The concept of the Pokémon game series was meant to be simple: catch them, train them and fight them. But does the popular Japanese brand intend to teach children the values of friendship and responsibility, or promote animal cruelty?
With the release of Pokémon: Black 2 and Pokémon: White 2 on Oct. 7, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), created a campaign to protest the violence promoted in the hit Japanese role playing game.
PETA has created their own version of the famous series in which players can experience suffering through a turn based flash game, as the famous Pokémon named Pikachu is tired of being mistreated by humans and decides to fight back.
The Pikachu character battles it out with crazed human captors, picks up Pokémon friends along the way, and throughout the campaign delivers PETA’s condemnation of animal mistreatment via poorly-written dialogue.
But the idea that this fight for “justice” is really about the idea of animals being mistreated in a game which was created almost two decades ago seems a bit suspect.
The animal rights group released a statement Oct. 8 saying that the way Pokémon were stuffed in their Poké Balls was akin to elephants and other circus animals being jammed in cages until ready for use.
For those unfamiliar, Pokémon (or “pocket monsters”) are caught by trainers and carried in little round devices called Poké Balls. The portability and convenience of the Poké Ball is a staple in the Pokémon world, as it allows the trainer (and in the case of the game series, the player) to carry up to six creatures with him or her at a time.
When the animators created the Poké Ball, animal cruelty was probably the last thing on their minds. They most likely created this device as a way to minimize animation costs while having something fun and marketable for the Pokémon brand.
What PETA failed to mention in their statement is that Pokémon are converted into an energy state once they enter the Poké Ball through fictional Japanese technology, making PETA’s comfort argument questionable.
PETA is just hitching a ride on a recent video game release to gain some extra publicity.
The organization’s biggest concern is that the game promotes treating animals as “unfeeling objects.” But since the ‘90s, Pokémon (both the game and animated series) has promoted nothing but friendship, brotherhood and equality among the human characters and their creatures.
The relationship between various Pokémon and their trainers is akin to an MMA fighter and his coach in the real world. The two parties train, sweat, and battle together as a team.
This certainly isn’t the first instance that PETA has spoken out about animal cruelty in video games. Last year, the activist group attacked the Mario franchise for the famous “Tanooki Suit,” according to NBC News.
The suit resembles a Japanese raccoon dog, or tanuki, and with it Mario is able to fly, shortly after garnering a running start. To protest this, PETA also created a flash game where a tanuki is the protagonist, chasing Mario for his skin back.
Is all the time and effort that PETA puts into campaigning towards the treatment of fictional creations really necessary? Let us not forget that these games were created last millennium. Would not their time, money and attention be served best on something that actually has to do with real animals?
Perhaps PETA should use its time and energy to achieve something that spans further than a game played on portable devices by middle school children—and maybe the occasional adult.
The only thing PETA needs to catch is a clue as to what they’re attacking and why it’s an irrelevant waste of time.