gave up on this book three times in the past

Of the various books on this list, this is one of two I had attempted to read before 20194The other being Musicophilia.. In fact, I had attempted to read Dorian Gray on three separate occasions since I started college at the recommendations of various folks whose book opinions I respected. I never made it past the first quarter of the book on any of those occasions. I figured picking up the audiobook ready by Stephen Fry would help — and it did, as I finally finished the book. That said, despite Fry’s great performance, the book is exactly what I remembered it to be: boring, fatalist, and tedious. The moral to the story is still good, in that your misdeeds will eventually be your undoing by hook or by crook. But the other lessons I think Wilde is trying to show in his story fall flat, particular with a character as uninteresting as Dorian Gray is.

20. Failure is an Option by H. Jon Benjamin

aka: Sometimes diarrhea in a rental car ends better than expected

First off, I swear to god the aka line makes sense once you read the book. Second, for a book that I picked up because all of my other to-read books were on hold — and even then only because I’m a fan of Archer — this was a surprisingly entertaining listen5As I got the audiobook for this one.. Benjamin is relatable in many of his failures and some of the stories are fun. As a web series or movie, I feel like Failure is an Option would be hysterical. As a book, it fell flat at times, but was still enjoyable. The book wasn’t a failure, even though Benjamin spent a lot of time self-deprecating its quality. If anything, it was probably the most average book on this list, dividing the good (or better) books above it from the bad books below it.

19. Sherlock Holmes: A Baker Street Dozen by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

aka: Characters, not plot depth, can make stories

Despite my love for the various Sherlock Holmes television series and movies that have come out over time, I’ve never actually read any of the original stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I decided to rectify that by reading a compilation of the stories. And yes, the characters of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are great characters and their adventures are entertaining. The biggest thing that jumped out to me is that arguably the most common flaw that people pointed out in my book — that the short stories don’t build up backstory and skip over potentially relevant details for sake of moving the plot along — is the EXACT thing that happens in every single Sherlock Holmes story. Granted, I’m not Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. In fact, I’m far from it. But seeing this did make me feel slightly better about my writing.

18. When the Lights Go Out by Mary Kubica

aka: A book of dualities on every level you could imagine

I reviewed When the Lights Go Out earlier this year, so for sake of not rehashing that all over again, I’ll keep this short. The Jessie Sloane arc of the book is genuinely one of the best slow burn character descents into madness I’ve ever read. Full stop. The Eden Sloane arc of the book was bad. It was on par with Sunburn, only with a character you’re actively rooting against because you can see the impact this woman has on her daughter. I want more of this book and to never read it again all at the same time.

17. Me of Little Faith by Lewis Black

aka: This book isn’t too ba…what the fuck just happened?

The first 85% of this book is exactly what I expected from Lewis Black having been a fan of his standup and watching him on The Daily Show. Witty, sarcastic commentary with disregard for the absurdities of pretty much anyone and everyone. It was a good book, but not an amazing one. Then the last 15% of the book happened. He wrote a multi-character play with multiple flashbacks inside of it. And this was already inside of him telling a story within a book. That’s like 16 walls. Me of Little Faith gets bumped up a few spots just because of how weird, unexpected, and oddly effective this was.

Looking Back on Predictions

Those who have followed this blog for a long time know that I like to do speculative posts at times. These tend to be video game related posts, usually delving just as much into theorycrafting as they do anything else. That said, I like writing them and typically have a lot of fun in the process of creating them.

One thing I don’t do a good job of, however, is looking back at those posts when it comes time to see what I got right and got wrong. I’m not alone in this. Nearly every sports writer or pundit suffers from the same problem. There’s an entire Twitter account dedicated to calling these freezing cold takes out. If you’re a sports fan, give it a read. It’s great entertainment.

With one of the final posts of 2019, I wanted to take a moment and go back and look at my theorycrafting posts, speculative posts, and just general guessing-type posts I’ve written. What did I get wrong? For that matter, what did I get right? I sure as hell don’t remember. Come and discover right along with me.

10 Pokemon Go Community Day Ideas Based on Shinies

The most recent purely speculative post I’ve written is also one of the least successful, if not inconclusive results-wise, posts that I’ve written. Pokemon Go players have received zero of the Pokemon I listed in this post as Community Day events in the time since this post was written in April 2019. Two of the Pokemon listed in this post, Shuckle and Electrike, have had their shinies released, albeit in very different ways. Shuckle got its shiny released as part of an event and featured boosted spawns as a result. While this isn’t Community Day, I’ll still take this as a win. Electrike, on the other hand, didn’t even receive a formal announcement.

