Pokémon: Play, Affect, and the Uncanny

Instructor: Joseph Earl Thomas
This is an online course (Eastern Time)

Pokémon, as an intellectual property, requires little introduction. Since its Game Boy release in 1996, it has established an entire genre of play—including a trading card game, animated series, and several films, making it the premier modern example of a now global mode of kawaii (or cute) consumption and production. It’s hard to understate the reach of the franchise’s creature capture mode of gameplay, let alone the modes of mixed-media consumption it helped unleash upon the late capitalist world. In 2016, Pokémon Go, the augmented reality version of the series, developed new horizons—and attendant disenchantments—for public play and financialization from within a political climate of public violence and protests against police violence. To this day, the trading card game and the e-sport for the mainline Nintendo Switch Game—now on its ninth generation—set new standards for attendance, with cash tournament prizes upward of $50,000 for players, while the Pokémon Company itself grosses over $11 billion dollars a year through licensed goods. What can we say about the conditions—social, political, financial—that have made these products so astonishingly popular?

In this course, we will think about the Pokémon franchise analytically, primarily through the video game series and its mixed media lineages. How has Pokémon helped shape current modes of consumption and production in the global economy, and what is its relationship to the national project of Japan? How does a player in the Pokémon world navigate conflict and difference, from the point of view of the game’s aesthetics, gameplay, and forms of representation? We will also turn our attention to Pokémon’s uncanny relationship to affect and feeling, with the aid of scholars like Sianne Ngai, Hiroki Azuma, Otsuka Eiji, Marc Steinberg, Mizuki Ito, and others. Who plays these games and purchases these products—and why?

Course Schedule

Monday, 6:30-9:30pm ET
June 03 — June 24, 2024
4 weeks


Registration Open

SKU: JUN24-NY-POKEMON Categories: , Tags: , ,