Friday, June 8, 2012

The Pokemon Series's Gym Hazards

Well, THAT was a bust. I take a month off to shore up my rant reserves, and what do I have to show for it? This.

So! Pokemon. While the RPG series sometimes has some merits, there’s no denying that the world of Pokemon and its society are one of the craziest, least sensible settings one can find in gaming, save for the occasional game that is deliberately trying to be bizarre. Why do people let children just wander aimlessly across the country, unsupervised, looking to provoke and catch creatures of immense power that could easily destroy them? If Pokemon are so easily trained, why aren’t they weaponized, given their limitless potential for destruction? How the bloody hell does a Pokeball work, and where does the technology come from in a world which is otherwise fairly comparable to ours in terms of scientific advancement? And so on and so forth. To pick apart the logical gaps in the world of Pokemon would take hours, days, weeks, pages and pages of questions, and honestly, almost all of them have been asked and mocked before dozens of times, so I’m not going to bother with it. There IS, however, one aspect of the Pokemon world that is confusingly illogical that I DON’T think has been particularly widely questioned yet, so I’m going to waste your time with it today: the safety hazards of the Pokemon Gyms.

What the HELL is going on with the Gyms of the Pokemon world? Oh, sure, plenty of them are innocuous enough. A swimming pool area for Misty’s Water-Type Gym, a forest maze for Bugsy’s Bug-Type Gym, an actual gym for Maylene’s Fighting-Type Gym, that sort of thing. They create an appropriate background environment for the theme of the Gym Leader’s specialty, and often use the layout themes to create obstacles and puzzles for the challenger to overcome before battling the Gym Leader. Decent idea, harmless enough.

But some of these places are fucking death traps. In Skyla’s Flying-Type Gym in Pokemon Generation 5, for example, challengers have to climb into and be shot out of cannons to advance forward, which is just a tragedy waiting to happen. But hey, I’ve played the Mana series. I’m accustomed to the immensely ridiculous idea of using human artillery as a means of travel. So I can certainly look beyond this.

But peeling the remains of 10-year-olds off Skyla’s walls is just the start. How about Mauville City’s Gym from Pokemon Generation 3, which has big, live tesla coils just randomly scattered around the floor, running lord knows how many millions of volts between them right out in the damn open? Good God, I know the place has an Electric-Type theme, but it seems just a little extreme to me to have a setup where any wrong step by a visitor (or trainer flunky, for that matter, they hang around awfully close to these giant electrical coils) is gonna light them up like an overclocked Christmas tree. And what about the Gym for Violet City? Yeah, no giant unguarded volt machines there, but I’m not sure incredibly narrow platforms, ones without any kind of guard rails whatsoever, suspended hundreds of feet in the air so that any challenger can have a good few moments to consider that last misstep as they plunge to their death, are much better. And hey, yeah, how about that Blackthorn City Gym? You know, the one where all the little kids hoping to win a Gym Badge are running around on platforms floating over molten fucking lava?

Normally I’d snarkily criticize the fact that several parts of the place don’t have any safety railing (and those parts are the moving platforms, even!), the way I did for Violet City’s Gym, but really, it’s a public meeting place for preteens that’s filled with lethal, boiling melted rock. I think that once you’ve got overactive ten year olds running around on rocks floating in a roiling fire sea of death just because you like the atmosphere the lava gives the place, safety railings are a moot fucking point!

By far my personal favorite for hazardous Pokemon battling environments, though, is the Icirrus City Gym. This is a Gym where the challenger has to make his/her way around the Gym by sliding uncontrollably forward over icy patches. Now, this has some potential for injury, but you’re thinking, well, that’s not nearly as dangerous as cannon travel and live electrical coils. Right? Well, see, the Gym is split into 2 separate sections, one on the left, and one on the right. What separates them? A huge, black void. It’s pretty certain for a hole to be that huge and that black, it must be a long, LONG way down. As in the fatal-several-times-over form of long, LONG way down. And how do you get from section of the Gym to the other, and back again? By running onto an icy ledge hanging out over the pit and sliding along it until you hit a ramp that sends you flying through the air to an identical icy ledge with a ramp on the other side. I don’t have a picture of this, but if you go to 3:29 in this video, you can see it in action.

I just love the idea of this, in a sick, twisted way. All you need is for some clumsy kid or adult to accidentally step foot on that patch of ice leading to the ramp, and start sliding forward. That’s all. It’s too smooth and slick to stop yourself; the game shows clearly that one has no control of one’s momentum once on that ice. And just accidentally sliding forward means they’re going slowly--easily slow enough that they won’t have enough speed when they hit the ramp to make it to the other side. They’ll just gently be lifted into the air a foot or so, and fall to their death. No railings (AGAIN) or anything that they could grab onto to steady themselves or anything. Just an irreversible slide to their death plunge. What happens if a kid has the speed, but loses his/her balance while sliding toward that ramp? Ice is slippery, sliding momentum is tricky, accidents happen. I guess he/she just slides on the ass or side along, hits the ramp, and tumbles through the air in a flailing mess, most likely hitting the other side’s ramp end and falling into the pit. Or how about if a challenger judges the path wrong, approaches the thing at an angle? They may have the speed and balance just fine, but be irrevocably heading in a diagonal direction and miss the other side’s icy ledge altogether.

It’s one thing to be instantly electrocuted or have a second-long plunge into an immediate fiery death, but if anything goes wrong on that icy ramped ledge of death in Icirrus City, you get to watch, to know, your death as you approach it, and there’s nothing you can do. Damn, man, forget the rest, Icirrus City’s Gym is the worst of the bunch.

And so it is proven that the world of Pokemon is really pretty messed up if you look at the details. Again. For like the millionth time. But hey, at least it’s been proven in a way that, to my knowledge, hasn’t had much discussion previously, right? That’s gotta be worth something.

I’m sorry, I’ll have a real rant next time. Probably.


  1. (OMG 1 Month and this is all you come up with)

    Nah I'm just kidding love your work

    I't kinda jaring how progresivly dangeous the gyms get. I mean gen 1, only thing dangerous Serge's electric fence (and Anime Sabrina even though it dose not apply) To back to back death traps in gen 5

    Though I think we can ignore (or rant?) about the lava as in real life you can't even get close to lava without a heat shield. FF3 has the egrious example as you can stand in the lava

  2. Well actually, I can think of a lot of RPGs wherein the main party at some point has the opportunity to walk across lava-covered areas for a comparably paltry damage penalty, not just FF3, now that you mention it. But it's a little different with those--I mean, as unbelievably as it really is when you get down to it, you can still use some suspension of disbelief in that scenario because your standard RPG party are more or less living gods able to take inhuman punishment and shrug it off. In Pokemon, you play a physically normal preteen kid. As for the point about needing a heat shield, yeah, another fine point.

    1. (Sorry for the late reply i'm being forgetfull again)

      Yeah there's alot of RPGs and walking on lava. FF3 just stood out to me becasue they were waste deep in the lava.

      Also have you heard of the Pokemon Mystery dungeon games, for a spin off it was really fun to play and acually has a well thought out story (though 2cd game easily out does the first in every singly way)

    2. Heard of them, haven't played them. I didn't know there was actually a story for them. That interests me.

    3. Also I should mention that the Mystery dungon games were developed by chunsoft and not gamefreak

      Also tissues