Pokémon – an Overview for the UneducatedAuthor: Grant | Filed under: Gaming
The following was written as my final speech project in my Oral Communications class at Ohio Christian University. It had to be ten minutes long, with no visual aids. It was written on March 30th, 2010, and had originally been posted on the TheMented‘s user-blog site. Since the blog portion of their website has been removed, and I have this site to post stuff now, I’m re-posting it here.
(Read slowly, for dramatic effect) “I want to be the very best, like no one ever was. To catch them is my real test. To train them is my cause. I will travel across the land, searching far and wide. Teach Pokémon to understand the power that’s inside.”
(Normal speed) These are the opening lyrics to Pokémon, the popular animated series based on the even more popular video game by the same name. And whether or not you consider yourself a fan, it’s a name you’ve no doubt heard.
Pokémon Red and Blue hit U.S. shelves on September 30th, 1998, and it took the country by storm, selling 8.6 million copies all together. Along with it came the animated series, the trading card game, toys, and even full-length movies featured in theaters! Kids across the country had found a common goal, which eventually became a bit of a mantra for the series: “You gotta catch ‘em all!” With over 150 monsters to collect, it was a hefty goal, especially when coupled with the fact that Red and Blue were sold separately, and each version had 11 exclusive Pokémon that were unobtainable in the other version. But, despite the challenge, kids all over found themselves trading, training, and battling these portable monsters with each other. It wasn’t long before parents, schools, and even churches started looking into their youth’s new hobby.
Like most fads, churches across the United States quick to condemn the Pokémon craze. Marty Richards, a Baptist pastor in Idaho, burned Pokémon cards, and ripped apart a stuffed Pikachu (the mascot of Pokémon) doll during one of his Sunday morning sermons, explaining that “Pokémon” was short for “Pocket Demon,” and he wasn’t alone in this assertion. Churches across the country declared Pokémon a threat to children’s minds, claiming it glorified the occult, animal violence, rebelling against your parents, and Darwinian beliefs of evolution. Other claims involved witchcraft, demon summoning, and necromancy, or communication with the dead. Schools also jumped onto the anti-Pokémon bandwagon, but for more logical reasons: The Pokémon cards were becoming a distraction in class, and older students were often found taking advantage of younger students, convincing them to trade away valuable or rare cards. Regardless of the reasoning, parents were hearing nothing short of horror stories about their children’s new hobby, and it caused quite a stir. Though the Pokémon fandom has died down from its prime, the franchise still exists, and is still thriving. The newest editions of the game, Pokémon Heart Gold and Soul Silver, were released in the United States on March 14th, 2010, and have already sold 1.2 million copies. And, though not nearly in the spotlight like it used to, many churches still have a strong stance against the Pokémon craze.
Well, I’m here to set the record straight. As a longtime fan and supporter of Pokémon, I’ve found myself at odds with pastors, educators, and even parents, and the problem is always the same: Misinformation. The people shouting the loudest about the dangers of Pokémon have no idea what they’re talking about, and are doing nothing but spreading their misguided hatred to the masses.
For starters, Pokémon is short for “Pocket Monster.” Not that that sounds much nicer, but it certainly drops many of the evil implications of “Pocket Demon.” It is the collective name for the hundreds of species of creatures that populate the world in the Pokémon universe. They live in harmony with mankind, and the two rely on each other for their survival and wellbeing.
At the age of ten, you are allowed to get their Pokémon license, making you into an official Pokémon Trainer. A Trainer’s journey begins when they are given their starter Pokémon, usually by Prof. Oak, the leading scientist in Pokémon research. The goal of a Trainer is rather straightforward: With your starter Pokémon at your side, go out into the world and find and battle wild/untamed Pokémon. By battling, you gain these Pokémon’s trust and respect. If you’re successful, you capture them, making them part of your Pokémon team. Capturing more Pokémon means making new friends, and building a stronger team. As you travel the world, you bond with your Pokémon, and forge lifelong friendships.
Many Trainers also partake in battles with each other. These make for great tests of Pokémon knowledge, and are great ways for Trainers to learn tips from each other. It needs to be emphasized that these battles are not harmful or life threatening to the Pokémon in them. Much like in wrestling or boxing, these Pokémon are willing participants in battle, and often have referees nearby to keep things from getting too dangerous. Especially skilled Trainers challenge the Pokémon League, an organization comprised of the world’s strongest Trainers. Trainers who capture one of every kind of Pokémon, or defeat the Pokémon League are called Pokémon Masters, and are held in high regard in the world of Pokémon.
