I’ve restarted Pokémon X after a lengthy break left me wondering what the heck was going on when I tried to pick it up again. Even reading this post about the game I wrote in October didn’t refresh my memory enough. I reset the 3DS cartridge one recent Saturday afternoon, just before The Iron Giant was due to start showing on ITV2 +1: I remember, because my youngest brother really wanted to watch it, but it had already started so we waited for it to start on ITV 2’s hour behind sibling. By the time the film had started, I had saved and reached the moment where I would decide which would be my first Pokémon in the game. A fan of fire types, I really wanted a Fennekin, but there was a problem.
I couldn’t get a female Fennekin
Wading through the long discussion about what my Pokémon trainer’s nickname should be, choosing Fennekin and finding out that it wasn’t female and then rebooting the game: I did this several times before I wondered, “Can I even get a starter female Pokémon?” A quick search online said yes, but there was a caveat: my chances of obtaining a female starter were around 12.5% as opposed to 87.5% for a male starter. I didn’t realise this when I first played the game, because on my first try I had gotten a female starter Pokémon back in October. But I really wanted to have a female starter Pokémon, because I had never played through the whole game with one before. So, over the course of The Iron Giant’s entire 86 minutes, plus ad breaks, I rebooted my game so many times I lost count, though I kinda wish I had kept count, because then I’d be able to tell you whether the 12.5% held-up. The only positive was that I had saved just before the moment you pick your first Pokémon, the downside was having to go through that nickname conversation so many times. Just as the film ended I finally obtained a female Fennekin.
The bias is frustrating
The perceived reasoning behind why you can’t get female starters as easily as male starters, is that it’s to stop people breeding lots of starter Pokémon. You’ll also find that rare Pokémon with genders are generally difficult to track down as female, again to help keep them rare. Yet a part of me can’t accept this as a valid reason, mostly because at some point someone at Game Freak decided that the bias would favour male Pokémon. I do wonder if there was also someone from marketing at either GF or Nintendo involved, who had a conversation along the lines of, “Hmm, we can’t make the bias towards female Pokémon, because mostly boys play the series and they’ll be all like, ‘Ugh, girls!’ if we have the balance towards female Pokémon.” I’m sure girls up to a certain age would have had a similar reaction as well in relation to the male bias.
Surely there was another way?
It feels like the time of players who want to build a female Pokémon squad is less valuable than that of those who don’t care or want male only. For me, the challenge of getting a female Fennekin was two hours I spent not playing the game. What I experienced was two hours where I just rebooted it again and again. I’d be fine with there being a chance of either gender if the chance was equal, but it isn’t unless you’re dealing with regular Pokémon. I’d rather rarity was done more through item availability or stats or special moves than through the gender of Pokémon. Or maybe breeding in of itself should be made more difficult. After all, it’s difficult enough in real life for conception and birth to happen successfully. And now as I decide whether to pick a Squirtle, Bulbasaur or Charmander, I need to decide whether I should just let this enforced, in-game “nature” take it’s course or find another classic 90s animated film (that wasn’t made by Disney) to watch.