Pokemon and Homeless Children (Spoilers and Triggers Ahead)

I usually do not blog about brand new shiny toys, due to income levels I tend to be way behind the curve but I was gifted Pokemon X this month and devoured the initial story rapidly. This is my favorite story so far. Yet after that initial story there is another… instead of just endlessly hunting pokemon down (710 I think now) you end up with a VERY socially aware story. I have a page break here so that people wanting to not be spoiled as far as plot can avoid it.

 

After you defeat the ubiquitous Team. This round, Team Flare, as always some of the villains have clearly escaped. You see them in the backgrounds in the city now and again. You find them trying to avoid you. As you run around on Skates or the bicycle, doing tricks if on the skates, catching pokemon and enjoying being a celebrity, the Hero of Kalos you will get a call on your holocaster. A mysterious voice… “My name is Looker… I want to meet you. Come to the Magenta Plaza and make a left.” Do you do it? If this was reality and you were a ten to sixteen year old child, the protagonist in the games appearing to have actually gotten a few birthdays according to this plot, would you want to take the risk? I think of this as I sent my character skating to the location. She enters the doors and finds herself in a Film Noir inspired Private Detective agency.

Looker does have a presence in the manga, the anime and now the games. He is a man of mystery who deals with even greater mysteries than his own identity. He tests your ability to follow video game directions, while your video game character detects things. He is impressed, makes you his partner in his agency and sends you out into the world on your first investigation rapidly. The case? Why are children playing in a dark alley instead of in playgrounds? This is a new development and their parents are duly worried. I wondered why the parents did not just go to the dark alley and find out but this is answered as soon as you find them. These kids have some of the toughest pokemon in the game. I was caught off guard as I was training weaker pokemon up, and found myself barely able to get through. I ran back to the pokemon center round the corner and healed my crew up before confronting the next child…

Her name is Emma. She has dark hair, big blue eyes and her face has signs of sorrow programmed into it. Emma is protected by a psychic cat pokemon. She explains to Looker and the heroine of Kalos why she is there. She has no home. Never has. Her parents abandoned her and the Espurr Mimi was all that she had left in the world. The kids simply wanted to play. Looker’s attempt at being hard boiled fails and the detective immediately tries to adopt Emma and Mimi. Mimi, the psychic cat is afraid of adults and runs off. Terrified Emma asks you, the player, to go and tame her feral cat. You must not pet her, but must smile, dance, or laugh. You must win the trust of this tiny little feline. Then, and only then does this homeless child, tucked away into the game get a home.

This is not the end of the Saga for Emma and Mimi either. They struggle to adjust. Surviving on the streets Emma fell in with a bad crowd. Rough kids that didn’t have guidance. They start stealing pokemon because they know Emma will come and make them give it back and they miss her. She was afraid she would lose her home so tried to keep that part of her life a secret. Looker and his partner have to deal with these thugs, getting there before Emma. Her secret revealed she finds out that again, Looker is understanding and compassionate. It is clear that this man has been in her position to me at that point and that maybe one of the writers has. This is a game that is rated as E for everyone. There could be ten year olds playing it wondering if other children are homeless. Maybe they are homeless and this was something their parents did with the little bit of money they earned at their full time job to comfort them.

Once the issue of her friends is settled and these kids know they too can come visit and play with Emma, Emma begins to wonder if she should get a job because she does not know how to feel secure, relying on Looker and the player for her needs. So she gets a job. Directly at this point a super criminal appears. Rapidly it unravels that Emma’s job is being an experiment subject for one of the men that your character has already crushed, but he escaped the authorities and is now harming Emma. He uses her body, trying to pin the crimes on her. In the end he confesses because he can see that she really is innocent. That and he fears my Raichu’s thunderbolt again. He goes to jail, and Looker has to move on because he was never a private detective but an agent for Interpol. He bought Emma the place she was living, and she gets to keep the super suit that only works for her. So she now gets to become the private detective. She is sixteen at the end of this story, but still exudes innocence. Mimi, her constant companion is also just as bereft at the loss of Looker. Emma wonders if that is what a father is like.

That is the end of her story, but you can still visit her. Talk to her. She makes adult choices and plays a lot less, but she is happy.

I stayed up an extra hour past my bed time to finish the story, because of course it was time to sleep just as it was clear Emma was in danger. This story could have been an entire game in and of itself. I wonder if Emma will make another appearance somewhere. Yet I think it is a brilliant piece of social advocacy, even if that was not the intent, to address homelessness and children. It gives depth to the world of Pokemon, it might explain all the backpackers and hikers. Yes, Pokemon X and Y are set in an allegory of France and there are often foreign travelers backpacking but not every one of them would be.

I was a homeless teenager, and I did not play in safe places. Nor did I have friends my age to play with. The other teenagers in the shelter, when we did get to be in a shelter, avoided me and my family. We were new, and they had been homeless so long there was a culture in and of it’s own. There was a society I had to learn to navigate. So I made friends with the children, and I discovered I had not really out grown pokemon when I thought I did. I drew pictures for the children of their favorite pokemon, inspiring awe that I could actually draw a pikachu and it looked JUST like the one on TV. They taught me to play, and then their older siblings began to come over. We laughed a lot, though I think every one of us still cried at night time. We ate together. We all longed for a real home.

The world right now has more homeless children than when I was one. I think on this often, wondering how someone can work a full time job but cannot afford a home. That is a crime. It is a crime showcased in a video game. There is often discussion of vagrancy in pokemon. People sometimes wonder where the meandering folks you meet live, who clearly do not get to live in the fine houses, cannot have the badges you have, and are left to wander for shelter live. There are vagrants in every game. In Pokemon X it is just stated the most clearly. I know part of my love of these games is the depth in each world. It has grown with the ability of the gaming systems to portray that deepness. You have gardens you actually must tend, weather, day and night cycles, transit systems, and an actual ecosystem. There is an economy. Sometimes things cost more in one city than another. Things can often be only found in one or two locations because they are local products. It is a world with enough depth to captivate my imagination without my mind creating another story. I never have needed to.

Will this little side plot make people more aware of the plight of homeless children in the world? I do not know. Is that plight just one in the US? Of course not! Maybe it will inspire adult players to become Foster Parents or to adopt. Maybe it will let the children who are homeless and struggling in an unjust society like the one I live in to feel a bit of hope. They are not invisible. Maybe. The side effects of homelessness are far reaching. The dangers are too. Not every homeless child has parents either. If the utopian like worlds of pokemon, once you destroy the organized crime groups, still have homeless people do we have hope to change it?

I do not know. I just know that this story haunts me. I also find it strange that no matter what I do, I still end up having to tame the feral cats. Sprite… Sylvani… Selena… and Mimi. If you have the ability to help homeless children, via volunteering at shelters to provide services on through giving them an actual home? Do something. Though knowing the readers of my blog are awesome people, I am sure that some of you already do!

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