Pokemon- an underestimated teacher

When it comes to getting a message out people often dismiss the effects of ‘Gamerifying’. One of the biggest successes is, not was is, Pokemon. I’m going to let that sink in for a second. Yes, Pokemon was designed to explain the natural sciences in a fun way for kids. Unfortunately, the site that did this, Pokemon Learning League, appears to no longer be in existence.

Also in Pokemon’s home country; the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, has an interactive exhibition with all the roles played by various Pokemon to teach science across the board- have a read of this article from The Nerd Stash for more info.

Anyway, what I wanted to write about was what Pokemon has taught me, and probably countless of other kids, just through the games, animation, cards, and the design. You could say I’m a bit of a Pokemon geek…

You could say I like #Pokemon. #pikachu #pokemongo #imabitobsessed

A post shared by Frankie (@frandobagel) on Aug 4, 2016 at 11:32am PDT


And by extension adaptation!

Any n00b knows that the Pokemon along Route 1, Pallet Town to Viridian City, compared to say the Pokemon in Mount Moon (and beyond) are very different. Why? The environments are different.

You’re told specifically from the start that you find wild Pokemon in; long grass, caves, water, and abandoned buildings. Sounds familiar to real animals, no? From there you realise certain factors as well; fire Pokemon swarm around volcanoes, electric Pokemon are found mostly in or near electricity plants, and water Pokemon, surprisingly, are found in water. The Pokemon found in those locations are based on what would be found in the real life versions (more about that later).

As the games progress, even the time of day is taken into account. Nocturnal, diurnal, and even crepuscular “body clock” Pokemon are introduced. This not only reflects the true patterns of animals but makes the player work harder in finding them.

In the anime, and slightly touched upon in the game, is the concern for environmental protection. A good example within the anime is the first major episode about Grimer, the toxic slime Pokemon;

Standard Grimer image.

In Sparks Fly For Magnemite (episode 030 of the original Pokemon series) these little guys, being ordered on by their evolved form Muk, clog up an electric plant in a city causing a lot of discomfort for electric Pokemon and citizens of the area. It’s thought that because they let the pollution get so bad in the area it attracted the swarm of toxic slime Pokemon. A nice way of telling the watchers what could happen if you let pollution get out of hand. Have a watch;

Along the way, Pokemon variations were shown to be affected by area and also pollution. For example Burmy;

As you can see it has three variations, depending on where it last battled in the game; leaves, sand, trash within a city. The different variations also affect how it evolves and is considered to have the most complex evolution as it’s affected by both gender and environment.

Excerpt reads

On the lighter side, the newest location shows regional variations of more commonly known Pokemon- which is a more faithful example of actual evolution instead of what the game calls it (more explained below). The newest location is Alola looks to be based off Polynesia and is some what reflected in the Pokemon variations found there- read more at Bulbapedia! It’s the Pokemon version of Darwin’s finches, how the same species changes when they thrive in different locations.

Why is it important? Simple. The players start to learn this, that the habitat and environment affect what lives there.

It Not All Fiction

Pokemon are based on real animals, or in some cases myths. The reason that they represent things like adoption so well is that they’re based on animals who have adapted. Let us take Zubat for an example;

Image of Zubat
Zubat the most irritating Pokemon known.

Any player of the gamers will be familiar with him- especially in Mount Moon, very few steps.

Blatantly it’s based on a bat, and even the movesets sports “Supersonic” early on. Again harking to the above it’s only seen, in the early versions, in caves and dark places where bats would typically inhabit.

If you want to see a few more Pokemon based on real animals have a look through this Guff article.

It’s Not Evolving It’s Growing!

I also thought that the ‘evolution’ part of Pokemon wasn’t so accurate. The Pokemon aren’t evolving they’re growing up- again like animals in real life. It also introduces some important concepts to children as well.

The best example of this is the bug Pokemon, especially of caterpie and weedle. These Pokemon are closely based off of real life bugs, butterflies and wasps, and even include a metamorphosis stage within their ‘evolution’;

Misty wouldn't like this family reunion
It’s like a family tree ❤

Other interesting ones include the grass Pokemon who develop from seed and weed like beginnings to large powerful flowers. Other examples that show, to me at least, that it’s more Pokemon growing than evolving are the three step evolutions of the start Pokemon- Charmander (who is totes the best starter Pokemon);

Evolution of the best starter Poke
Charmander left, Charmeleon centre, and Charizard right.

As you can see he’s uber cute, a fire Pokemon based off of the salamander and it’s myth that it rose out of ashes and loved fire. Note the large adorable eyes, short snout and general baby looking features.

