Over the past 25 years, Pokémon has gone from a fad to a multimedia juggernaut. Dozens of video games, movies, TV seasons, comics, and more have sprang into existence around the cute little monsters.
These different properties have varied in some respects, but all have helped to apply at least a veneer of continuity on the imaginary world where pocket monsters roam the wild. And, in many ways…what these things show is pretty weird.
I’m not talking about weird as in the obvious, with bizarre creatures that live in tiny Pokéballs. I mean that the world we see in the different franchises, particularly the videogames, has some fascinatingly odd worldbuilding implications. Here are just a few of the things you’d have to contend with if you lived in the world of Pokémon.
All Pokémon are Blood Knights
The big problematic part of all the main Pokémon games is the fact that it’s basically dogfighting on a massive scale. Trainers travel the land capturing unique creatures, breeding them, and forcing them to do battle. The franchise emphasizes that the Pokémon never die in these battles, only faint, and that their wounds are only temporary. But there’s still an uncomfortable parallel there if you think too hard about it.
Here’s the thing, though…the Pokémon love these fights.
Canonically, Pokémon form a bond with their trainers through battle. Their happiness increases the more you use them in fights. As long as you don’t constantly keep them in a duel long enough to make them repeatedly faint, you will make good friends with a Pokémon if you have them fight your battles for you.
Pokémon battles, at their lowest level, involve getting bitten by giant rats and doused with flaming embers. At the high end of the game, they can involve tsunamis, lightning storms, laser blasts from space, and more. Pokémon, without exception, take these hits, grin, and come back for more.
You think you’ve got a party of six cute little pets, but no. In those Pokéballs lie six of the fiercest and most deadly warriors known to humanity. And they are chomping at the bit for you to release them and unleash Hell upon this world.
Miniaturization Technology Could Change the World
Remember how superheroes like Ant-Man and the Atom developed their size-changing technology with altruistic designs, like feeding the poor and making transport easier? In the world of Pokémon, almost every town has shrinking technology in the form of Pokéballs. These pocket-sized spheres can old literally any Pokémon, up to and including the 65-foot long Eternatus.
Consider that some Pokémon are based on edible livestock. Others are plants. That means that large amounts of food can be transported while using a minimum of cargo space (assuming, of course, that there are no moral objections to eating Pokémon). In terms of military application, huge numbers of trained and deadly creatures could be transported across borders by relatively few people.
This sort of stuff could already be in the games in their own subtle way. Bear in mind that, with almost a dozen regions mapped out and visited so far, we have seen almost no poverty or homelessness. Similarly, only a single war was ever mentioned—the one fought by Lieutenant Surge.
No Sane Person Travels
Now, I’m not saying that the world of Pokémon has eliminated hunger by transporting cheap, miniaturized livestock to every community. I’m also not saying that the world exists in a perpetual cold war where every military on the planet remains keenly aware of its vulnerability to mass invasion. But I’m not not saying that, either.
While some games have cars, those vehicles seem to be designed only for travel within a major city. Beyond the large cities in any given region, the roads are equipped for foot travel or, at best, bike riding. So if you travel in the world of Pokémon, that means that sooner or later you’re going to walk through some grass. That’s when the roaming monsters that dominate the land attack.
Any grassy area or cave has a high chance of leading to a Pokémon attack. The danger is so great that kids aren’t allowed to venture into the grass without a Pokémon to defend themselves. Of course, having a Pokémon means attracting the attention of other trainers. If you so much as enter their line of sight, they will attack you.
The world of Pokémon is an almost medieval society in this regard, with communities representing tiny points of light in the midst of wild and deadly environs. But, hey, if you do get hurt while wandering about…at least healthcare comes cheap.
Universal Healthcare Exists
Make no mistake; the world of Pokémon is a capitalist society. However, it also has universal healthcare. Stop in almost any city and you have a chance to heal your wounded Pokémon for free, no questions asked.
But wait, you might argue. That convenience is Pokémon-specific. Au contraire, I respond. Whenever the protagonist of the game gets into a bind, such as losing a fight in the wild, they white out and return to a Pokémon center. Once there, they return to normal, in perfect health and with completely healed Pokémon.
Ah, but don’t you lose money when you lose a battle? Yes, but the text describes you dropping the money as you white out, before you get to a Pokémon center. You never actually pay for emergency medical care. It’s only the luxury medicines, such as those delicious potions, that cost you actual money.
Domestic Defense Needs Many Improvements
While more recent games have turned the evil teams of the past into minor nuisances and miscreants, the world of Pokémon had a severe crime problem for a while. Team Rocket terrorized two regions, while later groups such as Teams Aqua, Magma, and Galactic nearly brought about mass destruction. Time and time again, groups of Pokémon gangsters emerged, and nobody seemed capable of stopping them.
Whatever police force exists in this world is badly understaffed, with only a few officers shown throughout the entire series. Military forces are practically nonexistent, perhaps because of the aforementioned miniaturization technology rendering them impractical. Meanwhile, these teams have proven capable of capturing entire cities with nobody moving against them.
These threats have been dealt with repeatedly by young heroes just starting out their journeys. But honestly, relying on some random 11-year-old to solve a rampant crime problem is just hideous planning. One day, we’re going to get a post-apocalyptic Pokémon game where the world got ravaged because there wasn’t some kid around to undergo the classic hero’s journey.
Did the designers intend any of these knock-on consequences of their worldbuilding? Almost certainly not. Did I overthink this? You betcha. And yet, these things are right there in the text of every Pokémon game. Try to unsee the implications the next time you play.