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NEW AGE CHILDREN’S ENTERTAINMENT - ROLE-PLAYING GAMES.
THE HIDDEN DANGERS IN VIDEO GAMING, COLLECTIBLE CARD
GAMES, AND RELATED COMICS, CARTOONS AND ‘TOYS’:
1. POKéMON 2. POWER RANGERS 3. YU-GI-OH!
In the July 2006 issue of CHARISINDIA, Fr. Joseph Aymanathil S.D.B. wrote on the evil effects of body modification.
These physical aberrations- tattooing, body-piercing, tongue-splitting, scar-ification, branding and other mutilations are seen to be indulged in by people with de-sensitized or warped mental attitudes. [This subject is treated separately.]
Now, this article is about role-playing games [RPG] and personality- or behaviour- modification [see pp. 24, 27].
Here, good Christians who indulge themselves in these activities, jeopardise their minds and worldviews. And souls.
Few parents would permit their children to consume junk foods and colas at every meal which result in an unhealthy physical condition. Should Christian parents then allow their children to gorge their minds with spiritual junk foods?
I am referring to the Role- Playing Games or RPGs- propagated by computer and video games, collectible card games [CCG], Japanese ‘anime’ or animated feature films and cartoons, and the ‘manga’ or comics, which are the most visible face of the new kids’ entertainment industry. “Spiritual?”, you protest.
Sadly, most parents remain ignorant concerning 21st century spiritual realities. Children must be guided by informed parents in their television viewing and entertainment habits. They must remember that hardly a day goes by when their children are not exposed to the subtle influences of the New Age movement. Even among those who are spiritually alert, believers are not united on the appropriate response to Harry Potter, Pokémon, or modern kids’ ‘amusements’.
The origin of the word "amusement" is interesting. "Muse" is related to "thinking", while the prefix "a" means "NOT".
So, “amusement” is a time of not thinking! We like to switch off our brains at the end of a hard day and just be entertained. This is not a problem as long as we also do not turn off obedience to God's wisdom and instruction.
So what’s wrong with RPGs? The answer isn't ours to give. Any view of right and wrong must be based on God's Word.
Popular in India among kids are television series and movies like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Witch Academy, Harry Potter, Power Rangers, etc., with some of them being dubbed in regional languages. It is not understood that through these programmes, and the myriad accessories, games and toys which popularise them, New Age spirituality and its practices like hypnosis, crystal power, mind control, astral travel or teleporting, incantations and casting spells, etc. are being mainstreamed into society. The Pokémon phenomenon is one of these latest harmless-seeming fads. Three years into its launch, Pokémon was the sixth most-searched-for word on the internet.
INDIA, TOO, POKéMONED!!! CRASS CONSUMERISM, VIOLENCE, THE OCCULT, PORNOGRAPHY…
Before we go into a detailed examination of Pokémon, is there a reason for Christians in India to be concerned?
I have been assimilating a pile of these collectibles which helpful family members and friends have been confiscating from kids and handing over to me. Move over WWF! Most of the cards are either of Pokémon or the Power Rangers series. Little packs of cards are sold in toy stores. They also come along with the Britannia Treat, Cheetos [PepsiCo]*, Sunfeast snacks, etc., which brands therefore, parents are compelled by their children to purchase whether they are required or not. The collectibles also come as spinning wheels called tazzos or tazos** with Cheetos and other confectionaries.
One of the samples with me depicts a ghoulish horned entity named “Magician of Black Chaos”. Chaos indeed!!!
*“Cheetos Fun Snacks. 1 Free Pokémon Tazo in every bag of Cheetos Rs. 10. Send us this ad. along with 3 wrappers of Cheetos and you can win an exciting Pokémon fun gift”. **There are 48 of them Cheetos tazos to be collected
“Cartoon Crazy Children Create Chaos”- a report by Anupama Shekar in The New Indian Express of September 25, 2006:
“Power Rangers [PR], the cartoon superheroes who fight evil forces on the Jetix Toon Disney channel are wreaking havoc in many homes and schools. If in the past children had broken their ribs imitating superhero Shaktiman, now parents and school authorities are extremely concerned about their near fatal attraction towards the Power Rangers.
