PETA and Pokemon – Does PETA Have a Point

Many people in the gaming world have probably seen the PETA Pokemon game.  For those who have not seen the game it can be found here: PETA Pokemon Game.  I played through the entire game if only because I was curious to see what they had to say.  A quick description: The game has you playing as Pokemon attempting to fight for freedom against trainers.  As you free more Pokemon they join your struggle against trainers.  The end game happens after you collect four Pokemon in your party and have defeated all the trainers.

Many people, in defense of the much beloved game, have vehemently gone against the PETA game calling it many different things.  But the question still stands: does PETA have a point?  I think that PETA could have a point – that is if you don’t know anything about Pokemon.

PETA is highlighting an issue that is very relevant to the game, specifically, and some to the game.  The game is, essentially, people capturing animals and forcing them to fight for them – or so it would seem to the person who doesn’t actually follow the games or the, more importantly, the show.  PETA brings up the idea of trapping animals and forcing them to fight for you, but anyone who is aware of the game knows right off the bat that this is NOT what Pokemon is about.

A few reasons why PETA, although bringing up a good issue to discuss, is actually wrong in the insinuations they make about Pokemon.

1) Pokemon are friends, not slaves.

Pokemon are always described as friends who fight alongside you, not for you.  The best way to describe this would be competitive martial arts.  I am active in competitive martial arts and have even won silver medal in a national tournament.  At no point have I ever felt animosity towards my coach.  Pokemon, as made very clear in the series and the game, enjoy battling.  There are some Pokemon who don’t enjoy it and those Pokemon, portrayed in both the series and the game, just don’t fight.  Trainers never fight Pokemon that don’t want to fight, and if they do the main character (Ash) always triumphs because of the love and care that he gives his Pokemon, not through ruthless tactics.

2) Happiness is key in the new Pokemon games.

In the newer Pokemon games a happiness meter was introduced (although not literally a meter).  Happiness affects many things about a Pokemon including things like Evolution.  If you do things your Pokemon doesn’t like then your Pokemon will not like you – flat out.  The Pokemon games have made a very strong effort (even if it has gone somewhat unnoticed), that the happiness of Pokemon matters – going so far as including a Pokemon masseuse that makes your Pokemon happier.

3) There are many other activities in the Pokemon Universe.

There are more than just trainers in the Pokemon Universe – Breeders, Beauty Contestants, Movie Makers, Firefighters, etc. This all demonstrates that Pokemon do much more than fight – they also do Beauty Contests, live relaxing lives on ranches with Breeders, fight fires alongside humans and are involved in making movies.  The Pokemon Universe, although originally only fighting, has evolved (pun intended) into a complex world where the most important thing between a Pokemon and it’s “owner” that they have a mutually loving relationship and they they work together towards mutually inclusive goals.

So while PETA may have a point to bring up, their beef with the Pokemon Universe can easily be put to rest by those who are familiar with the Pokemon Universe.

What do you think?  Leave a comment and tell me what you think about the PETA Black and Blue Pokemon game.  Did their parody game (if you played it) make you think about Pokemon in a different way?

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Trolling as Social Conditioning

Trolling is something that we’re all familiar with, and something that I’ve discussed in the past.  But I’m not sure that I gave the idea of trolling as social conditioning the attention that it deserves.  Trolling is a form of social conditioning, in the same way that people become apathetic to the things in our world that negatively impact us (non-bullied teens who are apathetic about bullying, poor living conditions in certain parts of cities that don’t get any attention anymore, etc.).

To start with social conditioning is when we, as people, are conditioned by social forces to believe, think, or act a certain way.  I think an excellent way to see social conditioning is to start with something we are all familiar with – social conditioning by government.  Governments take actions everyday, often at a detriment to the their citizens, and usually under some guise that it is supposed to benefit its citizens.  An excellent example of this is when governments install cameras on street corners, traffic lights, and sides of buildings to monitor the population.  I think we all recognize that this is something that we don’t actually want to happen – but it does.  And as time goes on and it goes on long enough people become desensitized to it and are conditioned to think of the cameras that watch them on a daily basis as something that is normal and things are the way they are.

Trolling does the same thing.  Trolling has become so common place that people just come to expect it and often times people merely ignore it when it happens.  The viewpoints that are put forth in trolling – fat, ugly, slut, stupid, moron, you suck, suck my c*ck – are all expected in the current day of online media.  Trolling, in a sense, has become normalized.  Because it has become normalized the viewpoints expressed are normalized.  When a woman gets called fat online it’s merely trolling and we go on about our daily lives doing our normal tasks because it’s not out of the ordinary.

Through social conditioning, we as an online culture have been conditioned to expect and accept the trolling that happens on a daily basis.  The more the trolls do it, and get away with it, the more we tell them it’s okay.  Like a child who pushes another child and then doesn’t get chastised for it, they haven’t been punished and they didn’t face any serious ramifications for their actions.  They will continue to see how far they can go and what they can get away with.

