By Ms Amy Cleator, Provisional Psychologist
Pokémon is a game-based phenomenon that has attracted both children and adults across the globe. Originating in the 1990’s, Pokémon was developed by Satoshi Tajiri’s (diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome), whose early love of insect collecting allowed him to observe the impact of urban development on the rivers and forests (and insect populations) around his childhood home of Machida, Japan. As his home gradually underwent urbanisation, Mr Tajiri wanted to share his childhood joy of nature with the new generation of city children who spent a lot of time indoors (Tan, 2016). The game of Pokémon, which imagines a world where wild creatures exist solely to be collected, trained and battled with one another, is considered a commentary on the relationship between conservation and consumption of nature (Bainbridge, 2014).
In today’s world, the interests of children and adolescents are more motivated by man-made products rather than direct interactions with nature, which has implications for future health and wellbeing, as well as environmental conservation. For example, a study in the United Kingdom, found that children were more easily able to identify ‘species’ of Pokémon characters compared to oak trees or badgers (Balmford, 2002). However, the success of games such as Pokémon Go, might suggest there are further opportunities to increase awareness and engagement with real‐world nature (Dorward et al., 2016). For example, a university student from Singapore began a project to raise awareness of local biodiversity, the ‘Real Life Pokemon of Singapore’, which is a mobile game that matches the native Singaporean flora and fauna with characters from the Pokémon Universe. (Tan, 2016).
The ideology behind Pokémon, might be the way to not only reconnect children with nature but promote education regarding environmentalism and conservation. For all the lovers of Pokémon and aspiring environmentalists out there, ‘Eco-mon’ may be the way forward!
- Bainbridge, J. (2014). ‘It is a Pokémon world’: The Pokémon franchise and the environment. International Journal of Cultural Studies, 17(4), 399–414. https://doi.org/10.1177/1367877913501240
- Balmford, A., Clegg, L., Coulson, T., & Taylor, J. (2002). Why conservationists should heed Pokemon. (Letters). Science, 295(5564), 2367. Retrieved from https://link-gale-com.libraryproxy.griffith.edu.au/apps/doc/A84841623/ITOF?u=griffith&sid=ITOF&xid=933b911e
- Dorward, L., Mittermeier, J., Sandbrook, C., & Spooner, F. (2016). Pokémon Go: Benefits, Costs, and Lessons for the Conservation Movement. A Journal of the Society for Conservation Biology. Retreived from https://doi-org.libraryproxy.griffith.edu.au/10.1111/conl.12326
- Tan, A. (2016, Aug 26). Pokemon creator inspired undergraduate. The Straits Times. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.libraryproxy.griffith.edu.au/docview/1814188501?accountid=14543