Pokemon – Where Robots and Animals Fuse

Not many are aware of this perhaps (or perhaps you are!) but almost every computer game we play is an application of robotic software technology. That is, the icons you see and maneuver are really program configurations with set parameters. It cannot go beyond those parameters simply because that is the limitation of its programming. Very often, in fact, ‘upgrading’ does not involve adding a new function to an existing entity, but rather simply replacing it in its entirety and downloading its memory from the game’s database.

The original Pokemon game, ported to Game Pokemon Radical Red ROM Boy as ‘Pocket Monsters’ was a fairly simple and standard ‘fighting bot’ game that became popular. The imagination is a funny thing. Geeks design and fight their ‘bots’ with a very strong ego: they designed the robot; they’re pitting their skill against their opponent’s. When a premise, or story, is put into a game that all changes. Pokemon are robots to be sure, but the user didn’t design them- computer game geeks did. So it becomes a fantasy world in which the object is to obtain the best Pokemon that one can using it ‘feature’ to the best of one’s ability. When losing, one can almost feel that the Pokemon let him down, was not strong enough, or whatever. He may blame himself partly, but not fully.

If the fantasy behind a game is strong enough, it can lead to spinoffs. Conversely, something that is popular like Ultraman can lead to a game. But games usually remain games and toys stay toys. Pokemon has seen very good spinoff (though it is not taking the world by storm) because of its intriguing concept. This is where the robot is left behind and the human imagination begins to reach out and explore.

The Pokemon card game is very popular with kids. You may not think that that has anything at all to do with robots, but if you let your logic go a little ‘fuzzy’ I think we can see robotic concepts in all life- that in fact machines were meant to replace things humans do and robot ‘humanizes’ the machine even more because of wider parameters. So we can speak of a baseball player as a robot (pitches this fast, had this many hits, weighs this much, is this tall, etc.) and trade cards. Similarly, we get the stats on a Pokemon and it’s rather like a robot. But that’s not so in the imagination. In the imagination it’s something alive. And if we do something to it like make it shiny (shiny raikon cards), it becomes even more valuable and alive.

But the bottom line truth to all computer games is that they are robots. The question is this then: in a networking game like Second Life are you a robot? Will Pokemon ever become real?