Pokémon: How Do They Keep Getting Away With It?

Pokémon is not part of your identity, it is just something that you love.

By Artemis, Posted 29 Sep 2015

When it comes to franchises, none have been quite as enduring or as well-received as Pokémon. People from all around the world flock to this franchise as the pinnacle of all battle monster games. Buying toys, games, posters, shirts, movies, figurines and all sort of other merchandise, all to proudly declare ones allegiance or love for their beloved pocket monsters. I am also a fan of the series and often find myself going back to various of its games. Like many it has impacted my role as a gamer in many ways. The fact that Pokémon is a worldwide phenomenon uniting both casual players and hardcore isn't anything new. It's been ingrained in the collective subconscious of those with easy access to mass media since 1995 and despite any sort of controversy that surrounded the series, whether it be the appearance of Jynx in the original games, the alleged demonic symbolism brought on by Christian family groups or animal rights activists decrying the series as the same as cock fighting, it has nonetheless endured. Most fans brush off these complaints as “haters”, or people who didn't understand the games, which was a healthy way of dealing with the conflict by not wildly attacking those who spoke out against their franchise but merely brushing them off. However, let's just say that someone critiques the franchise for something that they view as an actual flaw, not bringing any sort of social or political issues into it, but rather the gameplay or something of that nature. Surely those fans, who didn't make a massive fuss about these things before, will handle these criticisms in a calm, collective sort of way addressing the complaints and offering polite counter arguments.

Pokemon convention

That's not what happens, and it unfortunately wiggled its way into the collective consciousness of the gaming world. Let's talk about something that nobody to talk about: how Pokémon as a franchise gets away with things that other series don't, and how any criticism against it regardless of its validity gets shot down immediately, no matter who says it. That isn't to say that there isn't arguing amongst the fans, but that's another matter that will be addressed later. Now, there's a very simple way to address why this is the way it is, one could easily reason that it's pure nostalgia and people are whining about it. But that's not a valid way of discussing this, a single sentence bemoaning nostalgia and its effects on people is just lazy writing, so let's try to get into this a little more and dig into the minds of the children of the Pokémon generation, because most of them are coming to an age where critical thought should be essential in order to function in society.

When one thinks about the formula for a new Pokémon game, what is the first thing that comes to mind? New Pokémon, right? That's why people play them, just add some more to the already staggering roster of 720. Countless possibilities for countless playthroughs, what could be better right? Well here's the thing: while any Pokémon has the potential to be viable in single player, but in multi-player that's not necessarily the case. Sure, there are exceptions like the epic strategies of the World Champion and his Pachirisu, but that is an outlier from countless other cases. Most of the time people will use the same groups of Pokémon for upper level competitive games. So essentially, multiplayer is only getting a few new Pokémon in for the Overused tier every game, which sounds rather familiar to a certain FPS series that has become the butt of main “true gamers” jokes. Call of Duty is a franchise that has been under fire for quite some time for being “the same game every year” which, while it isn't a completely invalid complaint since there are still many elements that remain the same in the formula itself, there are things that change like the type of guns, tweaks to the interface, refinements to the multiplayer, new locations and a new plot, usually having to do with some sort of terrorist organization of some kind.

Pokémon villainous teams

Does that sound familiar to anyone else?

If not, think of it this way: Pokémon are the guns, there are slight changes to the user interface every game, refinements to the multiplayer, new locations and a new plot usually having to do with some sort of terrorist organization that you have to stop in order to save the world. Perhaps this is boiling both games down to their core elements and over generalizing. However, this is what many people do to lobby an argument or words of disdain against Call of Duty, so why can't we do the same to Pokémon when we are talking about it comparatively? Why is it that Pokémon can so easily get away with doing something like this, while Call of Duty is dragged through the proverbial mud by the masses who claim that they hate it, despite the fact that the sales for the games have gradually increased every year, with Advanced Warfare topping 2014, even over former chart topper Grand Theft Auto 5? Let's think about the people that we generally associate with playing both games shall we? Call of Duty is usually associated with screaming 12 year olds or grown men who hurl various remarks that nobody should ever have to hear, but no to worry it's all “in good fun”. When it comes to Pokémon as a popular view, we associate it with trying to catch them all, days during the summer with trade link cables and memories of friendship.

Or is that all there really is?

