Many players enjoying World of Wacraft’s pet battle system are also fans of Nintendo’s Pokémon games. Pokémon has been frequently criticized for being a dark concept. A ten year old boy goes out into the world making animals fight one another to near death. He traps them in small spheres, several times smaller than the pokémon being caught, and carries them on his belt or in a digital storage box. The protagonist in the anime and in the video games is always trying to do the right thing and fight some great evil, but that does not necessarily make capturing wild animals and forcing them to fight acceptable.
Denying the similarities between Pokémon and pet battles is silly, and even though pet battles in World of Warcraft are nowhere near as complex as they are in Pokémon games, the core mechanics are all there. So how does World of Warcraft’s pet battle system compare to Pokémon? Can the concept be considered just as dark? Could it be less morbid? Could it be even worse?
As silly as the video above is, how far off is it really? Pokémon depend on their trainers to tell them what to do. An incompetent trainer could force a pokémon to lose a fight it could have otherwise easily won. Agreeing to train a pokémon is an incredible undertaking. It is the trainer’s responsibility to feed, shelter, and otherwise care for the pokémon. It is like caring for a pet.
Keeping that in mind, the world that Pokémon exists in is not all that dark. Pokémon have free will. They choose to obey trainers they respect and will stubbornly disobey trainers they find weak. Pokémon have been shown to run away when they have been abused. Many of them have a powerful desire to fight in battles because it makes them stronger. They are intelligent creatures who form loving bonds with their trainers.
Most importantly though, a pokémon can easily overpower a human.
Pikachu could cause a lightning bolt to strike you. A pidgey could kick up a whirlwind so strong it sends you flying. Even a caterpie could encase you in a web and make you completely immobile. And, yeah, do not mess with Pinsir. Pokémon are strong. At any point, a pokémon could decide to leave its trainer and there is nothing that trainer could do to stop it.
Which is why World of Warcraft pet battles are so much worse than Pokémon. A level 25 battle pet has under 2,000 HP. Level 90 players have over 400,000 HP. Players can easily kill battle pets with a single blow. If you consider how much health they have outside of pet battles, usually around 42 HP, it becomes even more pathetic. A caster’s melee swing would do the job.
Besides general weakness, battle pets die. People often think that feinting is akin to death in Pokémon, but it is not. Pokemon death is irreversible and it is acknowledged in both the anime and games. Battle pets are revived, they are brought back to life, which means players in World of Warcraft are fighting with pets until they die . . . repeatedly. They make continuous trips to the grave for your own personal entertainment.
Lastly, battle pets do not translate into real power like pokémon do. When an evil corporations decides to take over a city in Pokémon, it accomplishes it through the use of pokémon. They replace guns and other weapons to a large extent. World of Warcraft is a universe filled with magic and incredible brute strength. Can you imagine if Arthas took out his Scourge Whelpling and Lil’KT to fight atop Icecrown Citadel? Battle pets are meaningless in the grand scheme of things. Their only purpose is entertainment value.
I would not be surprised if sometime soon we see the Druids for the Ethical and Humane Treatment of Animals (DEHTA) rise up and try to put a stop to this form of sanctioned animal abuse.