Pokémonstrous! The Disturbing World of Pokémon GO

In this politically correct and hypersensitive age, it's noteworthy that the most soaringly popular game requires players to engage in a series of objectionable behaviors.

First, you must capture a wild animal.

To capture one of these creatures, you need to have balls. Your balls are, essentially, wild animal traps.

(Don't want to go out hunting? You can use bait to lure unsuspecting creatures out of the relative safety of the tall grasses and right into your living room. You still need to have balls, though.)

The rarer the wild animal, the more valuable, so it's kind of like being a poacher.

Hurl projectiles at the animal until it gets too worn down to continue fighting to escape.

If you have Great Balls -- or, better yet, Master Balls -- you'll have even more success catching various kinds of animals.

If you are hunting a particularly feisty animal who keeps escaping your traps, you can try lobbing a Razz Berry, which is a drugged berry that slows down the animal to make it easier to trap.

Now that you've beaten the animal into submission and taken it captive, it will bond to you. In some circles, this would be called Stockholm Syndrome.

Well done!

Now do it all again, and again and again and again.

You're a "trainer", so the next step is to "train" your captive animals to fight, which mostly involves forcing them to fight other captive animals.

Once you have your animals under your command and trained to fight, make them go out and earn some money for you.

Assign one of your wild animals to guard a "gym". A "gym" is a compound wherein the animals assigned to "protect" it are forced to fight your teammates' captive animals to "train" and also fight your opponents' animals to defend the compound.

The longer your animal defends the compound, the more money you -- as its "trainer" -- get. (The animal does not get any money; it just gets beaten up a lot and forced to beat up other animals facing similarly desperate circumstances.)

More fighting can raise the "prestige" of the compound but it can also cause the animals' health to degrade. Defending the compound often causes animals to faint.

Your team leader -- under the direction of Professor Willow, a mysterious & strangely magnetic new guy who just turned up out of nowhere -- considers this process of endless cockfights "research".

If you want your captive creatures to "evolve" into more powerful beings (who will still be your captives and will continue to be forced into the dogfighting arena time and again), you must force-feed them steroids called "candy". A key way to obtain this "candy" is to "transfer" your weaker captives -- the ones who aren't as valuable, the ones who've outlived their usefulness -- to Professor Willow.

The "transfer" process is shrouded in mystery (which, as any Ingress Resistance agent will tell you, is immediately suspect -- don't trust the "Shapers"!) but we know a few things. Every day, millions of these wild animals are "transferred to the Professor" from "trainers" around the world. In exchange, Professor Willow pays out "candy" of the same species as the animal who underwent the "transfer".

And most suspiciously...

The "transfer" is irreversible; you will absolutely never see that animal again.

No ctrl-z

(There's no ctrl-Z on this one; what's done is done.)

So maybe the professor is simply returning these unwanted animals to the wild, and they're so happy to have their freedom that they provide him "candy" -- or perhaps they buy their freedom with their "candy" -- which the professor in turn gives to you in gratitude for all your help with his "research".

This setting-them-free scenario is the least horrifying explanation of what "transfer" entails, yet even still they could be captured again in the wild and forced to be fighters for people's amusement all over again.

It seems at least as likely, as has been speculated elsewhere, that "the Professor" "transfers" those captive animals into food for the others. Or perhaps he's forcing them all to manufacture their candy in a giant factory farm somewhere? If that's the case, though, it'd have to be huuuuuge. The game provides physical stats of the animals captured, including height and weight. Millions upon millions of them would take up some serious space somewhere, and so just logistically they would probably eventually have to be killed/recycled into Soilent Pokémon.

Note that the creature that is now food can only be fed to others of the same species as the creature that is now food. Put another way, if you have "transferred" a bunch of surplus Pikachu into Soilent Pikachu "candy", you can only feed that "candy" to another captive Pikachu or another animal that once was a Pikachu but has subsequently "evolved" by being force-fed these species-specific steroids.

So ... violent kidnapping, animal cruelty, blood sports, slavery, druggings, cannibalism. Welcome to the world of Pokémon GO!

Ack! Take me back to Ingress!

Caveats: Yes, I know Pokémon GO is just a game. Dear friends of mine play it and I still like them, in spite of their in-game violent tendencies, animal abuse, and forced cannibalism. A distant friend who might one day become the first person to achieve the singularity says it appeals to his "inner coin collector". I get that. Really. The above observations are not intended to diss Pokémon GO or its players. Just ... noticing. It's like noticing song lyrics, whereas so many people seem to prefer just to enjoy the music without regard to the verbal content.

Not trying to suggest that the game shouldn't be played or that it will make kids think they should feed their little hamsters to their big hamster. It's a symptom of this game being absorbing and catching on so quickly -- too many people paying too little attention. The car accidents are part of this. The obliviousness to the actual plot of the game might be another result of this outbreak of tunnel vision. One might be tempted to look around and wonder if the outbreak of inattention/tunnel-vision might be more widespread globally than can be accounted for by just Pokemon players.

A note on punctuation and editing is coming soon, but for now, an acknowledgment: This is, clearly, not AP style. When editing professionally, I use the appropriate style, of course; in my own writing, I'm experimenting with my own punctuational preferences.

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Originally posted: 19 July 2016

© 2016 Emily Messner | sleevs.net