Episode 22: Worldbuilding of Pokemon
Eric Silver joins us to answer my burning questions about the Pokemon world, and together we discuss the weirdest and world-breaking-est Pokemon.
HOSTED by Moiya McTier (@GoAstroMo), astrophysicist and folklorist
Eric Silver is a podcaster, writer, and Head of Creative at Multitude Productions. You can follow him on twitter at @El_Silvero and visit his website: ericsilver.work. You can find his article about anti-semitism in D&D here: https://www.heyalma.com/dungeons-dragons-has-an-antisemitism-problem/?fbclid=IwAR0WbHAp3ESkNrVFQwXlIMAJ3CbhbphF_R7mNcjf5F46hT--XUc763ZgtS8
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Hello, and welcome to Exolore, the show that helps you imagine other worlds, but with facts and science. I'm your host Moiya McTier. I'm an astrophysicist who studies planets outside of our solar system. Those are called exoplanets. And I'm also a folklorist who specializes in creating and analyzing imaginary worlds. And this podcast is my way of sharing those worlds and my knowledge with you. Before we get into today's episode, I want to take a moment to thank from the bottom of my heart, my new patrons, Lada Melissa, Jessie and my first dragon level patron, Meredith. Thank you so much for your support. If you want to join these amazing people in supporting the show, you can head on over to "patreon.com/goAstroMo". Your monthly support would help me do things like pay an editor, pay my guests and just do things that keep the Exolore lights on. So thank you to my new patrons. A little story to get us started for today. When I was in first and second grade, I shuffled around a lot, you know, typical child of divorce stuff, but I would spend one or two nights every week with my Nana -- my birth father's mom. She lived in Pittsburgh, and after every day of school, my papa would pick me up and he would take me home. And I would do my homework at the kitchen table, while my Nana was cooking dinner. She would feed me a bologna and mayonnaise sandwich as a post school snack. And whenever I was done with my homework, I was allowed to go in her bedroom and watch TV. And because I was always staying at her house on the same night of the week, I was watching the same shows. So I always watched "Pokemon", and I never got into the games or the card or like or the manga side of things I never got into any of that. But I did really love the show. And so today's episode is all about "Pokemon". I'm not going to be the only one talking on this episode, I have a guest who is much more knowledgeable on the subject than I am. But to give you a little teaser of what you can expect from this conversation, we're going to talk about Pokemon cosmology -- where Pokemon come from. We're going to talk about their weird evolutionary paths. There's some funky stuff going on in Pokemon evolution. And we're going to talk about how unfair it is to project our human proclivity for dominance and destruction on to Pokemon, which may or may not be a single species -- who knows? We're gonna get to it in this conversation. I hope you enjoy. My guest today is the head of creative at Multitude Productions. He's a podcasting genius, his voice and his influence on shows like "Join the Party". "Next Stop", and super relevant to this conversation, "[What's] Your favorite Pokemon, (And Then I say Something Nice About You)". Which sounds so lovely, even though it's not a thing anymore, although there's definitely a crowd that wants this podcast to exist again. My guest today is Eric Silver. Thank you so much for being on the show.
Hello, listen, this is my fault, because "What's Your Favorite Pokemon (And Then I say Something Nice About You)", was intentionally such a bad title. Like, you got so much of it right that people will be able to figure it out. And I'm just like, I didn't even optimize it. It was literally just made because COVID was happening. I'm like, "I'm growing a victory garden of podcasting". I'm sure this will be done in a few months. No.
Remember when we all thought it was gonna be done so fast? I bought like three weeks of groceries and I thought that would hold me over. I was wrong.
Remember when we thought that the pandemic just as it was from March - May was like the only thing going on? I think when the George Floyd protests started, I was like, "oh, that's right. The rest of the world is still happening, even while the pandemic is going", and this is the fucking world we're living in. It's like everything is fucking stacking. So yes, which is just like in "Pokemon", you have so many different things happening at the same time, but just like our world, the world building doesn't make any fucking sense.
Two beautiful segues right in a row. But I do want to hear more about you, just so the listeners can get a sense for your background. I told them what you're up to lately, but what else do you want us to know about you?