What I Got Right – Shuckle (kind of).
What I Got Wrong – Electrike.
Inconclusive – Everything else.

How Smeargle (Almost) Made Me Quit Pokemon Go

In this post, I mentioned how the implementation of Smeargle was the worst thing to happen in Pokemon Go ever, including the original gym system. While I did mention it in the post, I failed to call out that the biggest mistake Niantic had made to that point was actually the failure to re-implement the footstep tracker that allowed you to locate Pokemon in the early days of the game. This is a grievous oversight on my part. On the plus side, my post no longer matters, because Niantic has since introduced the paid Regigigas event, which is actually the worst thing to happen in the game’s history.

What I Got Right – How frustrating Smeargle was until more info about its mechanics were released.
What I Got Wrong – Pretty much everything else.
Inconclusive – How Niantic will alienate its player base next.

Why Your Super Smash Bros Ultimate Main Sucks

This post was a work of art except for one crucial mistake.

What I Got Right – That it’s super inconsistent for mature characters to be banned from Smash, yet for Bayonetta to somehow be on the roster.
What I Got Wrong – Captain Falcon does not shout his own name during sex. The Wii Fit Trainer does that.
Inconclusive – How much rage I’ll have to hear from the Smash fan base when Edelgard is inevitably added to Smash as DLC.

10 New Mega Evolutions I Want to See on Pokemon Switch

For the second generation in a row, we did not get new Mega Evolutions in a new Pokemon game. While Gen VII brought us Z-moves, Sword and Shield brought us Dynamax and Gigantamax evolutions. The latter is…kind of?…like Mega Evolution. Except not. And it’s not as good. But it’s the closest thing we’re getting. So how did the list do?

Of the 23 Pokemon capable of Gigantamaxing, 22 are from either Sword and Shield or from Generation I. The lone exception? Garbodor. Seriously. This list was doomed to fail as a result. But at least there was one exact hit.

What I Got Right – Lapras! I mean, kind of. But I’m counting it.
What I Got Wrong – Everything else, both literally and by my technicality.
Inconclusive – Why Generation VIII isn’t called Pokemon The Ocho.

10 New Dual Type Pokemon for Switch

At last count, there were 25 dual typings left that hadn’t existed in any Pokemon game to this point. Surely one of the ten Stephanie and I picked to theorycraft will show up on Sword and Shield. Right?

What We Got Right – Zen mode Galarian Darmanitan, at least in terms of that specific typing existing.
What I Got Wrong – Literally every other guess.
Inconclusive – There’s bound to be a part two to Sword and Shield. Just like there was Emerald to Ruby and Sapphire and Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon to Sun/Moon. So this list isn’t quite dead yet.

2019 Charity Drive

Happy surprise, second Monday blog post everyone!

For the last three years, I’ve been using my book and other work to raise money for charity. Because this is something I care about a lot, I wanted to make sure to do it again this year. And like last year, there’s a whole group of us that’ll be using our creative work(s) to raise money for charity. We’ve been doing this because not only does this matter to each of us involved, but also because it’s a nice reminder that the impact your work can make spreads far beyond you. Hell, if the bulk of my book sales each year come during this drive, I’m okay with that.

I’ll keep my leadup short, as I want anyone reading this to scroll down and support one of the creators below to help us raise money. That said, here are the pertinent things you need to know.

  • When is it happening: December 8th-14th
  • What charity are you supporting: The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
  • How can I help: There are a few things you can do —
  • How much are you donating: Each creator will be making their own donation. We’ll be totaling as a group and I’ll announce final results at the end of the event.

The Creators

If you want to support this drive and get some cool stuff, take a look at one of the creators below.

Eve Jacob

One half of the duo Jacob Crawford will be donating all proceeds from her first book, The Shadows, during the charity period, as well as all pledges from her Patreon for the month of December.

Haus of Clover

Pin shop Haus of Clover will be donating $2 per purchase of every pin of a new design that’ll be launched on December 8th. The Keep Going design is live now on the Haus of Clover Etsy page. For a close of view of the pin…well, here’s a picture.

Rebecca MacCeile

Author Rebecca MacCeile will be donating $1 per each copy of any of her books sold from her website, RebeccasBookshop. Additionally, each person to download a copy of her newest book, Eleanor’s Library, on Booksprout will generate a $5 donation.

