“Everyone’s smiles shine so brightly. Those smiles led us to so many other people. And those meetings will lead us to a bright future. I’m so glad I got to meet everyone. I’m so glad I got to meet you.”
I really love Pokémon Sun. It’s a sweet and gentle game that’s full of happiness. Everyone is kind to the player-character, and everyone helps her and wants her to succeed. There is no racism or sexism or homophobia, there is no war or poverty, and there is no animal cruelty. There is an overt critique of capitalism, but it’s very gentle, and the real-world history of human migration to Hawai’i is treated respectfully as well.
There’s a famous quote from Slavoj Zizek that goes, “It’s much easier to imagine the end of all life on earth than a much more modest radical change in capitalism,” but the dude obviously never played any of the Pokémon games, which all function as beautiful interactive models of what a peaceful postcapitalist society might actually look like.
Money isn’t much more than a game token. Everyone’s needs are met, and there is no scarcity. Jobs pay well, leisure is abundant, and volunteerism is common. There is a state, but it only exists to provide basic services. The villains in the game are aberrations that have to be tolerated as a byproduct of the functioning of the local market system, which is driven by individual interests. Even in a postcapitalist system with no scarcity, some people will still insist on behaving according to capitalist ideology. These people will create problems for everyone else if someone doesn’t talk sense into them, but the organizations they lead can be challenged and overcome by individual members of society.
What I especially appreciate about Pokémon Sun is that it repeatedly emphasizes the message that everyone’s talents are valuable. Success is achieved through cooperation and mutual support, and the goal is not to “get stronger” but to develop one’s unique strengths. The player-character’s friend Lillie is a good example of this value system. She wants to get stronger at the beginning of the story, but gradually she finds the courage to resist the expectation (enforced by one of the game’s villains, who happens to be her gorgeous and fascinating mother) that there is an absolute standard to which she should aspire. That being said, Lillie isn’t content to “be herself,” as she acknowledges that change isn’t something to be afraid of, and at the end of the game she makes a firm decision to direct her own character evolution by setting her own challenges.
If you choose to play as the female protagonist, the relationship between this protagonist and Lillie is one of the most pure and perfect things I have ever seen in a mainstream game. I’m actually really surprised that Nintendo allowed this to happen, considering how gay it is.
It only took me about 45 hours to finish Pokémon Sun, but I spread it out over ten months because the world of the game is a surefire source of happiness and joy. Breath of the Wild, my other favorite game of 2017, was a lot of fun, but Pokémon Sun healed me.
The people who wrote the entries in the pokédex are complete savages, though. Some of that writing is dark, and whoever is responsible for it needs to reflect on their life choices and think about what they’ve done.
( Header image by P-Curlyart on Tumblr )
( The artist also has a lovely Moon+Lillie zine on Storenvy! )