I am really excited that this show exists -- Exolore because it really combines a lot of things that I really care about, which is worldbuilding, as [I am] the dungeon master on "Join the Party" and the tenants of how worldbuilding is attached to our reality. Now you go at it from the science and the math perspective. How does this exist? What understanding do we have in science and I try this but I I'm not a math person -- I'm a sociology person. I'm a pop culture person. I'm like a critical thinker in that way. I'm an English person. I was an English teacher for a hot second there and I loved how the metaphor of "genre worldbuilding", in fantasy, cyberpunk/sci fi, superheroes are my personal favorite right now. What does that mean about our world? What is the metaphor, people don't remember that the genre is made so that you can address metaphor, and it's easier, but then people blow by it. There's a really great game system called "Kids on Bikes", it's very much made so you can have like an "E.T", "Stranger Things" sort of scenario, like really focusing on kids and teenagers doing an RPG sort of thing. And they did a recent book that came out called "Kids on Brooms", which is so you can have like a "Harry Potter Hogwarts" situation. It really is based on like, "make a magic school" and then go from there. Remember, we're dealing in metaphor here and because we're not talking about race, or sex, or gender or religion explicitly, and it's a metaphor, people get very clumsy with it, and they stop being critical. Or they just like, "ah, yeah, let's free the dwarves. Why not"? But it's like what do dwarves represent? And you get kind of lost. So it's like, sometimes it's better, but other times it's worse. And I think that looking at it from a critical sociological and pop culture lens is how I feel [and] I've been doing this for Jewish stuff a lot lately, as everything's been happening. And, you know, Nazis are, once again out there. It's something I've been looking at a lot lately, and it's been an interesting time to talk about that stuff. So that's why I'm happy. I'm on the show.
I'm happy you're on the show. Is it fair to say that that's one of the fictional worlds you've been inhabiting lately? Are there any others that you're excited about?
Yeah, the fictional worlds I've been inhabiting lately, "Join the Party" -- obviously. "Laketown City" is something that I've been a real big part of. I'm getting back into "Pokemon", which is nice. Amanda and I started streaming lately, where you can check it out "House Breakfast", on Twitch, we're doing a "Pokemon Ruby Nuzlocke Run", which is some constraints you put on a run of "Pokemon" to make it more difficult, and seeing the worldbuilding in that for Ruby, where it's just really getting into some of the cosmology, and Pokemon gods and how that affects the world of "Pokemon" is super wild. This is some real comic book shit, but it's like, "we're gonna take the power of a god to change the world. And we have an entire evil organization around that". And I'm just like, "whoa, what the fuck? We're going to the bottom of the sea in "Pokemon"? Okay, guys. That sounds great". Any other particular worlds? No, I think that is it. I've been having a lot of trouble with fantasy lately. Like, even books that I love. Like, I tried to pick up N.K. Jemisin's books, and I read the first few pages, and I'm like, "I know this is great, and I know it doesn't center on like white supremacist ideas and how much I love that. But like, I cannot learn a whole new world right now because the whole world is like in my brain". So it's like I really love modern worlds that have a twist on it. It's not magic realism because I know magic realism has very specific Spanish origins. And I appreciate that because I have family from Argentina and reading some of that in the English and Spanish is fun for me, but they call it "slipstream fiction" when like one thing is different in like a relatively modern world, they think about something that starts in magical realism like "an angel falls into a chicken coop" all the way to annihilation. How Florida is [like a] fucking jungle hellscape. And that's the entire range of slipstream. If you were making a triangle with like magic realism and annihilation on two of the points. The third point is like superheroes.
Got it, which you love.
I do. I really am a big fan of things that are outside of the DC/Marvel bicameral system, because all the Marvel things that we know is like really just reinforcing a lot of ideas about America and militarism and capitalism that like I'm not a big fan of. [While] DC cannot get out of their own fucking way for similar reasons, but it's less fun, somehow, like how did you manage to make it less fun? So I'm really enjoy books/comics/ video games -- or tabletop RPG, or whatever that deal in superhero tropes that are outside of that, that are pulling from Marvel and DC stuff. Like I really love "Masks", which is a really great tabletop RPG where you play teenage to young adult superheroes. And it's like the best game of forum following function. Like there are mechanics for guilt and for anger and for dealing with those feelings. But you can be like, "yeah, I throw five people out of a window". You can be like, "okay, great, you have super strength" [so] that's super easy. And like the mechanics in the forum following function are so wonderful. "The Regional Office is Under Attack" is a book like that, that I really love. I can give more recommendations. I'll put I can put them in the episode description if you'd like.
