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Realism in Pokemon Fiction, My Thoughts

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So I'm still playing around with this. And people who have read my posts in the forum know that I found Pokemon through the anime, have never played the games, and I am focused on story. I like that. I like characters and the world. And I have stated many times the need when writing fiction based on a game franchise to try and translate game mechanics into story elements. I call it game logic vs story logic. Look up the fanfic The Idiosyncrasies of Kingdom Hearts for humorous examples.

And along with that, I tend to try and apply realism to the world of Pokemon, as my previous blog may have demonstrated. And yes, I know Pokemon is a fantastical fandom, with magic. But Pokemon is also a place of science, and the addition of realism doesn't necessarily hurt the setting. In fact, realism can make it better. Comparing real world animals and real world things to Pokemon can help elaborate details about the Pokemon world and make it more rich, more alive. It can create a world you can believe exists, simply by exploring some of the ideas.

The anime itself tried to work with this idea a few times, although its ability to separate a story and just be an advertisement for a game vary. And besides, other things can add in some realism and still be fantastic. For example, Dragonology. It proposes a world where dragons (and magic) are real, and tries to scientifically study these fantastic creatures we know as dragons. And it is great. Dragons lose none of their wonder and majesty. You just need to know where to work and what things to pass off through Willing Suspension of Disbelief.

The Fanon Pokedex on TV Tropes does the same thing, and it is fascinating, even if I don't agree with all of the ideas they propose. For example, they go with the breeding conventions created in the game. I don't. I feel it is more of a game mechanic and can't be applied in full in a story. I mean seriously...a Skitty and a Wailord?

They take the idea that Pokemon are real flesh and blood animals (the basic premise, which is perhaps forgotten at times, and separates them from Digimon), and run with it. They treat them like real animals, and work with that. They even started defining the characteristics of different types, and explaining how they work. I like that best. Trying to work that out can create more interesting battles and fiction.

Now let's look at the opposite, treating Pokemon fanfic too much like the game. Interpretations of game mechanics can have a Your Mileage May Vary element, and some fics want to mirror the game for various reasons, but there are certain things that don't work.

For example, my pet peeve: Giving Pokemon in fanfic (or the anime or any other story medium) levels. I cannot express how much I hate that. There was a time when I was looking for good Ash and Misty fanfics (yes, I ship them). I found one that was long, and was well written. The descriptions were good. The scenario was good. It was dark in a good way, explored the feelings of our characters, and was starting up a plot about genetically modifying Pokemon to win (like giving a Hypno body builder muscles or a Ninetales with ten tails). It was well structured and paced too.

But I stopped reading it after a few chapters because of one reason. The story had a character say that Pikachu's level was 88. With all due respect to the author, that was a terrible thing to put in. Pokemon in fiction do not have levels. "Levels" as we use them here, are a statistic and construct created for a game, specifically an RPG. Levels help quantify things like growth and experience, and help control access to new abilities. They make the game easier to understand and play.

But again, the premise of Pokemon is that these monsters are made of flesh and blood, not data like Digimon (except Porygon of course). Pokemon have personalities, they feel, they think on the same level we do. They get hurt, they get hungry, they grow old, they DIE. The anime has provided examples of aging Pokemon, and of sickness, disease, and even genetic defects. Tell me, do you have a level? Does any living animal or plant have a level like an RPG character? No, they don't. That's because a body cannot be quantified like data. Even Porygon would not have "levels" because it was not designed with games in mind, and "levels" only make sense in that context.

Pikachu is not data. But if Pikachu has a level, then it is data. If it is data, like in a game, then it is just a game sprite and has no feelings or will of its own. And thus, neither does anybody else. Everyone in the story is a puppet of a player, nothing but empty shells. If they are shells, why should I care what happens to them? Why should I invest my emotions and interest in them? The story is broken, and misses the point of fiction.

Now to be fair, the anime has screwed up and used levels in the wrong context, like the early "School of Hard Knocks" episode. But most of their use of the word "level" can be taken as a metaphor since they don't usually attach numbers to it. And The Electric Tales of Pikachu manga also messed up when Ash, upon using his Pokedex on the injured Pikachu (like a scanner?) screams, that Pikachu's HP is almost 0. Tell me, if you are hurt and bleeding, do your friends scream about the state of your HP? No, because you aren't a game character, and it sounds stupid. The point of fiction is to make us suspend our disbelief and pretend for a while that the world and characters are real. But there's a limit to how much you can ask someone to suspend their disbelief.

And I think that marks the end of my thoughts. I hope someone found this interesting. I'm just playing around with this right now really, and it's not much different than what I've stated on the forum here and there.

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  1. Murkmire's Avatar
    I really like this. I've started writing recently, and want to use a touch of realism in them. In my first Pokemon fanfic, of course. I feel that Pokemon, in a realm of realism, would evolve not only as a result of "experience" gained through battles, but inner strength as well.

    I'm not sure how to describe it. But, I suppose it would come close to, say, in the anime. More specifically, the episode Dig those Diglett. Ekans and Koffing had practically NO experience, but evolved for their trainers. It may be silly, but I feel that realism is applied here, in the sense of a Pokemon's evolution, and can be effectively written this way.

    At least, that's what I think. ;P
  2. reynard's Avatar
    Oh no it's not silly at all. In fact I agree. Pokemon can definitely evolve through willpower and urgency. I remember Ash's Chikorita evolved that way, and probably a lot more Pokemon I can't think of. Though I remember that episode from the dub, and Meowth said "their time to evolve just happens to be now." Evolution also seems to be a Pokemon's way of growing up, passing into their adult body stages, so that's something to keep in mind too.
  3. Skittypaws's Avatar
    This is good for me, since I am writing a fanfiction on Max and a Sceptile known as Napoleon. You can find it in fanfiction if you want.


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