“This isn’t just a game”
It’s just gone midnight. I’m on the last train back from Pallet, staring out at the Viridian City skyline as it recedes from view.
The past few weeks have been a very strange experience. Instead of conducting my normal research concerning the ethical nuances of this sport we call ‘Pokémon training’, I’ve been traveling around many different regions throughout the world. My reason? I’ve been searching for the reasons behind how what was initially an evolutionary pact between species has become a phenomenon that has captured the hearts of every pre-teen boy and girl. How what was originally a niche market turned into one of the world’s most well-loved sports. Why Pokémon training has been romanticised - at least somewhat - in the hearts of every child who watches the League matches.
Earlier that day, I believe I found my answer.
I’ve made myself comfortable in a small café off of Main Street. Pallet Town seems to be one of those places that has never changed, even in the past ten years since I last came here. The narrow, cobbled streets mixed with the eclectic style of the buildings - mixing old and modern styles - looks like something that belongs in the Lilycove Art Museum.
As I take the first sip of my beer, a man walks into the café. Blue jeans, long brown hair, a fair amount of stubble. Although he looks much older than he did on the TV screens all those years ago, he still wears that same recognisable cap. He approaches.
I look up at him. One of Red’s defining features - perhaps what made him feel like such a legendary trainer - was his unbroken silence on screen. It was strange hearing him talk. Perhaps it’s the strong Kantonian accent, I think to myself.
“That’s me.” I stand up and reach out a hand. “Darren Hill, sociologist and ethics researcher at the University of Rustboro. Nice to meet you, Red.”
He sits down opposite me with a pint of Mt. Silver Pale Ale. Good choice. I don’t know if he’s old enough to drink, but I don’t think anyone really knows his age anyways. He’s always elusive, usually refusing to conduct interviews. But for some reason, he’s let me reach out to him.
We talk some more.
“So, Darren… you mentioned the book that you’re writing. I’ve read a fair amount of your previous research, and although I don’t usually like talking to people about what I do, you’ve really caught my intrigue.”
“Yes, the book.” I take another sip of beer. “Basically, I’ve been fascinated with the way Pokémon training has taken off recently. It seems to be more than just a fad.”
Red chuckles. “Oh, yeah… I remember when I first started. There wasn’t even a standardized Pokédex or anything…”
“And look where it’s gone now!”
We share a laugh. I guess it’s good that we’re getting along; Red has always been notorious for being closed off to journalists and the like. Thankfully, I’m not a paparazzi guy.
I continue. “So I want to write a ‘guide’ to Pokémon training… I guess it’s quite different from the research I usually conduct. Not like a guide, like they have in schools nowadays…”
“I can’t believe that they offer courses in it now. It’s crazy. How do they…”
“…More like a why rather than a how. I’ve been interested in the disconnect between how Pokémon training is romanticized in the media, and the actual work it takes to become a true professional like yourself. Or, at least, to League standards.”
Red nods cautiously.
“Maybe through that, I’ll be able to explore some more of the ethical implications that standardized Pokémon training like many kids are doing nowadays presents. That’s what I’m hoping to achieve as an end goal, at least. I don’t entirely know how the rest of the book is going to pan out, but I want to be able to write about being a real Pokémon trainer from the eyes of professionals rather than how so many others are going about it.”
“That’s good.” I can almost see a glimmer in Red’s eyes. “Thing is, Pokémon training is about so much more than going on a journey and becoming the best. It’s sad to see the way so many places, especially here in Kanto, are starting to commodify training. It’s like new trainers are being programmed to become literal hooligans.”
Red stops to take a long sip of his drink. He doesn’t really talk much, but when the conversation gets around to a subject like this…
“It’s not just strategising and traveling, like everyone makes it out to be. It’s not just knowing your types and your moves. You need to know yourself, and know your Pokémon as your best friends as well. There’s a great deal of trust and sacrifice involved in being a trainer.”
“This isn’t just a game. It’s not like when you just pick up a gameboy, pretend you’re me and become a master in a week. That’s not how it works. Becoming a Pokémon trainer doesn’t happen overnight. This **** takes years.”
Becoming a Pokémon trainer doesn’t happen overnight.
If there was one predominant statement I wanted to make through the writing of this book, that’s what it would be. It was this that formed the crux of the reasons behind my writing of this book. In a way, that’s what I set out to show through my weeks of traveling around the world, speaking to a multitude of different trainers. Many of them had different styles of battling, used different types of Pokémon and definitely held different approaches to the art of being a Pokémon trainer. But they all had one thing in common: the belief that Pokémon training is centred around trust. You need to know yourself before you even hold your first Poké Ball in your hand.
This book is not meant to just be a guide on how to train Pokémon. You can read any instruction manual in Hoenn for those kinds of tips. Although this book may be titled The Idiot’s Guide to Pokémon Training, this book is not just for those who want to get a foot into whatever region’s Pokémon Gym Challenge. This book is for those who want to look beyond what the mainstream tell you about Pokémon training. This book will delve into the nuances and happenings beyond what is shown on TV. In researching this field, I’ve spoken to a number of high-profile trainers from across the world, as well as contacted various Pokémon researchers, breeders and those high up within the Pokémon League system. They all share the same sentiment; Pokémon training is about trust, discipline and hard work above all else. This book aims to not portray the life of a trainer in the romanticized manner of many media publications, but for what it really is. This book aims to show you the road to becoming a professional rather than just a hobbyist or Ash Ketchum enthusiast.
This book is for those who truly want to understand what being a professional Pokémon trainer is about.
This whole idea was a huge experiment following a TED Talk I watched a while back. thought it'd be interesting to write in that sort of style. Comments/critique much appreciated. <3