Even four-year olds emulate PRs and unknowingly commit acts of violence on their peers forcing some parents in the city to block the channel through the local TV operator or by activating the child lock in the TV remote control.
[NOTE TO THE READER: The subject COMICS, CARTOONS AND TOYS is continued in the article TOYS R NOT US]
“Some schools have imposed a ban on sale of PR toys and even discussed the issue in the Parents Teachers Association meetings. In a shocking incident, a UKG boy studying in a T. Nagar school recently jumped off from the first floor of his flat, imagining himself to be a super character, and broke his ribs. At a school in Adyar, a six-year old boy had jumped from the desk on a classmate, breaking the hand of the latter. And in a school in Tambaram, a student had punched a classmate on his nose, causing injuries. ‘When questioned, he even quoted dialogues in Tamil from the PR show on Jetix Toon Disney, and said the forces of good were battling the forces of evil…’ said the school principal who requested anonymity. Other school heads that Express contacted felt that this cartoon violence on television desensitises children to the extent that they begin to think that its perfectly normal for a peer to be smacked. ‘This is really dangerous, and we have told parents to restrict children from watching the show,’ said C. Satish, principal, DAV Boys’ Sr. Sec. School, Gopalapuram. The Chhatrapati Shivaji Sr. Sec. School, Kodambakkam has enforced a ban on PR merchandise on the campus. ‘We caught some students playing with PR toys and other playcards and confiscated them,’ said principal Rani Desikan. Padmini Sriraman, principal, Hindu Sr. Sec. School, Indira Nagar, said, ‘Our teachers and sub-staff go around during lunch hour to check on the students… and seize the toys.’
“According to Malathi Srinivasan, principal, Devi Academy, Valasaravakkam, parents have complaints about children hitting each other outside the campus. ‘Tom & Jerry and Bugs Bunny are something that the children can grow up on, but the negative influence of Power Rangers is alarming. We are planning to request the Directorate of Matriculation Schools to send circulars to schools on the negative impact of PR,’ N. Vijayan, president, Principals of Matriculation Schools Association, Tamil Nadu, told Express.
Many apartment blocks in the city have also blocked Jetix on their TVs. One such is a block of 16 flats in Little Mount which has banned children from watching this channel. ‘This was a collective decision and we are raising the red flag to put an end to this violence,’ said Suresh Ramanathan, a parent.”
“For the Indian youth, there are other games as well. “City Hooked on DaVinci Code Game” said the Deccan Chronicle of May 16, 2006, about “the DaVinci Code games that are available all over the internet and have nearly all age groups glued to their computer screens… Most of the games were designed to coincide with the release of the feature film and are based on clues and symbols from the book… It’s not only on the internet that one can enjoy solving the Code game.
The DaVinci Game. A board game that can be ordered online, has a large fan following.”
Three months earlier, February 6, 2006, the paper had reported, “Internet Games, a Spell on Teenagers”:
It listed the ‘Top 10 addictive internet games”. Many are relatively ‘ordinary’, but you have some “a little violent, a little bloody, but irresistible”. “Once you get started, you don’t feel like quitting, and you keep going,” says D. Thilak, a school student. “If I don’t play a game on the Net once a day, I go crazy. My hands start itching,” says G. Krishnakumar.
“Kids Hit by the Collectible Craze”. The Deccan Chronicle, February 26, 2006:
“Collectibles that often come free with processed food, sports gear, health drinks, or even cookies and biscuits, have won kids’ hearts. Such is their enthusiasm at collecting the tiny dino figures.. that come free with various snacks, not forgetting the ever popular tazzos, Pokémon cards, that kids often pester their parents to buy packets of wafers and biscuits.
Says, Sapna G. mother of 8-year old Sahyog, ‘It’s unbelievable. Everytime you go out, they want something to play with, and these tazzos are a big craze. My son has a huge collection of almost 700 such kits. And you can’t say No.’