Yeah, that would be great. You have so many of these, and I love that. I love that there are games now that actively try to teach people how to work through complex emotions, like anger or anxiety -- things that I'm sure [are] relevant to a lot of people these days. And I feel like that's something that people don't talk about enough that there are positive consequences of playing video games because for so long, I heard people talking about the potential negative consequences of playing violent video games, for example, although I did hear that there was a study that came out recently that showed that that's like, not true, that there aren't strong ties between it.
I mean, that's just an American thing about like being desensitized to violence, you know, how you can show an explosion that kills 20 people, but if you see like a hint of a penis, it's like an R -- immediately. So that's more of an American thing than a video game thing. Also, something that I've been understanding from the large media corporation to the independent media corporation, [is that] video games, and tabletop RPGs, like Dungeons and Dragons, you can see that the triple A games are doing so much that they lose a lot of that nuance. And the bullshit, like cyberpunk already has a lot of like iffy sci-fi roots in that way [and] the way that they've dealt with trans-ness, and gender is really shitty in that game. But of course, like it's the most popular game out there. And I feel the same way about Dungeons and Dragons. Like I have my own game that I play and hacking things and playing other tabletop RPGs, But like, Wizards of the Coast has so many fucking problems, because they're a massive corporation owned by Hasbro. And they're very slow and they don't care about it because they have the bottom lines to think about. [And] I've talked about on Join the Party so much about the problems Wizards of the Coast has had. And, you know, I have this article coming out today while we're recording this, and I'm very nervous about coming out on Alma, which is about how there's innate anti-semitic problems in Dungeons and Dragons that they have never considered at all. Like, you can't just call everything that's a construct a "golem," you just can't. That's rude. That's very rude. Also, the lich was originally created by Gary Gygax, the original guy who made Dungeons and Dragons who was like so Christian, he didn't believe that you should celebrate Christmas because Jesus didn't.
That's like not a judgment on how religious you are. That's like your level of religiosity
That's very religious,
That's very religious, I want to make that very clear. But like he created the Lich, [and] as we might know, a Lich keeps your soul in a box or divides it [very] ala Horcrux [and] that's kind of what a Lich is, but the original place that a Lich put their souls in early editions of Dungeons and Dragons was pretty much just Jewish tefillin. They called it a "phylactery" to fill in for those of you don't know, religious Jews wear ceremonial boxes that have very important Jewish prayers stuff in it, and you wear it on your head and on your arm, and you wrap it on there. And like, that's the only time I've heard the word phylactery is like Christians talking about Jewish artifacts, you know, in that like exoticism of like the ruling class talking about a minority classes things? Like it's a tchotchke. It's Judaica in that way, but yeah. And a Litch was originally "evil" in [a] Jewish way, and you just can't do that. And there's a lot of other things like, of course, about fantasy racism, that inherent idea that being a race, even if you aren't, we're talking about the metaphor here of being the fantasy race gives you inherent bonuses or deficits. And like, That's not true. We did [un]prove[d] that with phonology, you can't continue that. You can't just do that. So there's a lot of that stuff tied together. But I think to your original point, smaller games, both video games and tabletop RPGs are exploring that because they're allowed to explore what the art form is that are not dictated by capitalism and reinforcing office culture and shit like that.
Yeah. Well, I hope it grows. I hope Wizards sees your article, and that there are only good consequences.
I sure hope so [but] that's hoping for too much. Either it gets popular and everyone sees it and you have to pay the tax of being hurt by bigots on the internet, or no one sees it and you don't have to do that. So you have one or the other, Moiya. Would you know anything about that being a black woman on the internet? Would you know?
I would know a little bit. All right, let's actually talk about some Pokemon now.
I was gonna explain to you what it's like being a minority on the internet, but yeah we [can] move on.
Yeah, I think we both got that covered. So, maybe let's just start from the beginning, which I know you've been researching a little bit. Where do Pokemon come from?
Okay, so I did do a little research on Pokemon cosmology here. And the first thing I want to start out with is Arceus, who is basically like, God.
Okay, which God?
