Real-Life Pokemon: The Mythological History of Animals

Animals and storytelling have been a part of human culture since Homo Sapiens came into existence. Living in a world filled with majestic creatures that we hunted for food, skinned for clothing, and kept as pets has influenced our lives in powerful ways: religion, politics, even warfare.

From sacred Egyptian cats to Hinduism’s holy cows, animals represent more than biological life-forms, they are intertwined in every aspect of our culture. Pokemon taps into this deep-seated psyche by extending the powers that animals have, and thus, their utility in human society.

Created by Satoshi Tajiri and Ken Sugimori, Pokemon (originally called “Pocket Monsters”) were adapted from real-life animals in the early 1990s. In the original video game, the player must capture Pokemon using specially design Poke Balls, and use them to fight fictitious competitors, collection various specialty badges with every defeat. Pokemon taps into our human instincts of companionship, competition, and journey. As a result, Pokemon became one of the largest pop culture trends throughout the work in the 90s.

Millennials grew up playing Pokemon video games, watching its cartoons, and playing its card games. As technology advanced, Nintendo, which publishes Pokemon, updated versions of the video games to play on advanced hardware. As smart technologies progressed, Niantic, a San Francisco Software company specializing in augmented reality, worked to create one of the most successful smartphone applications in history: Pokemon Go. Tapping into the public’s nostalgia of this cultural phenomenon, combined with new technologies, Pokemon Go allows users to catch their own Pokemon in their community through their smart phone.
Although Pokemon Go integrates novel technology to create a fundamentally unique experience for users, it has more than just software to thank for its success. At the core of its appeal to consumers is its connection to human psychology. Humans have always had an affinity for animals because they have shared our spaces since the development of our species. Because of this, our ancestors told stories and created mythologies around animals and the symbols they represent.

If we skim through history, we will discover countless interactions between humans and animals, and stories based off of them which relayed important cultural messages. For example, lions represent authority, power, and dominance; lambs and snakes are often symbolized in religious texts, and eagles are seen as heralds of freedom.
One culture that was particularly influenced by animals was ancient Greece, which based a large portion of their religion on mythological creatures. One of the most famous storytellers of Ancient Greece, named Aesop, was famous for incorporating animals in his anecdotes which were used to convey important moral tales. These were used by politicians, religious leaders, and teachers to explain to audiences life-lessons in easy to understand ways.