Introspection #6: Pokémon Masters EX- A Lovely App Loaded with Lessons
Even though I gave up YouTube for the Lent season, I still seek ways to keep myself entertained during the pandemic. One of these sources of enjoyment is the compelling mobile game, Pokémon Masters EX. Recalling my nostalgic Pokémon memories from my childhood, from pleading with classmates in third grade to trade Pokémon cards to gleefully watching Pokémon: The First Movie on long car trips in my old and gray Nissan SUV, I decided to indulge myself with a taste of the past. Needless to say, I have spent hours on the app, and it is wonderful re-encountering old Pokémon characters who have been pushed into the back of my mind by my storm of maturing thoughts.
One of the best features in Pokémon Masters EX that makes it so captivating is its heartwarming and insightful “sync pair stories”. A sync pair, a Trainer and his/her Pokémon, gets stronger in battle as the pair increases its sentimental bond with each other. The relationship between Trainers and their Pokémon is a prevalent theme within the game, emphasizing the power of mutually caring and trusting relationships. No matter how much experience, training, or upgrading your Trainers goes through, “good” Trainers can only become “great” Trainers by cherishing their Pokémon as a companion.
Thus, considering the wisdom embedded in the game’s sync pair stories, I am going to list and explicate three of my favorite sync pair stories that I have encountered in the app so far. These stories contain precious themes that force you to reflect on where you are in life and the best way to proceed. Therefore, despite being a cute Japanese video game company, Pokémon pleases its fans, not only through the awe of its 932 Pokémon creations, but also through its emotional, and very human, appeals.
Bugsy and Beedrill
When encountering Bugsy, you notice him with a large Pokémon that resembles a wasp. If the appearance of Bugsy’s ally strikes you with panic—do not feel ashamed. Bugsy assures you that it is normal for people to feel unsettled with the appearance of Beedrill, the wasp-like Pokémon.
But a book can never be judged by its cover. Bugsy also recalls the days in which children used to be friendly and inviting toward Beedrill when it was still a cute and little Weedle, a caterpillar-like Pokémon, as a larva. However, once Weedle metamorphosed into a Kakuna, a cocoon-like Pokémon, kids stopped playing with it. Unlike the playful and adorable Weedle filled with sweet sentiments, children could only see Kakuna as a boring and dull chrysalis. Once Kakuna evolved into the Beedrill that it is now, rather than being excited for the Pokémon to surpass its dormant stage, children avoid Beedrill, fleeing as soon as they catch a glimpse of the terrorizing wasp and its threatening stingers.
However, Bugsy adds that even though Beedrill seemingly changed on the surface, it still contains the loving spirit it carried as a Weedle. After failed attempts of trying to convince young individuals that Beedrill should not be judged by its vicious look, Bugsy realized that he should not have to waste his time striving for the attention of people who focus on Beedrill’s appearance over its personality. Those kinds of people are too foul to acquaint with in the first place, for real friends would appreciate the beauty that one contains, not shows. Thus, Bugsy and Beedrill’s sync pair story stress the need to understand that one’s soul does not necessarily reflect the way that he/she looks. People who cannot identify with this belief are not worth the effort to please.
I learned this theme through encounters with my aunt. Despite suffering from many sore joints and stubborn wrinkles, she still finds abundant joy in her life at her advanced age, making plenty of childish jokes and laughing as much as her lungs can absolutely allow her. While I initially perceived her behavior as immature, I later acknowledged that I would not hold the same negative judgment if she were to act the same way as a toddler. In fact, I would probably be delighted instead. Life is too short to be serious all of the time. Hence, while maturity is important, people should not be assumed to dissociate from their childlike expressions based on the number of gray hairs on their head, just like how Beedrill should not be assumed to dissociate from its tender spirit based on its number of frightening black and yellow stripes.
Flannery and Torkoal
Flannery is the granddaughter of a member of the Elite Four, a critically acclaimed team of Pokémon trainers who are deemed the best of the best. Being the descendant of a noteworthy figure, Flannery succumbed to the expectations of becoming as great as her grandfather. Any failures that she encountered filled her with anguish and anger for endangering her worthy place in her family.
Until she met Torkoal. The Pokémon, mindlessly digging up stacks of coals for its own benefits, piqued Flannery’s fascination. Rather than being caught up in its surroundings, Torkoal simply wanted to live a content life by remaining focused on what was in front of it for its own needs.
Torkoal’s actions provoked Flannery to question why she was forcing herself to mold into an individual that others would praise. Torkoal helped Flannery to learn that her life should not be consumed trying to impress others. Similar to how Torkoal takes its time when burrowing into the ground to find coal, Flannery is now determined to tread through life as free as a chick emerging from its egg. Rather than altering herself based on other’s wishes, she now strives to set her own pace, living life as the person she desires to be.
