Games and Learning

Gotta catch ’em all!

I was introduced to Pokémon when I was dating my now husband. He bought me a Nintendo DS as a Valentine’s day gift and lent me one of his Pokémon games to try. I was instantly hooked. We bought every Pokémon game that came out from that day until about 2011. In spirit of Pokémon’s 20th anniversary (February 27, 2016) I am playing Pokémon Alpha Sapphire on a Nintendo 3DS for this cycle’s play journal.

This game is mostly played in a one-player mode. There is a multi-player mode, but because of time constraints I did not get to explore this option before writing this play journal. In past Pokémon games that I’ve played you eventually have the option to play your friends, which can be really fun. This game is only available on the Nintendo 3DS console. I played alone, mostly sitting on my couch in my living room, in the evening after I put my son to bed.

Immediately when you start the game you choose your character: Boy or Girl. I chose the girl character, mostly because of this week’s reading topic. You are introduced to the world of Pokémon and acquire a starting Pokémon from the professor. All Pokémon games start in a similar fashion. You also receive a Pokédex, in which you are told you go out into the world and study Pokémon by battling and catching them. This is where the catchphrase “Gotta catch ‘em all” comes from, you are instructed to complete your Pokédex. There are other quests in the game including earning “Gym Badges” and battling other AI Pokémon trainers (which is how you obtain money). Because of my own stubbornness I probably spent too much time getting all the Pokémon in a specific area. This game had something new that others didn’t, it lets you know when you’ve acquired all the Pokémon on a certain route. I could not continue until I caught them all.

Even though this game is directed at a young audience it is complex. There are different type of Pokémon (normal, fight, flying, poison, ground, rock, bug, ghost, steel, fire, water, grass, electric, psychic, ice, dragon, dark and fairy), and they all interact differently. In the game, your Pokémon battle other Pokémon. Some are weak to others, for example: fire is weak to water. This seems rather obvious, but in some instances it is more complicated such as: dragon is weak to ice. It takes a lot of practice, and perhaps a Pokémon type chart close at hand to develop the best Pokémon team.

Example Pokémon type chart
Example Pokémon type chart

This game allows for some surprising creativity. You get to name every character you play (main character and Pokémon), and your Pokémon team can consist of any Pokémon that you have acquired (there is a limit of 6 Pokémon that you can carry at a time). I would be nice to be able to carry more than 6, but I understand that if you could the game would get significantly easier.

While playing the game I remained cognizant of how female characters were being portrayed. Immediately from the start I saw a difference. When picking your main character, you can pick the boy or the girl. The boy is dressed in long pants, short sleeve t-shirt and a hat. The girl is dressed in shorts, a tank top and a bow on her head, she also seems to have developed breasts even tho she is supposedly a child (age 10). I can forgive the boy, but it was obvious that the game designers felt like the girl character needed to be showing more skin / sexuality than the boy. I took notice, but didn’t feel like it was a huge difference. As I continued to play the game however, I noticed that the female non-playable characters were all wearing short skirts, while the male non-playable characters wore long pants. There was no difference between the male and female Pokémon. My questions are: Why are we teaching young children that this is the main difference between boys and girls? Why is it not ok for girls to be covered up in video games, and why is this so obvious in a game directed at such a young audience? Have we become so complacent that this is the norm and we just don’t notice anymore?

About Lisa

3 comments

  1. Hi Lisa – I have not played any of the Pokemon games before, although I have seen episodes of the show in the late 90s (I was a fan of Jigglypuff). It’s strange to me how often, even in fairly gender-neutral games, there is still usually a big difference in clothing for male versus female characters. It actually reminds me of shopping for baby clothes early on (before knowing the gender) and how many “regular” stores had really over-the-top selections for baby girls – I don’t really get putting a baby in a faux-leather mini skirt and crop top! I guess that makes me feel better about the Pokemon game, since at least it sounds more reflective of how people in general see girls’ clothes versus boys’ clothes, but it’s more disturbing to reflect that this is some sort of cultural expectation, even at a young age. It would be nice if you could choose which outfit your character wears too:)

    1. Funny that you have watched the TV show, and never played the game, and I have never watched the TV show!

      I completely agree with the baby clothes thing. We didn’t know the sex of our baby before he was born and it was really difficult to find clothes / bedding / anything really that wasn’t gender specific. I even made my own curtains and bed skirt because I couldn’t find anything I like. Plus I (well my mom) painted the room bright green with an accent wall of bright purple and everyone thought I was having a girl! Turned out to be a boy and he LOVES his bedroom.

      Some games do allow for choice in outfits for your characters. But it’s often barely covering anything for women. Tell me now, how effective is a suit of armor if it only covers your genitals, rear-end and chest? Seems to me like there’s still a lot of weak spots unprotected!

      1. Yeah, I think one might as well shed the weight and go straight for the “in the buff” warrior with that much hanging out in the open already!

        Love the purple and green room:)

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