I love the Pokemon games. They hit on so much I like in gaming. They’re turn-based RPGs, they feature adorable creatures, and they require an obsessive knowledge of an absurd fighting rubric to really succeed. They also feature game mechanics that reward “full clear” gameplay. You just have to catch’em all. You just have to.
PETA has long had problems with the Pokemon games. They believe that the games are a pastel illustration of animal abuse. You’re trapping wild animals and forcing them to fight until they’re severely injured for profit. They see parallels to dog fighting, exotic animal capture and breeding, and straight up physical, emotional, and psychological abuse.
In anticipation of Pokemon Black/White 2, PETA put out a strong satire of the game series to argue their perspective on Pokemon as exploitation. You play as Pikachu escaping from his trainer’s house. You are covered in bandages and not in great shape. Half of your moves are traditional physical attacks; the other half are methods of fighting against animal abuse.
As you progress in the game, you encounter more injured Pokemon and more archetypes from the series. The Nurse has abandoned the corporate system to protect wild Pokemon. Team Plamsa shows up and is praised for their Pokemon liberation efforts before revealing their sinister turn at the end of the last game.
If you’re going to make a politicized game, it better be an entertaining one. Otherwise, you’re going to lose your potential audience. PETA has succeeded in crafting a fun and thoughtful parody in Pokemon Black & Blue. It plays just like the highly addictive game series, only laser-focused on a particular social message.
It’s not an irrelevant or absurd notion, either. The goal of the game is capturing wild creatures for combat. The only way to catch them is to stalk them in their natural environment and beat them until they’re about to fall over from damage. Your game only stops momentarily when all the Pokemon on your active team can no longer fight.
Whether or not the real game actually reinforces this critique is beside the point. PETA has managed to produce a polished argument against the series in a format that appeals to the game’s fans. In coopting the format of the series they don’t like, PETA is able to make a stronger argument in favor of their view of the game.
I’ve embedded the full game below. It shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes to play through. Just a warning: some of the presents you receive are the graphic “Meet Your Meat” videos. You don’t have to open the gifts to keep playing.