In this gaming community, I have seen a very real and common misconception: That franchises such as Pokémon, Five Nights at Freddy’s, Sonic, and similar ones have some deep lore and backstory to them. The problem is, that is not only simply not the case, but that making up theories doesn’t fill in plot holes whatsoever. While most of this focuses on Pokémon, I’ll touch upon other franchises as well.
Pokémon is a Role-Playing Game series, which puts it in the same genre as games developed by companies such as Square Enix, BioWare, Bethesda, CD Projekt Red, Atlus, and other developers known for making role-playing games. While earlier RPGs didn’t have deep storylines, being influenced by pen and paper games and in fact there have been various games based off them from Shadowrun to Mechwarrior to Planescape Torment and Baldur’s Gate, by the end of the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo era they had been known for deep storylines with some games even offering decision systems and character customization with stats, and CD based systems such as the Sega CD, TurboCD, computers, and the PlayStation gave way to sprawling 4 disc games with full motion video cutscenes, voice acting, and storylines being front-and-center.
Pokémon started during the PS1 era, coming out in 1996 on the Game Boy. It ended up selling through the roof worldwide, and gained wide appeal for a few years, propelling the original 151 Pokémon to iconic status, with sequels selling as well. Sales eventually slipped however, and Ruby and Sapphire sold less than the first 2 generations. While Diamond and Pearl, released in 2006 or 7 depending on the country, sold millions and came closest to selling like Generation 1 and 2 did, no Pokémon game since than has sold that many, and despite XY being billed as being the “fastest selling Pokémon game ever”, even BW has sold more.
This says something about a series that at one point was selling through the roof, was popular at every grade level, but now it seems the audience is thinning out. Now, what could possibly be causing this?
One of the causes is the serieses recent focus on storylines. Now, despite the fact you’re going to get little storyline out of a Pokémon game, since nearly every Pokémon game has followed the same storyline template since Generation 1, lately the game has been more linear, forcing you to do what the game wants you as the game shoves the same exact storyline down your throat, except it’s just that, the same storyline. Even Generations 1 and 2, the generations that happening to like them in 2014 will result in you being called a “genwunner” while being attacked with meme pictures straight out of KnowYourMeme, have at least a storyline that’s connected, complete with Kanto from Generation 1 several years later, with Generation 3 having the GameCube games and the Hoenn connection, and the remakes adding some more connections. Sure, it was simple, but at least you weren’t hurting from all the edge.
I’m going to start at Generation 4 however, since that’s where the origins of this shit began. Pokémon Diamond and Pearl had bits and pieces of lore scattered throughout the region, called the “Sinnoh myths”, complete with a Bulba article on it. Most of these are vague bits and pieces of the past of the region, hinting at what was going to be forced in the next two generations, stuff that you’d probably forget afterwards. However, one little bit that hinted at the shitty direction the series was going was “Sinnoh Folk Story 3”, which in the Japanese version went like this:
There once were Pokémon that married people.
There once were people who married Pokémon.
This was a normal thing because long ago people and Pokémon were the same.
Anyone who’s hung around the Pokémon fanbase for a while knows this confirms one thing: Your Pokémon waifu fantasies are in fact canon, and it also didn’t help that the PMD series, despite being better written than the main series (though still not having too much in the way of plot with bare details), never explained a lot of things. A lot of potential was wasted on OH GOLLY MY RESCUE TEAM IS SO KEWL DUDES, with the backstory being very bare and vague, since we all know writing one that isn’t crap takes some skill.
It also didn’t help Generation IV had a straight up rehash of the Generation 3 storyline. Evil team wants X Pokémon to achieve X goal, with absolutely no connections to previous generations.
Than Generation 5 and 6 felt like Deviantart took over, with bad writing everywhere, quick excuses such as Generation 6 talking about multiple universes and the whole 3000 years ago event, Team Plasma from Generation 5 and that weird kid N, and of course, glossing over what could have been potential to expand and go in depth to make the evil team be the same exact shit as last time. There’s little/no connections with past games, besides having the same generation 3 storyline again. There’s no real lore, you’ll hear some quick thing about Mega Evolution and some war but you’ll never find out anything specific, and no TvTropes doesn’t count. Especially when there are other games in the same genre that go in depth on even events that happened thousands of years ago, Pokémon just pales in comparison.
To make matters worse, each form of media for Pokémon takes place in a different universe. Games (with the inconsistent storyline), spinoffs of the games, manga, the Anime, etc. Each one has it’s own storyline and universe, with differences in the roles of humans and Pokémon, with some involving Pokémon having full sentience (one many fans seem to prefer) and others having them as little more than animals that communicate like R2-D2 from Star Wars, by famously saying nothing but their own name. Or how Orre has few Pokémon being captured, with Pokeballs being sold in the black market under the counter early on in Colosseum, how the Ranger games featured you using your stylus to temporarily capture Pokémon, and how the Mystery Dungeon series had you recruiting Pokémon since you were a Pokémon and since everyone is a Pokémon after all.
In other words, there’s little/no continuity, and usually in each universe besides the very basics of the setting there is little going in depth, especially when compared to a game like Mass Effect which has detail on even minor planets and the whole galactic codex, or even something like Digimon Tamers which went in depth on the origins of the setting, both in the series itself and in official supplemental material. Pokémon on the other hand has had bits and pieces at most before the whole forced storyline stuff happened in recent generations, with recent generations forcing down a half baked storyline that doesn’t explain very much at all, especially considering how many “game theory” style videos and websites exist. Much of it leaves the player and fanbase to guess, making up theories for a kids game with little in the way of story, which doesn’t compensate for the fact that the story is badly written.
The same can apply to other game franchises however too. One good relevant example is Five Nights at Freddy’s. It’s as basic as it gets, a generic indie horror game where the whole point is to avoid the jumpscare (Remember Slender?) from Chuck-E-Cheese influenced animatronics at a shady run down pizza place which somehow has robots that can roam the premises at night. There’s literally no storyline whatsoever, besides a few bits and pieces saying that uh, you have a crappy job, years ago some robot bit some part of someone’s brain off, and apparently some other creepy stuff that’s edgy or something. Apparently your main character never has the brains to quit, just like your average stupid horror movie or creeypasta protagonist. Yet tons of nerds online come up with theories that get passed around as if it’s official, to compensate for the poor writing, and the sequel takes it a notch further.
Besides being a lazy cash in complete with a 4 by 3 aspect ratio while the original was rendered in 16 by 9 and generic character designs that try to pander to the FurAffinity audience (Keep in mind, fA’s admin gave them free ad space on a site known for drawing pr0n of the characters), it has a story that makes less sense. Does it take place in the future, or the past? You can’t tell especially since it takes place in 1987, supposedly before the first one. As usual, people come up with crackpot theories about this simple game, which like I said, doesn’t excuse the poor writing.
I could name tons of other franchises and go on forever about how poor or nonexistent the continuity is, so I’ll end it here with this fact. Just because a series has tons of people making theories online doesn’t mean the story is good or the series has deep lore. In fact, it’s just a sign of poor writing, and to make matters worse, it can encourage game developers to cut back on the story. After all, what’s the point of hiring a talented writer when you can write a poor story with plot holes and your fanbase will fill it in? It’s a very bad mentality and one any gamer should be afraid of. Pokémon is an example of this and a very good one, and despite people asking who plays it for the story, you have to keep in mind that it not only doesn’t excuse the poor story, but that Pokémon is in a genre where storytelling is big. That is all.