PaigeFTW: The Pokemon Lifestyle Experiment

The gaming industry’s biggest announcements are all pending as we head into June, with E3 season on the horizon, but The Pokemon Co. jumped in a little early with a late May presser, where they announced a Nintendo Switch Detective Pikachu; a fan-friendly, battle- and nostalgia-centric Pokemon Masters title; a new Pokemon Center in Shibuya, Japan; and a new companion to Pokemon Go: Pokemon Sleep.

As the name would suggest, Pokemon Sleep will track your sleep with yet-to-be-announced tie-ins to game mechanics that would reward you when you woke up from a refreshing eight-hour rest.

What I am more interested in is the rhetoric with which the title was announced: as part of a Pokemon lifestyle, of sorts. Pokemon Go changed walking; now, Pokemon Sleep will revolutionize and gamify … sleep.

Certainly the idea appeals to me, but something about it feels off-putting, too. There’s a fine distinction between feeling like a game world is real and feeling like my world has become a game. The Pokemon Co. is trying to blur those lines, and I don’t know if I like that.

Nowadays, lifestyle has become synonymous with monetizing — or at least it feels that way. The so-to-speak authenticity of social media has rapidly faded in the wake of sponsored content, brand shilling and other grabs for money and consumption.

Pokemon can hardly be accused of not already merchandizing itself to within an inch of its life as is, but there was always something very pure about the series’ roots: that quiet 10-year-old boy leaving home to become the very best there ever was.

It wouldn’t have otherwise been such a success, really.

Through all the years and all the spinoffs, Pokemon has retained that magic.

But as it moves further from its roots, pushing to new frontiers like a YouTube personality shilling their own brand of vitamins, I wonder how long that magic will endure.