Gotta Meme 'em All: The mother of all...
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It only takes a few rules working in tandem to create an amazingly complex system. The most evident example of this is found in Conway's Game of Life, but you can see a similar phenomenon with the mechanics behind Pokémon breeding. You have the Pokémon first divided into Egg Groups, apply mechanics for passing down of stats and Abilities, and add in some effects of various items. Most of the time, the rules are quite boring but what results can be quite interesting. It is only on a rare occasion that it is the rule that becomes the point of interest, and in the mechanics of Pokémon breeding that rule goes by one name: Ditto.
It might be strange that in a game about collecting or competing that a Pokémon that is textbook example of a gimmick should be so popular or highly sought after. In battle, its utility is tempered by its ability to transform, which depending on how you use it can be of some asset or a great hindrance. In Contests, you might have some luck, since at least its sole move doesn't bore the judges, although you would be better off using a Claydol. Even for the sake of collecting or Pokédex completion, it's just one more entry. The actual strange thing is that its original transforming gimmick has taken the backseat to its most famous function, which was introduced after its debut: the universal breeder.
Ditto is the sole member of its eponymous Egg Group. In designing the breeding mechanics, Game Freak created two unique groups that cannot normally breed and produce offspring of their own species: all-male species and genderless species. Thus, for Pokémon like Starmie or Hitmonchan who cannot otherwise produce Eggs of their own families, Ditto serving as the universal breeder allows for those Eggs to be obtained by providing a key exception to the standard rules, that Eggs take on the mother's species and that you need oppositely gendered Pokémon to create an Egg. It is this exception to the standard rules of breeding created by Ditto that gives birth to a myriad of consequences, and raises it from a fairly forgettable pink blob to a near-universal asset on the levels of an HM slave.
The most obvious and glaring consequence of Ditto's unique breeding prowess is its use to quickly breed Pokémon. For collectors, it aids in quickly obtaining new Pokémon and completing the Pokédex by allowing for the breeding of missing species instead of catching or trading for all of them. Competitive players may have several Ditto available with a variety of IV spreads. Shiny hunters may obtain a foreign Ditto so as to utilize the Masuda method for breeding Shiny Pokémon. Communities have popped up to help share Ditto with useful IVs for breeding. Given its utility, one has to wonder that if Game Freak allowed for the tracking of genealogy, what proportion of Pokémon entered in official tournaments would have a Ditto in their ancestry?
Not all memes need to be creative to be memes. There is a meme that Ditto is valuable because of its breeding status and not because of its battle capability, just as there is a meme that Shiny Pokémon are valuable, or that you can flick your headlights as a warning to cars that have forgotten to turn theirs on. However, we are talking about the Pokémon fandom and even mundane details like Sycamore's Letter can become memes. So it shouldn't come as a surprise that there has been a creative twist added to this meme as well.
To quickly go over the premises of the creative memes, let's look once more at the key facts: Ditto can transform into seemingly anything, and it is capable of breeding with almost every Pokémon. Cue the sex jokes, because that is where it leads. There are comics and concepts galore of Ditto interacting with people like Professor Oak and Brock, to Pokémon like Gardevoir. Most interestingly, Ditto is often personified as either gender neutral or as the opposite gender of the Pokémon it is interacting with, which results in a variety of themes and motifs for how Ditto is "dressed up" for its attire.
When you take the technical and creative aspects of this meme and take a step back to look at them, you then truly have to realize how bizarre this is. Ditto as originally conceived could have been involved in some raunchy artwork, but it really wasn't until the breeding mechanics were introduced that it came to the forefront as a mascot for some quite adult humor in an otherwise fairly innocent video game. In a way Ditto has become a figurative Rule 34 in Pokémon: if it can breed, there’s a Ditto for it.
There is still one last meme that Ditto can teach us that is often overlooked: That no matter who you are or even what you are, there will always be someone or something that loves you. Or to simplify: Ditto is love, Ditto is life.
This has been the ninth edition of Gotta Meme ‘em All, a column dedicated to exploring the strange depths and origins of Pokémon pop culture and memes. This special article was a Mother's Day edition guest article written by fellow Bulbanews staff member Maxite. Comments, critiques, and suggestions for future topics can be directed here as always, but I specifically urge you to contact me and ask how this article went with you, and if you would be interested in more guest articles being written. As always, keep it dank up there!
Also, on this special holiday, I would like to give an extra-special thanks to my own mother, without whom I probably would not have this position on Bulbanews. I love you. :)
References and Examples
- Shrek is Love, Shrek is Life - KnowYourMeme
- Day care ditto by sho-N-D - DeviantArt
- random pokemon comic by AceroTiburon - DeviantArt
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