What does the long run maintain? In our new collection “Imagining the Subsequent Future,” Polygon explores the brand new period of science fiction — in films, books, TV, video games, and past — to see how storytellers and innovators are imagining the following 10, 20, 50, or 100 years throughout a second of maximum uncertainty. Comply with alongside as we deep dive into the nice unknown.
In a manner, the Pokémon video video games are one thing of a science fiction thought experiment: What would a world just like ours appear like if it have been full of an ever-expanding menagerie of fantastical creatures with all kinds of particular powers?
The reply, given nearly uniformly throughout eight generations of video games, is higher — even contemplating that the collection relentlessly glorifies what is actually cockfighting. (However Pokémon don’t die after they struggle, they simply faint, so it’s high quality, you see?) All of it comes down to 1 cause: these little pocket monsters are additionally renewable assets.
The economics and expertise in Pokémon video games are inextricably tied to Pokémon themselves, and it’s clear that the usage of the critters as pure assets is vital to the near-futuristic expertise utilized by gamers and NPCs alike all through the franchise. Simply have a look at every part Pokémon do within the background in Pokémon Crimson and Blue, the primary two video games within the franchise’s first technology. Floor-type and rock-type Pokémon are used to dig caves and mine for gold nuggets and fossils. Water-type Pokémon are used for journey throughout our bodies of water, and flying sorts are used for air journey from one city and metropolis to the following. Electrical Pokémon energy the whole Kanto area from the electrical plant. The record goes on.
In the latest iterations of the video games, Pokémon Sword and Protect, ground-type Pokémon proceed their mining work in plenty of mines throughout Galar. Additionally they help the area’s prepare conductors in protecting the railways operating. And a full-on taxi service composed of Corviknights — huge flying and metal–sort chicken Pokémon that appear like huge armored ravens — is offered to shutter the participant forwards and backwards between cities. No nasty fossil gas waste right here!
The results of this bounty of pure assets is threefold, manifesting within the preservation of each wildland and historic human settlements and a proliferation of cutting-edge built-in tech. The routes criss-crossing Kanto in Pokémon Crimson and Blue are footpaths and bike paths, with out a automobile to be discovered — though there are, admittedly, a handful of bikes. All of those routes are bordered by stretches of untamed grass, and caves full of wild Pokémon are ample. The area’s Viridian Forest is a lush woodland, whereas its Safari Zone is an unlimited nature protect.
In Sword and Protect, the bucolic nature of the world is much more pronounced. A large wild space makes up an enormous portion of the map and is full of gleaming fields, glowing lakes, and rolling hills, and is lower in two by a speeding river. Most of the cities are thoughtfully constructed into the encompassing environments — Turffield is an agrarian group, Hulbury is a captivating sea city, and Ballonlea is a forest hamlet like one thing out of a fairy story. Like Kanto, Galar has loads of cities along with sleepy villages, however these cities are, for essentially the most half, charming and Outdated World, explicitly walkable and incorporating historic buildings into their city design. They even have small companies, some regionally owned, along with the ever-present Poké Marts. This can be a universe that preserves its tradition and cherishes it, even because it advances.
And boy, is it superior. Each Pokémon sport has therapeutic stations in every Pokémon Middle, the place Pokémon enclosed in Pokéballs can immediately be restored to full well being. A PC system permits for practically infinite storage of Pokémon, which could be accessed from any pc terminal throughout the sport, and it’s synced to your Pokédex, a digital encyclopedia that routinely analyzes and catalogues any creatures you catch. Varied private computing applied sciences employed throughout completely different generations of video games additionally enable the participant to navigate the world through GPS, telecommunicate, and, in some variations of the sport, even entry Pokémon saved within the PC from the highway. Sword and Protect even have the equal of a motorized bike, powered by — in fact — a Pokémon. And as early as Crimson and Blue, cloning expertise existed on the planet of Pokémon together with teleportation, fossil resurrection expertise, and even a tool permitting the participant to speak with the useless.
It’s straightforward to think about the makes use of of such futuristic expertise in our personal world. How a lot cheaper, and extra accessible, would healthcare grow to be if immediate therapeutic expertise existed? Why would we have to pollute the earth with greenhouse gases if we might journey one place to the following through teleport? How good would it not be to have the ability to ship a fresh-baked loaf of bread to your buddy for his or her birthday with out having to interrupt quarantine? Hell, with all this tech, would we even want to be quarantining?
This isn’t to argue that the world of Pokémon is with out battle: Every sport has its villains — each story wants an opponent of 1 kind or one other, and any pure useful resource can theoretically be used for in poor health features — however for essentially the most half these villains are merely Pokémon thieves whose goals the participant is there to make sure go up in smoke, whether or not they’re utilizing fire-type Pokémon or not. (Though there’s the occasional basic take-over-the-world plot as properly.) That’s not stunning; wherever there’s a pure useful resource, there’s at all times somebody who desires to get their fingers on it, a technique or one other.
The idyllic futurism of the Pokémon franchise doesn’t at all times leap out at a participant upon a primary look. The world-building, like most good world-building, is immersive sufficient to be unobtrusive. It merely feels apparent that this world is successfully post-scarcity and its municipalities preserve a way of self whereas concurrently being fully interconnected. That’s what occurs, in any case, in a world the place assets are ample — and during which these assets are used resourcefully.
Admittedly, in our world, pure assets aren’t as straightforward to return by as they’re in video video games like these. If Pokémon weren’t able to coming out little child assets to replenish their inventory, it’s possible that Kanto, Galar, and the opposite areas on this universe would have troubles of their very own by way of sustaining their societies. However there are nonetheless classes to be realized right here. Individuals stay with, and cherish, their Pokémon neighbors and pets, even when they’re just a bit too eager on gathering and using them to beat up on different individuals’s pets. They respect their assets, and the world from which they’re derived. In consequence, that world stays near-pristine and stuffed with chance.