Why Do We Always Play As The Most Boring Pokemon Trainer?

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Some people care about Pokemon far too much. I know, I work with them. In the Pokemon games, these people are even more prevalent, but at least they have the excuse that in their reality Pokemon actually exist. Still, some people take it a bit far, making Pokemon their entire personality. Across the games, you battle a variety of trainers, all of whom link their Pokemon of choice, their hobby, and their name up in one unbreakable chain. “I’m Fisher Bob and I only train Magikarp and Wingull.” Course you do, mate. Bet parties at your house are fun, aren’t they? What I will say in defence of Bob and all the other trainers out there is at least they have a unique identity. The character we play as is always the most bland trainer imaginable, and Gen 9 needs to offer something different.

Here are some more examples. Pokemon has Firebreathers, Jugglers, Swimmers, and Artists. It has Capoeira Couples, who sort of dance and fight at the same time. It has Beauties and then, even better, Cool Beauties. They aren’t all winners – Bandana Man is clearly trying too hard to make bandanas a thing, and one class of trainer is just called Ordinary Guy. Maybe Ordinary Guy is actually the coolest one out there though, with a deep commitment to normcore fashion like a pre-fame Billie Eilish. Whatever his reasons, the point is Ordinary Guy chose to be ordinary. Fisher Bob chose to be a fisher and to train the worst Pokemon imaginable. They all own who they are. We, on the other hand, are nothing.

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Sure, we have a decent story. We become the very best, like no one ever was. Our team boasts Absol, Gardevoir, Gengar, and Tsareena, while Guitarist Billy is stuck with Magneton, Exploud, and Kricketune. They stay on one road forever, battling whoever stumbles across them, while we journey across the land and become legends. Our life is better than Fisher Bob’s and his boring houseboat parties that only other Fishers attend. But damn it, is it too much to ask for our character to be a little more interesting?

Pokemon Let's Go Eevee Trainer and Eevee

Gloria, the girl trainer in Gen 8, is by far the most interesting Pokemon protagonist in terms of design, incorporating a sense of Britishness to her look with the countryside colour scheme and a penchant for knitwear. That’s why she instantly became a meme when she was unveiled, with comic artists pasting a thick Scottish accent and brusque, loud persona onto her. She’s a start, as was Galar’s addition of hairstylists and boutiques, in line with Britain’s rich fashion history. But could I be a Firebreather? Could I heck – Gen 9 better let me breathe fire.

I promise this is not as ridiculous a request as it sounds. Customisation is getting better in Pokemon games, but it’s hugely behind other games of its stature and income. These models also exist in the game – I’m not asking for much new stuff here. It’s not necessarily that there needs to be Firebreather outfits, it’s that some of the many, many, many, many, (how many manys is too many manys?), many trainer classes should be playable – or at the very least we should be able to cosplay as them. I’m not asking to be restricted to only using Magikarp and Wingull, but Bob’s Fisher jacket is pretty fetching, right?

There are versions of this out there. Pokemon Go has a few trainer outfits like Ace Trainer as badge rewards, and certain hats and outfits are unlocked throughout Let’s Go. Even Sword & Shield itself lets you dress up as Leon or the gym leaders. We’re so close. But we’re also so far away.

Pokemon’s protagonists are always boring children there to serve as an Everyman – but that should only be the starting point. Somewhere down the line, I have to be able to make this character my own. If I want to do that by wearing a bandana and telling everyone to call me Bandana Babe, that’s my business.

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