I enjoyed your PokéJungle piece on Galar. Do you think Sword and Shield might touch on the darker sides of the Industrial Revolution (the immiserated working class, poor environmental conditions, colonialism, etc) as well?
I’m glad you liked it; it’s one of the more… I guess “meaningful” things I feel like I’ve written in a while, and some of the ideas it touches on are, I think, important. (Here it is, for anyone who hasn’t read it)
So… might they? Well, would they? Could they? I might have said no, that Game Freak just isn’t prepared to touch serious real-world stuff like that. They’ll put you into a high-stakes battle against reality-warping entities for the fate of the world, sure, but learning that you and your society might be the things putting the world at risk? That’s another kind of serious. It’s not even that it’s a more adult kind of serious, because a lot of adults don’t enjoy stories like that either. Not even Black and White go there; N asks the questions, but we’re always framed as the good guys, and in the end he sees that we’re right. Then again… a different kind of storytelling, where social ills are as important as “villains,” if not more so… that sounds a lot like the Team Skull plotline of Sun and Moon. It’s always baby steps with this stuff; Pokémon is always an escapist fantasy that imagines an idealised world of harmony between humanity and nature, and we’re not going to see a really “gritty” story that gives a “realistic” portrayal of the evils that came with British industrialisation. If we see things like poverty or environmental damage, they’ll be things that we the players can fight and fix by doing typically heroic things, however unrealistic that might be, because Pokémon is always hopeful. I also don’t think the aesthetic of the presumed “villains,” Team Yell, has much thematic resonance with those ideas. But those societal forms of “darkness” might not be totally off limits anymore either.