Pokémon Throwback: Let's Go! - The Modernist Son

Updated: Jan 8


Image Credit: Photo of the author, taken in October of 2016 during the height of Pokémon Go. St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador. Image retrieved November 17, 2020.


Note: This entry marks the 50th blog post from www.themodernistson.com! Thank you for you support, my friends.

Introduction:

The concept of narrative intertextuality and cultural hegemony are quite similar, but significantly differ in terms of how they work. Keeping that in mind, these aforementioned components of the narrative-cultural world proves to be quite similar through the issue of connecting with others on a universal level. For instance, with the creation of ancient Greek and Roman mythological stories during the archaic era- these works often shared themes, characters, and other literary aspects with other mythological narratives of the time. By today’s standards, think of how characters from many other fictional worlds within popular culture make an appearance in The Lego Movie (2014). Furthermore, the origin story of Persephone plays an important role throughout stories about Demeter and Hades.


Hegemony and what it means:

With respect to cultural hegemony, individuals connect universally through shared interests within the realms of popular culture. Prior to finishing my English major at Memorial University I learned of cultural hegemony through the work of John Storey from the University of Sunderland in the United Kingdom. However, during the time Pokémon Go was at its peak popularity “cultural hegemony” was a term I had never heard before. Hegemony plays a significant role in the concept of identity as Storey writes:


This produced a situation in which the interests of one powerful section of society are “universalized” as the interest of society as a whole. Our identities are made in culture, rather than something we inherit from our nature. In other words, the roots and routes of our identity are staged and performed in culture with culture. (Storey, Inventing Popular Culture)



Storey’s take on popular culture applies to my experiences during the summer of 2016. But why specifically the year 2016? This is because Pokémon Go created a section of society as a whole where gamers became adventurists, and those who were not original fans of the Pokémon franchise unexpectedly became a part of its world-wide fandom. I have been a fan of Pokémon for fifteen years, but I did not actually play Pokémon Go during its peak popularity- or at all. It has been strictly the main series video games for me. However, I could not ignore the fact that the Pokémon Go “craze” was quite fascinating. Although that could easily change because during the COVID-19 pandemic I bought a Nintendo Switch, and one of the console’s games is Pokémon: Lets Go. I have yet to actually play that, but it will likely be a part of my life at some point. Interestingly, I do own both Pokémon Sword and Shield.

The summer of Adventure:

In July of 2016 Niantic and the Pokémon Company launched a project known as Pokémon Go, which is an augmented reality game where players travel to real-world locations through their mobile device’s in-game map, with the ultimate goal of catching “wild Pokémon”. Initially, I dismissed this idea and believed it was ridiculous and “not true to Pokémon”. However, that is what makes folklore so fascinating. Everything exists in variation, and this allows narratives and other cultural mediums to withstand the proverbial test of time.


The concept of Pokémon Go intertextualizes the original Pokémon franchise. However, the focus of this article is the issue of cultural hegemony within the franchises fan base. Keeping that in mind, the primary factors for the success of Pokémon Go was because the mobile game inherently created a sub-culture of Pokémon fandom. I must confess, there was a specific moment when the Pokémon Go craze really bothered me. Along with two of my friends, we were literally parked on a dirt road because there was a Pokémon gym in that area according to the in-game map. One of my friends claimed that “Ivysaur” evolved into “Venasaur” at level 36. However, with respect to the main Pokémon video game franchise that is incorrect. Instead, players will acquire Venasaur at level 32. Admittedly, I was annoyed because this was so different form the main franchise. After learning about John Storey, my mind has really changed.


In terms of Pokémon subculture, the franchise had reached new popularity with people of all ages through the creation of mobile games. During July of 2016, a few friends and I went to a local park and the place was completely packed. Local parks usually get a fair amount of traffic, but this was different. People were here to play Pokémon Go and it was amazing. Not only were people living more active lifestyles by playing this mobile game, but people were making new friends based entirely on a new-found love for Pokémon. With respect to my own participation, I have never actually played the game because I just didn’t want to use my mobile data that would have been required.

We met Pikachu:

In August of 2016, my friend Cory and I went for a walk downtown. Interestingly, we actually went to a coffee shop he currently works at. I haven’t been to the place since, but I will likely visit there soon. Cory and I were walking across the street and noticed a large group of people chasing something. Cory realized what it was first, and it was a person dressed as Pikachu- the mascot for the Pokémon franchise. With respect to cultural hegemony, this is a pretty good example. An individual dressing up as a character from a video game franchise, not only does this compare to the issue of cosplay, but this process significantly adds to the Pokémon subculture. Although I was unable to get a picture of or with the anthropomorphic Pikachu, this moment allowed me to accept the significance of Pokémon Go and its subculture.


Final Thoughts:

Following the popularity of the mobile game during the summer of 2016, Pokémon: Let’s Go was released on Nintendo Switch consoles in November of 2018. Although this video game draws elements from the original mobile version of Pokémon Go, the Nintendo Switch version expands upon the original game and also integrates aspects from the anime which has existed since 1998. Initially, I was hesitant because Pokémon Go significantly deviates from the original Pokémon video game franchise. However, the most important aspect of the Pokémon subculture is its ability to bring people together through shared interests and love for video games.

© The Modernist Son, 2020




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