There seems to be a divine creator in the Pokemon universe. Like it is a god of Pokemon in a very sort of like Jewish Christian, sort of way Old Testament thing to the wild thing about Pokemon and I think we're gonna get into this a lot is that this world has stretched over so many different games. And like, you just can't have that continuity. I don't think they have a big binder of Pokemon lore, I really think that it just builds on top of each other, which you can see from the Pokedex, like in every single game different Pokemon have different Pokedex entries, and I'm like, that's so interesting. They're just building on top of it, and they're letting it all exist, and they're not saying which one is canon or not.
So it's like layers of paper, instead of just making the paper longer and continuing to write on the same sheet?
Yes, exactly. This is like in the middle of the scroll, they're all writing on the same scroll. So this one is from Generation Four where we're introduced to Arceus, who is basically like a divine creator sort of god. So Arceus, hatched out of a cosmic egg out of nothing.
I love a cosmic egg cosmology.
Yes, because this is the Orphic Egg, which you might know from Greek mythology, [but] for those of you who didn't -- I didn't know it, so I looked it up. The orphic egg is from the Orphic tradition of ancient Greek mythology, was that the primordial hermaphroditic deity of Phanes/Protogonus, who was the first god that God created. [He's] Zeus, Eros, Pan, all those folk, and that's where, I guess [the] world started. He was an egg that's surrounded by a big snake -- which is wild. So I think that this is very similar and maybe that's part of where Pokemon was pulling from. But this didn't happen until Generation Four, we didn't learn about Arceus until Generation IV. So it's like they're backfilling the cosmology in this way. Okay. So Arceus is known as the original Pokemon and created all the other Pokemon. Whether or not that's true, or if there's some sort of like evolution happening at the same time, because there's another idea that Pokemon is actually a single species broken down into very specific subspecies. They've kind of started developing this in later editions, like in Sun and Moon, where they go to that Hawaiian region, the Alola region, and now they're kind of getting into it in Sword and Shield when they're doing their UK stuff is that there are regional variants of Pokemon. So there is an idea that nurture changes Pokemon, so it's entirely possible that Arceus, after they created all of the deities in a very Greek mythology sort of way, Pokemon started [like] Mew [who] was this very fungible Pokemon and then created other things. There's also in the Pokedex, [where] you can see that every Pokemon is the blank Pokemon. I don't know if that's a designation of species or if it's a designation of subspecies in the Pokedex.
Wait, so if they're all the same species, can you like interbreed any combination of Pokemon that you want?
You can interbreed them. When you take Pokemon to [a sort of] Poke[mon] nursery, but you can breed them together and then they create one or the other Pokemon, like you don't create new Pokemon. But this isn't like a horse-donkey situation which creates a mule and then the mule can't procreate. It just it creates either a horse or a donkey with better stats.
Yeah. But of course, all this stuff stacks on top of each other, because they didn't introduce this idea and like coming up with the best stats of your Pokemon for a little while, and they started developing it over games. So it's like they're backfilling and trying to make and make sense, like, there is no divine creator of Pokemon lore, you know? Okay, so I'm skipping a lot of stuff because I care a lot more about Generations One, Two, and Three, [because] I kind of fell off as Pokemon went to the 3DS. I was in college and playing Halo, and drinking with my friends. So I fell off a little bit there.
Yeah, so when Arceus created the universe -- Generation Three, "Ruby Sapphire" posited, that Kyogre the big whale thing -- one of those legendary Pokemon and Groudon the one that kind of looks like Godzilla, but red on the front of "Ruby and Sapphire, they are the legendary Pokemon. So Kyogre seems to be the creator of water and Groundon is the creator and protector of land and Groudon shaped all the land in Pokemon world.
That's a lot of work.
Yeah, well, it's very much like you know, again, pulling from Greek mythology, how deities have specific jobs and powers in that way. So it's like we have a water guy, we have a ground guy and then Rayquaza, who is kind of like a traditional Chinese dragon -- green and shaped and long in that way and serpentine -- is the protector of the skies. Arceus has also created like controllers of time and controllers of space. That is some later Pokemon shit that I'm not really aware of and is a little confusing to me, but just like in the creation myth, from the Torah, like creating water and then created ground and then the sky was also created -- which I find very interesting from there. And then there are some other things that are trying to fill in like the presence of humanity and the growth of society. They were a very specific eras, much like in our world. There's the Stone Age, the Bronze Age and the Iron Age, which are signified by the Reggie family of Pokemon. Where there's like a stone Reggie, sort of like this creation that's [a] rock type. [The] Regice represents the Ice Age in that way, and then Reggie steel, represents the Iron Age with Reggie rock representing the early Stone Age.
