Was Coalossal created for the industrial revolution, after the revolution, or did it inspire the revolution? Actually, did the revolution happen at all?
Well, the Pokémon world resembles the modern world in enough important ways that I think there has to have been an industrial revolution; like… they have mechanised agriculture, they have coal power, they have mass-produced textiles, they have modern urbanisation. Maybe those things didn’t happen all at once and in the same place, the way they did in 18th and 19th century Britain, though? I don’t believe that anyone at Game Freak – or indeed anywhere in Pokémon’s corporate structure – has a detailed idea of what the history of the Pokémon world looks like, outside of the explicit lore of each region (and even then, I’m not altogether convinced they care much about fitting the history of different regions into a single overarching narrative); maybe they used to, because a lot of early stuff suggested that the Pokémon world has the same history and geography as the real one, but much of that is overwritten or contradicted by later media.
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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.
In case you haven’t been watching my Twitter feed, here’s two articles I recently wrote for PokéJungle:
From last week, the second entry in my “Gym Leaders Rated” series, on Misty.
And just up this morning, a think-piece I’ve titled “Galar, the Industrial Revolution and the Philosophy of Pokémon,” which is about why I think Great Britain is a particularly interesting place to have a Pokémon region, especially following Alola.