ANIMALS


work in progress / edited ROM on screen or original GameBoy/ dimensions vary / language: english

A ROM of the original Pokémon Red has its complete text rewritten: Every mention of the word 'POKéMON' is replaced with the equally long word 'ANIMALS', and some of the in-game dialogues are swapped with descriptions and explanations of the history of dog and cattle fights, bullfighting, and pets and livestock in general.

The Pokémon games work as an entry level to moral ambiguity: seemingly harmless, they are understood as a banal, but nonetheless addicting and satisfying pastime that over the years has often been copied, referenced and reiterated. Their worlds are remembered as an assortment of colourful places full of interesting creatures which are lovingly devoted to their 'trainer' - that this actor needs to catch them, use them for fights whose outcomes only benefit the trainer on their quest to glory, and that they in those fights even might have to kill other creatures to become stronger and be able to further the game's story reads a lot more sinister than it is executed and communicated in the actual game; on the contrary, in almost every iteration of the Pokémon series, the player is alluded to think that the inherent messages of these games center around friendship, comradeship and team work, and that the participating not-animals voluntarily accompany the player on their adventure.

Eliminating the word 'animal' from the entire vocabulary of the Pokémon universe, therefore rendering all of its animal-like inhabitants pure fantasy creatures whose natural space to live and ultimate life goal lies in their new name - 'Pocket Monsters', the long form of 'Pokémon' - is an essential move in forming this alternate reality world that in just too many ways isn't really one. And just as the Pokémon in the end still look like rats, cats, goats and even humans, their real-world equivalents, the attack dogs, the gamecocks and many bulls, exist within circumstances matching the Pokémon's fantasy lives, with the exception of the 'love and friendship' bits.

To which extent can escapistic fiction be viewed as banal and negligible? We grow up in and inhabit many worlds, real and fictional ones, and wouldn't understand or find our way in any of them if we, to an extent, couldn't translate our experiences from all the other ones. By handing back the fictional Pokémon their erased animalness, the thin line between fiction and reality is not blurred, but pointed at.