Me! (Tim Baughman)

Like previous years, I’ll be donating all proceeds from my book, An Epilogue to Innocence, during the charity drive. Additionally, all proceeds from my Patreon for the month of December will also be donated. As a bonus, all new and existing patrons who make a paid pledge in December1Note that you won’t be charged until January, but you must either be an existing patron, or be a new/renewal pledge during the charity period to receive the reward. will receive a special reward — a character preview post for a character in my coming book — sometime in January 2020.

My Pokemon Gym: Flying

Welcome to the tenth iteration of the My Pokemon Gym series. If you’re new to this series, I take a Pokemon type then build out my team of six Pokemon of that type as if I were the gym leader. Here are the rules:

  1. I can’t use legendary/mythical Pokemon
  2. I can’t reuse Pokemon I’ve used in previous gyms in this series.
  3. Forms of the same Pokémon can be reused, provided they have different typing. For example, if I used Rattata in a Normal gym team, I could use Alolan Rattata in a Dark gym team.

Want to read my other My Pokemon Gym posts? Go read the Fighting, Ice, Psychic, Grass, Dragon, Fairy, Electric, Bug, and Fire type posts when you’re done here. All images courtesy pokemondb.net unless otherwise stated.

Swellow

Swellow is one of the few Pokemon that Pokemon Go caused me to like significantly more than I liked it from the original games. Maybe it’s because of Emily Dickinson, but the Taillow/Swellow line was become arguably my favorite first route bird at this stage…with the possible exception of the next Pokemon on this team. Popping a Toxic Orb/Flame Orb on Swellow with the Guts ability makes it a great scout, particularly with the combination of Protect to setup the status condition and U-Turn to change momentum. Brave Bird and Return fill out the last two slots for STAB1Same Type Attack Bonus, but that’s not the primary purpose for Swellow anyway.

Ability: Guts
Item: Toxic Orb
Moves: Protect, U-Turn, Brave Bird, Return

Fearow

Fearow was my original Gen I Fly bot, so it makes this team for nostalgia purposes. I didn’t realize Fearow got Throat Chop until making this team, so I’m throwing that on Fearow because it’s hilarious. My current favorite use of Fearow is Z-Mirror Move shenanigans, so it’ll be the only special move this otherwise physical type attacker will pack.

Ability: Sniper
Item: Flyinium-Z
Moves: Mirror Move, Steel Wing, Drill Run, Throat Chop

Delibird

Delibird is trash. But it’s my trash. And it’s adorable. I’d love to tell you it’s here to do some damage, but frankly it’s only around to have a high speed stat, live on a Focus Sash hit, then take someone down with Destiny Bond.

Ability: Vital Spirit
Item: Focus Sash
Moves: Freeze-Dry, Water Pulse, Destiny Bond, Hidden Power Psychic

Sigilyph

Sigilyph carried much of my first run of Pokemon Black because it’s a shockingly competent Pokemon. My hope is to have it come in on something that likes throwing around status and stalling — think Blissey types — then Psycho Shift the ailment off. Cosmic Power helps with survivability, while Air Slash and Shadow Ball are here for flinches and coverage, respectively.

Ability: Magic Guard
Item: Sitrus Berry
Moves: Psycho Shift, Cosmic Power, Air Slash, Shadow Ball

Crobat

Cave Herpes grew up and got…good? Crobat has always been a Pokemon that interested me, but never one I regularly used. The Inflitrator ability allows Pokemon with the ability to pass through Substitute, which is very situational, but very useful. That said, the primary purpose to this set is using up the Normal Gem with a Quick Attack to start off Crobat’s time in battle. This will allow a double base power Acrobatics, which can hit like a truck coming from Crobat. If only it had the Unburden ability like another Pokemon that just missed the cut for this list2But only because it’s going to be on a different list.

Ability: Infiltrator
Item: Normal Gem
Moves: Leech Life, Acrobatics, Cross Poison, Quick Attack

Honchkrow

WHY CAN’T I FIND A SHINY MURKROW IN POKEMON GO? WHY? IT’S BEEN NEARLY 1500 MURKROW NOW3When I wrote this post in September, I was in the high 1400s of Murkrow seen without a shiny. It is now December 2. I’m at 1675 without a shiny.!

