Pokémon as modern storytelling: Immersion and escape

Last Friday, the release of Pokémon X and Y stirred the proverbial pot of the Pokémon fandom, reviving what was far from dead. My GDD suite (as anyone who’s spent time with us will tell you) was honored to fall victim to this revitalization; at any given moment over the course of the past two weeks, there has been, without fail, at least one person in the common room lost from our world, instead inhabiting one filled with small, often adorable monsters that you can catch, battle and befriend.

I myself have been (trying to be) a part of this—I went with them on release day to the GameStop on University and only had to say “Can I have Y?” at the counter for the guy to turn around, pull a copy out of a big box, ring me up, and say “Have fun!”. However, my schedule this semester is quite novel-heavy due to my English/Educational Studies double major—not a particularly difficult or bad kind of work load, but a time-consuming one. And so, my new Pokémon remain below Level 25, while my suite mates’ are far more advanced.

That nameless mass that we call “many people” would say that what I’m doing is a far more commendable pastime—“She’s reading! She isn’t falling victim to the downfall of intellectualism at the hands of silly video games!” But actually, so much of what draws me to Pokémon is what draws me to novels: in a book, you are thrown into the world the author has created, meet characters that are a part of it, and engage in a story. In Pokémon, not only do you jump into a new universe (in the case of X and Y, a parallel version of France), but you get to be a part of it—you get to create a character, train Pokémon, meet people, and explore the world on your own terms. One of my suite mates spent a significant chunk of time in a single forest, training; another passed a good block playing games and developing rapport with his Pokémon; another has been blazing through the storyline. There are places to explore, different types of Pokémon to see and
battle, and all kind of jargon to learn about how to battle and care for your “pocket monsters.”

Not to mention the artwork is pretty incredible, especially in 3D. But that’s a different article.

Playing Pokémon isn’t less commendable than reading; it’s a different way of engaging with an incredibly imaginative world. And while I am always down for a good novel, I’m also equally eager to get back to France with my Braixen.