That's really cool.
It's ridiculous. Also then, Regigigas was introduced in Generation Four, which is a psychic type which created all the other Reggies. So there's like also other lore happening at the same time that's parallel, I guess it has to do with like, because it's a creation, they're constructs in this way, in the way that some Pokemon can be constructed -- shout out to Magnemite, who is literally a magnet with an eye on it, that there seems to be a different type of creator, not a divine creator, or at least more like humans making humans what we understand, like the Frankenstein myth. There's also a really interesting idea that writing was only developed 1,500 years before Generation Two which is totally wild, obviously. Like, you know, writing goes all the way back to Sumerian and Mesopotamia. And we're talking like 3400 - 3100 BC. Yeah, so like 5,000 years ago, but there's a type of Pokemon called Unknown and Unknown is the letter with the eye. And that supposedly, is the inspiration for the Pokemon language that they use. In the Pokemon world. They they saw these like, "oh, those are letters", and [then] turn that into a language only 1,500 years earlier, which is wild, like Jesus lived and died. And then 500 years, and then the Pokemon people saw unknowns and created a new language.
So is this supposed to be Earth or is it its own separate world?
I think it's Earth-esque.
Okay. But we're not supposed to map it onto like the history of Earth?
No, I don't think so. I think it is supposed to run parallel. It's very interesting, because all of the Pokemon places are inspired by different places around our world. So the first three generations are all different parts of Japan, I think also Generation Four, then there's one that's inspired by New York, then there's one that's inspired by Hawaii, that's the Alola region and the most recent one, the one that Sword and Shield is in is inspired by the United Kingdom.
I've watched my partner play that one.
Yes, Sword and Shield is great. It's very fun watching. So most Pokemon, especially in the earlier ones are inspired by Yokai -- shout out to Spirits Podcast -- but like a Japanese monster of folklore, because it's a Japanese game, and it stays within the Japanese region. But then it's very funny watching Japanese developers look at other places around the world and consider them like, "hey, where do you think the garbage Pokemon came from? Oh, when we're looking at New York"? Oh, very funny. Thank you.
Oh, we're gonna be talking about that garbage pokemon later, for sure.
I love that garbage friend. So it's very funny seeing like Japan, look at Hawaii, and then creating the Alola region and then looking at the United Kingdom and creating all of that, like, you know, that variant of Wheezing has a top hat and a mustache. And I'm like, "that's some funny shit".
Oh, it's good to see that they have a sense of humor.
I think they really do, and because you can put anything in the Pokemon game, it's silly. Again, looking at something through metaphor is sometimes more fun. This is also the part where they're also putting in some ideas about climate change. Like there's a coral Pokemon, but now it's ghost water. And it had its pale white to demonstrate that the coral reefs are dying.
Oh, good for them. I mean, not good for the coral reefs good for the game designers who are bringing attention to the destruction of the coral reefs.
Right. But then this is what I'm talking about in terms of the wildness of the worldbuilding. And we'll get to this in the second half of the episode. It's like, what is mythology? What is real? What do you actually care about? What is the messaging? Or is everyone at gamefreak just kind of fucking doing whatever, and then they throw it all together in the game. I think that's true. I think that's what's happening.
You don't think there's a big plan. I mean, like maybe originally, there wasn't a grand creator of the Pokemon lore, but you don't think they've since hired one?
Maybe I think that they are able to deal with it because each region is supposed to be very separate. There's a lot of islands in the Pokemon game. We're recording this as the new Pokemon Snap just got announced -- April 30th. My birthday is May 2nd, [and] that's all I'm gonna be doing that weekend. Let's go, but that's on a totally different region, which is called the Lental region, but it's a series of islands that have Pokemon that are incredibly photogenic. Sometimes the [pokemon] have this glow or something, which is something they're introducing. So I think that what they're doing is they're reinforcing the idea of nature and nurture, which I find very interesting and I love about the Pokemon world and where it's going, but every region feels very separate from each other. And I think that's kind of the excuse they're giving of why different Pokedexes are different, why there are regional forums and why there doesn't necessarily need to be continuity between the games, except for very tentative [explanations], like a Galapagos turtle needs to look like a North American turtle needs to look like an Asian turtle in that way.