And I wish to live life how I want as well. But fulfilling this task was hard when my father pushed me into activities that I had no passion for. Wanting me to be more “manly”, my father signed me up for numerous sports teams. I joined a baseball team that filled me with anxiety over whether or not a ball would peg my face in a match. I also participated in a soccer team that made me constantly worry about being the team’s weakest link. Furthermore, I was always pushed to play basketball with other kids since my dad considered basketball to be a very “man-like” support.
But I have very little passion for participating in sports. I enjoy watching certain sports presentations, especially those hosted in the Olympics. However, I would much rather be a spectator than an athlete. My spirit shines brightest when I engage with the arts, whether it be through striking my delicate bow across the gorgeous Vienna strings on my viola or meticulously brushing my markers against a paper to infuse it with life. Sports, conversely, load me with dread.
Yet, even though I am not a “man” based on my interests, I identify myself as a man based on my inner qualities.
I am not afraid to ask for help when I need it. While other men fear that reaching out for emotional support makes them appear weak, I believe that suppressing my tensions will only harm me, bringing me to the brink of mental shutdowns. So while I lack the courage to block soccer goals from entering a goal, I regard myself as a man for having the courage to admit when I feel pain. Men need to realize that they cannot be the defenders that they yearn to be if they, themselves, are locked in their own despair. With the strength to unchain myself from the constraints of society’s toxic gender ideals, I see no reason to change myself to align with the cultural standards of a male. Like Flannery, I do not have to change myself to become “better” from other perspectives.
Leaf and Eevee
Even though my decision to discuss this sync pair’s story may seem a bit biased, since Eevee is my favorite Pokémon, I do believe that the story teaches a lesson that would benefit many of us. Eevee is known as the “Evolution Pokémon”, with the great ability to evolve into eight possible Pokémon: Espeon, Flareon, Vaporeon, Umbreon, Jolteon, Glaceon, and Sylveon. With so many possibilities, it can be easy for poor little Eevee to find itself overwhelmed.
Leaf, however, is patient with her beloved ally. She understands the pressure that Eevee faces for thinking that it needs to change itself into something that many others would see as greater. Yet, with so many options, it is hard for Eevee to decide how it plans to pursue that greatness. But Leaf assures her Pokémon that there is no need to feel this way. Leaf believes that, at least for now, Eevee is fine just the way it is.
Even if it is not a burning fury like Flareon or a thunderous treasure like Jolteon, Eevee contains special qualities that not even its more advanced forms possess. For example, Eevee can assist other Pokémon by drastically increasing their battle stats for a certain time, hence, Leaf and Eevvee are known to be one of the best sync pairs for supporting your Pokémon battle team. Eevee’s value is precious, so Leaf encourages it to stop dwelling over how to evolve. Instead, Leaf wants Eevee to enjoy being Eevee as much as possible.
Whatever Eevee decides to evolve into is entirely up to itself. Leaf knows that it is not her right to coerce her Pokémon to evolve into something that the Pokémon does not find appealing. No one should be forced with an unhappy future. The people that care about you would rather see you continue to blossom in life than wilt in depression. Advice that others may have for your development may be valid, but individuals should always have the privilege to take charge of their own fate.
Personally, I desire a life without the pressure of becoming a doctor. However, my parents raised me with the expectation that I would bring honor to the family by saving millions of lives while earning millions of dollars. As a naive child, I obliged to my parents’ wishes. Hence, I studied extra hard for school, participated in science fairs, and promised them that I would get into a fantastic pre-medical program.
But now that I am older, I am well aware that the path to becoming a doctor is not one of luxury. To me, the respect, money, and self-satisfaction that comes in that path cannot suffice for its merciless hours of studying, inevitable feelings of disappointment, and alarming degree of sacrifice. Especially since I am more aware of my mental and emotional boundaries than before, I no longer see myself working 24-hour shifts dedicated to medicine. I admire the work that doctors put forth in treating their patients, but as of right now, I do not think that my life is destined to be consumed in a hospital.
Even though it took a lot of courage, arguments, and tears, my parents graciously let me apply to colleges without having to pursue an advanced medical program. Admittedly, I am not entirely set on what I want to do in the future. Maybe I am meant to be a doctor all along.
But I want to discover my fate on my own.
My parents do not define my destiny. Like Eevee, I refuse for my life to be guided by extrinsic satisfaction. Not fulfilling my parents’ wishes is tough, but at the same time, they must accept that I cannot keep playing the role of a puppet pulled by their strings.
I hope that my reflections motivate you to recognize the profound spiritual value within games like Pokémon Masters EX. All young gamers share similar experiences of unexpectedly obtaining vital lessons from playing a video game when all that they anticipated was a moment of relaxation. Many say that video games rot your mind. Some video games, though, strengthen it. Pokémon Masters EX accentuates the lessons one can learn by forging tight and healthy connections with others.
Some connections can even be life-changing.