Hot on the heels of its highly successful Super Mario spoof animal fur campaign, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) has launched a brand new flash game that centres on kids’ videogame favourite Pokémon, exposing the cruel truth behind the trainer / pocket monster relationship and prompting us all to think a little harder about how we treat animals.
The game, which mimics the style of the hugely popular videogame, has seen thousands of visits since its launch, and asks players to take on the role of captive pokémon as they battle with their abusive trainer for freedom.
Some of you may recall PETA’s Super Tanooki Skin 2-D flash game, which launched soon after Nintendo’s own Super Mario 3-D Land and saw Mario don a Tanooki (Japanese racoon) suit in order to gain special powers and save the princess. The campaign, which asked players to control a skinned tanooki and help him chase down a flying, fur-wearing Mario, raised more than a few eyebrows and had people begging the question “Isn’t Mario supposed to be just a bit of fun?”
While the campaign may have at first appeared to be simply shaming Nintendo for its depiction of the use of animal fur, PETA stepped in to explain that, indeed, their Mario game was intended as a tongue-in-cheek parody, but that they wished to use the opportunity to bring the real-life issue of animals being killed for their fur into the spotlight, and suggest that children should be made aware that it is a real issue.
Riding on the wave caused by the recent launch of Nintendo DS game Pokémon Black & White 2, PETA, wise-owls that they are, have launched their own flash-based game in an effect to raise awareness about the cruel treatment of both wild and domestic animals.
Their message this time round is a little more direct than in its previous campaign:
“The amount of time pokémon spend stuffed into poké-balls is akin to how elephants are chained up in train carts, waiting to be let out to “perform” in circuses. But the difference between real life and this fictional world full of organised animal fighting is that Pokémon games paint rosy pictures of things that are actually horrible.”
As well as bringing these real-life issues into the spotlight, PETA’s gamealso begs the question of how ethical the Pokémon series really is; after all, when we look past all the heavily-featured themes of friendship and camaraderie, the game and TV show still feature small animals being held captive and forced to fight against each-other, which, in real life, would be a pretty horrific thing for our kids to be intersted in.
Curious to see PETA’s latest videogame parody and to hear what they had to say, we headed over to the site to test out the game.
Make no mistake; this is no amateur production. It’s clear from the outset that PETA have invested serious time and money in this project, and game developers This Is Pop have done a startlingly good job of recreating the Pokémon universe.
Rather than just showing us a poster of a sad-looking dog, or a few shocking images of mistreated animals, the site opens with high-quality cartoon images and mock Pokémon music blaring out. Before we knew it, we were controlling Pikachu, just like in the videogames, but this time against his club and choke-chain-wielding master.
The ‘attacks’ Pikachu is given range from his classic lightening shock to a defence-eroding “Protest” move that “tells some devastating truths” about animal cruelty. Before long, we’d worn our trainer down, making him see the error of his ways; “Pokémon exist for their own reasons; not just to be made to fight!”
Next comes PETA’s master-stroke: allowing us to name the Pokémon we’d rescued. Naturally, we wanted something that said “awesome” and “cute”, so we went with “RocketNews-chu”.
Soon after defeating the first trainer, we met with a kind nurse who handed over a treasure chest.
Inside the chest was video. A real life video.
I’ll be honest with you; some of the images of real-life animals kept penned up or held in position by machinery were pretty hard to look at. As a man who’s owned three cats from rescue shelters and can’t stand to see animals being poorly treated, it kind of got me riled up. PETA, you’re one clever bunch!
We battled on a little further, helping RocketNews-chu free another poké-pal, until we found another chest in the road.
“I hope it’s not another sad video,” remarked RocketNews-chu.
Thankfully it wasn’t- it was a free gift from PETA, giving us a way of helping spread the word both about their new game and animal cruelty. There’s no denying that this is a cleverly put-together campaign that’s sure to get tongues wagging.
But how do Japanese internet users, some of whom sharing an incredible attachment to the Pokémon series, feel about PETA’s latest parody?
“Nintendo’s going to be pissed!”
“You know, pokémon are just imaginary creatures…”
“Hey, now! You should be targetting Disney before you attack Nintendo- those guys have been forcing a mouse, duck and dog to work for decades!”
“Maybe PETA haven’t seen the TV series? The inside of a poké-ball is supposed to be really nice and comfy…”
So, not altogether happy, then…
While many of us would agree that PETA’s targetting of fictional titles like Super Mario and Pokémon may seem a little kill-joy and extreme, it’s perhaps important to focus on the message itself and what we should be teaching our kids, rather than the idea that the group is specifically saying “these games are evil”. And even if PETA were calling Nintendo out, when animals continue to be harmed and mistreated by humans on a daily basis, maybe it takes an aggressive campaign like this to catch people’s attention?
Head over to PETA’s site to try the game for yourself. Be sure to let us know how you feel about the group’s latest campaign in the comments section below.