When Friday is a Vegetable

A Colonial and Ecological Exploration of Pikmin

In the 2001 game Pikmin, protagonist Captain Olimar provides the titular word to his indigenous saviors and establishes a power relationship that develops throughout the entire game. During his first day shipwrecked on a toxic world he discovers a little plant person and needs to identify it within his pre-existing realm of experience: “Its shape is similar to the pikpik brand carrots I love so much… I believe I shall call it a Pikmin”. This name immediately assigns the pikmin to Olimar’s previous values and makes them tokens of hope for escaping the planet. As a man who employs both his own wit and the native labor of a foreign land, Olimar matches the archetypal Robinson Crusoe figure. The player’s main source of tension over the allotted thirty days is careful management of the “real-time strategy” resources, pikmin and pikmin food, while simultaneously combatting hostile life forms. Olimar’s colonial domination over the pikmin is the theoretical framework of the game mechanics. Given this lineage to post-colonial studies, the pikmin resonate as a people enslaved exploited by foreign empire. Yet the planet’s ecosystem rejects the role of subordination. Its alien biorhythms and defensive adaptations seem to imply that Olimar is just a superficial addition to the pre-existing ecocommunity. Continue Reading