This is why it is important for people to report trolling as abusive behavior.  We should make sure that gamers are creating a safe and healthy environment for each other – not calling each other a faggot, queer, slut, bitch, or asking others to perform lewd acts upon us.

As always,
Your Resident (Not Really) Anthropologist

Sub-Culture – Why Call Them Sub-Cultures

I was thinking today about the different sub-cultures that exist.  Personally I am a part of many different sub-cultures, Steampunk, Gamers, Martial Artists, and some others.  But why do we call them sub-cultures?  I originally thought I had the answer, which seemed rather obvious when I used to ask myself this question.  The answer I had was – they exist underneath the surface.  Steampunk, for example, is by no means part of the mainstream.  It’s becoming extremely popular, but the culture of Steampunk exists underneath the surface of society.  The reason that I now question this understanding is asking myself the question what makes something culture and not sub-culture?

Studying Anthropology culture should be very easy for me to define.  And, of course, I can give you an academic definition – a set of beliefs, symbols, and ideas which connect people and through which people come together.  (This is my own definition, and I think many would agree on this definition).  However, what makes something mainstream culture?  If sub-cultures exist beneath the surface than non-sub-cultures should most assuredly exist at the surface, or more importantly they are the surface of society.  But if this is the case then how do we define these things?

How do we create this dichotomy between culture and sub-culture?  How large does a culture have to be for it to no longer be sub-culture?

I would argue that all culture is sub-culture because it encompasses only a subset of the overall human population.  Using AIs this how we should define culture versus sub-culture?merica as an example, American culture cannot be defined in any single way.  There is a culture of the South, East, West, and North and there are overlapping areas of this four circle Venn Diagram.  These cultures are made distinct through their geographical location.  But then, which one of these is America Culture?  What about political culture.  We have liberals and conservatives in America.  We also have Republicans and Democrats.  By no means are these cultures overlapped as there are liberal Republicans, conservative Democrats, as well as conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats.  So which one encompasses America and which one is the true culture of America?

I could go on and on about this but my answer has now shifted to why we use the term sub-culture.  I now answer saying that sub-culture only encompasses a subset of all people.  But this describes all culture.  Even something as gigantic as the culture which surrounds Justin Beiber, as mainstream and widespread as it is, is only a subset of people.  Beatlemania was even merely a subset of all people living in America.  San Diego Comic-Con has over 100,000 attendees every year.  That is gigantic, and many people still wanted to attend who didn’t get a chance.  Does that make it large enough to go from sub-culture to regular culture?

I think we should understand that while we use the term sub-culture for culture which lays underneath the surface of “mainstream” culture, no culture actually lays beneath the surface.  The surface itself is not comprised of any single culture that all people are a part of, but that the surface itself is a mosaic of brightly colored cultural pieces that people use to connect to other people through.  It’s just that some pieces are more brightly colored and larger than others.

The Culture of Bullying

Bullying is a hard topic for many people.  Those who are bullies often times hide behind the charade that they’re just poking fun, having a good time, and if you don’t like what they’re doing then you just don’t get the “joke” and you should leave. However, there is a distinct difference between poking fun and being a bully – and it’s called context.  Poking fun between friends, snarky banter,

The biggest issue that is happening in schools is referred to as exclusionary bullying.  Exclusionary bullying happens when people are made to feel outcast, alienated, and separate from the group (in contrast when snarky banter happens between friends it creates a bond).  By spreading rumors, mocking someone for the way they look or dress, or poking fun at the things that people feel insecure about, the person who is targeted is made to feel too inadequate to be a part of the group and they become excluded and alienated from everyone else.  This leads to things like depression in youth and has been documented.

What does this have to do with gaming?  Online gaming culture is rife with this sort of behavior.  When someone is mocked for low skill, a poor k/d spread, or an “inability” to perform well in online gaming they are being bullied by people, and often by people who are no better than they are.  Personally, when I encounter this sort of behavior I put down my controller and turn my system off.  I don’t want to be subjected to this sort of behavior because someone thinks that I’m not good enough to play with them.

But even more importantly is when someone doesn’t take the action that I take – removing myself from such abuse – and they continue to subject themselves to this behavior online.  When you continue to subject yourself to such behavior you end up accepting it and it becomes the standard.  It then becomes a widely accepted behavior and others begin to do it as well.  It’s the “Jones” effect.  When you see someone doing something you want to be a part of it, and when people aren’t encouraging online the only people you hear are those who are bullying online.  It seems even more common in the younger generation than the older generation now.  What was once trolling is now becoming an intention to hurt another to make one’s self feel better.

This creates a culture of bullying in online gaming.  When you see someone who performs poorly it should be standard to encourage them, not make them feel bad about themselves.  If we want gaming to be successful and a truly accepted form of entertainment, which I argue it still is not, then we should be encouraging people to game more and create a powerful and uplifting environment online for people to game in.

We need to check ourselves at the controller and remember that, just because you’re anonymous doesn’t mean that your actions are meaningless.