The Gaming Con has come and gone and unfortunately many occurrences have come together to make it one of the worst in recent memory. But this post isn’t about complaining, it’s about crazy segues from random everyday occurrences to something I can talk about in a pseudo academic fashion. You see, one of the few things I did beyond manning the booth and running the beta test of a board game which I pretty much blatantly stole from other classics was an epic confrontation of block madness in Pokemon Puzzle League. The tournament is normally with Tetris Attack (the SNES version of the game) but the controllers were uncooperative so we decided to go the Pokemon and N64 route. A double elimination bracket turned amazing as after I finally defeated my rival in the summoning of trumpets of doom, I had to go against the champion from a few years ago and had to beat him twice in a row. I was able to squeek out a victory in the first match but the epic finale had him with a crazy comeback that led to another second place in tournament competition in a game which I have mastered over and over again. Still, it was a great event and it got me thinking about Pokemon as a serial in its different incarnations.
The video games have a very different feeling over the cartoon in that every generation of games has a new adventure for your pixelated avatar to defeat champion trainers and capture some legendaries along the way. I stopped playing after gen 1 with Blue and Yellow in ’98, not because of hipster appraisals of any sort just don’t want to keep spending money on too many games, but right now they are at like gen 7 (the promise of a wild Eevee is tempting though). The game itself is a fairly standard PVE RPG with rock-paper-scissors style attack strategies with some possibilities of PVP. What made Pokemon unique was the mechanic of such a variety of available Pokemon and that it was impossible to get the coveted maximum amount of the original 151 without the help of other players (that or having extra copies of games with additional Gameboys as well). Each generation has added about a hundred extra pokemon in addition to a new adventure campaign, and even a new evil organization to pester you along the way. Sure there is a lot of valid criticism that this mechanic is just a cash machine for Wizards of the Coast but ludologically it is very interesting to see people come together towards a common goal for attaining the almost impossible goal of catching them all.
The show takes it in a very different direction and had the protagonist Ash with his faithful Pikachu and friends on a quest to capture Pokemon and defeat rivals until becoming champion. The problem comes in that pretty much every season does a big restart. Ash could have captured 100 different Pokemon but would head off to a far away land with just Pikachu and meet new people along the way. Pokemon are specifically intended to grow via a leveling up system so Pikachu should be stronger than anything else they come accross and yet Pokemon he has barely trained become better choices against expreienced trainers. With only one consistent piece trhoughout the different seasons (well that and maybe Team Rocket) if you miss a few episodes then you might wonder what the Hell happened to all the progress that was previously made and why does he keep releasing his Pokemon only for the best ones to triumphantly come back Chekov’s Gunman style just before an epic match (I’m looking at you Charizard). As a serial, the lack of growth makes it difficult to keep watching for any one season. However, the lack of complicated back stories makes it so that new viewers can hop in without being too lost, though the nostalgic effect of having Misty come back for one episode is completely lost on them.
The other cool thing about serials and specifically Pokemon is that when you don’t explain exactly how this world is different from the real world then a group of crazy/bored enough readers will craft something so inspiring that it has to be true. A few years ago I was introduced to the Ash in a coma theory, it only works for the first season or so but man is it mind blowing. A bit of a long read but if you are a fan or enjoy psychological analysis of characters then check it out.
There’s another crazy theory that makes everything slightly make sense. Can’t remember the original source but let me give you the basics. There is a reason why 10 year old kids are legally allowed to go out and capture Pokemon and there is a general lack of adult supervision. You see, there was a huge war in which the majority of the population died and various parts of the countryside were basically quarantined from each other. Consider the fact that there are almost no males over the age of 15 out there in the world. Brock’s dad actively avoided fighting and ran away, abandoning his wife and many kids in the process. Ash’s dad probably died at some point in the war. James was rich so he could grease enough palms to get out of a draft. Liutenant Surge is actually a freaking hero of the war and one of it’s few survivors. Every other adult male is pretty much very old, some kind of super hero, or a scientist. In the attempts to reconstruct society, they had to clone civil servants to make the place somewhat liveable. That’s why there are nothing but Officer Jennies and Nurse Joys in every city, each with a growlith and chancey respectively. New areas that no one else knew of and the discovery of new pokemon occur because quarantine and border areas are being phased out. Pokemon themselves were possibly the result of too much genetic engineering and weapons development but the aftereffects of the war made it so that these killing machines are somewhat domesticated and passive after a few years. Having this new generation go out and explore whil getting as many Pokemon as possibe prepares them for a new world and creates a system of checks and balances as even a kid could have enough power to rob a bank or stop a robbery. Society has glorified the practice and considers it a spot that bears watching and emulating. Team Rocket and their boss Giovanni do not want to give up the old ways and amass Pokemon to obtain power and maybe start a revolution with more bloodshed. The fan theory has very little information from the show besides some details here and there to support it but you have to admit that it is pretty cool and makes just enough sense before you actually start to question it yourself.