From the Cover of Pokémon: Diamond and Pokémon : Pearl (2004) by Nintendo:
“Welcome to the next generation of Pokemon! Asa rookie Pokémon Trainer, you will need to catch, train, and battle Pokémon on your journey to become the Pokémon League Champion. You will face many challenges along the way, as you search for the Pokemon that rules time/space in Pokémon Diamond/Pearl version. Discover more than 100 new Pokémon in the Sinnoh Region! Watch as day turns to night with the return of the real-time clock feature!“
From the Cover of Pokémon : Brilliant Diamond and Pokémon : Shining Pearl (2021)by Nintendo:
“Revisit the Sinnoh region from the original Pokémon Diamond Version and Pokémon Pearl Version games and set off to try and become the Champion of the Pokémon League! The Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Pokémon Shining Pearl games brings new life to these remade classics with added features. Explore the Grand Underground to dig up items and Pokémon Fossils, build a Secret Base, and more! Test your style and rhythm in a Super Contest Show. A reimagined adventure, now for the Nintendo Switch system.“
Transfiguring Adoption’s Overview:
Pokémon overall is typically a pretty kid-friendly gaming franchise. As long as a child is able to read the instructions needed most kids are capable of playing the game, especially this installment of the game (both original and remake). The target audience appears to be children that are grade-school and up but some younger kiddos may be fine with some help reading. It also appears this game would be best for most families that enjoy a good RPG game. While there are no direct ties to foster care or adoption in the game there are many challenges and points that children with trauma may relate to as the main character works to become Pokémon League Champion.
** Spoilers Could Be Ahead **
How Is This Relevant To Adoption & Foster Care?
While this Pokémon installment does not directly relate to foster or adoptive care the main character is a younger youth traveling about the region of Sinnoh and having to navigate new relationships and challenges now that they are eligible to become a Pokémon trainer. Gameplay is very standard of prior Pokémon games with the RPG turn-based style battles and the player working with Pokémon to earn 8 gym badges to compete in the Pokémon League and try to become League Champion. While navigating this basic game the player also works to stop Team Galactic from destroying the world by trying to create a new one with powers from rare Pokémon named Dialga and Palkia, who control time and space respectively. Thankfully the player isn’t alone as they have the help of various characters including their mom, Professor Rowan, best friend Barry, and rival Lucas or Dawn (depending on player’s choice in avatar). While hopefully your child isn’t saving the world, they are learning important skills right now such as interpersonal skills, self-responsibility, and how to make good choices in hard situations like the player. These are areas in which youth with trauma are often deficient due to having to focus more on survival than skills that will help them transition into adolescence and adulthood. With this game caregivers can allow their children to play in a world without risk of online predators or cyber bullies and with a sense of some independence.
Developing Good Friendships While this may seem like a simple task, youth that have endured trauma often have missed opportunities to develop good interpersonal skills and the ability to discern between positive and negative relationships. For this reason caregivers often need to help youth make positive connections and model how to best make these connections while the youth observes. For this reason having conversations about good character traits frequently is important for building up the deficit.
Self-Responsibility & Regulation Youth that have endured trauma are often dealing with a very unique dichotomy. In this dichotomy the youth has been expected to act and think on a level much older than their stated age to develop survival strategies in the face of hardship. However, they often also are lacking in certain areas of self-care and regulation due to missing social opportunities for these lessons. For this reason caregivers must be proactive in helping their children develop these self-regulation and independent living skills. Thinking through the main character’s experience may help give concrete examples of what these regulations and life skills look like.
Making Positive Choices This is another area in which caregivers may take for granted that a child understands right from wrong. However, when youth have faced hardships they often are not weighing pros and cons the way you and I would. They often are used to acting on impulse so they can act quickly to keep themselves safe. Caregivers should take every opportunity they can to teach how to break down decision-making and help bolster up executive functioning that is still developing in the brain. Remember, the prefrontal cortex in which executive functioning takes place is developing into the mid to late 20s. This means there is lots of room for growth regardless of a youth’s age.
Mild Fantasy Violence This game features low levels of trigger potential. There is some fantasy violence due to the nature of the game including Pokémon battles, in which the creatures battle one another in return-based style. However this is not graphic and there is no point when a Pokémon or player dies on screen. Pokémon in battle usually faint and recover quickly with a trip to the Pokémon Center. There is an element of trying to prevent the end of the world due to Team Galactic‘s intervention however, again, this is not graphic in nature and is resolved quickly
What is your favorite Pokémon in this game? Caregiver Note: This is a good introductory question to help ease your child into conversation. Children often struggle with being put on the spot with big questions so it’s good to start the conversation off naturally by giving them a chance to connect with a character they like.
