Pat Hessman: This column is subtitled “Outlook and speculation from a lifelong diehard”, but admittedly there isn’t near as much speculation presented here as what goes on in forums everywhere. This is partly because I try to limit my speculation within this column to theories based on existing facts, not unfettered imagination, but this week that’s the topic at hand: out of control rumors about the forthcoming fifth generation. One offhand comment in a forum topic can lead to a completely transparent rumor being propagated in no time.
For example, on another Pokémon forum I visit, one poster made an offhand joke about the possibility of dual-element attacks, and ten pages later, people were preaching the forthcoming extinction of Salamence and Garchomp due to an Ice/Rock attack that was surely coming with Black and White. Joining me this week is someone who’s written extensively about explosion of fan rumors, SmearglePaints, co-writer of a series of articles entitled “The PokéGods: Secrets and Rumors Explored”.
SmearglePaints: Coming from the perspective of someone with first-hand experience with the very first explosion of Pokémon-related rumors I can say that there is quite a parallel between the early PokéGod phenomenon and the fifth-gen speculation.
The resurgence of fan-theories, speculation, and hoaxes are indicative of a much deeper change in the Pokémon fandom most don't seem aware of. They are symptoms of what defined the early Pokémon fandom and mark a return to the atmosphere of the PokéGod phenomenon. For various reasons the fandom has built up to a point where it can no longer ignore the need for more.
Pat: Any current hoaxes in particular you want to discuss?
SmearglePaints: The near-monthly CoroCoro hoaxes stand out, of course. Most people simply dismiss them as attempts for attention. While this is for the most part true I have to admit hoaxers fill an important role in the fandom. No one likes being hoaxed, but there is a desire for more information. There's no patience anymore. It's more more more, gimme gimme gimme. Hoaxes satisfy this need if only for a short time. The PokéGods were themselves a naturally occurring attempt at satisfying people's need for more. The state of the Internet and fandom simply made it last longer.
Pat: One in particular that has stood out to me was this purported image of the final evolutions of the Starter Pokemon. It was originally posted on PokeStation, supposedly from a magazine called Pokekokos, a mysterious magazine no one knew anything about. The image was confirmed as fake, despite its very believable appearance.
But as I said before, aren't a lot of these over persistent fan rumors the result of misunderstandings and random speculation taken too far? I'd be a fool to say hoaxes didn't exist, but I think you're over-inflating them a bit.
SmearglePaints: For the most part this is the result of misunderstandings and random speculation. Usually someone will mention a personal opinion and a dozen pages later or in another thread or even another forum someone will parrot it without context. The original post is lost. People like to grapple onto whatever scraps of information they can find and repeat it, even if they personally know it's not true. But there's always someone that will think maybe, just maybe, it is possible. It's almost a revolving door as new opinions overtake old in an endless cycle.Pat: It isn’t unlike the pre-release days of Super Smash Bros. Brawl, an entire subfandom sprang up around predicting the final roster of characters, and several ‘prophets’ emerged and became trusted overnight when one of their predictions would turn out to be true. In this digital era, we get everything instantly. Attention spans are demolished by information delivered in seconds. Waiting for anything is torture to this generation of fans. We want to have every single Generation V Pokémon revealed to us. We wanted the entirety of the game revealed to us as soon as Black and White were announced. We want to see every city, gym leader, villain, Elite Four, NPC, event, and feature. We wanted the entirety of the game revealed to us as soon as Black and White were announced. Arceus forbid we have to wait!
SmearglePaints: Exactly. In the old days the Internet would explode with every blurry image of a new Gold and Silver Pokémon. These were few-and-far-between. People appreciated whatever information they could come across. Nowadays there's no patience. When we finally do get a new Pokemon or bit of information there a few pages of either "I like it" or "Meh" before everyone forgets and moves on to wanting more.
I have to wonder if the Pokémon fandom simply changed from what it was or if it's an entirely new fandom altogether. Are we really no longer those anxious kids that liked Pokémon for what it was despite its shortcomings and didn't needlessly criticize every aspect that didn't fit our preconceived notions of what Pokémon is "supposed" to be?
Pat: I think you gave the fandom of ten years ago too much credit, I'm sure they were just as impatient as they were now. To sum it up though, fans are never happy and never pleased. The TVTropes term Fan Dumbapplies as well to this fandom as any. Though in the end, everyone is entitled to their opinions, and sometimes, healthy disagreement and speculation are the essence that keeps a fan community alive and active.
SmearglePaints: The fandom, like any, has always been impatient. But then again we were 10-years-old back then. Most of us now are in our 20s, and yet we're still impatient. I think that says a lot about the fandom. But there's still that need for something more that the fandom itself is providing and I think that says even more.
SmearglePaints is a freelance writer that currently works for several sites, most notably RageCandyBar alongside SailorClef. RageCandyBar focuses on information the major fansites have either forgotten or chosen to ignore, such as the PokéGods, beta information, and social critique of the fandom itself.
Looking Forward can also be read on Bulbanews.