PETA recently released “Pokémon Black & Blue”–a satirical online flash game that decries the treatment of animals in the Nintendo game series–to coincide with the recent “Pokémon” game releases: “Pokémon Black 2” and “Pokémon White 2.”
The game is played from the point of view of a Pikachu and various other Pokémon as they attempt to overthrow their human masters (often actual characters from the games, who are depicted as animal abusers). The Pokémon can choose from a series of four attacks to fight their “oppressors” in turn-based battles, a concept also lifted directly from the games.
PETA, in case you’re wondering, doesn’t have the best track record in terms of promotional stunts based off of video games. Their stand against Mario in his classic Tanooki suit from “Super Mario Bros. 3” is well-documented, regardless of how incredibly tenuous any argument can be made for the detrimental effects that playing as a furry-suited Italian man can have on people’s treatment of animals.
In a very neatly organized list, I’m going to go over everything that doesn’t sit right with me and this latest attempt by PETA to grab at the public’s attention.
1. The overriding theme of friendship and proper treatment of Pokémon is beaten into your head constantly in every form of the series.
Seriously. For as much “Pokémon” media as I’ve consumed in my damn life, I can write tens of thousands of words on the topic of morally justified friendships with animals in “Pokémon.” The entire premise of the enemies in the games is based around the idea of treating Pokémon poorly or using them in a way inconsistent with normal moral treatment of animals.
Even the enemy group that PETA seems to idolize through a battered Pikachu holding an “I support Team Plasma!” sign on the side of the website? Their main goal is to “liberate Pokémon” by stealing and capturing them–and they fight with Pokemon to accomplish that goal!
As the protagonist in any single frickin “Pokémon” game, show or movie will tell you, the bad guys who treat Pokémon wrong are incredibly evil and must have their butts thoroughly kicked (WHICH ALWAYS HAPPENS).
More than that, there’re tons of disgustingly cute songs like this little ditty from the television show.
2. “Pokémon Black & Blue” literally lifts entire concepts and characters from the actual games.
I don’t know much about copyright law, but as I mentioned earlier, there’s gotta be some character or concept in the online flash game that Nintendo can sue over.
Even if there is somehow no infringement, it infuriates me that the game’s developers obviously know the “Pokémon” games very well, otherwise they wouldn’t have been able to make a carbon-copy format and product like this:
3. Money is possibly being wasted that could be used for actual practical means of helping animals.
This is the thing that most aggravates me about the online game.
I 100 percent understand that PETA, as an organization, thrives off of publicity forged from the collective fires caused by stepping on people’s toes. However, the fact remains that I assume PETA spent money paying game company This is Pop to make “Pokémon Black & Blue.” This also means that that same dividend of money will not be used to actually help any animals escape the hideous fate that natural and unnatural forces of the world have attempted to brand them with.
I do not know how to weigh the ultimate cost of putting the PETA name out into the public sphere again versus the cost of ignoring funding for needy animal shelters–I don’t think anybody does. At the same time, I cannot help but be angry at the very idea that even a single animal life could end due to subverted funding for a conceptually irresponsible advertising stunt.
4. Game studio This is Pop‘s other big hit is a game where you mistreat a creature more than Pokémon games could ever possibly allow.
This is a small gripe of mine on a cosmic scale, but I have to talk about the hypocritical nature of using This is Pop as a studio to make a game that is supposed to promote the end of animal abuse in a fictional medium.
This is Pop is also the maker of “My Little Bastard,” a Tamagotchi-like game where you take care of (or can very easily kill) a small creature you keep as a pet. You can also buy harmful items like poison at the in-game store–and feed it to your new pet and kill it instantly. While the game is actually pretty well-designed and fun, it is entirely inconsistent with what PETA would normally agree with.
Hey, isn’t PETA against owning pets in the first place? Sounds like they should have done their homework before supporting a company that commercially condones the exact opposite of their value system.
If you know me even tangentially, you probably know at least two things about me: I love Pokémon and I love cats. More than that, I love animals. I wanted to be a biologist when I was younger.
I know you probably don’t care about my youthful aspirations– but my point is as follows.
From the most basic angle, I used to (and still kind of do) respect PETA as an organization which gives a voice to millions of voiceless creatures. And at the same time, very few attempted publicity stunts can grab my attention, let alone make me this disgruntled. However:
–When an organization meant to aid in the attainment of animals’ rights is spending any modicum of time in producing satirical games that parody a fictional medium about developing mutually beneficial relationships with animals?
–When stunts like this are in some likelihood funded at the potential cost of funding that could be used to save animals?
–When that organization fundamentally misunderstands two things that I love?
That’s when I get mad.
PETA, you win in grabbing my attention. But you also helped I and a whole lot of other nerds and animal lovers alike lose a whole lot of respect for your entire organization. —