Palworld is an open world monster taming game that was made available for early access on January 19, 2024. It drew comparisons to Pokémon because of the monster capture and taming elements and because some of the monsters or pals or whatever they are vaguely resemble Pokémon. There have been many games and series that have drawn comparisons to Pokémon. One way Palworld differentiates itself is by giving guns to the monsters. I suspect the Pokémon comparisons combined with the fact that the monsters all have guns have contributed to making Palworld popular on the internet, which in turn translates into strong sales numbers. (I also suspect the marketing potential of Pokémon-like monsters with guns is the reason why the Pokémon-like monsters have guns.)

While I am a long-time Pokémon fan, I do not care about Palworld. My first thought when I saw the premise sometime before it became available for early access was that it looked like something designed to generate memes and social media impressions. If you had asked me if I thought it would be commercially successful, I would have probably said no – but I never gave the subject much thought. I continue to think it looks like a meme game.

(Note that I have nothing against the people who made Palworld – I in fact tip my hat to them for some genuinely impressive marketing and making a ton of money off their work. But I am not interested in playing it, much less reading about it.)

Now you may wonder why I am writing about Palworld if I do not care about it. Surely I must be trying to cash in on the trend.

Joke is on you – no one is paying me for this.

This is the story of how a Palworld article would have probably evaded anti-Palworld filters in my feed reader even if I had implemented the filters correctly. That probably sounds confusing. Fear not (or fear), I will explain from the beginning.

I use RSS and ATOM feeds combined with a feed reader to aggregate articles and media from websites and writers I find interesting in one place. While all of the sites in my feed collection are there because they publish a certain amount of things I want to read, there are always many feed items that do not interest me. I wrote an article about organizing my feed collection into categories in order to make it easier for me to sift through my feed items and focus on the ones I want to pursue. Some feeds are too noisy to make it into my feed collection even though they may have a certain number of articles that interest me. Note that an additional reason I like to use feeds and feed readers is so I can exclude annoying headlines and fluff from my digital home.

Yukinu over at Yukinu Blog wrote a response to my feed organization post on the subject of maximizing signal (feed items of interest) to noise (feed items not of interest) ratio. In the article, Yukinu discussed feed filters. Some feed clients allow curators to filter out feed items based on keywords. This is not something I focused on in my own articles – but as I will discuss below, I have made limited use of filters and, in so doing, have encountered some limitations thereof.

There are times when my careful feed curation is not enough. For example, I subscribe to an RSS feed of Hacker News page one items. There was a stretch when there were a ton of Hacker News page one articles about Reddit changing its API terms and effectively killing off third party clients. Although I do not use Reddit, I read one or two discussions to see what all the fuss was about since I have written articles about big tech social media. But the posts just kept on coming. I decided that I did not want to see all of these Reddit articles and discussion in my feed list every day. Now I appreciate that many Hacker News users are (or were) active on Reddit and relied on third party clients. But it was all noise to me since I do not (and did not) use Reddit, with or without third-party clients. I decided to temporarily filter any Hacker News item with Reddit in the title from my feed. Problem solved (I lifted the ban after interest in the Reddit third-party client apocalypse died down).

This brings us to Palworld. I subscribe to a few feeds that focus on video games, anime, and Japan. We need not name names for the instant purposes. Around the time Palworld was released – which coincidentally aligned with my feed organization essay – these sites, which often publish articles I not only enjoy but also occasionally highlight on The New Leaf Journal, began publishing Palworld articles. The volume of Palworld content varied from site to site, but there were way too much of it. Some articles focused on comparing Palworld to Pokémon and baselessly wondering whether Nintendo would sue the Palworld developers. Others focused on Palworld’s popularity. There were translations of snippets of interviews with the team behind the game. There were articles actually about the game with some noting that it was popular.

I noticed that the articles became more and more granular – the sites were trying to find that one Palworld niche topic that would deliver page hits. It was as if they thought they were covering the hair color of characters in a single anime series. I distinctly remember the article that finally made me take action. I forget which site was responsible – but there was an article quoting the head of the Palworld project expressing concern that the game was too popular and that the team could not handle server upkeep with so many people playing. Right. I wrote an article about learning what Temu is (a Chinese shopping app, apparently) and having missed all the apparent social media and ad-driven hype thanks to my feed-centric mode of reading. That article too noted that there were TikTok videos by postal workers begging people to stop ordering so much from Temu. The old humble we’re too successful please stop giving us money thing (in Temu’s case I strongly suspect they paid the purported postal workers).