And it’s not just the idea of collecting these accessories that fascinates them. Often they are seen competing with their classmates as regards the numbers they collect… An added advantage is the numerous slogan competitions, essay writing contests and other activities that these companies announce regularly, promising a lot of goodies in reward…
Children say that they never tire of these goodies and toys because there’s something new every day. Parents might complain, but they usually give in to the demands. However, child psychologist Shahana Ismail expresses her concern about this trend. ‘Since children are their largest customer base, companies try to lure them with toys, games, and fun things, but this could lead to unhealthy eating trends…’
A couple of days later, on March 1, the same newspaper reported on students finding “New Ways to Score Marks”.
“The new buzzword is magic. Spells are being cast to conjure up question papers, crosses are selling like hot cakes, and web-sites that deal with witchcraft have almost doubled in the past four months… A few teens have even admitted going so far as to consult spirits through a Ouija board to find out if they will pass or fail…” A legacy of the Harry Potter fad!
And that’s not all. If the occult is in, pornography cannot be far behind. The Deccan Chronicle again, May 5, 2006,
“Online Adult Games, a Hit With GenX Players- Youngsters enjoy the novelty of soft porn games on the internet”:
“Welcome to the world of free online porn games which are currently doing the rounds among the city’s youth.”
The report lists the popular websites and games like those “where you have to buy funky goggles… so you can see people naked! This concept is relatively new to India, and the craze is picking up fast… The ultimate prize- a hot graphic of a naked girl, and adult jigsaw puzzles which when put together become pictures of naked or fornicating people… The games are easy to play, and all the themes revolve around sex and nudity… As all these games are in the form of cartoons, parents have no idea about the adult nature of these games and many do not realize what their children are up to.
These games are easily accessible on the internet.
In North India, Holi revelers this summer had the option of choosing, from among other new models, pichkaris [water guns] branded as Spiderman and Pokémon [Deccan Chronicle, March 14, 2006]. Pokémon had hit the streets of India.
From “India Today”- October 13, 2003, “Pokémon Craze, Monsters Inc.” by Kaveree Bamzai:
“If your child has suddenly started speaking Japanese, do not be alarmed. It is a common affliction among 5- to 12- year olds these days, and it is infinitely better than their being fixated on glistening, grown-up, under-dressed and over-muscled men grappling each other crowded in an arena, egged on by blood-thirsty crowds [obviously referring to WWF].
It is called Pokémon (short and sweet for pocket monsters), and having left the shores of Japan in 1996, the phenomenon has finally arrived in India. Currently, it is a top-rated week-day series on Cartoon Network. It is on trading cards, on water bottles, on a tazo inside a packet of crisps, on every child’s lips, and well, just about everywhere you look.
Ask harried parents about it, and they will tell you about shopping expeditions where junior has rolled on the floor, dug in his heels, and foamed at the mouth, all in an effort to acquire yet another Pokémon card/tazo/comic/toy.
The good news in all this is that it is teaching children to be social- after a fashion. After all competitiveness and acquisitiveness are pretty much the skills needed to be a successful human being. And how much can it hurt if the Pokémon have special powers like being able to administer thundershocks (Pikachu)… The bad news is that there are 151 Pokémon species, who are also characters in the cartoon series, and the series tagline- pretty symbolic of our mall rat times- is Gotta Catch ‘Em All… Monica Mittal spends Rs. 150* a week on the cards [for her two sons, 10 and 7].
Children can spend many hours a day and a lot of their parents’ money in search of cards with elusive creatures.
And like four-year old Michael Kennedy from Chennai, their homes can be veritable shrines to Pokégods. ‘I love them. They are better than Spiderman,’ he says…
“Dr. Sandeep Vohra, consultant psychiatrist at Apollo Hospital, Delhi said, ‘Unlike WWF which is so obviously violent, most parents do not see anything wrong in Pokémon. In any case, monsters are very much part of a child’s inner life.’
A Cartoon Network spokesman says Pokémon is positively good: ‘All children have an inner desire to keep pets. Pokémon creatures are like that. Plus Ash is a great role model. Our research shows that children see him a real leader.’