Yeah, I really like this in my head. I don't know if they've said anything about the geology of the world and how the internal mechanisms of the Pokemon planet work. But in my head, I'm thinking that maybe it's just a very volcanically or tectonically active world where the plates are moving a lot, and so at some point, they were connected so that the animals or the Pokemon could travel to different places, but then they tore apart and now they're all very isolated, and they've had a long time to evolve separate from each other.
Yeah, I think that that's reinforced by the regional forums. Also Groundon, the earth creator is a fire type fire ground. So there is a lot of magma, there is a lot of talk of volcanoes because of the fire type pokemon -- Entei, you know the the fire dog from Gold and Silver, they really revolve a lot around volcanoes. So there is a lot of volcanic activity. You're right. There is a tradition of fossils in Pokemon, there are extinct Pokemon ones that you revive all the way back from the beginning, you had Kabuto and Kabutops [and] when you envision a fossil you think of like a Tyrannosaurus Rex. And you also think of like an imprint of like some sort of shelled creature.
Like the trilobite. Is that what that is?
Trilobite? Yes. I said, Headcrab because I'm a fucking nerd. Yes, that's exactly what I'm talking about. And there is a long tradition of reviving fossils in Pokemon Sword and Shield, there are four dinosaur pokemon you can revive. But if you put different ones together in strange ways, it points to how the U.K. loves just putting random shit together and calling it a dinosaur. Even it doesn't necessarily fit. There's like this museum scandal about how they just put things together. So they're pointing out a tradition of Anglo Saxon fucking archaeology, which is very funny.
I love that. And you said they also do their own science? They're studying the pokemon.
Yes. So I think this is going to be a great tie in to our second half or two, where we talked about the pokedex. The entire premise, and I want to talk to you about this is a an observation thing, like the scientific method that I would love to ask you about is the whole point of Pokemon is that there are professors all over these regions that study Pokemon, Professor Oak, and all their other tree brethren. Right?
Are they all named after trees?
They are all named after trees. Yes.
Oh, I love that.
It's very cute.
The Tree of Knowledge. They hold the knowledge.
Oh, shit, I didn't even think of that. Moiya. Thank you. That's why we come on Exolore. So the professors are in their lab, they have stuff to do, they can't leave. The pokedexes isn't filled out until you the player go out and fill it right. But that presupposes that professors are giving pokedexes to 10 year olds, and telling 10 year olds to go out and observe the natural world; and then what they write in think are then put into the pokedexes. I don't know if there is any sort of cross evaluation, it seems like you see it, you write it down, it's in the pokedex because as soon as you see a Pokemon, it reveals itself to you in the video game. This is different than the anime, where it seems like the pokedex already has information and shows it to you, but I want to ask: hey, Moiya is science collected by 10 year olds and then not studied. And that's just taken as fact?
Okay, so the closest thing I can think of to this is a type of citizen science project. And that's citizen of the world, not of any single country or polity. But the idea is that you can create these mass stores of data available to people who just want experience playing with data. And one of the ones I'm most familiar with is Zooniverse. And it's like a game where you can look at galaxies at different shapes, like they've taken pictures of different galaxies. And the idea is that we want people to categorize them by their shape. And it's since grown. It's not just astronomy, it's all sorts of different disciplines that you can play around with on zooniverse. But I'm sure that there are a lot of 10 year olds doing that. And we are not just just taking it and saying, "all right, the science is done now", but the idea is that if you get enough 10 year olds doing this, you can amass lots of data and go through and find averages and get an idea of the trends of the data as an ensemble.
Yes, I love that. It's like, "here is data, figure out what to do with it after you put rigor on it". But it seems like because this is an ecology project or a zoology project, it's just taken as fact. It's like you take a bunch of fifth graders and you bring them to the zoo, and be like, "hey, look at this gorilla, and whatever you say, we're gonna put it in a paper -- whatever you think this gorilla is doing or whatever ideas". It's [like a] reverse observation and then hypothesis, like, "this thing is so strong". "Well, how strong is it"? "Well, it looks like it can punch a lot, and its punches are very strong". Like, "okay, that's a fucking jump is greater. But thanks for telling me".