That was enough. I had already found the daily deluge of Palworld headlines grating. Unironically writing about how team Palworld was worried about their stunning success was just too much (I dare say they could put some of their spectacular earnings into infrastructure if it was a big concern). In the Reddit-Hacker News case, I only filtered Reddit from the Hacker News feed. I decided to use Handy Reading’s filter functionality to filter Palworld in feeds that were publishing Palworld articles. Any article that had the word “Palworld” in its headline or description would be dropped before I saw it in my new feed items.

(Note: I thought I had filtered “Palworld” globally but I checked and saw that I had not. But as we will see, it would not have saved me in one case.)

The filters worked. I mostly forgot that Palworld existed. Is it still popular? Are the people still talking about it? I have no idea. Again – I wish the people who made it all the best. It was marketed perfectly for our current age and I suppose it must meet some sort of minimum enjoyability threshold to have maintained its sales. But ignorance is bliss. My filter increased my personal signal-to-noise ratio.

My ignorance lasted until April 1, 2024, when I saw the following feed item from SoraNews24: Pal World developers make timely announcement of adults-only romance simulator with naked pals (see archived). Forget the content, what in the world is with Pal World? It is as if SoraNews24 – which regularly appears in the around the web section of my newsletter (note I am a fan of SoraNews24… aside from the “Pal World” article) – knew that someone somewhere out there (A) subscribed to its RSS feed and (B) was trying to filter the term “Palworld” from headlines. (Mote here that SoraNews24 had not been one of the main Palworld offenders and I did not set up a specific Palworld filter for it. But if I had, “Pal World” would have evaded the “Palworld” filter, which I created for headlines.) What makes it even odder, beyond the fact that the game is called Palworld and I have never seen anyone refer to it as Pal World, is that the article itself exclusively uses “Palworld.” But because the headline has a space between “Pal” and “World” – my “Palworld” filter was rendered nugatory.

(Note: I tried searching Startpage for “pal world” and found some results, but the game itself is called “Palworld” and all major sites and articles use the one word rendering, so I remain confused about why SoraNews24 used the two word “Pal World” in its headline.)

I immediately ascertained that the article was about an April Fools joke. Now I can respect when a magazine or website makes its own April Fools joke – see for example my analysis of a 1999 Pokémon classic from Expert Gamer. I am, however, more than a bit less keen on effectively re-printing someone else’s April Fools joke – in this case the Palworld team’s – while playing the entire article straight until the end of the article. But what most disturbed me about the article (which I opened to see if “Pal World” was unique to the headline) was that the “Pal” they use as the “heroine” for the fictional April Fools adult visual novel (“eroge”) looks like a furry. The other “heroines,” one of which is a human, do not look furry-adjacent. Now, in light of the fact that the joke is that this furry is an eroge, the non-furry-adjacents are disturbing enough (not good clean fun like the famous otome pigeon-dating visual novel Hatoful Boyfriend). However, the uncomfortable furry resemblance of one character is just too much. I have briefly addressed furry-adjacency in an article about Pokémon fire starters slouching toward furrydom. I would sooner have a feed full of Palworld tips than a feed full of furries or furry-adjacents. Thanks to SoraNews24’s weird headline writing – I got Palworld and furry-adjacent content all in one.


(Aside: Speaking of filters, I took advantage of Mastodon’s robust filter system to furry-proof my feed.)

I thought about who was most to blame for this digital home invasion. Was it me for mistakedly thinking I had created a global Palworld filter instead of applying it to specific Palworld-happy feeds? While I deserve fault for that, the SoraNews24 article would have evaded my global filter. Was it the team behind Palworld? I think not. They have made a ton of money doing what they are doing, so who am I to question their April Fools strategy beyond pleading with them to make their future April Fools jokes less furry-adjacent. SoraNews24 is certainly at fault for the unusual “Pal World” in its headline with no explanation whatsoever, but there is a shadow player in the saga that bears the most responsibility here.

All Nintendo and Game Freak had to do was make Pokémon Scarlet and Violet with a semi-stable framerate and fewer miscellaneous technical SNAFUs and we probably could have avoided much of what ensued in game media after January 19, 2024. “Look this small indie studio did open world not-Pokémon with a stable framerate while Nintendo and Game Freak failed” is admittedly a bit of an own.

(Note: Because I never played Palworld, I can neither confirm nor deny that it has a stable framerate, but I do remember seeing a few headlines about how it ran better than Pokémon Scarlet and Violet (admittedly a low bar to clear) before I filtered those headlines from my feeds.)