The Pokémon fanbase as a whole has a dark side to them, and it's one that you won't see if you only scrape the surface. If you're a “casual” Pokémon fan, you probably just enjoy it with friends and don't delve too deeply into forums, other than talking about teams and strategies. It's a perpetual feeling of the “Good Ole Days” and thinking that nothing has truly changed since you were a kid, and it's why many people still cling so hard to Pokémon today. Not to mention the marketing of the 90s that hooked so many children with catchy tunes and must have items at the risk of feeling like some sort of social outcast, and that's where Pokémon gets a little darker. Pokémon goes back to that school yard mentality of “if you're not doing this well then you're some sort of freak.” You've probably had this happen to you, witnessed it, or at the very least heard about it. It's possible you've paid it no mind and went on your way, not thinking anything of it.

What of the people who didn't?

There are those who have a very intense passion for the Pokémon franchise, denouncing some Pokémon as awful before they're even released to the public, or angrily declaring that their generation of Pokémon is better than others. There are also those who think non-competitive players are all terrible and will guffaw at the mere notion of you not using a non-Overused team in competitive play. They will talk fervently on forums about it and scream at anyone who disagrees. They're the ones that tell people that they will never be good or that their teams don't matter. They're the ones who say that one point in the stat section can make or break a Pokémon. As much as we'd like to idealistically think that these people only exist in the bowels of the internet, they don't. They're everywhere and they're just as bad as the screamers in any first person shooter.

Pokémon IGN rant

Do you want to know what makes matters worse? There are people that follow them blindly, as if they were bleating sheep to the slaughterhouse, not thinking anything about what anyone is saying that proves them wrong. All because somebody said something bad or something they didn't agree with about Pokémon, and somehow first-person shooter fans are consistently voted as the worst fanbase. For example, when the generation 3 remakes came out, an IGN reviewer gave it a 7.8 out of 10 and while she did cite her reasons for this score in the article itself, there was a bullet point saying “Too Much Water” and that is what fans latched onto. People have decried this review as being the worst, how awful IGN is, and decided to spray these obscenities on her wall before they were deleted right after the writer of the article itself went on a brief hiatus because of these attacks. Some of the ones that were going to be posted were removed due to the horrific nature of the acts described.

[Stunfisk] wrote on Kasumi_'s wall:
"Kill yourself. or better yet i should slit your fucking throat, jam my fingers in your neck and with your blood i will write 7.8 on your walls"

[Gulpin] wrote on Kasumi_'s wall:
"Please, never, ever, review a game again. Clearly, you are unable to review in a competent manner. Too much water? Seriously. I know IGN are awful in general, but this is bad even for them."

[Patrat] wrote on Kasumi_'s wall:
"Hey Kallie, got too much water??? The Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire fans will never forgive you for your review."

[Vullaby] wrote on Kasumi_'s wall:
"I wouldn't usually bother commenting but your stupidity and ignorance had warranted this. Stop trying to fool Pokemon fans that have been around since Day 1 you fucking noob. Let the big kids do the reviews please. Save us all some bullshit ffs."

Since then “7.8 too much water” has become an internet meme, and is used as a way of an attempt at discrediting game journalism as a whole. Yet people don't seem to realize or care that the writer actually justified her reasoning behind her “Too Much Water” criticism within the article itself, and even if they think it's a “bad reason” she still did her job as a reviewer. All because they lack basic reading comprehension does not mean that she's a bad writer. It also shows something else though: those who speak out against Pokémon and try to give a game a score that it actually may deserve is not allowed under these sorts of threats. Quite a different tune than the overall harmony and togetherness that the series tries to promote, isn't it? When you disagree with the crowd, you get dogpiled on by the masses, and yet despite this people still view Pokémon as something above the other franchises. They view it as something that unites people in friendship and harmony, yet there are many within the fanbase, a vocal majority, who are willing to disrupt it in order to convert people to their way of thinking or their ideals.

Gen 6 Pokemon

Pokémon is a medium, and like all media it is open to critical analysis and criticism. It is not immune and because someone is giving it a harsh review does not mean they are judging you as a person for what you like. This is something that many can't seem to understand, but all because you like something that someone else doesn't, doesn't mean they think you're a bad person; it means that you and the other person are individuals with your own tastes and interests. Pokémon is not part of your identity, it is just something that you love. Don't treat it like that or you won't be able to separate yourself from it in order to think critically about it, which is a big part of growing up. When you learn to accept criticism for yourself or things you love it shows that you've grown as a person and you're finally becoming the person you were meant to be. That doesn't mean you have to let go of everything, but it does mean that you're now able to think of something not just as a fan, but as someone with a fully formed mind, willing to criticize things no matter how much you love them.

Angelina Bonilla, NoobFeed (@Twitter)

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General Information

Platform(s): 3DS
Publisher(s): Nintendo, The Pokémon Company
Developer(s): Game Freak
Genres: Role-Playing
Themes: Action
Release Date: 2013-10-01

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