While most of us have heard of Pokémon, the world-famous Japanese strategy game gone media juggernaut and an organization that protects animal rights, no one would see the connection between them. That is until PETA, or the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals is starting to wage war on the popular video game franchise.
One may think it’s an odd choice given the commonplace depictions of animals in today’s media. Pokémon, since its introduction as a game, around 15 years ago, has demonstrated minimal violence; no blood, no death, and a story usually centered on the protagonist bonding with their respected Pokémon animal friends. So again one must ask, “why Pokémon?” Well, the correct answer might not be the obvious one. What if this is more about publicity than the actual message?
On October 8th, precisely one day after the long awaited release of Pokémon Black & White 2, Nintendo, the world’s largest and most revenue successful game company, witnessed a fierce attack. Specifically, a parody of the game developed by PETA that depicts Pokémon as horribly mistreated slaves. The protagonist Pikachu, must fight several trainers while spreading the word that Pokémon deserve better. The game lasts around ten minutes, but that’s all it took for PETA and Pokémon to engage in a battle of the social media variety whilst get wrapped up in a hailstorm of controversy.
When asked about the issue, PETA issued a statement saying, “Pokémon are treated as unfeeling objects and used for such things as human entertainment and as subjects in experiments…if PETA existed in Unova, our motto would be: Pokémon are not ours to use or abuse. They exist for their own reasons.”
A few weeks later Nintendo responded with a very simple message, “Nintendo and the Pokémon Company take the inappropriate use of our products and intellectual property seriously.” Though short in length, this message obviously carries the warning that Nintendo plans to get even, though how they plan to do so can only be speculated for the moment.
Many question PETA’s motives behind publishing this gross misrepresentation of Pokémon ideals. Some have come to an interesting conclusion, speculating that PETA did it as a publicity stunt. If, in fact, one believes that there’s no such thing as bad publicity, then this might be an ideal way to raise awareness in younger populations.
Others also criticize PETA for wasting money to make this game, while they have so many animal shelters that could have used the money to do something with a greter direct impact on live animals. But, even if we consider the possibility that PETA believes strongly in their campaign and believes it isn’t a huge waste of money, a question still remains; “why now?”.
Pokémon is 15 years old, and in all honesty, it really hasn’t changed much, what is it that makes Pokémon an issue now? Easy, it’s incredibly popular and the game will get diehard fans to buy the newest generation through nostalgia alone. It’s obvious, painfully so, that this is a publicity stunt and this brings us to a very sad point. It seems that the mighty have fallen. This isn’t the first time PETA has gotten upset with a video game. Interestingly it appears that PETA has a Nintendo fetish, because last year they made a game parodying the Tanooki suit from Mario (the one that looked like a raccoon). They sought to prove how it was insensitive for Mario to wear “fur”. 21 years after the game’s first introduction, it seems apparent that PETA likes to make a habit out of being late to the table too.
An organization that once was supposed to champion animal rights has fallen to the level of petty insults and connecting dots when there shouldn’t even be the pencil to connect them. Throwing away money that could be better used elsewhere, such as raising money to stop puppy mill farmers. One can’t be sure where PETA will go from here, but let’s hope that the direction they’ll take is different from their current one.