Shiny hunting is an absurd task. It is a long and tedious process with no guarantee that it will yield success. Above all else, it is the antithesis of the parts of Pokémon games that most people consider fun.
…And yet, knowing all this, I am on the verge of tossing a Starmie and a Ditto into the Pokémon daycare center, (that sordid chamber of lust), with the intention of making them produce hundreds or even thousands of offspring in order to get a shiny Starmie…
At its core, shiny hunting speaks to the most fundamental madness of the Pokémon franchise: the hyper-materialist quest to “catch ‘em all.” Shiny Pokémon are objects. Most are not sought to be used for competitive battling, but rather to be admired for their rarity and the achievement of obtaining them. They are trophies, even status symbols; signifiers that one has superior luck to another. They foster the same attitude of superiority that enables social forces like racism and sexism; any prejudice based on factors beyond an individual’s control. Shiny Pokemon exist to create hierarchy for the sake of hierarchy, nothing more.
There’s a special compulsion in shiny hunting. One does not spend hours running in circles to hatch fresh eggs while Ditto and Starmie repeatedly copulate unless one’s desire for a shiny Starmie feels like an actual need. It is not a rational phenomenon. Reason cannot talk you out of this mad quest because reason has no role in its practice. Those who question why they shiny hunt will not find honest answers.
Instead, they might find that shiny hunting is an attempt to secure faith in a hopeless world. To find a shiny Pokémon is to find that some small thing of goodness can happen even against crushing odds. It is a reaffirmation that with time and effort, good things will come to those who try, no matter how long the struggle, and that the system isn’t broken. In a new gilded age full of economic uncertainty for the masses, shiny hunting is proof that America’s protestant work ethic can prevail for those who still believe in it.
Shiny Pokémon are the American dream. They are the thing you want simply because you can’t have it. They are the last sign of opulence in a stagnant civilization doomed to collapse for all but the wealthiest elite. To find a shiny Pokémon is to convince yourself that you might yet survive the crash.
…But it’s all an illusion. Shiny Pokémon can’t offer any remedy to the crises of Western Capitalism nor can they provide a lasting feeling of solace. For each shiny Pokémon found, there is a diminishing return on the happiness they provide, because once the unobtainable is obtained, it loses its luster. The random number generator that determines shininess is a god that absolves you of your mistakes, but also of your own role in your success. A shiny Starmie is really just a regular Starmie, but blue instead of purple.