Just like every other twenty-something, I spent the majority of my spare time last year wondering around my neighborhood trying to catch Pokemon on my phone thanks to the creation of Pokemon Go!. I grew up playing these games and this mobile game allowed me a chance to achieve a dream that I have had since I was 8: To become a Pokemon master! However as I grew up, I noticed that some people had problems with Pokemon, claiming that it promoted and glorified animal cruelty to children.
Pokemon vs PETA
In 2012 People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) released a satirical version of Pokémon titled ‘Pokémon Black and Blue’, an online game where you rescue Pokemon from real life animal abuse situations. PETA have been known for their shock tactics when it comes to animal rights, from campaigning against cosmetic testing on animals to using fur in the fashion industry. PETA have stated for some time that Pokemon, while they accept it is fictitious, creates a rosy pictures of things that are actually abusive. They have stated that confining Pokemon to their Pokeballs mirrors the housing of animals in factory farms, and the use of Pokemon to fight each other mirrors the animals used in fighting arenas for money. While this may seem a stretch to some, there are some similarities and it can be easy to see why PETA feel the way they do about Pokemon.
It is clear that the creation of the satirical Pokemon games is an infringement on Nintendo’s copyright. Yet why are PETA doing it? Copyright infringement is a crime because of the risk that the infringed work could have negative effects on the original brand itself: A cheap rip-off has none of the insurance or the quality of the original and for members of the pubic who can not tell the difference this can be highly problematic. Yet with PETA, this is exactly what they wish to do to Nintendo. It could be argued that PETA want to associate the Ninetendo company with games that glorify and promote animal cruelty in hopes that this will deter people away from the brand entirely. But does a company as large and successful as Nintendo really care?
Chikorita vs Charizard….The new David and Goliath?
However, the release of the newest Pokemon game installment, Pokemon Sun and Moon, actually addresses PETA’s concerns in a subtle but effective manner. During the newest game, you are accompanied for some of the main story line by a young girl named Lillie, who states on numerous occasions that she does not wish to fight Pokemon as she doesn’t want to see them getting hurt. There is also evidence of different professions within the Pokemon world, with some scientists stating that they wish to only encounter Pokemon in order to record their discovery, and also other NPC (non playable characters) who state that they want to become a Pokemon Carer rather than a Pokemon Trainer. it would appear that Nintendo are taking heed of PETA’s campaigns and are trying to create a game that allows the player a choice of how they interact with the Pokemon rather than simply being about Trainer progression. This could be seen as an effective new step against copyright infringement, as it shows the original brand acknowledging the infringed work and, to some extent, even taking on board some of their ideas and concerns in order to produce a product that will now appeal to a wider audience than the original one did. In this sense, it is practically free labor, as the developers have had to do very little research to find out what issues the general public have with their game. It may not be much, but it is a step in the right direction for Nintendo to try and get PETA to leave them alone.
Should the law step in?
When it comes to Pokemon it would appear that a line needs to be carefully drawn: While there is no evidence to suggest that Pokemon players actually commit acts of animal cruelty, the generic theme of the game does very clearly promote using ‘animals’ as ‘weapons’. On the other hand, it could be seen as condescending to assume that players are simply going to repeat actions in a game simply because the game allows for it in the story. This issue can be linked closely to the issue discussed in the previous blog post, ‘Video game censorship’. It would appear therefore that the law should only step in with the companies involved raise the issue in a legal setting: mediation could be the future for copyright infringement of video games, as a middle ground can be agreed between the two parties.
Pikachu and Eevee…they know how to reach an understanding