The Pokémon franchise is well known for its cast of colorful cartoon animals. Children of all ages easily come to love these creatures and do all that they can to raise them, but does this love of fictional animals translate into a love of real animals? Four professors at Cambridge seem to believe that it does not, but that it could. In their article, “Why Conservationists Should Heed Pokémon,” Andrew Balmford, Lizzie Clegg, Tim Coulson, and Jennie Taylor detail how they came to this conclusion.
In the article, the researchers discuss an experiment they conducted which determined a child’s ability to recall the names of a random selection of local wildlife and a random selection of Pokémon (Balmford et. al. 2367). Unsurprisingly—depending on your Pokémon fan status—the children were much more able to recall the names of the Pokémon than they were able to recall the names of the local wildlife (Balmford et. al. 2367). The researchers cite this result as proof that kids can get excited about wildlife and conservation when they are interested in the subject (Balmford et. al. 2367).
While I believe the researchers are making an interesting point, I am having some trouble with their tangential association of conservation to Pokémon. In my opinion, the researchers only focused on Pokémon as an example of a way that conservationists could go about improving interest in conservation. However, when I played Pokémon X, I found the game to contain an extremely conservationist message. Throughout the game, the player encounters numerous characters that encourage the player to develop a strong, loving relationship with their Pokémon. In the Pokémon world, the Pokémon are wild animals, so the game is therefore advocating that the player develop a relationship with wild animals outside of the game’s magic circle.
Pokémon X’s conservationist message can also be seen through the game’s villains: Team Flare. Team Flare seeks to make the world a “more beautiful place.” Though they aim to achieve this goal by eliminating Pokémon and conflict by enslaving the population, their message is still rather conservationist. In defeating the villains, the player enables all of the wild Pokémon to continue living a peaceful life, thereby preventing a mass extinction event—another conservationist cause.
These are just some of the many examples of the conservationist messages scattered throughout Pokémon X. I fully believe that these researchers missed the mark in their article. Rather than focusing on the things conservationists do wrong, they should have focused on the things Pokémon X and the Pokémon franchise do to further the conservationist cause.
Balmford, Andrew; Clegg, Lizzie; Coulson, Tim; & Taylor, Jennie. “Why Conservationists Should Heed Pokémon.” Science, vol. 295, no. 5564, 2002, pp. 2367–2367.