H20 asks:

What would your dream pokemon region be based off of?

I’ve answered basically this exact question a couple of times before, so I’m going to incorporate it with another question about Pokémon regions and go through some thoughts I have about this:

The Dag asks:

Which region so far do you think has best incorporated the history, mythology, geography, and biosphere of its real-world inspiration?

My traditional standard answer for “where do I want a region based on?” is India, just because it gives you so much to work with, in terms of environment, climate, fauna, history, culture, mythology, everything.  The feel of that region would also be distinctive and recognisable to an international audience, but still leave a lot of room for incorporating material that would be new and interesting to players in both Japan and the Anglophone “West.”  But let’s talk about that second question a bit.

Continue reading “H20 asks:”

The original dragon from Unova asls:

I know remakes are going to be a thing forever, but what are your thoughts on games using the same region, but with an entirely different plot, and entirely new Pokemon. For example, before Let’s Go P/E was revealed, there were all these wild rumors about a Kanto Region in the future with all new Pokemon, Gorochu, submerged Pallet Town, a snake legendary, etc.

I dunno that I have “thoughts” on it, exactly.  It’s a thing you could do.  I mean, it’s a thing Black and White 2 did, and those games are pretty well regarded in the fan community, from what I’ve seen (there probably isn’t much merit in using an existing region and deliberately keeping no connections at all to the previous plot – if you’re not using the background, then the freedom of a new setting is probably more valuable).  I don’t think it’s necessarily better or worse than setting a game in a completely new region; the latter gives you a blank slate for developing new ideas and themes, and the former emphasises continuity.  I honestly do think there is a lot to be said for the blank slate, but sometimes having a pre-existing developed setting with dense lore and history can also be useful for storytelling – that’s why fan fiction is a thing.  I probably wouldn’t do a whole new generation’s worth of Pokémon designs for a new game set in an existing region, though.

X asks:

Recently, the new episode of Twilight Wings focused on Hop and his bond between Wooloo. This made me think, how do kids under 10 have pokemon? Bonnie has Dedenne, Hop has Wooloo, and I’m pretty sure there are others. Would there be any law about this? Also, how do you think it will work if the kid won’t become a trainer?

Well, the anime has said you become a trainer when you turn 10, but the games have also had trainers who are pretty clearly younger than the player (who in Red and Blue we usually assume to be about 10) from the beginning.  There also seem to be people who have Pokémon companions but aren’t trainers (like, think even of Professor Oak’s opening monologue in the very first games; trainers are just one of several groups of people who live alongside Pokémon); you could probably weasel your way around a lot of rules if, say, your family has a Pokémon pet that technically “belongs” to your parents, but likes you enough to fight for you and take commands.  I think the situation is much more flexible than, like, getting a formal license on your 10th birthday, without which you are at risk of having a Pokémon confiscated, or regulations to that effect.  I also doubt all regions have the same rules.  There might only be age limits for the gym challenge, or for leaving on a journey with your Pokémon; some kids might have known their partners for years before “officially” becoming trainers.

(Besides, I don’t think we know Hop’s age? He might not be 10 at the beginning of the story of Sword and Shield; he clearly hasn’t finished growing but I could believe he’s, like, 13 or 14?)

Jumping Joltik asks:

In battle, Pokémon are basically indestructible. No matter what kind of attack they endure, the worst that can happen to them is they’ll faint. A slash from a Scyther won’t sever your Caterpie in two. A punch from a Machamp won’t shatter your Rattata’s bones. If this wasn’t the case, then it would be impossible to ethically justify battles.

However, there are also many circumstances where Pokemon are depicted as being susceptible to injury. For example, I recently watched The Power of Us. In the movie, we learn that the old woman’s Snubble died as a result of a fiery explosion…but why? If every Pokémon can endure a Blast Burn from a Charizard without being reduced to a pile of ash, then why would this explosion kill Snubble?

The obvious explanation is that Pokémon are only capable of being harmed when it’s convenient to the plot, but that’s boring and terrible. If you had to come up with an in-universe explanation, what would it be? Why are Pokemon indestructible in some circumstances but not others?

I kind of suspect that this is actually part of Pokémon training – learning to use your attacks accurately, under pressure, in a wide range of situations, and non-lethally.  I mean, that’s part of martial arts in the real world; you have to be proficient in not just inflicting maximum damage, but also in inflicting exactly the amount of damage you intend to and no more.  In real combat sports, if you’re in a match and you kill your opponent by mistake, you generally have to flee Los Angeles with your petite French girlfriend and your father’s precious gold wristwatch, and I don’t think most Pokémon can even drive a stolen motorbike, much less rescue a mobster from a sex dungeon.  The point is, there is a certain amount of control and holding back that is probably exercised in all but the blackest of underground cage matches.

Continue reading “Jumping Joltik asks:”

The Dag asks:

What do you think is both the origins(s?) of ghost Pokemon and how they’re unified by a common theme; I. E. How some are explicitly defined as spirits of dead humans, while others are merely natural creatures with ghost-like powers, Vs possessed objects given life through other forces, and how it all ties into the Pokemon world.