Honchkrow is here to deal out critical hits. All night, all day, crits all the way. Combine the critical rate boosting Scope Lens with a critical rate boosting Super Luck, then add the increased critical rate of Night Slash and fun happens.

Ability: Super Luck
Item: Scope Lens
Moves: Night Slash, Superpower, Torment, Drill Peck

5 Quality of Life Improvements I’d Like to See in Pokemon Go

While I’ve been one to talk about Pokemon extremely frequently on this blog — I have a monthly post dedicated to the game at this point, after all — I’m not one to heavily talk about Pokemon Go. While I’ve played since its launch day in the US, I’m not one to do a lot of theorycrafting about the game. After all, you’re much more limited as to what you can do in Pokemon Go in comparison to other games in the series. There’s just not as much to possibly talk about. Combine that with the fact that there are bloggers like PokeTraveller Lola who do a fantastic job with this already and I feel like there’s not a ton for me to say on the matter.

That said, I did want to take a swing at suggesting some quality of life improvements I’d like to see in Pokemon Go and how they could be implemented. My ultimate goal with this post is not to get Niantic to change the game. Let’s face it, my 150 Twitter followers are barely enough to get me the occasional double digit liked tweet. What I would like to see come out of this though is discussion. While my ideas are just things I’d like to see, I’m sure they could be built off of and turned into great ideas.

I’ve decided to limit myself to five total ideas for this post, as well as to spread those ideas out so that no more than one idea is present per major game mechanic. I could have written a whole post based on improvements I’d like to see to the current raid system or friend-related activities, however I feel like that would come off as bashing those two aspects of the game1While the friendship system is flawed in many ways, it’s better than how a lot of mobile games handle friends. That said, raids are bad right now. I’ll get into why below.. That certainly isn’t my intent with this post. I do generally enjoy Pokemon Go even though I’m currently sitting at 1550 Murkrow wild/hatched encounters without a shiny2Technically, I’m at 1650, but I know that I was in the high double digits before shiny Murkrow was released. For ease of math, I just make it an even hundred.. I’m not bitter at all.

Friendship – Allow Remote Trading

The Idea: Allow trading between friends who aren’t in the same room.

How to Implement it: Ideally, this is a system where the better friends you are with someone, the further distance you can trade with them from. Good and Great friends might have very short distance limits like the current structure. However, Ultra friends could have a 1,000km trade distance limit, while Best friends could trade from anywhere on the globe. If there needs to be some sort of limitation for Ultra and Best friends, maybe there could be a one trade per day limit for trades where the friends are located more than a certain distance apart.

Why This Should Happen: I currently have six lucky friends on my friend list. Of those six friends, four of them are people who aren’t local to me in Northeast Ohio. One is in North Carolina, one is in Canada, one is in Spain, and one is in Australia. Many Go players have sought out friends online from other countries in an effort to get 7km eggs from far away places, only to end up with lucky friends they’ll never be able to trade with. This remedies that.

Why It Won’t Happen: Of all the items on this list, I feel like this is the most likely to happen in some capacity, even if it isn’t the exact why I’ve described it.

Gyms – Give Defense Bonuses to Themed Gyms

The Idea: The first trainer to place a Pokemon in a newly defeated gym sets a theme. If that theme is followed, the stats of the Pokemon defending it are buffed.

How to Implement it: Upon defeating a gym and dropping their Pokemon in, the first trainer to place a Pokemon in a gym gets to choose from one of three themes generated based on the Pokemon they pick. These would essentially be themes of escalating difficulty. Let’s say our first trainer puts Squirtle in the gym. A one-star theme would be simple to follow (Water types). If followed, this theme would give a small bonus (say 5%) to one stat (say Defense) of all Pokemon in the gym. A two-star theme would be a little more complex (Water- type starters), and would give a bigger bonus to a single stat (say 10% to Defense), with a smaller stat boost for other stats of the defenders. A three-star theme would have the most complex difficulty (blue Water type Kanto Pokemon), but would provide the biggest boosts.

Why This Should Happen: Let me tell you how boring it is fighting a gym with Chansey, Blissey, Slakoth, Snorlax, Metagross, and Dragonite for the ten thousandth time. I love seeing gyms with good variety. Did a group of people manage to create a gym with only first-stage Flying types? Awesome. You can bet that I’m not attacking that beautiful thing unless I have to.

Why It Won’t Happen: Considering how little attention has been given to this feature since the rework in 2017, I feel like Niantic might have forgotten gym battles exist.

