Last week’s Pokémon Presents devoted an entire live-action segment to the pseudo-legendary Pokémon Sleep. We hadn’t heard of the sleep-aid app for so long that it had gained significant meme status, and many believed it had been long since canceled. Quite the contrary — nearly four years later, the meme became reality again when the Chief Operating Officer at The Pokémon Company re-revealed Pokémon Sleep and announced a release date for this upcoming summer.
And the whole thing creeped me out.
From the odd live-action bedding down with Pokémon to the idea itself, I couldn’t shake a feeling of being uncomfortable as I watched. Bulbasaur tickling that guy awake with its vine, that other guy waking up and gazing over fondly at Slowbro like a loving partner — odd choices, I thought, but choices I could move past. I realize that most people found the trailer adorable.
What I can’t move past, however, is the continued gamification of regular, everyday tasks. Back in 2020 the company released Pokémon Smile, which didn’t bother me at the time, as it marketed it as a way to help kids with brushing their teeth. Utilizing your phone’s camera, brushing for up to three minutes helps with both fighting bacteria and catching Pokémon. Great. Unnecessary, sure, but I can see the use for it. I’m certain it helps some tired moms and dads with getting their kids to brush regularly and well.
Pokémon Sleep, however, feels wholly unnecessary, and because it isn’t aimed at kids, it feels a little dystopian. We’ve gotten deep enough in this always online, always plugged-in era that we’re in to believe an app that gamifies sleep is a good idea and not a sign of the End Times.
Even without hyperbole, this seems like a bad idea. We don’t get enough sleep already — if you do, share your secret with me — and a large part of the problem according to multiple studies and reports stems from the use of our phones before bed and during the night. How often have you gamed before bed and found you can’t unwind and sleep? I had an issue playing far too much Slay the Spire, and recently I have had to force myself not to play a couple rounds of Marvel Snap late at night.
Pokémon Sleep presents itself as a solution to this and other sleep-based problems by having your phone in your bed with you and making a game out of it. It seems incredibly invasive and counterproductive. Sleep better and unlock unique poses for dozing Pokémon. Sleep poorly and feel worse about it because you didn’t unlock the One-Eyed Sleep Totodile. Go to bed thinking about Pokémon. Wake up thinking about Pokémon. Live and breathe Pokémon.
I have a hunch this isn’t the last we’re going to see of Pokémon slapped onto lifestyle apps. “Pokémon Fitness” – help Machamp with his workouts while you work out, too! “Pokémon Healthy Eats” – power up Oddish and Smoliv by eating more salad, and fend off Alcremie and Slurpuff! “Pokémon Breathe” – work on a regular breathing rhythm with Jigglypuff to not suffocate!
Okay, I know. I’m being absurd. Still, this continued gamification of daily life has creeped me out for years now, and seeing one of my favorite franchises at the forefront has left me troubled. But maybe I’m wrong. Perhaps waking up to stare lovingly at the sleeping Slowbro on my phone is just the thing I need to get a good night’s rest. Maybe the gamification — the Pokéfication — of everyday tasks will make me a more motivated and productive member of society.
Or maybe it’ll just get me to buy more Pokémon stuff.