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[PLEASE READ DISCRIPTION!!!]

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You are in town, aimlessly wandering around the shops for anything that might interest you. Your attention is caught by the three men that are standing outside the video game shop, handing items out to passersby. Curiosity gets the better of you, so you walk closer for a better look. One of the men hands one to you, something that looks like a CD case. He explains to you that it is a new Pokemon game, the beta version of the game currently in development. They appear to be looking for eager young gamers to test it out. Having been a Pokemon fan since you were a child, you become excited at the chance to contribute to the next game’s development, so you eagerly and unquestioningly accept the game and head straight home. You can’t believe your luck and you simply can’t wait to get started on your adventure!

As you walk home, questions form in your mind. Why is the format of this game a CD ROM? How come members of the public are being chosen at random to test it out? It seems a bit suspicious and may not be legitimate. But you quickly disregard these doubts. When you get home, you look for the first time at the disc inside the plastic see-through case. The case has no label, and the disc looks somewhat like a writable CD with the words “Pokemon Utopia Version” scribbled hastily onto it in permanent marker. You find this a little odd - if it is an official game, surely it would be better presented than this. But you disregard it again, as after all, it is in beta stage and they were being given freely to the public. They probably wouldn’t want to waste money unnecessarily. 

Anxious to start playing, you insert the disc into your computer. The game starts up. Everything seems pretty generic, with a new Pokemon professor starting you off on your adventure, receiving your Pokedex and choosing your first Pokemon. As you play, you begin to forget the name of the new region, the Pokemon professor and your starter Pokemon almost instantly. Your rival comes and goes with nothing really memorable about their battles and dialogue, and all of the Pokemon you catch seem insignificant. The only thing that interests you is the new group of antagonists. They appear to stand out from the other evil organisations from the previous games. These characters are dressed in smart, formal attire – a more realistic edge to the more iconic outfits of the previous villains such as the medieval armour of Team Plasma or the sci-fi fantasy space suits of Team Galactic. All of the grunts wear masks, making them appear more intimidating and more like a single organism, rather than generic NPCs.  But the most interesting thing of all is that unlike the villains from the previous games, this organisation have already achieved their goal and are the ones in control of this new region. You become very intrigued at this point. The dystopian plot line of this game gives a dark twist to the Pokemon games you are used to, and you find that it is refreshing to have a different approach to the generic structure of the previous games. You are curious to find out what the plot will unfold into.

You continue to play the game, seemingly fixated. The Pokemon, scenery and gym leaders seem to fade into the background and are instantly forgotten. You hardly notice the dialogue the characters are saying to you. The designs of the Pokemon just look like random, abstract shapes to you. The more you play, the more this game feels like a dream-like mess of surreal images.  Except for the villains. Only they remain clear in your mind, standing out against the surreal, as if they were the one image of sanity in a world of madness.  You suddenly hear a commotion outside, and are jolted back into reality. You feel as if you have just awoken from a trance. You decide to stop playing for the day and call it a night. You figure that there is no rush to complete the game and send in feedback. You didn’t notice that the man who gave you the game never mentioned any details on how to send feedback.

Your dreams are a confusing mess of images and words, swirling around chaotically in front of your eyes. You hear odd, cryptic phrases that sound almost like instructions; you see strange, recurring images that look like symbols or logos. Everything in the dream gives you a feeling of déjà vu, but you are almost certain you have never seen or heard these things before.  This dream becomes frequent. Every night you experience the same thing, the dream feeling more and more insistent each time. But the dream never really disturbs you, only leaves you feeling confused.

While awake, you spend most of your time playing the game. The adventure seems to last a lot longer than in the previous games. It’s seemingly endless, but still you progress, as if driven by an obsessive determination to reach the ending.  You eventually begin to lose track of time while playing, and you can no longer remember the reason you are playing this game. The characters in the game are becoming more and more surreal, until they start to become reminiscent of your dream, the dream you continue to have every night. You can hardly the difference between dreams and reality.

After what feels like an eternity, you reach the end of the game. You don’t remember battling the Elite Four or encountering the legendary Pokemon, but this doesn’t seem to matter, for you have successfully beaten the game and you feel like a weight has lifted off your shoulders.  You didn’t notice that your character never did beat the evil organisation.  You didn’t notice that by the end, you character was dressed in formal attire and a mask.  You didn’t notice that there was a complete lack of Pokemon for over half of the game. You still continue to have that same dream every night, but now you have grown used to it and the rhythmic repetition of the recurring words and images have become comforting to you. The dream makes you feel peaceful and content. You can no longer remember a time when you didn’t have this dream…

***

It is the day of the election.  You are not quite sure when you made the short trip from your home to the polling station, but here you are in front of the ballot box.  As usual, you have no idea who to vote for.  Your eyes skim over the long list of competing parties, none of which seem to significantly stand out to you. You reach the very bottom of the page and your attention is drawn to the last party on the list. A feeling of recognition passes through you. Fleeting images cross through the corners of your mind, comforting, rhythmic, repetitive images. 

You feel yourself begin to smile.

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