Say hello to Charmeleon at level 16, the teenager of group- if you watched the anime you’ll have seen how he was not keen on being given orders! You can see the traits that came from Charmander and how he’s developed in general before he hits level 36 and my favourite comes along.

Hellz yeah you’ve got a dragon! I mean Charizard. You can still see bits of Charmander and Charmeleon in there; colouring, eyes, the ‘horns’ etc.. There are also the typical ‘final form’ parts- like badass wings.

Have a look through Pokemon Database and see that there is an ongoing theme of this type of development with most of the evolutions.

Taxing Taxonomy

You may remember a Shakespeare Sunday where I wrote about taxonomy- the science of comparing and creating criteria to categorise animals, if not here is the link- but the Pokemon games all revolve around this- including Pokemon Go. At the start of each game you are introduced to a professor, and you’re told that you will work alongside them to research a principal. Most of the time people are too eager and don’t actually realise that there is a theory that the professor is looking into, so here is a compilation of them all.

Excerpt reads

At the start of each game, you are introduced to a professor, and you’re told that you will work alongside them to research a principal. Most of the time people are too eager and don’t actually realise that there is a theory that the professor is looking into, so here is a compilation of them all.

Name Region Area of Study
Professor Oak Kanto Pokemon/human relationship
Professor Elm Johto Breeding patterns and Pokemon interaction
Professor Birch Hoenn Habitats in correlation to humans
Professor Rowan Sinnoh Evolutionary patterns
Professor Juniper Unova Pokemon within mythology
Professor Sycamore Kalos “Mega-evolution” and how it happens
Professor Kukui Alola Pokemon moves and their effects
Professor Willow [unknown] [unknown]

There are more, but these are the major ones in the games, if you want to read up more about those who appear in the games and the anime- have a read here.

Now the Pokemon Professors in the games (and the animes) are the main instigator, they give the player (or characters) a Pokedex. Pokedexes (Pokedexi?) are given to trainers to gather information on the Pokemon they come across, not just for themselves but for the professors they’re working with.

The information gathered by the Pokedex is very similar to information you’d find in a spotter’s guide; general weight, height, alternative names (generally the Japanese name). Within Pokemon it also is assigned one or two types and in later games things like egg group, genders ratios, locations, abilities and so on.

This all introduces several things to the players, especially the younger ones. One, that they can contribute to scientific study; by studying creatures and relaying information to a scientific body or person, or just being observant. Secondly, it shows a way of doing research, but suggesting a principal and then gathering information to refute or confirm it. Thirdly, and most importantly, it shows a positive relationship to a professor, an expert in a field, as something that can be done- especially in a world where ignoring the ones with doctorates in the subject is becoming the norm.

How do you like your eggs?

As you may have seen from the above part about the professors the breeding theme of poking is there. It teaches, indirectly, about breeding and genetics- especially in the later games.

In the second wave of the games (Gold, Silver, & Crystal) you’re introduced to eggs by Professor Elm, and their incubation. By placing your Pokemon at the Daycare Centre after a few days the couple that run it “find” an egg and give it to you. You then have to walk around, a lot, to hatch it.

As eggs near hatching they 'move around' aka jump

Like many parts of the game, it starts off with the initial idea then progress into something with more depth. To begin with, you have to put two Pokemon of the same kind of different genders in (or a Ditto (yeah I’ve got a level 100 ditto who has never seen battle)) for an egg. In the later games, the Pokemon need to be from the same kind of egg group for them to breed.

It’s not just egg groups- oh no!

Pokemon you hatch from breeding can go on to inherit moves that they would not naturally learn or desirable hidden ability. In the third generation, Ruby and Sapphire, abilities were introduced to the game; these would give Pokemon advantages in battle or in other areas, and through breeding, you could get better ‘hidden’ abilities- in a similar way to how genes work. The desirable ability, or gene, could be bred into the Pokemon resulting in a stronger overall one.

Closing Thoughts

These are only a few of the ways Pokemon has explained things to me, one way or another, and imparted a message to me. There are few more- but I’d rather not natter too long. I’d really like to go into detail about the information on Pokemon cards- if you ever get the chance to buy a cheap booster pack do it and study the information on there. The game, like many other card games, is based on Magic The Gathering but the other information on there is wonderful and really creates a world.

Get in touch with your thoughts, suggestions and more! Please, comment below, connect with me on Facebook (/pixieteeth), find me on Insta or Tweet as @frandobagel, or email me at hellopixieteeth@gmail.com

9 thoughts on “Pokemon- an underestimated teacher

  1. I have heard a lot about the Charmander evolution from my son but never really understood anything. This is a detailed post about Pokemon which is helpful for someone like me who is totally unaware about the Pokemon world.

    Liked by 1 person

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