Through and through, Pokémon teaches its players to love and befriend those around them, and to respect all forms of life. Though there are battles, the Pokémon and Trainers have a mutual respect for one another, and they are often just for fun sport, not to actually cause harm. Though it uses the term “evolve” to express when Pokémon transform into more powerful stages, it’s much closer to a metamorphosis than a Darwinian evolution. Though Trainers leave home to go on their journey, throughout the game, your mother visits you and cheers you on. Pokémon, on a moral front, does nothing but highlight the kind of standards we as an institution would widely agree with.
That’s the basic story to Pokémon, but what about the game itself? Is it something that will melt your brain, causing you to thoughtlessly collect a bunch of critters? Not by a long shot.
Pokémon is a game that enforces critical thinking. As of now, there are 493 different Pokémon for Trainers to choose from, but Pokémon battles only allow each Trainer to use six. You have to choose which six would work best together, have the least amount of weaknesses, and be able to battle well against a variety of opponents. This takes a huge amount of consideration and preparation. Trainers who don’t think before (and during) a battle will find themselves losing quite often. For instance, consider this little bit of number crunching:
Pokémon are categorized by their Type, which often resonate with an elemental affinity. There are seventeen types: Normal, Grass, Fire, Water, Electric, Flying, Bug, Psychic, Fighting, Dark, Steel, Ghost, Ground, Dragon, Poison, Rock, and Ice. Every Pokémon has one or two types, and each Type provides different strengths and weaknesses. Every Pokémon also learns different special moves, each with their own Type, and “power” (The power is a number, the higher the number, the stronger the move). If a Pokémon uses a move that’s Super Effective (meaning it weakens the opponent’s Type), its power is doubled. If the move being used is the same Type as its user, the power is multiplied by 1.5. Some Pokémon have two types – If the move weakens BOTH types, it is now quadrupled. Without an understanding of each Type and its strengths and weaknesses, a Trainer is sure to lose. In other words, this game forces its players to heavily consider which Pokémon to bring into battle, and to be able to identify the type of as many Pokémon as possible.
Not only that, but each Pokémon has six different numerical “Stats,” which affect how it battles. The stats are HP, Attack, Defense, Speed, Special Attack, and Special Defense. HP (which stands for Hit Points) is an indication of your Pokémon’s endurance. Every time it is attacked during battle, its HP drops. When its HP reaches 0, it is no longer allowed to battle. Attack decides how strong your Pokémon’s physical attacks will be. If its Attack stat is higher, its opponent will lose more HP when attacked. Defense, on the other hand, indicates how well a Pokémon will endure physical attacks. If your Pokémon’s defense is higher, it will lose less HP when attacked. Special Attack and Special Defense are the same concept, only with “Special” moves, which often involve using elementally based moves. A Pokémon’s speed decides who will attack first in battle.
These numbers, in addition to the idea of Types need to be understood in order to become a skilled Trainer, and the games heavily emphasize this. Learning how to calculate how to make the most of your Pokémon’s moves during battle is crucial to winning. But besides learning specific values and numbers, the Pokémon games require even more thinking.
Another mental exercise that Pokémon heavily enforces is prediction. In a Pokémon battle, both players input their action simultaneously. The Pokémon with the higher Speed stat attacks first, then the other Pokémon. Trainers are also given the option to switch out their Pokémon for one of the other Pokémon on their team, which happens first, regardless of either Pokémon’s speed stat. In battle, Trainers need to predict their opponent’s actions in order to be successful. Let me give you an example to try and help explain. If you’re completely lost, don’t worry. This is just the kind of stuff a ten year-old is expected to understand.
Say Trainer A has a Fire Type Pokémon out, and Trainer B has a Water Type out. If the Water type Pokémon uses a Water Type move, it will deal serious damage to the Trainer A’s Fire Type Pokémon. However, Trainer A has the option to switch to a Pokémon that would have an advantage against Trainer B’s Water Pokémon. But, what if Trainer B sees this coming, and decides to use an Ice-Type move? If Trainer A switches to a Grass Type Pokémon, which is strong against Water, but weak to Ice, Trainer B still comes out on top, all thanks to prediction. But, what if Trainer A expects this, and instead switches to a type that isn’t weak to Ice or Water, like Electric? Can you see how prediction would suddenly play a key role in Pokémon battles? And this is, again, stuff ten year-olds are expected to grasp! And these are the basics! There’s even more to learn as you get farther in your Pokémon journey.
So, as you can see, Pokémon not only instills loving and friendly moral standards, but also pushes them to think more critically about situations. I hope that I’ve shed a little light on the topic for you, and even though it may seem humorous and silly, this topic affects your schools, your churches, and your family. Before we make judgment calls, let’s educate ourselves. Thank you for your time.