Since the last time I wrote about Pokemon Go in depth, the smartphone game has greatly improved. The developers have fixed many of the minor bugs and major ones too- the game runs smoothly, the navigation system works, there are fun events, and new Johto Pokemon have been released. When I have the time, I still enjoy playing Pokemon Go. However, there is one thing that bothers me about Pokemon Go, but it isn’t related to any of the technical problems. I have been wondering: Is Pokemon Go against the morals of the Pokemon franchise?
What do I mean by this? If you are familiar with any part of the franchise- whether it is the games, or the anime- you should be aware of the moral message that is always portrayed in the fictional world of Pokemon. Being friends with your Pokemon, treating them as equals, and creating a bond with them is more important than filling your Pokedex, or winning badges, contests, or the Pokemon League.
Morals In Pokemon Franchise
This message is probably the most obvious in the anime. Ash, the main character, doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to being a professional trainer. There are some gyms he has had to challenge multiple times, and he never quite makes it to the top when he competes in the Pokemon League. He also is nowhere near finishing his Pokedex. However, Ash goes out of his way to form friendships with his Pokemon. He and Pikachu have had an everlasting bond ever since Ash saved him from the flock of Spearow in the very first episode. There are countless other Pokemon he has helped during his journey- too many to name here. Ash and his friends are also always fighting Team Rocket who want to use Pokemon for their own personal gain. Each episode of Pokemon questions and challenges friendship, but the outcome and the theme are always the same: friendship over competition.
In every main Pokemon game, this same moral appears in one form or another. Battling regularly with your Pokemon and making sure they are properly healed will make your the bond with them grow. This has all kinds of benefits. It makes some Pokemon evolve, it makes certain battle moves stronger, and it can get you certain items. When you have a strong friendship with your Pokemon, characters in the game will comment on it and compliment you. The story lines in the games usually promote the message of friendship as well. The evil teams, such as Team Rocket, Team Aqua and so on, always mistreat Pokemon and use them for something sinister. It is only you, the protagonist with a strong connection to your Pokemon, that can stop them. Whenever you beat the evil team’s leader, they are almost always impressed and surprised by the bond you share with your Pokemon.
Starting in Generation 6, the game introduced a feature that lets you interact and bond with Pokemon even more. Pokemon Amie allows you to play with your Pokemon up close and personal. You can pet them and feed them treat, as well as play mini games. Maximizing your Pokemon’s affection for you has many benefits. It is also the way to evolve your Eevee into a Sylveon! Pokemon Sun and Moon have an updated version of Pokemon Amie that allows you to also brush and groom your Pokemon.
Pokemon Go Morals
Pokemon Go is quite different than the other components of the franchise. The goal of the game is the same: catch Pokemon, battle gyms, and fill up your Pokedex. But does the game have the same message about friendship? No.
Unlike in the main games and the anime, being close with your Pokemon isn’t emphasized. The concept is never really mentioned, and there is no reward for making a connection with any of your Pokemon. You could count the buddy system as a way of being friends with your Pokemon, but it really doesn’t amount to the same thing.
This may seem like a small, picky detail on my part, but there is another aspect of the game that undermines the whole idea of treating Pokemon as equal individuals and growing connections with them. In order to make your Pokemon evolve or grow stronger, you don’t train or battle with them the way trainers normally do. Instead you have to catch more of that same Pokemon. Doing so will give you candies; each Pokemon needs a certain amount to evolve. This results in multiples of the same Pokemon just sitting in your inventory. To make things even worse, to get more candies, you need to send those extra Pokemon to the professor. For Pokemon that need high levels of candies, you could end up catching and sending over dozens of the same Pokemon.
But what message is this sending the players? Are Pokemon still being treated as equals, and developing strong connections to their trainers? No. Instead, Pokemon are just being treated as pawns. They aren’t individuals- they are just pieces being used to help fill up your Pokedex or make yourself stronger for gym battles. And be honest. Most people probably do not keep the first original Pokemon they catch. Let’s say they catch a Clefairy that has 80 CP. As they catch more Clefairy with similar CP levels, they may keep that original Clefairy. However, the moment they catch one with a higher CP level (let’s say about 400 CP), they are likely to transfer or delete their first Clefairy because it will be considered weak. This makes Pokemon expendable. They have no value except for the candies they provide and their CP level. It goes against everything the anime and the main games teach their fans.
Maybe this post seems a little dramatic considering Pokemon are just little bits of data. And I am sure there are reasons why the developers chose this particular system. If the point of the game is to make people get out and walk around, it makes sense. Needing more of the same Pokemon will force them to wander more. But for someone who grow up watching the anime and playing the games, the franchise’s original message is ingrained in me. Pokemon should be respected and treated well. Pokemon Go seems to contradict this theme, and it bothers me. Of course, Pokemon Go is a side game and isn’t part of the official, main franchise, so I guess it should be given some slack.
I do wonder, however, how the ethics of Pokemon Go will affect new, future fans of the series, and how nostalgic, longtime players perceive its message.
Do you play Pokemon Go or enjoy the other aspects of the franchise? What do you think of the message that Pokemon Go is sending? Discuss below!