The Pokémon franchise has touched the hearts of countless children and young adults throughout the world. It’s moreish mechanics, adorable design, and endearing sense of community has cemented it as one of the most popular handheld video game series to date, going on 25 years strong. But what if there’s a message within these games? Subtle nods and established norms existent within the game’s universe that speak for something more than just the battling of strange animals against more strange animals? What if Pokémon is an advocate of the inevitable Communist utopia?
A significant aspect of a Communist society is the absence of currency, instead opting for a system wherein individuals are equally distributed that which they need to survive. While there is money in the Pokémon franchise, this free distribution of basic necessities can be seen in various instances in the Pokéverse. The first is the fact that both your player character and every other character in Pokémon seemingly never go hungry. Yes, you can buy Pokéballs, potions, and repellents, but the game never gives you the option of purchasing food for your own use. And yet, you never suffer from undernourishment or dehydration. Is this perhaps because you are supplied food and water as a basic necessity without the need to exchange funds? I suspect this might be the case.
We can also look to the Pokémon Centers; buildings situated throughout the Pokéverse regions that offer the healing of a trainer’s Pokémon free of charge. This free universal Pokémon healthcare is yet another basic need supplied without the exchange of currency. Just imagine having to pay to heal your Pokémon every time they had fainted. Would the game still be as popular as it is today? Most likely, but it’s an example of one of the many casual mechanics that makes the game such an entertaining experience, and happens to support this theory.
In Pokémon Ruby, you encounter a man who owns a berry farm. When engaging in dialogue, the berry farmer will tell you about his berries and to, “take as many as you like.” The berry farmer could have easily charged you for the picking of his berries, but he does not. He allows you to freely take as many as you could need, and in essence, freely distributes the berries among the populace (it is assumed.) I would suggest that berries could be considered basic needs in that they are a food source, and that the berry farmer freely offering his berries is an example of the distribution of necessities that is present in a Communist society.
Another aspect of Communism is common ownership of the means of production. That is, the fruits of one’s labors are distributed equally among the populace. There is an item in the Pokéverse that carries out such a distribution; the Exp. Share, an obtainable item that shares the experience gained from successful Pokémon battles among both the participating Pokémon and Pokémon that did not engage in combat. If operating under a capitalist mindset, this experience would be given exclusively to the battling Pokémon, leaving the other, less-opportunistic Pokémon deprived of that which they need to grow. Alas, the Exp. Share solves this problem by spreading the experience out, allowing all of your Pokémon to flourish.
And finally, as we all know, food and water are not the only basic necessities needed in order to live a happy and comfortable life. The third? Accommodation! And in the Pokémon games that take place in the Hoenn and Sinnoh regions, the player character is given the opportunity to establish a ‘secret base,’ a home, complete with optional furniture customization, that requires no initial payment and no lodging transactions. A place to live, free of charge. When we look to the idea of common ownership, it is primarily with the means of production. Private property, such as living space and personal effects, are perfectly fine and often supplied without the need for currency, exactly like the ‘secret base.’
So, there you have it. Is Pokémon an advocacy project for a true Communist Utopia? I like to think that it is, based on the implementation of various equal distribution and common ownership ideals in both it’s mechanics and it’s universe. And it gives me hope, due to it’s flagrant popularity, that one day the people of the world will happily and willingly enter into the glorious age of the Proletariat.