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Do you kind of wish Pokemon cards had REAL creatures not FAKE creatures?
January 21, 2010 7:00 AM   Subscribe

Do you kind of wish Pokemon cards had REAL creatures not FAKE creatures?

This year is the International Year of Biodiversity and is therefore a fitting year to launch The Phylomon Project.

The project was prompted by a 2002 study [pdf] that found children as young as eight had the remarkable ability to identify and characterise in excess of 120 different Pokemon characters but were totally flummoxed by photos of “real” flora and fauna from their own backyards.

What is the project? Well, it's an online initiative aimed at creating a Pokemon card type resource but with real creatures on display in full “character design” wonder. Not only that - but we plan to have the scientific community weigh in to determine the content on such cards, as well as folks who love gaming to try and design interesting ways to use the cards. Then to top it all off, members of the teacher community will participate to see whether these cards have educational merit.
posted by jonesor (34 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
(evolution: Mephitis mephitis > Mehfitis mehfitis > Mefitis mefitis)
posted by pracowity at 7:09 AM on January 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I choose you capybara!
posted by haveanicesummer at 7:11 AM on January 21, 2010 [11 favorites]


we plan to have the scientific community weigh in to determine the content on such cards

This isn't a self-link, is it?
posted by tomcooke at 7:17 AM on January 21, 2010


The project was prompted by a 2002 study [pdf] that children as young as eight had the remarkable ability to identify and characterise in excess of 120 different Pokemon characters but were totally flummoxed by photos of “real” flora and fauna from their own backyards.

A study performed in 2006-2010 (in my house) has found that children as young as two have the remarkable ability to identify and characterize in excess of dozens of dinosaurs.
posted by DU at 7:20 AM on January 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


This isn't a self-link, is it?

No, that's cut-and-pasted from the linked page. I should have put it in quotes/italics or got rid of the "we" or something.
posted by jonesor at 7:21 AM on January 21, 2010


I like the idea of this project, but I think they are really going about this backwards. Specifically:
In a nut shell, our first order of business is to drum up enthusiasm from the graphic design and illustration community. and later This content will also provide and inform logistics for gameplay design

No no no. Your first order of business should be to work with the game design community (or more specifically find a lead designer who can wrangle contributions from said community). Develop a game system that uses real animals in way that is not totally disconnected from what those animals do in the real world, and then let people submit their cards in a way that makes sense in that game.

It's a big game design challenge to keep the game animal connected to the real world animal (after all, it's not quite as simple as swapping Pikachu with a Pika and having lightning coming out of said furry rodent's hindquarters.)

It is the game that will draw kids interest. It is the game itself that gives wings to kid's desire to collect and understand the cards, not the art. This isn't to say the art is not important, as it is a big part of what makes each card special, but it is secondary to the game design if you're really interested in getting kids involved.

(Full disclosure: I design games, mostly for kids, for a living, so I may be biased here. Heh.)
posted by malphigian at 7:22 AM on January 21, 2010 [14 favorites]


Oh and the project sounds awesome. A little explanation of what a "pokemon card type resource" would be nice, though. Trading cards? Gaming?
posted by DU at 7:22 AM on January 21, 2010


I love this idea! I could also imagine a follow up real world variant of Pokemon Snap, where kids take pictures of animals and submit to a site and get points out of it too. Encourage kids to go out and learn more about nature.

Related, Google Goggle or systems like that, to identify plants and fauna, could be helpful and fun here too.
posted by jasonhong at 7:23 AM on January 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Correction: Since were talking about biodiversity here, I need to correct my mistake that Pikas are not in fact rodents, but lagomorphs like rabbits.
posted by malphigian at 7:24 AM on January 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Collect them All!
posted by orthogonality at 7:26 AM on January 21, 2010


Well if I was eight years old again, sure! As long as the creatures had some kind of cool ability...and transform/morph/power up...and actively anthropomorphically communicate making it possible for me to train them and order them to fight...and I could somehow entrap them and carry them around in my backpack...!

I have a hippie friend who ran into this problem with a nephew a few years back and wasn't quite sure what to do or make of it. I kept trying to explain to him that there were a few ideas within the game/show that made it inherently fun and interesting for kids. Of course the kids get to throw all moral/ethical qualms out the window by catching, training and fighting the Pocket Monsters because it's fun and imaginary. Even for the Pokemon.

