In most Pokémon games, we’re meant to see the creatures we can collect as tools. While some element of research is tacked on to our expeditions, due to a lofty goal of completing a Pokedex, that’s something that happens in the background as we play. It’s coincidental; our real focus lies elsewhere. Pokémon Snap is the only entry in the series focused on entirely on researching the critters, allowing us to actually learn about these beasts by viewing them in their natural habitat. It’s an unconventionally educational experience, in which we become more astute and observant as we take photos of Pokémon.
We’re observers in Pokémon Snap. We chronicle the things that happen. There’s no computer that automatically gives us answers for “capturing” a Pokémon. We have to make such deductions on our own, based on things we’ve seen and encountered. An initial run through an area isn’t going to be terribly productive. It serves as a means of determining the lay of the land and making an initial assessment as to which characters are very obviously inhabiting an area.
The second run allows a great opportunity to expand on previously acquired knowledge. We note that Pokémon can and will interact in Pokémon Snap, either with or without our influence. Assessing the environment allows us to be better aware of such opportunities. Paying attention to an Eevee chasing a ball on the beach will help you realize the ball is actually a Chansey. Knowing about Pokémon evolutionary patterns means you’ll know to be on the lookout for Cloyster in the river, due to the presence of multiple Shellder. Seeing inactive computers and multiple electric-types in the tunnel allow us to observe an opening for an event.
Pokémon Snap provides players a chance to grow. We see all these situations add up, allowing us the chance to interact with our environment. We learn how things, like the Pokéflute, Pester Ball and PokéFood work. Based on initial interactions between animals, we’re able to encourage special events. Luring Slowpoke to the river or Magnemite to the tunnel can result in Slowbro and Magneton evolutions. Saving Jigglypuffs from Koffings will reward you with a concert. There’s even a nod to a surfing Pikachu, if you can convince him to walk over to a board.
By playing, we’re learning lessons that can be applied to the real world, albeit with less fanciful results. Pokémon Snap encourages a person to pay attention to their environment. Keeping track of what’s around you is important, as it lets you see when things stand out and catch when extraordinary events happen. Seeing how characters relate to one another and distinctive features in locations helps you better understand causality. Everything can influence something else, either with or without your input. Patiently paying attention to all things can offer rewards, being it an enjoyable show or more information about the people and places around you.
Pokémon Snap is a stealthy means of improving our sense of awareness in a rewarding, low-pressure environment. Keeping track of Pokémon in fanciful places is a silly diversion, but it’s instilling in us a sense of patience and improved perception. The more we play the game, the more we realize and recognize things happening in the background. It can unintentionally make us more mindful. While not educational in the traditional sense, it’s still an enlightening experience that might improve the people who play it.