A lot goes into catching a Pokemon. Trainers have to whittle down the resolve of their prey with attacks and ailment-inflicting moves (which increases the chances of capture), select and throw the right Pokeball (which can also raises the success rate), followed by holding down and the A button while the ball teeters back and forth (which does absolutely nothing). Upon victory, the player is given the option to rename the caught Pokemon.
You should never do this.
It's tempting, to be sure. After all you've been through, customizing your hard-won prize helps seal that sense of satisfaction. Maybe that's why people choose to give their Pokemon a new identity. I wouldn't know. I don't take part in the practice. Frankly, I'm appalled that the feature exists at all. I recognize that a lot of people have strong feelings on this matter, so let's dig into exactly why renaming Pokemon feels so wrong.
I reinstalled Pokemon Go a few weeks ago (I know), and I was surprised to see that many of the trainers I encountered had defaced their sidekicks with a replacement nickname. Unsure if the disgust boiling in my gut was justified, I threw the question out to Twitter. The majority of 6,000 voters shared my initial revulsion.
Do you rename your Pokemon?
-- Tristan Cooper (@TristanACooper) August 5, 2018
Do you rename your Pokemon?
If the current media landscape has taught us anything, it's that reality is a democracy. This infallible poll should put the matter to rest once and for all, but I thought it might prove productive to unpack this further. You know, just to be sure.
Leaving a Pokemon with its original species name makes sense on a basic practical level. Let me explain by comparing the situation to the only frame of reference I have in my adult life: SNES JRPGs.
When I first played Final Fantasy III (that is, before it was FFVI), I was a foolhardy youth with nothing to lose. Each time another party member was introduced, the game offered the chance to rename my new teammate. I obliged, because why not? They must have given me the option for a reason, right? It seemed harmless enough at the time, but to this day I remember iconic characters all wrong. There's the mysterious gambler "Earl" and of course the feral youth known as "Jooky" (styled after the timeless soda parody commercial). Let me tell you, looking up internet FAQs with my poisoned, non-canonical mind is a nightmare.
The same thing can happen to Pokemon. Should you come across a Geodude for the first time and decide to call it anything other than Geodude, that made-up moniker will be branded in your brain forever. The next time a familiar silhouette shows up on Who's That Pokemon, you may very well shout "Bobert!!" in front of shocked friends and family members.
There are over 800 Pokemon in existence, and at some point cycling through the entire Pokerap in your head becomes a chore. Meaning that if you want to save yourself a headache any time you're sifting through Bulbapedia or even like, talking to a friend about specific Pokemon, it'll help if you can remember the difference between a Charmeleon, a Chikorita and a Chimecho.
Even if someone was able to keep all those names straight, there's also the part where Pokemon say their names out loud.
In defense of their heinous deeds, some fans have compared renaming Pokemon to naming their pets. They reason that nobody calls their dog Pug, or Labradoodle, or We Did a Test and He's Half-Chihuahua and a Quarter Doberman But the Landord Says He Looks like a Pitbull So He Charges Us Extra. Then again, if your Corgi barked and it sounded like they were saying "Corgi!" you'd probably call the dog Corgi. Just ask Hodor from Game of Thrones.
Now, I know that in the games, Pokemon cries are garbled digital growls. But in recent years, games have started mimicking the anime in this area, as seen during the trailer for Pokemon Let's Go Pikachu and Let's Go Eevee.
If you've made it this far and you still want to rename your Pokemon, I think I know where you're probably coming from. And though it might feel like it sometimes, Pokemon are not your friends.
Pokemon are designed to elicit an emotional response. That's okay. You wouldn't have the desire to catch 'em all if they were charmless golems (no offense to actual Golems). Giving your personal pet a unique name might sound like a gracious gift of identity bestowed upon to a living creature that you care about. That would be reasonable, except Pokemon are not pets. You don't make your pets fight in arenas, you don't swap your pets with friends at will, and you don't stuff your pets in a digital abyss for all eternity after you're through with them.
Pokemon are indentured gladiators, sentient trading cards, and in some cases digital currency. When you give a Pokemon a name, it's not for their sake -- it only serves to soothe your conscience, to fool yourself into believing the relationship goes beyond owner and property. When you kidnap and dominate every Pokemon known to man, you aren't declared a "Pokemon Savior" or a "Pokemon Superfriend." You're the Pokemon Master, and filling out Bonersaurus in the text field isn't going to change the fact that you're basically a supervillain hoarder. My advice: Skip the nickname screen, and embrace the idea that being the very best also means being the very worst.