I applaud the effort though.
posted by P.o.B. at 7:29 AM on January 21, 2010


Top Trumps!

GIANT PANDA
Ailuropoda melanoleuca

Adult Size: 1.5m
Lifespan: 25 years
Status: ENDANGERED
Colours: 2

vs.

MOUNTAIN ZEBRA
Equus zebra

Adult Size: 1.35m
Lifespan: 20 years
Status: VULNERABLE
Colours: 2
posted by Electric Dragon at 7:37 AM on January 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


Sweet! I love this idea.
posted by Mister_A at 7:47 AM on January 21, 2010


we plan to have the scientific community weigh in to determine the content on such cards

As a father of two kids who can identify just about all of the Pokemon, and the eight year old can also identify quite a large number of real animals (right now he's into lizards and penguins, and really, really wants to go to Costa Rica because he heard they have Basilisk lizards), I don't think this will work. Not if the drawings on the example cards are anything to go by.

You need to get some really good anime artists who are really into this involved. You can draw real animals, but in a way that shows lots of fun emotional expression and personality.

If the goal is education, and not the absolute first priority of fun, then it will fail before it has even started. Education needs to be the side effect.
posted by eye of newt at 8:00 AM on January 21, 2010


I saw this earlier and it seems like a good idea, but I agree with malphigian. I was disappointed when I found out there's no game, it's just trading cards. I've only played it a bit, but Pokémon is actually a good card game, which certainly adds to its popularity.
posted by demiurge at 8:01 AM on January 21, 2010


No.
posted by clarknova at 8:04 AM on January 21, 2010



posted by Rei Toei at 8:05 AM on January 21, 2010 [7 favorites]


Thanks for posting, I popped a few pictures and photos in the Flickr groups :-) When I was a kid I had quite the collection of animal cards from some mail order company that would arrive every month (my parents had no idea they were raising a future records manager, but darnit, they were fun to sort).

I also agree with DU a bit...my friends and I are playing a Rio Grande game called Dominion and it's amazingly fun and competitive with easy rules to memorize.
posted by Calzephyr at 8:06 AM on January 21, 2010


It is the game itself that gives wings to kid's desire to collect

I thought it was the bright lights and flashing colours in the cartoons. Also the merch. The engine comes last, I fear; even to the OCD-ish "catch 'em all."

I also second the take a picture idea- but the pictures could only be taken with a licensed WWF (or whatever) camera that watermarks the pictures. Then tie in some sorta computer game that you can import the enslaved beasties into.

I hear it's all about the benjamins
posted by LD Feral at 8:09 AM on January 21, 2010


I thought it was the bright lights and flashing colours in the cartoons. Also the merch. The engine comes last, I fear; even to the OCD-ish "catch 'em all."

All that came after the Gameboy games became really popular.
posted by zixyer at 8:17 AM on January 21, 2010


I thought it was the bright lights and flashing colours in the cartoons. Also the merch. The engine comes last, I fear; even to the OCD-ish "catch 'em all."

I disagree. There's plenty of toys tied to cartoons that don't come anywhere near the success of Pokemon. It's the game that has given it the staying power. Yeah, of course, it's all cross promotion, but kids want to "catch em all" because of the game.
posted by malphigian at 8:26 AM on January 21, 2010


What, like this?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:00 AM on January 21, 2010


I think this is amazing. My wildlife-obsessed daughters wouldn't care at all that there wasn't a game.
posted by padraigin at 9:05 AM on January 21, 2010


I'm sure it'll be super effective!
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:11 AM on January 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Xeko already does this--trading cards of endangered animals, along with a game and plush animals made from recycled materials and stuffed with soy products. I wrote a post way back in 2008 during our Christmas gift guide including Xeko.
posted by misha at 11:03 AM on January 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Of course the kids get to throw all moral/ethical qualms out the window by catching, training and fighting the Pocket Monsters because it's fun and imaginary. Even for the Pokemon.

Well, there were some stories that dealt with "bad" trainers who didn't take good care of their Pokemon, and often the trainer who loved/cared for the Pokemon more was the one who won.