How do Pokémon grow when with a kind trainer? How do they grow with a cruel or distant trainer? Caregiver Note: In several Pokémon games the more kind a trainer is towards their Pokémon (i.e. – using them in battles, reducing the number of times they fainted in battle, giving them treats, or interacting with them) the more friendly they become. While this manifests in Pokémon being more likely to evolve or withstand attacks in battle this concept can translate over to other relationships. Youth that have endured trauma often have not learned how to beat nurture positive relationships and may struggle with connecting with peers. For this reason using the relationships they can see with measured success in this game can be a great visual explanation of how to grow positive friendships.
What are some examples of how a trainer helps their Pokémon and human friends grow? Caregiver Note: Before we discussed how actions like using Pokémon in battles, reducing the number of times fainted in battle, giving them treats, or interacting with them can improve relationships. Your child may identify other ways but some of these sound familiar right? This is a great way to connect how people may respond to different types of nurturing as well.
b>What are some ways we can show our friends we care about them like our Pokémon? Caregiver Note: Help your child connect some of these activities to human equivalents. Using Pokémon in battle as a main party member sounds a lot like quality time. Giving berries and Poffins can equate to friends that love giving and receiving gifts. Reducing fainting by helping can be sort of equated with acts of service along with doing other things to provide care and concern. Words of affirmation are included in the game when a Pokémon withstands a hard attack. Interaction can be equated with touch and words of affirmation. You and your child may even come up with other examples as well.
Your character has a lot of responsibility in the game. What sorts of things does your character have responsibilities for? Caregiver Note: The character carries a lot of responsibility for a young person. The typical Pokémon Trainer in the game can be as young as 10 years-old! In this they are responsible for themselves, a party of 6 Pokémon at a time with them, any other Pokémon they catch kept on the storage system, building a PokéDex, earning 8 gym badges, becoming a League Champion, and more. On top of all of that, they even save the world!! That’s a lot of stress on anyone’s shoulders… especially a child’s. Help your child come up with these responsibilities to help them grasp the magnitude of what the character must accomplish.
How does the main character keep their cool with all of that responsibility? Caregiver Note: Throughout the game the player pretty much reflects the choices of your child.So this can be a great exercise to connect feelings to behavior and also what can be done to regulate those feelings. Some items may include that the character has many supportive relationships (e.g. – Pokémon companions, family, friends, community members, etc.) or that the character has more autonomy due to trainer status.
How would you keep calm with all of that responsibility and stress? Caregiver Note: This is a chance to bring the questions to your child’s life. Help your child to come up with supportive ideas for when they feel overwhelmed, afraid, or angry looking to the character as an example.
What kind of choices does the player have to make in the game? Caregiver Note: Throughout the game your child will play as a character who has a fair amount of autonomy. With the exception of some barriers to give them a more linear storyline, the character can choose what Pokémon they have, where they go, who they talk to, and where they spend their time. Since this is a kids game there’s not quite as much variance in choices and consequences as in some other games but this is a good exercise to think through what could be. If the player does not choose to fight Team Galactic, for example, that could mean the literal end of time and space. Well hopefully your child is not dealing with decisions of that magnitude the choices they make today still could affect them in the future. So this makes a great opportunity to start practicing while they have a kind, caring adult to help guide them through decision-making.
What would happen if the character chooses incorrectly? Caregiver Note: As mentioned before, the character could potentially see the distraction of their world as they know it had they chosen not to intervene. There are other choices to consider though in this game. If they choose to treat their Pokémon unfairly, their Pokémon may not be strong and able to stand up to the challenges ahead. If they choose not to talk to everybody in each area they may miss out on opportunities for rewards or tasks. Help your child walk-through different scenarios based on the game that they may provide.
How can we make good decisions when we are at home or school? Caregiver Note: this is an opportunity for your child to work out the same decision making capacity in their own world. With this they can think about potential choices and their respective consequences. While this may seem like a very basic skill this is often a life skill that children with trauma have missed out on due to their trauma and lack of opportunity to develop verbal and social skills. This is something that needs to be brought up frequently and often in different contacts so using it while discussing a game can be a low pressure way to bond and also work through these things as practice.
About the Reviewer: Rachael Rathe
Rachael B. Rathe is an East Tennessee native with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology with a Minor in Child & Family Studies from The University of Tennessee Knoxville. She has worked in mental health since 2013 and in foster care/adoptions for a private provider agency since 2014. Rachael was inspired to work in the field after working with children and teens on a volunteer basis 2008 – 2013. Rachael’s ideal self-care day involves snuggling on a couch with her kitties (Tabitha, Fergus, and Rufus) while enjoying a good movie or book. She also enjoys galavanting around conventions concerning all things nerd and geekery.
**Transfiguring Adoption is a nonprofit organization seeking to nurture growth in foster and adoptive families by giving a HOOT about their families. Transfiguring Adoption does not intend for its reviewers nor its review to be professional, medical or legal advice. These reviews and discussion guides are intended to help parents to better be able to connect and understand their children who come from traumatic backgrounds.