Tuesday 12 May 2015

The disturbing moral implications of Pokemon

Last night I couldn't get to sleep. Bored beyond words, too tired to do anything but too awake to sleep, I grabbed my old Game Boy Advance from the draws by my bed and decided to grind a few levels in Pokemon Leaf Green until I finally nodded off. An hour later, somewhere on Route 11 outside Vermillion City with the time approaching 2am in the real world, I started to consider the morality of my actions.

I'm not even talking about the fact Pokemon is basically a dogfighting simulation with a fantasy anime coat of paint. I mean, that's disturbing on its own if you choose to view things that way but it goes deeper than that.

Here I am (and by “I”, I mean the player character), a pre-teen girl travelling without supervision through a heavily forested country infested with dangerous animals. Why am I doing this? Because a scientist who can't remember my name, my gender or the name of his own grandson is too lazy to do his own research. Literally, that's what the Pokedex mechanic is for in-story: to gather data on the Pokemon you encounter on Professor Oak's behalf. And what was my mother's reaction to all this? Approval. She's fine with it. She knows girls want to travel.

That's just the broad sweep of the story, when I consider my actions during that short play session it gets even more disturbing, or at least it did when the fatigue made me think too deeply about it.

In the short hour I spent last night walking down Route 11 with the my captive animals I went hunting in the long grass for wild animals to victimise; attacked several electricians who were just going about their business laying cables; was picked on in turn by numerous shirtless old men; and practically mugged several children who were using vastly lower level Pokemon than I was, netting myself over six hundred dollars / yen / whatever of their money in the process. My captive animals were continuously poisoned, knocked out, electrocuted and concussed and when I returned to Vermillion City to have them revived no questions were asked of me. Nurse Joy simply took them off my hands, treated them and handed them back, no fuss whatsoever.

What's more, in every battle I sent out my weakest Pokemon first, a Level 14 female Paras, who would get one pathetic attack in, get absolutely walloped by the opposing Pokemon and then I'd replace her with something that stood an actual chance. Why? Because just being in the fight for one turn would mean she'd get an equal share of the XP and level up to something approaching usefulness.

The moral of the story? Take it as you will, either this is a good object lesson in how academic education can make you read too much into things or it shows that you should never take anything at face value and critique everything. Both are true, in my opinion. 

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