In good news for Pokémon–obsessed people (me), Nintendo appears to only be getting started with its Sword and Shield world. The company has plans to add expansion packs later this year to bring new adventures to the Galar region. That’s dope!
And I hope the expansions keep building on one of the key themes in Pokémon Sword and Shield. The game clearly takes place in a world where climate change exists and where fossil fuels are to blame. Sounds familiar, huh? The Crown Tundra expansion pack will be released in the fall and is set in a frozen landscape, and I can imagine meeting Pokémon facing the side effects of melting sea ice and glaciers. Or maybe there’s a side mission where we meet some tundra-based professor studying melting permafrost. The possibilities for exploring climate change in the Pokémon world are endless here.
There’s already plenty going on in the latest version. Energy plays a central role in the game. But it’s also clear the energy and industrial sectors in the past have taken their toll on Pokémon living in Galar, the new world in Sword and Shield. The parallels to our world couldn’t be any clearer.
The new version of Corsola, a rock and water type Pokémon inspired by beautiful peachy corals, made news in November for its appearance. The Galar version, known as Cursola, has been cursed by climate change and turned ghostly white due to the shock of “sudden climate change.” Cursola’s fate mirrors that of coral in the real world that have been hit by bleaching due to warming oceans and higher carbon levels turning seas acidic.
I haven’t caught a Cursola yet, but it isn’t the only Pokémon directly affected by climate change in the Galar region. One Pokémon I’ve been collecting is Weezing. In previous versions, it was a noxious cloud of smoke. But the new version adds an important detail to show where the smoke comes from. This is how it looks in this game:
And while they may look like a bong or a top hat to some, Weezing’s new form looks a lot like a smokestack to me. And it took on that form not because it hit the weed too hard but because of pollution.
“Long ago, during a time when droves of factories fouled the air with pollution, Weezing changed into this form for some reason,” its description in the Pokedex reads.
That sounds a lot like what’s happened here on Earth as fossil fuel companies have turned our atmosphere into a garbage dump for carbon pollution. That makes them the root cause of climate change.
I’ve caught a handful of Weezings and have given them names to honor some real-world polluters given the obvious parallels between the game and Earth. Meet BP, my current girl.
I have two other Weezings I named Exxon and Chevron. However, I’ve left them at a nursery in the hope that they can give me an egg for another, potentially even more powerful and rarer version of the Weezing where it’ll be brown instead of gray. I think I’ll name that one ConocoPhillips. Or maybe Royal Dutch Shell (or just Shell for short).
This is the world we live in, where not even video games can ignore the dangers of pollution and climate change. But Pokémon Sword and Shield also shows we can change course. While this version of Weezing may look like it’s continuing this legacy of pollution, the Pokémon actually filters poisonous air, according to game makers. No wonder this Weezing is both a fairy and a poison type. It’s fucking magical.
We don’t have the type of technology today in the real world that can clean dirty air. If only. But that doesn’t mean we can’t work to build it and kick fossil fuels to the curb.