-

The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.

-

archive

Pondering Pokemon

Justin Tardiff | Tuesday, February 24, 2009

I would like to take this opportunity to discuss the societal ramifications of a seemingly innocuous cultural phenomenon from our past: Pokémon.

You could tell a lot about someone by their choice of starting Pokémon. The most popular choice by far was Charmander, because it would evolve into a Charizard, a lean, ferocious, fire-breathing dragon. Who wouldn’t want a Charizard? Charizard was hot. Charizard was sexy. Charizard was sleek, powerful, and utterly destructive. The second most popular choice was Squirtle, which looked too cute as a baby to win any battles, but eventually it would evolve into Blastoise, a tank of a turtle with huge water cannons on its back. In last place was Bulbasaur, which would become Venusaur, a clumsy-looking lout with a giant flower growing on its back.

The people who picked Charmanders were the kind with the competitive edge, the killer instinct, the drive to win. They were the Ferrari drivers, the supermodel wife-flaunters. Those who went with Squirtle were a little more temperate; they would be likely to drive something big and powerful but still somewhat practical, like a Toyota Land Cruiser. But who would choose Bulbasaur? Maybe they were not into brute force, preferring a good game of chess to rugby. Maybe they wanted more of a strategic challenge. Maybe they did it out of spite for the mainstream majority. Or maybe they just felt a special empathy with Bulbasaur because they knew how it felt to be picked last in gym class. They would be the ones to drive a beat-up old minivan, and if you criticized that minivan, they would defend it with all their heart. They possessed true compassion, true spunk, and true fire.

Alright, you got me. I picked Bulbasaur, and my Pokémon career consequently crashed and burned faster than the American economy. I justify myself, though, by telling myself that I stuck to the honorable tenets of peace and knowledge. When you are growing up, adults are always telling you to “treat others as you want to be treated” and trying to “instill a love of learning” in you. Pokémon similarly lures new players in with a seemingly mild motto: “Gotta catch ’em all!” The ostensible objective of the game is to collect specimens to fill out your Pokédex for research purposes. As the plotline progresses though, you find your Ash or Gary quickly losing sight of his scholarly ideals and sliding instead into the mere pursuit of power and glory. The de facto motto of the game is “Gotta beat ’em all!”

Pokémon may have indirectly caused the current crisis on Wall Street. No wait, that’s not what I’m trying to say. I guess it’s just that Pokémon can be seen as an indicator of many of the ills of our society. No … that’s not it either. Maybe I’m saying that almost anything can be (ridiculously) stretched into an extended metaphor for life? Nah, just forget it. I need to get back to Grand Theft Auto 4 anyway.