Battling – Merge the Team Go Rocket and Team Leader Battle Concepts

The Idea: Take the Pokemon battle variety and strategy that the Go Rocket battles provide and move it out of the Pokestop setting — making Go Rocket a fourth team leader battle option.

How to Implement it: I like the Go Rocket battles. They’re one of the harder non-PvP battle options in the game without requiring the massive people investment of a big raid. But players in Pokestop-poor areas may have limited chances to battle team Go Rocket. So, at least for three battles a day3The reward acquisition limit for team leader battles., move the Rocket grunts into the team leader screen and let players battle them from there. Keep the random type and Pokemon choices. Keep the shadow Pokemon reward concept the same. Just give those who don’t have access to Pokestops a chance to play this mode more frequently.

Why This Should Happen: After you’ve done ten or twenty Go Rocket battles, they become boring and tedious. Just like the team leader battles. At least make them like the team leader battles and allow me to do them from my couch rather than having to leave in the winter.

Why It Won’t Happen: Niantic is leaning HARD into the Go Rocket battles in game right now. They clearly think they’ve struck gold here. If anything, I could see team leaders getting moved out of their current implementation and out to gyms or Pokestops, making things even worse for rural players.

Raids – Introduce a Scaled Difficulty Raid System

The Idea: Make every raid beatable regardless of group size…just scale the difficulty based on the Pokemon you’re fighting.

How to Implement it: The current raid system has a suggested number of trainers that should fight each raid boss. Most tier 1 raids are easily soloable, while tier 5 raids range from 4-6 high level players to typically beat4Attack form Deoxys can be soloed despite being a tier 5 raid. I’ve done it. It is not worth the effort for such a bad Pokemon.. This requires coordinating with medium to large groups — which isn’t always practical aside from Community Day for people who can’t afford to spend their entire day playing Pokemon Go. Instead of this, make all raids where the stats of the Pokemon you’re battling are determined by the number of trainers in the raid lobby. From there, tier 1 raids would remain the easiest (and can be beaten with limited, underleveled Pokemon) all the way to tier 5, which will be difficulty to beat within the timer unless you have a fully optimized team.

Why This Should Happen: People have lives. I’ve done one tier 5 raid outside of Community Day in the last 3 months. It’s not worth the effort, especially for Pokemon that are largely just Pokedex fillers. Unless it’s a tier 1 to tier 3 raid, I straight up ignore raids at this point. For a feature that has such awesome potential, it might be the worst feature in the whole game.

Why It Won’t Happen: You know how Niantic does the weekly legendary raid hour? And how an significant percentage of the raid hatch pool is 5* raids? And how Darkrai is effectively the first 6* raid? If anything, Niantic is already going as far away from this suggestion as they possibly can.

Acquiring Pokemon – Thin the Current Spawn Pool

The Idea: Create a limited, rotating set of Pokemon that spawn at a given time in the wild.

How to Implement it: With the start of Generation 5 rolling out in Pokemon Go, there are 500+ Pokemon available in Pokemon Go. While some of these Pokemon can only be acquired through raids, there’s still several hundred possible Pokemon that can appear in the wild. My thought is to thin the pool out — similar to how current type-specific events have boosted spawn rates — and then remove all non-pool Pokemon from the spawns. You could keep a pool active for a month or so, then rotate to the next set of Pokemon. This could even be built within the current event structure5You know, if any of the events had a consistent length with one another.

Why This Should Happen: Gen V’s Pokemon release REALLY made the problem we have currently with a diluted spawn pool hit home for me. I live in a VERY Grass/Rock/Poison/Rock heavy biome (think Mt. Moon in Gen I). In the just over 1 month since Gen V was released in Pokemon Go and when I wrote this6I finished the post on October 25., I’ve seen 6 Drilbur, 10 Foongus, and 2 Ferroseed. TWO. When half of the spawns I see on a daily basis are Bellsprout/Hoppip/Diglett/Cherrim. I get that some Pokemon are more common than others, but if you’re actively advertising that new Pokemon have been released, at least make them spawn frequently. That is to say nothing of the problems with the current egg pools…Gible….

Why It Won’t Happen: There nearly always seems to be an event running in Pokemon Go messing with the spawns. If we could get two weeks straight without an event, this might happen. That said, the last time that happened was….2016? I wish I could give an accurate timeline of this, but it certainly feels like there’s constantly been an event of some sort going on for at least two years straight now.

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