Pokémon Crystal

Pokémon is a popular franchise that includes games, anime, and trading cards. Since its creation in 1996, fans of all ages have enjoyed capturing and training Pokémon, unique creatures with special abilities, to become a the very best. However, Pokémon games are devoid of father figures, and I know I’m not the only one who’s taken note of this! It raises many questions, and I think I have a few answers as to why they’re not more prevalent.

Tradition is laced throughout

While there are no active dads in most Pokémon games, there is one exception. In Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald, the Normal-type Gym Leader named Norman is actually the player character’s father! However, he’s busy running the gym, and his presence is limited in the game.

The reason for the absentee men in Pokémon may not seem so straightforward at first blush. However, there are a few good reasons for it. First and foremost is the cultural influence of the game’s creator, Satoshi Tajiri, who grew up in a traditional Japanese family where his father went to work and rarely came home except to rest at the end of a long, hard day.

Cultural differences and Tajiri’s childhood

It’s also the case that Tajiri and Game Freak may have felt that not including them would create a sense of independence and freedom for the player character. You see, Pokémon, has its roots in Japanese traditions that celebrate the independence of children. One such tradition is called Oyama-Ryokan – a practice where young children lead adults around town to familiarize themselves with the area and gain a sense of independence.

This inspired the developers to design a game where players could navigate a virtual world on their own, capturing and training Pokémon along the way without the need for adult supervision. Yep, basically, the games focus on being alone during your adventure was a direct reflection of Tajiri’s childhood experiences. As a kid, he would explore the countryside near his home in Machida, Japan, catching bugs and dreaming up his own fantasy worlds.

Tajiri’s love for bugs and his passion for gaming eventually led to the creation of Pokémon, of course, and it’s clear that he went on his own Oyama-Ryokan at that age. Anyway, despite the absence of father figures, the world of Pokémon continues to captivate fans around the world. Obviously, most gamers either never take note of this or never care.

A few extra dads couldn’t hurt, right?

Now that I’m a 90’s kid all grown up, however, I’m starting to realize things like this. As someone who grew up without a father and who is now a dad himself with a 7-year-old Pokémon-loving kiddo, it would be nice to see more games include fathers as an active and loving part of their children’s upbringing. I get that it’s just escapism, but as a Westerner, I can’t help but feel a bit sad that the mother is always present while the dad is hardly ever mentioned at all.


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