There's no way that they take the words of individual fifth graders or their observations and say, "alright, this one fifth grader is right", they must collect them.
Well, I'm not sure because the whole point of Pokemon is that you as a child have so much validity, and you're so important to these pokemon science and ecosystem[s]. So there's this idea [and] we're going to talk about the Pokedex entries, and how ridiculous they are. But there's an idea that Pokedex entries are written by you the player -- the 10 year olds, and that's why it looks like that. In one of the Pokedex entries, it says that Magickarp when it does "splash", can jump over a mountain.
Okay, that's a lot.
That's very high. That is 3,000 feet in the air. So we have a few different avenues here. One, that's true, we take that as fact. Two, there is a lot of mythology in Pokemon like you said a lot of Pokemon are inspired by Japanese mythology. Magikarp comes from a myth where there are these fish that can jump very high in the air; and then that's why Magikarp turns into Gyarados. It goes into a magic lake and turns into a dragon. It's [then] entirely possible that the mythology that they're pulling from, is that this fish can jump very high in the air. The third presupposes that this 10 year old saw this a Magikarp jump 10, 15, 20 feet in the air [cause that's] totally plausible, and said, "wow, I bet it can jump over a mountain". Magikarp when it uses "splash" can jump over a mountain -- it's in the Pokedex.
When you interact with other players in Pokemon games, can you compare your Pokedexes? Are they identical?
No, [and that's] the thing. You as the player, it seems to be the trainer. You are the main character, it's about your growth so it doesn't seem like the other people around you -- at least in the earlier games [not] in the later games [where] you run into other trainers that are doing this [probably not] on some sort of scientific discovery; but no, your Pokedex is no different than the other Pokedexes in the region.
That is fascinating. I just watched the episode of Stargate SG-1 where they go to Orban, which I think [at] this point is my favorite Stargate world that they've gone to. And on Orban, they have these young children. They're called "Urrone", who have a lot of like little nano machines in their brains to make them super smart. And they just gather a lot of knowledge, but they're very young. So I am imagining something similar is going on in Pokemon.
That's my head cannon now.
It's definitely possible, and we talked earlier [about the fact that] this is a game; and when we're talking about games with video games and tabletop RPG is there is the push and pull of the game and the world like this is the difference between worldbuilding in a game and worldbuilding in a novel or a movie that is static. But of course this needs to be interacted with, and it still needs to be fun. So the first player problem then presupposes a lot of unscientific methodology. And of course, like people love examining Pokemon and poking holes in this, like the research I did for this was very easy. I have my resources. I looked at like two articles and a YouTube video. And I know all of this, so there's a lot of holes that can be looked at just because it's a video game. And that's the video game problem of worldbuilding.
Yeah, so true. All right, I have a few questions that I want to get to before we wrap up the first half of this episode.
And you're welcomed to tell me that they're dumb questions.
No, totally fine.
All right. So my first one is what's it like inside a pokeball? Is it sad? Is it like a house and they just get shrunken down, like what's happening in there?
I don't know for sure. It doesn't squish the pokemon in there, it seems they turn into some sort of red light as [we] see in the anime, and then disappears in there. So there must be some sort of idea of an essence going inside of there. Something I did figure out was that the pokeball seems to be an outgrowth of natural world. There are a bunch of pokemon that resemble pokeballs, like Voltorb, for example, and there's a mushroom pokemon, that their top of their head looks like a pokeball. So there must be some sort of natural markings, much like you know how those moths look like allies like that marking must be some sort of natural thing. [There] is also an idea that the pokeball was in fact invented, but they hollowed out an apricorn, which was like one of the berries that are introduced in one of the different games. So there seems to be some sort of like natural version of a pokeball that turns into the mechanical pokeball [that] we know about it. So there seems to be a tradition of being able to capture It feels like a white space to me, but of course, you've seen there's plenty of artists renderings that it's a real house in there. For D&D players out there, I wonder if it's like a pocket dimension, maybe like, you know, like one of those huts you might go into that have like some sort of space inside of that. It seems to me natural. I know that's not a direct answer to your question, but it seems to be fine and good.
That helps. I have always pictured it as the lamp from "I Dream of Jeannie", and how it's just like a nice little cozy cushiony paradise in there.
