Pokémon Should Let You Join Team Rocket
Pokémon‘s been alive and kicking for years at this point without much divergence from its core conceits. You always play as a scrappy young trainer, you always battle trainers with big personalities, and you always try to catch every bit of wildlife with a pulse.
Another constant, however, is the perpetual struggle against teams of villains. Whether it’s Rocket, Galactic, or Plasma, players always find themselves pitted against teams of baddies in matching uniforms. But while there’s something to be said for consistency, it’s about time that Game Freak lets us don our favorite crop top and Daisy Dukes. That’s right – Pokémon should let us join Team Rocket.
Gaming loves moral choices, and let’s face it: most releases handle the idea pretty badly. Too often, it feels like each choice you make is just a teeny, tiny divergence from the choices you’re being railroaded into. Imagine, then, being able to choose your morality from the outset of any mainline Pokémon title. Do you leave home to become a total goody-two-shoes Pokémon trainer, or do you run away to join a notorious crime syndicate?
If you could chart your course from the outset of the game, the narrative consequences would have the potential to shape your character’s entire arc. You could still go town to town, battling Gym Leaders and building your PokéDex, but the whole thing would have a pretty different vibe to it. Imagine crushing a gym, then stealing the leader’s prized ‘Mon. Imagine stores refusing to sell items to you, then having to filch them from the black market. Imagine your rival choosing the opposite route, regardless of what did, and positioning themselves as your moral foil.
This isn’t a cry for Pokémon to get all grimdark and edgy, of course – it’ll always be a series for kids, after all. But giving kids a chance to see two very different sides of the same world could make for a very interesting experience. For a series that is, at its heart, about appreciating and respecting nature, it could even be a teachable moment. This theoretical game could pivot into the more capitalistic aspects of Team Rocket, and show how their inherently immoral exploitation of nature damages the world’s ecosystem. That could give way to the player taking down the current boss of Team Rocket, then restructuring the organization into something less sinister from the inside.
Pokémon games play out in interesting worlds that are, more often than not, betrayed by their pat narratives. By giving players a choice between rugged individualism (yuck!) or a socialist uprising inside of an evil organization (woo!), Game Freak could both give the franchise’s world a bit more gravity and give players a bit more agency.
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