Larry asks:

How much of the way our experience with “a pokémon trainer is you!” was based on the background we picked for our character? Obviously, there were the story beats with us doing ranger/biologist work besides training.

But I’m assuming that our capacity to find Pokémon that you usually only see in Kanto under special conditions (The Hoenn Radio In Soulsilver) is because our scientist background lets us examine the environment better? And our compassion is the reason we’ve had your first non-misanthrope character. I assume even if we weren’t a big battling fan we’d still know most, if not all, type matchups though? (The games and the anime pretending 10-year olds wouldn’t know that ground is immune to electric is just… the worst worldbuilding I’ve seen.. ever? )

Uh, but tangent aside- I meant to ask you about what you would do with each specialty! “Swords” seemed weird as fuck and I’m confused, but I’m pretty interested in Athlete- would that let us basically be our own HM pokémon?

[Before saying anything else: I do want to bring this back, but things are… well, crazy right now, as I think most people have probably noticed.  When I do, it will probably be a two-week schedule rather than every week, because that was taking too much time away from articles.]

[…what is my life]

But yeah, the point of that “choose your background” question was basically to decide what kind of story this was going to be, what aspects of the Pokémon world we were going to focus on.  Part of that is just dictating the kinds of details I emphasise and explore in the narration, but the character’s skills also determine some of the options I offer when we have a choice to make.  I didn’t have everything planned out, but for every “special skill” I had some idea of a few things that it would let us do to take the story of Pokémon: Red and Blue off the rails, and a few ways that our character would react differently to the events of the story.  The point is that the things we do to influence the world in significant ways should mainly come from those “special skills.”

Continue reading “Larry asks:”

jeffthelinguist asks:

Why do Pokemon post game stories suck (aside from Johto’s, and even that doesn’t have much for story)? The more casual fans might stop after the credits so really they should be for the hardcore fans; it’s really a chance for Game Freak to step up their storytelling and give us some good lore. Instead we get Looker (arguably the best thing other than Johto’s and that says a lot), Team Rainbow Rocket (minor nostalgia dump with huge plot holes), and now Squidward and Sherbet (I refuse to ever use their real names).

Well, I should start by saying that I actually quite like Sword and Shield’s post-championship storyline in spite of Swordface and Shieldbutt (who are clearly not meant to be sympathetic characters), as detailed here (this question landed in my inbox before that entry was published). Their enmity towards Sonia for “changing history” actually does feel to me like a natural continuation of her story and an interesting perspective on the events of the main plot. So I sort of disagree with the premise of the question, which is a thing I do a lot.  I also liked Fire Red and Leaf Green’s Sevii Islands storyline, and while I consider Looker himself a personal enemy who should be flung into outer space, I don’t actually have any issues with the Lumiose City storyline featuring Emma and Xerosic in X and Y.  I have problems with the endgame stories that feel tacked onto a game that was already finished – the worst offenders in my view being Platinum’s Charon subplot (the main plot is about ancient mythology and seizing control of terrible cosmic powers to rewrite reality and change the nature of life, the universe and the soul; and then Charon, who’s been built up as this incredible genius for the entire game, just wants to blow up a volcano in order to extort lots of money from the people of Sinnoh) and the Team Rainbow Rocket saga of Ultra SMoon (which… well, we’ve been there). Also, frankly, even though this isn’t actually postgame material, I think the Ultra Recon Squad subplot counts as this too; it’s not actually bad in isolation but it doesn’t belong in the story it’s attached to.  And, well, that’s kind of the answer to your question: because they’re tacked onto games that were already finished, in some cases (as I understand it – fact-check me on this) by different writers than the ones responsible for the original story.  I’m inclined to blame the rampant corporate greed that dictates an annual release cycle for Pokémon, whether there’s actually a worthwhile game to be made or not – but then, I blame a lot of things on rampant corporate greed these days, so you can argue this is just my baseline.

Pokémon and the “Insect Apocalypse”

So, recently I read this article from the New York Times Magazine about the growing evidence for a precipitous decline in global insect populations over the last couple of decades, a phenomenon that has gone largely unnoticed until quite recently (except as it pertains to a few species we care about, like honeybees) because insects are just so hard to count.  Because the available data is still quite limited, it’s hard to draw detailed conclusions about what’s happening, how fast, and how we can stop it, though it seems like a good bet that global climate change and indiscriminate use of pesticides are probably both involved.

Now, to most well-informed people this is clearly part of the ongoing social, political and technological crisis around humanity’s relationship with the natural environment of our planet, and probably brings to mind any number of ecological catastrophes brought about by human agency, the debate over what kind of action is necessary to prevent or mitigate similar catastrophes in the future, and so on and so forth.  But for me, as a lifelong Pokémon fan with an analytical bent and a more-than-passing interest in Pokémon’s origins, my mind went instead to the childhood hobby that Satoshi Tajiri dreamed of sharing with children who couldn’t experience it in an increasingly hyper-urbanised Japan: insect collecting.  The people who collected the data that sounded the alarm to the scientific community, and allowed this article to be written, are people like Tajiri might have grown up to be, in another life: amateur collectors who, for the most part, aren’t professional scientists, but still do the hard work of science while receiving little of the glory, all for the love of bugs.  They are real-world Pokédex compilers, whose contributions don’t depend on exhaustive formal education or sophisticated experiments, but on the foundational scientific skills of observation and curiosity.  Their work is Pokémon’s spiritual heritage… and everything they study is slowly dying.

And I’m not sure if Pokémon has the capacity or even the desire to pass meaningful comment on it.

Continue reading “Pokémon and the “Insect Apocalypse””

The Philosophical Sheep asks:

Do you think it’s time that Pokemon games got rid of the whole “Team Evil” tradition? It seems that they’re just constraining their storylines a lot more by requiring that every villain be the boss of an evil organization. And I feel like Lysandre, for example, would have worked a lot better as a stand-alone villain.

It sort of depends on how much you value the idea of “Team Evil” as a traditional element of the games’ story, like having a choice of three Grass/Fire/Water starters or completing the Pokédex.  Personally I tend to like the idea of ditching as many of the formulaic elements of the games as they can get away with, and I think I more or less agree with your assessment of Lysandre (it’s important to note here that his plan does actually imply the presence of an inner circle that he wants to survive the Ultimate Weapon, but that inner circle doesn’t have to be a “team” in the standard Pokémon sense).  I think that as long as they insist on keeping a standard set of elements like this, they’re probably never going to come up with a really excellent story that rivals the best games produced by other companies (either Japanese or western).  They can keep improving on their own past efforts, though, and I’m still happy to see them do that.