Absolutely. I'd like to imagine that's what it is. But I bet it's like a metaphorical blank space.
Well, hopefully they can just make it whatever they want.
We can because it's in our head cannon. We can do it in our head cannon.
That's the most important thing to me because I don't play the game so I don't have to be confronted by any other cannon.
Why do they fight each other? And why do they follow trainers instructions?
Great question. So according to more generation 4 lore, it seems that humans and Pokemon were once considered to be the exact [same] species to the point that humans could even marry pokemon apparently, which apparently, is what Ash's mom is doing with a Mr. Mime. Who knows?
I've seen those Tumblr posts.
Yeah, this also presupposes that Mew is [a] common ancestor for all pokemon and all humans. I don't know if that's necessarily true, but this seems to be like some backfield mythology. Yeah, there isn't like biological overlap, but it seems like all shared life has the same ancestor. And maybe that's why there's a human-pokemon connection. Unfortunately, it's the tenant of the game like Pokemon fight for our enjoyment, but maybe it's fine? I don't know. I mean it's animals fighting like that is ultimately what it comes down to. But again, that was the tradition of RPGs -- monsters fighting. This started in 1997, [as the idea of] ,"what can you put on a Gameboy that's turn-based"? It kind of makes sense to me.
Yeah, I mean, it absolutely makes sense in the context in which it was created. But when you remove yourself from that context, it's young children in like animal fight rings. That's what it is. [and that's] kind of terrifying when you abstract it to that.
No, you're 100% true. Unfortunately, the other people who examine this was PETA, who has so many of their own problems, they made like a game that really focused in on the fact that it was animals fighting, and then Nintendo sued them for ripping off their IP and Nintendo, which is very funny. Finally, Nintendo being litigious actually worked out pretty okay. I did not know I knew this much shit about Pokemon, Moiya. It's like a fucking magician's hat, I keep pulling out handkerchiefs.
Alright, let's see if you can pull out one more. Why haven't pokemon taken over the world? Because they are powerful. There are a lot of them. The movie, "Detective Pikachu" makes me think that they're at least as smart as humans were when we kind of started taking over the planet. I mean, there's a Snorlax acting as a crossing guard, which like requires brain power. And so why aren't they in control of everything?
I think this is just the fantasy creation that humans are smarter, [and] have the ability to create [better] societ[ies]. The "Detective Pikachu" thing is like the humans had to level with the pokemon and they had to live together. So I think you're right in that way, but their pocket monsters. The humans will always have control. I mean, yes, you're right. The pokemon are incredibly powerful, and it's like they don't know their own strength because they are animals in this way. They're monsters. I mean, this is the whole thing that Mewtwo supposes who is a scientifically genetically created pokemon who can speak English, which is like pokemon have been mistreated by humans. 100% true. Pokemon can rise up -- they're the ones with psychic powers, right? They have a flame thrower in their mouth. They can do solar beam like you're right. The answer is I don't know, it has to function for the game to work.
Okay, well, if you had to choose a pokemon species, or subspecies that would take over the world that's not Mewtwo, which one do you think it would be?
A lot of these legendary pokemon are incredibly powerful; [but if] we're talking about a divine creator and it does come out in this Christian idea of what God is, benevolent Jesus and omnipresent but moved back from the world the Holy Spirit and [that's] capital G, God that like they don't meddle in that way. So I think that if any of the legendary pokemon is from the birds to the dogs, to the any of the controllers have a literal time, space and power, they would, but they are mythological in the way that all like dragons are mythological in some sort of way. They're just like, they exist. They're not trying to defeat anyone. They are just powerful and can be put together. But humans are meddlers and want power. Pokemon, I don't think necessarily want power, because they're not humans. They're only animals, so they do not want and feel the same way that we do.
That was a very nice non-answer to the question. It sounds sassy, but no, I think it's fair. My question assumed that they would want to and that's not a fair assumption.
Yeah, I think that there's a lot that goes into this cosmology. I've been thinking a lot about this because like, here's the thing. The term Judeo Christian is not true. It's not a real thing. Jewish thought and Christian thought are totally different, [as well as] our idea of what God is. The only things we share is the creation myth, when the Christians tried to remix our Jewish shit.
That was horrible. Oh my god, I just lost all cool points.
It's totally fine. I only listen to the to the old shit, I don't care about any of the new shit.