Welllllllllll I think we have decent reason to believe that Pokémon’s creators imagine a sort of “spirit world” that exists apart from the material world, and that Ghost Pokémon are all in some way “touched” by that plane, but don’t necessarily all have the same relationship with it.   Maybe some of them are from there originally, while others were once normal creatures that have been altered by exposure to it, or have developed the ability to access it as a source of power (which might also be a thing humans can do in the Pokémon world, as channellers or mediums, or through whatever “ancient science” was used to create Golurk).  Beyond that… I don’t know, and I think that might be kind of the point?  Like, I think the actual real answer to this question might be “there are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy” – that is, there are some things in the universe that just are mysterious, and you can’t logic them out or determine the answer experimentally.  That’s not because we’ve missed something or because the lore is poorly thought out; it’s actually the point, because it’s meant as a comment on the limits of scientific thinking (which… well, to be honest I don’t think Pokémon has a very well-formed idea of how science might work in a fantasy world, and the writers need to read Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, but this is neither the time nor place).  The spirit world doesn’t have consistent rules and different Pokémon relate to it in different ways, because if we could understand it, then that would defeat the purpose.  Moreover, many Ghost Pokémon have powers of illusion and a reputation for deception and trickery; they have the means and the desire to obfuscate the issue.

Mr. Rustworthy asks:

If you were a gym leader, what would your gym experience be like,?

So I have a really old thing somewhere, where someone asked me a question that was not this, but I answered this question instead by outlining a gym that specialised in nocturnal Pokémon where you had to find your way to the leader by reading glowing constellations painted on the floor.

Yeah, here it is:
https://pokemaniacal.com/2012/12/11/imagine-that-you-have-been-hired-to-become-a-gym/

Therefore, I will now continue the cycle by leaving that old answer there, then answering a slightly different question that someone else will ask me seven years from now, thus fulfilling the prophecy.

(look, if you’re going to follow this blog you’re going to have to accept that time and causality are not always super-firm in my presence; deal with it)

Continue reading “Mr. Rustworthy asks:”

Kalosian Porygon asks:

What’s your opinion on Lavender City stories made up by fans, e.g. creepypasta?

I haven’t actually read a lot of them, not enough to really be aware of them as a particular “genre,” anyway.  I suppose I think of them much the same way as I think of other fanfic – namely, “fµ¢£ the canon, stories belong to their readers.”  Anything that you or I write about the Pokémon world is, in a certain sense, just as “true” as anything that comes from the creators on high, and that’s perhaps doubly the case in Lavender Town, where the games themselves want us to be unsure of exactly what is real and what isn’t. Haunted places, after all, defy precise understanding and demarcation, and that white hand on your shoulder… no, I’m just imagining things.

KalosianPorygon asks:

What are, in your opinion, the most baffling worldbuilding incoherences of the mainline Pokémon games? For me, it’s the presence of Bananas (as is, the real-life fruit) in Sword and Shield, when Nanab Berries, which are based on bananas, also exist.

That’s a tough one… See, this is hard because a big part of my schtick normally is looking at inconsistencies and figuring out why they actually might not be inconsistent.  “This is a baffling worldbuilding incoherence” is normally my last resort, after “unreliable narrators” and “differing creative visions” and “fiction has no sense of scale” and “myth and history are really complicated” and “biology is also really complicated” and “there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio” have all failed.  Actually pegging something as fundamentally inconsistent in a way that allows no more interesting interpretation is almost an admission of defeat for me.  Like, take the Nanab Berry thing.  That doesn’t even strike me as a problem; that’s just two fruit that look similar and have similar names, which may or may not be related (Jim the Editor pointed out that we have grapes and grapefruit).  Cheri Berries and Cherubi also exist in the same world; I think one is probably named after the other.

My first thought for an actual answer here was “they never really explain how Pokéballs work, and none of the characters seem to think that’s weird” but I don’t know if that qualifies as an inconsistency, so much as something that’s just never explored.  Something that really is worth wondering about is how food works – not just whether we eat Pokémon, but whether Pokémon eat each other.  I actually suspect there may not be a firm party line on this within Game Freak, because the games definitely mention hunting and predation from time to time, but when you directly ask them they’re reluctant to talk about it.  We finally get to eat Slowpoke tails in Sword and Shield, but they’re always careful to mention that Slowpoke tails grow back.  You sort of have to assume that we eat Pokémon and they eat each other, because a world with no predation whatsoever just wouldn’t have creatures that resemble real ones, but if even the lowest Pokémon are of roughly doglike intelligence and many species are superhuman, the idea of killing them for food – or of them killing each other for food, when they could easily have been friends on some trainer’s team – does make one a little bit… queasy.  And that’s just not something Pokémon’s optimistic worldview can process in a nuanced way.

Dosidicus Giygas asks:

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.