Thoughts & Essays


Musings and creative writing on various topics.

Antonin Januska

About: I love writing, programming, and art. But would I say that I'm a writer, programmer, or an artist? Probably not :) (okay, programmer...maybe).

Pokemon: Analysis and Effect

Antonin Januska |

Seeing many adventures discussed on /r/pokemon subreddit, I've wanted to pay my own respects to my teams through the years and also discuss what Pokemon changed within me over the years. It may sound strange, discussing a sub-par show in this light, and a simple video game but Pokemon has done much for me over the years and as it has for many others.

What is pokemon?

Let me tell you what Pokemon is below all of the advertisements and skinning beautifully done by different organizations. The pokemon game is a very simple RPG, popularized as a handheld game. It features fighting without ever incurring permanent damage, and fighting that will never result in death (Blue's raticate in Gen I games being a questionable exception). The fighting happens only among Pokemon, strange creatures that one can control/befriend/live with.

There is much meaning in the non-permanence of damage. You can walk through a dangerous forest, "kill" almost every creature in it, but all you've done is basically exhaust Pokemon that have challenged you to a battle. They will, in theory, sleep it off. You can battle as vigorously and aggressively as you want but your opponent's Pokemon will never day, they will simply faint, and wake up later on, probably tired and somewhat bruised.

Now, let's put that aside for a moment and discuss the show. The games are truly just skeletons to everything else around them. The show itself perpetuates some of the ideas in the games and expands on them. While the games tell you Pokemon are your friends, the shows makes sure it's ingrained in your head by the various adventures the hero experiences. The idea of fainting is also perpetuated, even desirable. Catching Pokemon requires, in the show, for other Pokemon to faint.

To summarize the show, we're following a perpetually 10 year old boy who learns about friendship, trust, and other key concepts. He experiences adventures with his Pokemon and gives us a new dimension, a new way to look at the games. The boy travels and discovers and learns about Pokemon and does this toward a singular goal of being the best Pokemon trainer. The skeleton: a boy in his childhood prepubescent stage, working toward an adult-like goal, learning important tools for living amongst others peacefully.

How The Game and The Show Build On Each Other

So, to keep on the subject, the show becomes a new dimension of viewing the game itself. It fills in the gaps that we have to use our imagination for. What does Charizard really look and move like? We get to see the Pokemon interact in more than just a beginning-of-battle side-step. We get to also see the fainting of pokemon with its iconic swirl eyes, and how pokemon and people live together. The games have a hard time illustrating all of this, especially at the beginning, so the show becomes a series of "cut-scenes" if you think about it.

The game then builds on top of the show by providing structure. Eight gyms, one elite four. The show has a hard time communicating these structures. We learn about levels, HP, what level pokemon evolved at, and other important information from the games. As far as ethics and morals go, the show helps ingrain what NPCs tell you in the game. Pokemon are friends, and you need to treat them well. The show also adds a bit of grandeur to your quest in the games.

The first few generations of the games were lacking on graphics and even now, the games can't truly translate the inner universe of Pokemon. It was difficult to immerse oneself and understand it so that's why the show was used not only to promote the game but allow a player a window in.

So what do you get out of it?

You, as a player, and as a kid growing up with the games get to learn about many different things.

  • an international topic to discuss with all your friends (as a kid) and befriend strangers. When I went to a new school, pokemon was the way to get in the crowds.
  • strategy. You may not realize it at first but you learn some of the basics of strategy that will not only help you in your future gaming interest ;) but also teach you basics of out-witting and pressing your advantages while hiding your weaknesses.

Through The Years of Gaming

Through the years, I've played the first 4 generations. I'm still some ways away from Gen V (Black & White) and Gen VI (X & Y), but I've noticed something interesting, patterns in my behavior. When I play, I seem to stick with several familiar pokemon and I tend to not use the "strongest pokemon" but I rather use Pokemon that I have a connection with from either the show or past games. The truly amazing thing was what happened to me several months ago when I booted up my Pokemon Emerald game from about a decade ago, meaning to erase the save file and pass on the game. Interestingly enough, I checked out my team and saw some familiar faces. I checked out my teams across numerous games and actually found that I stick with a few pokemon types or particular pokemon:

  • there's always a Gyarados. The pokemon itself interested me because of the difficulty of training at the beginning. As a Magikarp, it's a completely useless creature yet as a Gyarados, it's a powerful monstrosity and the perfect water pokemon. Because of this stigma against Magikarp, I decided to stick with it and seek it out whenever I play Pokemon. It's my water pokemon "go to".
  • Pikachu. I used to avoid it but have started seeking it out because of its electrical abilities. It is the perfect complement to Gyarados and over several games has proved itself as a powerful and versatile adversary. I used to avoid it on principle because of the show but have come to enjoy it as a part of my team.
  • Graveler is the next one. It's available early on and it's a great rock/ground pokemon, again, another complement to the team.

Outside of that, in games that these three aren't readily available, I pick the closest match. I found myself frequently going to these kinds of pokemon and mostly ignoring either Legendary pokemon or Pokemon available later in the game, mainly on the premise that high-level wild Pokemon will not grow to be as strong as high-level trained Pokemon. But on top of that, by about the fourth gym, I tend to stick with the same team until I'm done.

What happens before that? I tend to catch and level up random wild pokemon, namely bug pokemon (weedle and caterpie) , and common pokemon found in the grass such as ratatta and pidgey. I stash those away once they're fully evolved and move on but again, by the fourth gym, I'm settled.

I feel like the emotional connection is made there. I feel like my duty to the evolved pokemon is done and they can go out and rest and do whatever. The team I stick with for the rest of the game is all the pokemon I need. I frequently have no urge to "collect" more, save for when I'm close to being done with the game when I start stretching their legs out and leveling up everyone else. Actually, at the end of every game, my goal is to catch and train everyone. But not for the colleciton purposes but just to get a chance to see how every pokemon out there behaves, what I could learn from them, and so on.

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Created by AntJanus