Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Pokemon and Censorship

I just watched Zero Punctuation and Yahtzee's review of Pokemon White, and while I can't write a comparable review because I haven't played it, I can give my own thoughts on the series as a whole.

I don't play Pokemon. I have no interest in it for two main reasons. First of all I played it on my cousin's Gameboy many years ago when it was in its first or second incarnation (I forget which) and I found myself playing it for hours on end. I found it so addictive that I couldn't put it down even though it had the excitement of walking around the back garden picking up worms. The second reason I don't play the game is more of a moral reason: I disagree with getting animals to fight on your behalf. I own two dogs and I despise the people who set their dogs to fight eachother in the aim of proving how macho they are. If you're so bloody macho why can't you fight your own frigging battles? The same goes for cock fighting. The idea of setting animals to fight against eachother, even if they don't "die" in these virtual battles, and to be forced to allow your pet to loose should it not be strong enough, screams of cruelty to me. Add to that the fact that each of these animals is carried about inside a tiny ball and only released in order to fight and all I see is an ethically dark game masked by cutesy (or "kawaii," the Japanese term for cute) manga style art.

People scream and cry about violence in games, romance and experimentation with sexuality in games, nudity, drugs, and crime in games; and I am glad they have, not because I agree they should be censored but because it led to the establishment of an age rating system that has allowed for games to further explore these themes without worrying about kids being exposed to it because such content is restricted and may only be purchased by an adult. However, I do worry that kids playing Pokemon and similar games like Digimon are being exposed to this way of thinking that our pets are there to resolve our disputes. These games aren't age restricted, and they've been around for 15 years. In England there has been a significant rise in the owning of "status symbol" dogs, and in dog attacks, as well as people pitting their dogs against eachother for fun. The majority of these unpleasant dog owners are of the age that they would have been kids when the Pokenomenon started.

Could these two things be related? Maybe. Probably not. As the old joke says, "If we were influenced by the games of our youth we'd all be running round darkened rooms munching pills and listening to repetitive electronic music." Perhaps that is not the best example of my belief that playing Call of Duty does not create the next Columbine kids. It is true, that there are people who will find something and twist it to fit their mentality, and use it to spur themselves on, like the Westboro Baptist Church have done with the bible, like those terrorists did with the qur'an and those kids did with Marylin Manson, Eminem, Judas Priest, Nirvana, you name it, it's been linked to some kids killing themselves or someone else. This doesn't make it our responsibility to make sure they aren't exposed to sticks that they might get the wrong end of. Anything can be twisted in someone's mind to mean what they want it to mean. If they're going to "go postal," then they will. Nothing can stop that from happening. All you can do is hope that no one gets caught in the cross-fire.

My own hope is that these games provide an outlet for troubled kids and in fact make it less likely that they will want to go out into the real world and cause real carnage. I know I've used them for stress release countless times. I also hope that Pokemon isn't implanting a sense that it's ok to treat animals in such a way to the kids who play it, however when I play it I don't feel happy inside, so I think I shall abstain from playing it for the foreseeable future.


Thank you for reading this rant. The opinions within it are my own, but aren't set in stone. It's just how I feel at the moment and may well change. I'm not claiming that dog violence is linked to Pokemon, I was just posing a question, following a train of thought.

If by some miracle you haven't heard of Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw or Zero Punctuation, you can check him out here:
I love listening to his reviews, and his opinions often echo my own, although he tends to focus on the negative aspects of a game. He uploads a new review every Wednesday. Be warned, he swears a lot, and uses rude humour.


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