Pokémon: The Unique Experience of Fan-Made Games
With the announcement of Nintendo’s Pokémon Go, many pokémon fans are excited by the opportunities presented in this mobile game. Pokémon has evolved and captured the hearts of many gamers because of its immersive world and endless playability. Players can either strive to beat the Elite Four, complete the pokédex, battle online against other trainers, create the perfect team, etc. But as much as Nintendo continues to surprise us with installations of their franchise, what about the fans that take the time to create their own games?
Some fans, with their artistic or programming abilities, have created fan-made games and uploaded them as ROMs on the Internet. This creates a unique gaming experience, as fans have created either new pokémon (called fakemon) or added features to make the game interesting for players. Although there are many fan-made games (a comprehensive list can be found here), this article will focus on a select few that are unique in their concepts.
Pokémon Ethereal Gates
A popular design choice for fan-made games is to create a new region with either fakemon, pokémon, or both, in hopes to replicate the memorability of the current regions in the Pokémon World. An example of a game that contributes to this notion is Pokémon Ethereal Gates designed by Perihelion Productions. In Pokémon Ethereal Gates, the player is transported into the world of Leneka, as the player plays Cooper or Sophie (their default names) to explore the region. Pokémon Ethereal Gates was created for both PC and Mac and uses the keyboard’s functions.
The game starts off differently, as the protagonist volunteers to collect data for the professor along with their friends. However, what makes this game unique is the fact that not only do the players get to explore a new region, but they also have 200 fakemon to collect -- all designed by Perihelion Productions. ‘Fakemon’ is a combination of two words, fake and pokémon, and are non-canonical Pokémon characters created by fans of the franchise. It originated in the mid to late ’90s from a website called ‘Mewthree and Frogglet’s Pokémon Factory’ and has since spread onto websites like DeviantArt, forums or blogs. 1
Fans are unable to research which fakemon to catch, so Pokémon Ethereal Gates provides the players a fresh experience while diving into a new world of Pokémon. The game is also unique because of its interactive community, as Perihelion Productions updates players on their social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit. Fans do not need to refer to a guidebook or watch a ‘Let’s Play’ for advice -- they can communicate with other players in the forums, which reignites excitement for the beloved franchise.
Currently, only the demo has been released. Watch the video below to see the trailer.
One of the downfalls of the Pokémon franchise is that it gives players few opportunities to explore other occupations. Breeding and pokémon coordinating are added as accents to the game, but the primary focus is to capture pokémon and become the strongest trainer in the region. However, what if the player does not want to be a trainer? Pokémon Godra provides a solution by giving the player multiple options at the start of the game. As the region is divided between East and West, players can travel to one of these regions and pick from various occupations. This allows for playability, as the game can be replayed to try different roles.
Unlike most pokémon games, the player does not have to choose between fire, grass, or water pokémon as their starter. Instead, the professor asks a series of questions, and depending on the player’s choices, four pokémon will be selected for the player. (Click here for the list.) The player then gets to decide whether they want to travel to the West or East region, with each region providing different opportunities for story. For example, because West Godra is militarized, players have the option to either join the military or private security forces. In East Godra, players can be safari wardens, pokémon professors, nurses, join the trainer coalition, etc.
These RPG factors make Pokémon Godra unique, as the game relies heavily on the player’s decisions. The pokémon vary depending on the region the players select, and each job has their own set of quests to complete. Pokémon Godra is playable for PC and is expected to make a 1.1 version of the final game.
Remember when Bill accidentally fused himself with a pokémon? What if he fixed his machine and was able to complete the practice of fusing two pokémon together? This is the premise of Pokémon Fusion, as the player battles and uses fusion pokémon throughout their journey. Fusion pokémon has always intrigued fans, as they wondered what two pokémon would look like if they were combined. Alex Onsager created a website called ‘Pokémon Fusion’ to satisfy this curiosity, which led fans to draw fan art dedicated to fusion pokémon.
The game brings a unique aspect to the Pokémon franchise because players must strategize which pokémon they should fuse. Should they combine Ivysaur and Eevee to make Eeveesaur? Or combine their Pikachu and Eevee to make Pikavee? The game also deals with ethics, as the player witnesses Lt. Surge demand a fusion pokémon from Bill. He states, “You little punk! You gave all the gym leaders fusion pokémon! I came all the way here to get mine and you expect me to leave empty-handed?” This makes us wonder how far one will go to obtain power, as Bill’s fusion pokémon has also captured the attention of Team Aqua and Magma, who join forces to steal Bill’s house and his fusion machine.
There is no explanation on how the fusion process works, although players can unlock a dark secret once they have access to Bill’s basement. As an Easter egg, players can find cages of failed experiments, as Bill explains that not all of his experiments were a success. Unfortunately, Nintendo demanded a cease and desist from the creators of Pokémon Fusion, which led the game to be deleted from the Internet. (Although if you search hard enough, you just might find it.) There are still ‘Let’s Plays’ uploaded on YouTube, but this brings us to the ultimate question…
Is this legal?
Short answer: it’s complicated.
Similar to fanfiction and fan art, fan-made games fall into a gray zone. If creators do not claim to be part of the franchise or earn any income from their game, then companies will not come after fans for violating their copyright. Nintendo is notorious for protecting their copyright, and has shut down other fan-made works such as the online battler, Pokénet, and the Zelda film, The Hero of Time. 2
Alex Tutty, a digital IP expert based in London, explains that it is difficult for creators of fan-made games to protect themselves if a game company sues them. Tutty states, “Games are protected by copyright in the source code and in the representations on the screen as artistic works. [If the] fan game copies the original exactly then there is obviously a huge issue here.” 3 Just like books, paintings, and photos, games are also considered intellectual properties and should be respected by fans. However, fan-made games are not created to anger companies, but are made to pay homage to the franchise. Thus, it is best to take precautions when making a game, so Gama Sutra has an article on how to deal with the legal issues.
Pokémon is a beloved franchise, and has inspired fans to create their own games. These games can be considered exciting, as they stimulate creativity and implement brand new features that are not available in the original games. However, fan-made games are also susceptible to copyright, and must be created carefully to ensure that no companies are displeased by the outcome. If there is disgruntlement, a cease and desist letter will be sent to the production company and years of hard work will go down the drain.
Despite hearing about these failures, fans are still creating their own games, proving that when a company creates an immersive world, it inspires others to the same in order to emulate the same experience.
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