Yet, most schools have banned trading cards and tazos because of inevitable fights between the haves (children who possess Pokémon cards) and have-nots (those who do not).
All those who think it is a passing phase, be warned. Cartoon Network has 150 episodes of the trials and tribulations of these odd creatures. And be warned again: Pokémon creatures never die. They only faint or flee.”
*India Today reported that the Pokémon GAME BOY game was “expensive, over Rs. 3,500 including a console”.
Six months later, the Economic Times of February 21, 2004, “It’s a Pokémon-ey Machine”.
“Anita and Adrash, aged 11 and 8, are siblings who buy a packet of chips daily. Not because they are hooked to them, but for what they are getting with them: Pokémon tazos and trading cards… Even as the Pokémon craze sweeps across kids, savvy marketeers are playing the right cards.
“Pokémon will be a jumpstart for the licensing and merchandising industry,” says Marvin Fernandes, Founder-Director, CB Media Ventures which helps Top Insight International, Pokémon’s licensor for Asia excluding Japan.
It may be a flight of fancy for kids but Pokémon is like a rainbow for marketers. Globally, the property rakes in $30 billion in licensing revenue each year- this figure is higher than the GDP of small economies such as Zimbabwe, and Uruguay.
Rima Gupta, Chief Executive Officer, Quadra, a strategic marketing consultancy, feels Pokémon has kids biting its bait…
Raking in the moolah may not be child’s play, but as of now, it’s better than business as usual for Pokémon. No kidding!”
THE HISTORY OF POKéMON
Pokémon began in 1996 in Japan as an RPG [Nintendo Game Boy] game, like the other major players- "Dungeons and Dragons" [D & D- "The original fantasy role-playing game"] of the ‘80s, "Magic: The Gathering" [MTG- "The original trading card game"] of the ‘90s, both of which are occult - involving cards and TV cartoons. The new culture icons captured the minds and hearts of our youth, not to mention their pocketbooks. [More on these games later]
The creatures soon rolled over all the "Star Wars" paraphernalia and claimed vast stretches of prime real estate in virtually every toy and video store- it has also materialized in non-video format, including, but not limited to, a trading card game, and even a board game- not to mention bookstores and card stores and staked out major territory on the online auction site eBay. Dozens of sites offer “the best pokémon downloads, cheats, news and walkthroughs.” Others sell Pokémon bumper stickers and colouring pages, often with Christian material in their range of items. On some websites you may adopt a Pokémon. Many Christian gaming sites also offer Pokémon! The Pokémon juggernaut now encompasses television breakfast shows, animated TV cartoon series, plush toys, posters, coloring books, T-shirts, comics, audio CD's, strategy books, clothing, snacks, jewellery, perfumes, screensavers, and a growing list of other possibilities.
The Pokémon Trading Card Game website even links you with the other occult games like D & D, MTG, etc.
Pokémon is manufactured by the company Wizards of the Coast which is best-known for its highly-addictive early product, Magic: the Gathering. Coming onto the market in 1990, MTG became a multi-million dollar empire with pro leagues and its World Championship on ESPN. Its basis was a series of trading cards which varied heavily in utility and in rarity, with some of the more valuable cards still costing upwards of $800 well after the initial craze had worn off. As a marketing gimmick, Magic was brilliant, initiating the era of the collectible card game.
The Japanese translation of Pokémon [pronounced po-kay-mon or poh-kay-mahn], or Pokemon [as in Pokeymon], means "pocket monster(s)": POCKEt MONster ["poketto monsutaa" in Japanese transliteration]. There are several other such contractions in the Japanese language, such as karaoke. Japanese Cultural Attache Soji Tahara told Agence France Presse that the word is actually an abbreviation of "pocket monster. In Japan we use the word ‘poke' to mean something small.`Pokekom' means `pocket computer'.” This game’s very name describes what the ‘game’ is about.
Pokémon is both singular and plural. There is no such thing as Pokémons. Whether you are talking about one or two Pokémon, it is still Pokémon! Poke is acceptable on occasion, however. Don't ask me why!
