Pokemon uses science to keep players engaged

Photo by Thimo Pedersen on Unsplash

By Connor Fleck

Although the world of Pokémon is obviously fiction, one of the reasons it is so successful is that its creators added a scientific element to their universe.  There are entries in the Pokedex that change depending on what game you are playing in order to give you a background on the Pokémon including information on how they react to other Pokémon, what their environment is like, and what kinds of behaviors they exhibit.  This aspect brings our beloved creatures closer to the players and makes them more life-like.  

Two pokemon who are known for being natural enemies who constantly fight in the wild are Zangoose and Seviper.  Most of Zangoose’s entries feature a little sentence saying something like, “It has feuded with Seviper for many generations.” Seviper’s background detail will include something like, “For many generations, it has feuded with Zangoose.”  Those were both excerpts from the entries in Pokemon Diamond, Pokemon Pearl, and Pokemon Platinum.  

Two animals that feud similarly to Zangoose and Seviper are hyenas and lions.  These two animals constantly fight over territory and food.  Despite the lion’s reputation as the king of the jungle, they will sometimes eat dead carcasses just like hyenas do, so it causes a lot of competition between the two species.  Hyenas will also eat lion cubs, so lions have to remain vigilant for one of their few predators.  Although the pokemon universe doesn’t go as in-depth about the rivalry between the two species, they share similarities to the real animal kingdom.

Another instance where the Pokémon universe has involved real-life science is with regional forms. The Pokémon Diglett has a regional form for the region Alola where the conditions are very different from Diglett’s home region of Kanto.  This led to the creation of different adaptations in the same Pokémon with one being a pure ground-type of Pokémon, while the other is a ground/steel Pokémon that can dig through the volcanic rock that is common around the Alola region.  There is also an instance where a Pokémon evolved to look the same as Diglett, but are not related at all.  This Pokémon’s name is Wiglett, who differs from the ground type of Kantonian Diglett into a water type of Pokémon.

Charles Darwin came up with the idea of evolution where species adapt to overcome the challenges of their environments.  This is why a manatee’s closest relatives are elephants, hyraxes, and aardvarks rather than other water mammal.  All of manatees relatives are land animals that are very different from each other.  We found that they are relatives because of looking at fossils changing slightly over time.  Just like with Wiglett and Diglett, this is an example of convergent evolution.  One form of convergent evolution is carcinization where a species that is nothing like a crab will evolve to be more like a crab.

The final example of science in Pokemon is where a species will change based on season or environment.  Oricorio is a bird pokemon that will change its appearance based on the flowers around it.  If an Oricorio eats a purple flower it will become purple, or if it eats a yellow flower it will change to be yellow, and so on.  Deerling and Sawbuck will also change the color and density of their fur to benefit them based on the different seasons.

In the case of flamingos, for example, their pink color comes from the shrimp they eat turning their feathers their vibrant pink color. This is similar to Oricorio.  

In nature, animals try to stay hidden in their environment so they often have colors that match their surroundings.  Some animals’ colors match their environments in order to better sneak up on their prey while others use this adaptation to hide from predators.  

Not all animals are like this though, oftentimes highly venomous animals are colorful to warn their predators not to eat them or to attract mates. 

During winter animals will also change the density and color of their fur to protect them from the weather.  Foxes, for example, gain denser fur to stay warm and in places where it snows they will turn white to match the color of the snow.  

This is how Nintendo keeps their Pokémon games from getting stale while making it interesting for those who care about the science of the real world along with the lore of the Pokémon universe.