About two weeks ago, this happened.
In case you’re feeling finger lazy today, the link leads to PETA’s (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) latest attempt at rallying the masses against animal abuse, an absolutely excellent and necessary cause mind you.
It’s an embedded game on their site called…
wait for it.
“Pokemon, Black and Blue” …clever right?! The goal of said game is for the player to “Help Pikachu and his Pokemon friends as they struggle for Pokemon liberation!”
AND furthermore, from the official PETA press release:
“Games such as Pokémon send kids the wrong message that exploiting and abusing those who are defenseless is acceptable when it’s not,” says PETA Director of Marketing Innovations Joel Bartlett. “But with Pokémon Black and Blue, children can experience the great feeling that comes from saving others from harm.”
OOoooook. So I realize this connects much more intensely with my generation than perhaps others, but there is a big BIG issue here for everyone.
This is a serious game.
It was made to deliberately address a very serious and prominent real world issue.
It was made to be “educational”.
It was made. Period. And while this last piece of “being made” doesn’t qualify it as a serious game like the two above, it’s the most alarming part here. Time and time again people throw back to “with great power comes great responsibility” when talking about the future of serious games. Well folks, I really didn’t expect it to come from PETA, to be honest I expected it to come from Wall Mart or Apple, a big profit driven corporation, but this is a serious game used wrongly none the less.
Now, before we move any further here, let’s quickly debunk any semblance of truth about what this game (and PETA) is claiming. I grew up watching and playing Pokemon, and for many reasons I can honestly, whole-heatedly say doing both made me a better person, for the exact opposite reasons PETA states. Countless times I would run desperately through a forest to get my Pokemon safely to the next town’s Nurse Joy. Countless times I would make in-game special food and treats for my precious little pixelated friends. Countless times I ran headlong into bad guy lairs to save other Pokemon in harms way. Everything in those damn games is about saving Pokemon and helping humans live in harmony with their Pokemon friends.
How does PETA portray this?
And frankly, the number of Pokemon gifs I just found in the last 20 seconds of searching which show Pokemon snugling/playing/frolicking/loving people, and people returning those feelings.. it’s like over 50.
So whatever. PETA is lying about fictional relationships between mutant animals and people.
OH WAIT. An entire generation *raises hand* loves these creatures more intensely than the burning core of the Sun. Pokemon, for many of us, is like purified childhood in a bottle.
And herein is the danger PETA unleashes upon its self, and the animals it cares about helping. Until seeing this, I was another teen that doesn’t know much about PETA. I knew what they stood for, and I have three pets I wouldn’t want to suffer so PETA seems like a legit cause, but I also knew they have an occasionally radical way of doing things. By trying to reach out deliberately to me and my fellow millennials (alternatively called the Pokemon generation) with this game, PETA has thoroughly alienated me. By creating a tool that can so widely reach and preach as this game does, many MANY others who love Pokemon, and what Pokemon are all about, will lose even more regard for PETA (as multiple reddit threads spreading the game revealed). They used a game irresponsibly, and are hurting their own cause for it. They send the message that animal rights advocates are a little bit psycho and more than a little bit out of touch. This, in turn, can effect popular support for other legitimate animal rights pursuits PETA carries out, marginalizing their voice and ability to actually do good even more, as well as potentially dragging other lesser known advocacy groups down with it.
tl-dr: Fighting animal abuse IS important, but when you jump on the crazy train you can’t expect everyone else to follow, and you can’t expect to get far without anyone else riding your train. And dammit, this will NOT be the future of serious games. (I don’t really think it will, but still).
And just for kicks..