Is that an electric mouse in your pocket...?

Wednesday 27 March 2007
As animal loving human beings we find the emotional rewards of platonic interspecies relationships hugely beneficial to our well being. The black clouds of a bad day can quickly give way tohappy facesunshine at the sight of a pet irrationally overjoyed to see that we've made it home alive.

Of course, man and beast also share an attachment in many videogames, although the foundation of the companionship is usually built on something far more interesting than our own fairly shallow and simplistic need for emotional support from a soft and fluffy quadruped.

To investigate this not entirely fascinating area of virtual anthropological study, we scrutinize four of gaming's man-animal partnerships to find out if any of these double-acts can really be classed as true friends...


Ash Ketchum and Pikachu: The background
This boy and electric mouse team form the recognisable face of Pokemon, the gaming phenomenon that took the bloody fundaments of cockfighting and dressed it up in cuddly-wuddly creature clothes. In the original anime based on the games, ten-year old Ash Ketchum is given the lightning-powered Pikachu by the avuncular Professor Oak (trainers also receive Pikachu at the start of the GameBoy game, Pokemon Yellow). Young Ketchum then sets out on a quest to become a powerful Pokemon Master with the pointy-eared power plant Pikachu by his side. The two form a bond of adhesive-like solidity and together they travel the land, electrocuting anyone that crosses them. Thankfully, rather than catching fire or vomiting blood, victims of this torture seem to suffer only momentary disorientation.

And the star of the show is?
Ask yourself this - how many plush Ash Ketchum toys have you seen? No. Not many. Even from a casual observers perspective, there's very little doubt that Pikachu is running things down in Poke Town. Remove Pikachu from the equation and Ash would be another child runaway speeding headfirst into a desperate existence, destined for a retched life of Pokemonphetamine abuse. He'd probably be dead before he outgrew his fingerless gloves (and Pikachu wouldn't be there to cry on his haggard, lifeless body, to inadvertently bring him back to life - again).

So this is a mutually beneficial relationship, right...?
Absolutely no way. Friendship is a two-way thing and while Pikachu is busting his furry little balls we have to ask how, exactly, does Ash pay back his pet mouse's altruistic dedication? Sure, he doesn't condemn Pikachu to transit confined inside an animal welfare contravening Poke Ball (geez, you're too kind Ash) and he's not shy of cuddling the incredibly cuddlesome rodent, but would a true pal really exploit their friend's awesome power of electricity by relentlessly pimping them for fights? We don't think so. Unless, of course, there was a big gambling syndicate involved and we could make bags of cash money.

Arbitrary true friend rating: 7/10
We don't know why, but even after all the blatant, unprovoked cruelty, loyal little Pikachu still displays unwavering love for Ash and the two of them have an undeniably special connection. But if we were Pikachu...? We'd have pissed off back to Viridian Forest for a quiet life of passive meditation a long time ago.

Matt Cundy
I don't have the energy to really hate anything properly. Most things I think are OK or inoffensively average. I do love quite a lot of stuff as well, though.