(whats that you say? aren't i way too old to have watched Pokemon? ....)
posted by wildcrdj at 11:08 AM on January 21, 2010


> Well, there were some stories that dealt with "bad" trainers who didn't take good care of their Pokemon, and often the trainer who loved/cared for the Pokemon more was the one who won.

Oh, you read that FFF (Not Safe For Sanity) on ToplessRobot too?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:24 AM on January 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


That ToplessRobot thread is hilarious. Well, the comments are anyway. I didn't read the story. I'm not that strong.
posted by Solomon at 12:01 PM on January 21, 2010


I say just give every family of animals their own tarot card series.

And if you market it to kids, you get the Christian preachers to freak out. Free advertising at every megachurch!
posted by mccarty.tim at 1:25 PM on January 21, 2010


No no no. Your first order of business should be to work with the game design community (or more specifically find a lead designer who can wrangle contributions from said community). Develop a game system that uses real animals in way that is not totally disconnected from what those animals do in the real world, and then let people submit their cards in a way that makes sense in that game.

Oh, that sounds awesome. I think I have a partial design/algorithm that might just fit the bill actually.

FIRST... begin with the realization that real animals do not operate in isolation, that they require some kind of context, a setting, in which to interact. In Pokemon GB/GBA/DS, with its weird cockfighting premise, the setting is basically the other player's monsters. In the CCG, it is the opponent's cards, monsters and play style. In real life animals do not appear instantly, they evolve over time in response to their environment, so to be true to the actual animals, a game like this will have to have a setting that is independent from an opposition creature, although maybe a setting in which they can interact, maybe to fight, maybe to compete for resources, maybe get along and be buddies, maybe ignore each other like a hawk ignores a water buffalo.

So, I am thinking about something akin to a simulation in a virtual terrarium, run on a device like a portable computer. Like the old Barcode Battler idea that was once super-popular in Japan, where kids scoured stores to find barcodes that they could scan into their devices to create monsters they could fight against other kids' barcode monsters, which was a progenitor for the fights in Pokemon. (Once upon a time this caused products that randomly had barcodes that happened to generate the best monsters to sell out.) The actual device could be a Nintendo DS with a scanner peripheral.

What could be done is design cards that have matrix scan codes on them encoding the basic information of an animal. The back of the card can be devoted to this information, as the game context is not a Magic-style CCG. The front could be used for character art (maybe of an animal in a terrarium, to lend narrative credence to the idea that the card is the animal "in stasis") and basic human-readable information.

Players would scan the cards representing their animal's statistics into the device, then optionally cards for habitats, plant life, special events and other objects. The device would then simulate the lives of the animals in an automatically-running turn-based simulation that the players could observe. Afterwards, a readout of the events of each creature's lives would be generated, along perhaps with a basic narrative version created with simple story generation techniques; nothing fancy, just an array of stock phrases strung together to roughly correspond with the events in the animal's life, and a score.

The animals themselves would be run on an interaction system I came up with a few years ago. To explain it would probably be to geek out a bit too heavily for MeFi, but I really think it would work, it's fairly universal, chaotic enough to provide for unexpected results from time to time, and flexible. It is too complicated to have children (or indeed adults) to run through on their own however, hence the necessity to have a computer mediator to run it.

posted by JHarris at 1:58 PM on January 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


Well, there were some stories that dealt with "bad" trainers who didn't take good care of their Pokemon, and often the trainer who loved/cared for the Pokemon more was the one who won.

I'm not talking about how the trainers acted. What I'm saying is if Pokemon was somehow real, I think more than a few people would have qualms about kids trying to catch all the animals, train them specifically to fight, and then fight them.
posted by P.o.B. at 2:51 PM on January 21, 2010


In the early 1990s, Burger King's kid's meals had these card shaped pictures of wildlife. The only one I still have is of a Blue Whale, and since I was small, I knew that blue whales are pretty much the shiiiiz at being huge mammals.

The WWF also had some in their kids magazines in the late 1990s. They were collectable for a short while at school.
posted by rubah at 6:25 PM on January 21, 2010


The trump card? Drunk human with big gun!
posted by Turkey Glue at 6:55 PM on January 21, 2010


They're asking for help from game designers now.
posted by jonesor at 3:24 PM on January 25, 2010


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