I hope you enjoyed the Christmas break, whether a couple of days or multiple weeks. Personally I managed to squeeze in a little gaming time and come back with a small haul of new titles I'll struggle to find the time for.
One game I did find a little time for was #PokemonSunMoon, opening my copy of Moon last night. Yet something felt off, maybe it's the fact that it's been a long time since I played #Pokemon Yellow and I've merely grown up to be cynical, or maybe it's something much darker and insidious.
Are The People In 'Pokemon' Members Of A Brainwashed Cult?
I'm not talking about the swathe of Pokemon GO players who hounded the streets last summer, nor the dark Pokemon fan game Insurgence—which involves threats of murder, Pokemon mutation and human sacrifice—I'm talking about the darkness in every Pokemon game we know and love, and what I discovered first-hand in Pokemon Moon.
Warning: From this point onward, there will be mild spoilers for the opening of Pokemon Sun/Moon.
Sun/Moon revolves around your move to the Aloha region, an area made up of five islands with a man-made island in the center. Each of the natural islands has a guardian deity known as a tapu, a Pokemon revered by the islands inhabitants.
During the opening we communicate with Professor Kukui through a video feed, who eagerly welcomes us to the Island. Our topless professor maintains a positive outlook throughout, with our young avatar almost idolizing the character as some sort of role model. Studies by Harvard and UC San Diego prove we replicate strong emotions around us; simply knowing someone who's happy will boost your happiness by 15%.
I'll give that the benefit of the doubt, since it's not uncommon for parents/guardians to reinforce how much a child will prefer a life in a new city or area. However, there's something sinister in the way the people of Aloha interact with the player that feels unnatural.
They have an incredibly high level of dependency on their Pokemon, a theme common throughout the franchise. It's not uncommon to see people talk about the marvels or trading or battling, about how Pokemon are their closest companions or how a new feature related to Pokemon is changing their world.
This all happens during your journey to get a Pokemon in Sun/Moon—no longer a simple trip to visit the professor—and where our journey down the rabbit hole begins.
Long Live The Cult Of Pokemonality!
We can chock a lot of this up to chance—or my tinfoil hat level of paranoia—but the quest to get your first Pokemon seemed pretty sketchy to me.
Cults are made up primarily of normal people, so they recruit by preying on certain fears, like a feeling of isolation, most likely exhibited by someone who recently moved from Kanto. It's a weakness that sets a framework for us to be introduced to the cults enigmatic leader, the Kahuna, who would give us our first Pokemon, making us indebted to him.
Whilst heading to meet him, we're given a tour of the island, told how much better life will be with Pokemon, the new opportunities that will present themselves and witness other members battling.
Shortly after this we're tasked with searching for the Kahuna, but prevented from going back the way we came by Kukui. Instead, we take this opportunity to explore the town and talk with the residents, who jump at a chance to tell us how much happiness we will experience after owning a Pokemon.
With no way to backtrack home, the only option is to follow a girl heading up a mountain path. By "coincidence" her partner Pokemon escapes onto a bridge and is attacked. In what I can only surmise as blatant incompetence on her part, she refuses to rescue him.
Instead she tasks us with heading across the bridge, where we use our body as a human shield to protect the Pokemon and activating the trap. Cosmog blows the bridge and sends us both plummeting to our demise.
Or so you'd think...
We're conveniently saved by the island guardian and the damsel in distress hands us a 'Shining Stone' before escorting us back to the village to meet the man we've been looking for all along.
After searching the village from head to toe, I can attest that the Kahuna was not there, meaning he must have been on the path blocked by Kukui. Choose the word you will, but we were 'fated' or 'coerced' into meeting the blonde girl, who is revealed to be Kukui's assistant, Lillie.
The Kahuna remarks that it's odd for a guardian to interfere with the people's affairs, this altering the players sense of self and making him/her more integrated into the cult. Whatever we were before, we're a hero now, worthy of the guardian's attention.
Shortly after we're given the opportunity to select our companion Pokemon, further establishing the Kahuna as a leadership figure to be respected, someone we owe ourselves to. He also borrows the 'Shining Stone' promising to return it tomorrow, for what nefarious ends we've yet to find out.
Interestingly this cult displays a multi-tiered leadership structure, with both Kukui and Kahuna setting themselves up in positions of power and pulling strings behind the scenes.
Shortly after this we're introduced to our 'rival'—though the term hardly fits—Hau, who is related to the Kahuna and clearly indoctrinated. His goal is to ensure our continued induction without the need for constant interference from the leadership.
He starts immediately, challenging us to a Pokemon battle. Lillie bridges the gap between us by going against her personal mantra to watch us battle.
However, Hau clearly has no intentions of winning, using a Pokemon weak to my Popplio—the thing that looks sort of like a clown crossed with a seal—and providing me a financial reward upon my victory. After which I was told to return home and tell my mom the whole story: my achievements, closing the positive feedback loop for my induction, everything!
That's the point I turned off Pokemon Moon, but I'm relatively sure I've already been inducted into the Cult of Pokemonality—a phrase I'm sticking with. I'll keep you updated on my adventure from this point onward!
Do you think the people of Aloha are brainwashed? Is the entire world in a cult of Pokemon?
20 Years Brainwashed In The Cult Of Pokemon!
(Image Credit: TheOnlyIntegral)