I hate PETA. Let’s beat this dead horse a little more, shall we? See how many more crappy and bloodstained jokes I can get out of the long-dead corpse of the filly?
That is, in retrospect, an appallingly inappropriate metaphor.
(A quick summary for new readers/people who can’t use the archive – I hate PETA. They’re self-righteous, ego-centric, do-nothing, “GO VEGAN OR ALL THE PUPPIES WILL DIE AND YOU WILL DIE A PAINFUL DEATH AND SATAN WILL SPEND ETERNITY COVERING HIS FIST IN DEEP HEAT AND RAMMING IT UP YOUR ARSEHOLE UNTIL THE EVENTUAL END OF THE UNIVERSE”-screaming muppets. I loathe them because they are entirely without purpose. There are animal rights organisations out there that make a difference without fat-shaming, shaming parents for allowing their kids to eat burgers - OH THE HORROR - or violent means. Those are the ones I support. Fuck you, PETA.)
This time around, PETA aren’t getting pissy because Mario has ripped the skin off a tanooki and is running around in it like a lunatic; no. PETA are getting pissy because Pokémon, and have released a flash game where you play as a group of abused Pokémon, getting revenge on their cruel ex-masters. That’s not entirely fair – it’s half “Pokémon makes kids think mistreating animals is totes cool” and half “we know flash, you jelly?”
I’m not giving you a link to the game. It’s a fucking ridiculous piece of propaganda. But if you’re interested, you know where to find it. Kotaku has a few good screens of it, though, if you just want a taster.
I really want to find an awful lot that’s horribly wrong with the game from a technical standpoint, but I’m failing to find a whole hell of a lot wrong. It’s programmed pretty damn well and imitates the style of Pokémon. It’s better than half the shitty Flash games you’d find on Newgrounds,
So ends the list of positives.
I’m quite the fan of the Pokémon games. Because the vast majority of the series have been on handhelds (beginning with Pokémon Red and Blue on the GameBoy, and coming right up to this generation, Pokémon Black and White on the Nintendo DS, I don’t think there’s been a Nintendo handheld released which hasn’t had at least one Pokémon game released on it. Pokémon is Nintendo’s flagship title for handhelds), the series is a great pick up and play. They’re highly accessible RPGs with incredibly basic mechanics and a very clear set of goals – get Pokémon -> train Pokémon -> get badges -> become the best Pokémon master who’s ever lived. Every game mixes this up, of course, in their own special way, and there is the matter of being constantly sidetracked by the misdeeds of Team [THING], the series’ antagonists, but we’ll get to them later. The Pokémon games were an awful lot of my childhood. I’ve played all of the games up to Pokémon Emerald (because the DS is bad and I own it and it makes me feel bad so fuck playing Pearl and Diamond and Black and White and the sequels and THEY’RE BASICALLY ALL THE SAME GAME OK). With that said, let’s discuss the main issue at hand, here:
PETA have utterly missed the entire point of Pokémon.
They seem to be insinuating that the Pokémon games make kids go, “hey, let’s go outside, catch a rat, paint it yellow and chuck it at a pigeon. It’ll be fun”, or “hey keeping Pokémon/animals locked up in a cage all day is awful and you’re a bastard” (which I half agree with). If that’s the message you’ve taken away from the Pokémon games, then y’all be dumb. We’ll use Pokémon Gold for examples from this point, because it’s my favourite game in the series.
In Pokemon Gold, there’s this bunch of totally unrighteous dudes called Team Rocket. They’re mad dickheads. They cut about Johto, where the game’s set, trying to steal Pokémon. You, or rather, in game you, hears this, goes “that shit is totally not on” and battle Team Rocket at every given opportunity in an attempt to crush their organisation. You take out grunts, bosses and head heid-yins. You crush them. It’s a win for the positive treatment of Pokémon, because you, and the gym leaders, and the vast majority of the other trainers, are encouraged to treat your Pokémon like friends. Team Rocket abused the balls off their Pokémon. Were you going to let that stand? Were you fuck.
Team Rocket also cut Pokémon’s (is it Pokémons or Pokémen, by the way? What’s the plural here? Never mind) tails and tried to flog them about Johto. Were you going to stand for the cruel mutilation of countless innocent Pokémon? Were you fuck.
Another interesting point is the parallel of the player-character to their rival. The rival is shown at the beginning of the game to care not a jot for his Pokémon. They’re instruments of war to him. Later, as you progress and battle him several times, he becomes likeable. He starts to treat his Pokémon better. He improves himself, and in doing so, improves the lives of his Pokémon. I’m almost sure it’s a subtle message for the player, showing them the rewards of self-improvement, and it screams “hey guys, take care of your pets. Take care of your animals. They’re your friends and you’ll be happier for it”. But, y’know, what do I know.
There’s also a strong emotional investment in the game from you, the player. You don’t look at your Pokémon crew and think, “these are my war machines”. You just don’t. Think of your favourite starter Pokémon. Mine’s Charmander. You get little Charmander at level 5. He knows nothing. Professor Oak just caught him. He’s tabula rasa; a blank slate. You take him out into the long grass near the Professor’s lab and, shit the bed, a Caterpie flings itself at you. You have Charmander attack the Caterpie. Eventually, it faints, and you see the tiny little experience bar on the bottom right of the screen get a little bigger. You do this again a few more times. Bang! Charmander’s level 6! You think to yourself, “Jesus, I did that! I helped him grow!” Over time, he levels up more. You get him up to level 16, and something weird happens. He evolves. All of a sudden, you’ve got this new Pokémon, Charmeleon. He’s stronger, faster, more dangerous. Charmander’s all grown up! You battle countless trainers, Pokémon in the wild, gym leaders and friends. Over time, you accumulate losses, as well as victories. With those losses comes a pang of guilt that you could have done more – you dictate Charmeleon’s move set. You could have done something to stop him fainting. Your fault. The onus is entirely on you. But you take him to Nurse Joy at the Pokémon Center, and she helps your friend get back on his feet. More trainers, more battles; level 36 comes around and he evolves again – a Charizard! A fucking fire-breathing dragon! You and your fire-breathing dragon storm through the Elite 4, the four best Pokémon trainers in the region, and you come out on top. You put them in their place. You and your best friend, who you’ve helped raise since he was five, have earned the title of Pokémon Masters. You’re the Cubone’s bollocks, you are.
And the end credits roll, and you save your game. The GameBoy gets switched off. And you realise that Charmander, Charmeleon, Charizard is part of you now. He’s the one who saved your arse in countless fights. He’s the one you raised yourself, no help from anyone else. He was a dragon who could breathe motherfucking fire, and he was your friend who could breathe motherfucking fire. He was pixels on a screen, the back of whose head is now permanently etched into your memory. He was your Charmander. He was more than that. He was someone you put faith into, someone who you were proud of. Someone you took care of, and someone who took care of you. A companion, a private jet, and a friend.
Pokémon teaches kids respect for pets. Respect for animals. It teaches them the value of hard work, and the value of love. It teaches them that if you put your mind to something and work hard, you can achieve it.
So suck my dick, PETA.