Remember when Pokémon took over the world? The public lost its mind in the early 2000s. It became a black hole for our pocket-money, too; my classmate even paid a ten-year-old me to draw them Pokémon cards.
Its popularity led to knock-offs, of course. Digimon – frequently pegged as a cash-in – was among these pretenders to the throne. Yet appearances can be deceiving. Although it was a by-the-numbers rip-off at first glance, closer inspection reveals a smarter franchise than you’d expect. I guess that must still hold true; the latest entry (Digimon World: Next Order) came out on PS4 and Xbox One a few weeks ago.
On reflection it’s easy to see why the series has lasted so long, though. The premise is wonderfully evergreen; travelling to another world where you can start over is the ultimate escapist fantasy. It’s catnip for the imagination. Nobody knows you in Digimon’s universe so you’re free to become whoever you’d like, as with The Matrix or Narnia. Furthermore, this is a chance to remake yourself away from the humdrum slog of reality – you can leave behind expectations or opinions of your character that’ve developed over a lifetime. It’s an alluring prospect, especially when you throw in the appeal of a companion who cares for you unconditionally.
However, this raises a similar question to the one explored in Westworld via the Man in Black. What happens when you can do whatever you’d like and there’s nothing to stop you? We all like to imagine that we’d hold onto our moral compass under the threat of temptation, but the reality is somewhat trickier. When you’re made to feel powerful and there’s no limit on what you can do, your sense of right and wrong could easily be warped – especially when said world is digital and not strictly ‘real’. You’d have to possess a will of steel not to take some liberties here and there.
I suppose it’s similar to child stars who went off the rails. After being thrust into the limelight where nothing is off limits, your grasp of reality is unlikely to stay grounded. With sycophants surrounding you and few who’ll say ‘no’, it’s little wonder some lose their heads.
Not that Digimon should explore this; it’s a family-friendly series and there’s no reason it should become anything different. That said, there’s probably a good story somewhere in this idea…
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