Nintendo has recognized that girls enjoy Pokémon. In Pokemon Crystal you can choose to play as either a boy or a girl!
There are male and female versions of several Pokémon, and you can now breed baby Pokémon.
Pokémon- as we learnt- is manufactured by Wizards of the Coast, creator-owner of the original collectible card game MTG and now owner of D & D. It was purchased by Hasbro, a giant in the toy and game industry which also produces Ouija Boards and D & D. 4Kids Entertainment is the firm responsible for launching the worldwide Pokémon craze.
Pokémon was the brainchild of 34-year-old Satoshi Tajiri, Japanese founder of the development company “Game Freak”.
He told Time magazine that the game is his fulfilled childhood fantasy and that he spent his boyhood capturing insects and engaging them in battles. Tajiri rebuilt an old Game Boy into a Pokémon video game- the insects became monsters- and eventually got Nintendo to release it in 1996. He said that in creating the game it was important that the monsters be "small and controllable" and that they come "in a capsule, like a monster within yourself, like fear or anger."
Since their introduction, there have been many Pokémon games released that didn’t belong to the main series. Some of these games were released for the Nintendo 64, some for the Gamecube, and others were on the Gameboy Color and Gameboy Advance systems. Some of them aren’t RPGs like their Gameboy cousins. Some are interesting puzzles, other are spin-offs, giving an interesting twist to the Pokémon games. One can trade one's Pokémon with other players via the Game Boy Link Cable; this forms an integral part of the game as some Pokémon can only be collected by trading with another version. In 1998 Nintendo introduced Pokémon in the United States with an Americanized version of the daily cartoon show which became the number one rated television kids' show on the popular cartoon programming Kids' WB.
There have been at least five Pokémon movies released. Pokémon the Movie: Mewtwo Strikes Back was released in U.S. theatres on November 12, 1999, by Warner Brothers with "Pikachu's Vacation," a 22-minute lead-in film guaranteed to feed the greed stirred by Nintendo’s enchanting Pokémon. The second movie, Revelation Lugia, featured the three legendary birds, and the third, Lord of the Unknown Tower, was released spring 2001. A second Mewtwo movie, Mewtwo Returns, was released direct-to-video in December 2001. The fourth Pokémon movie, Pokémon 4Ever, was released October 11, 2002. Pokémon Heroes, the fifth movie’s U.S. release was on May 16, 2003.
The trademarked catchphrase associated with Pokémon is "Gotta catch 'em all!", although today, it is no longer officially used due to it no longer being possible to catch all 386 species in the series, the different characters to be caught or seen by the main character, ten-year old Ash Ketchum (‘catch-em’), a 10-year old who lives in Pallet Town.
His Japanese name is Satoshi (after the creator). The series is based on the main character Ash, and friends he meets on his journey to become a Pokémon master. He also meets other trainers and Pokémon whom he befriends.
The series always contains a message of peace and friendship for the young viewers- and this befools many Christians. The idea of having small pets that you can catch and train have charmed the hearts of thousands.
The Pokémon have special powers and share the world with humans. The idea of the game is to have the children learn how to collect as many Pokémon as possible, train them, and use them against each other people's Pokémon by invoking the various abilities of each Pokémon creature. And the more he catches and trains, the more power he will have for future battles. The goal of the trainer is not only to have the right Pokémon for the event but also to have properly trained the Pokémon. Thus, the trainer can ultimately capture them all and become a master.
The objective of the game is to capture or buy Pokémon and train them to obey and attack on command. Once they are ready, you can challenge other Pokémon Trainers. You do this until you have beaten all other local trainers and defeat the Elite 4 Trainers (who are "masters of evil," according to the official "Pokémon Handbook" by Maria Barbo.) The ultimate goal is to defeat the Pokémon Master and ascend to his throne (according to "Pokémon Pathways to Adventure" by Jason Rich). After that the final accomplishment is to capture and catalogue all the Pokémon in the world. Hence their slogan, "Gotta catch' 'em all" (or from the parents' point of view: "Gotta buy 'em all!")