Remember when Pokemon first came out? I do. It was 1998. I remember driving around Long Island with my mom searching for the game so I could finally dust off my old gameboy that looked like some kind of ancient black brick at that point.
After dusting off four AA batteries I was able to jump into Pokemon. The phenomenon blew up over night. The anime was watched by everyone before school (generally 6:30 AM) and it was talked about all day. Pikachu, charmander, and meowth became household names. We also confused our parents greatly by trying to explain the subtle differences between Charizard and Dragonite. By the time Christmas came around all the kids in school were stuck between finishing The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and getting their Pokemon all up to level 100. The RPG became the new game everyone wanted to play and we all slowly became Pokemaniacs. I studied the official Pokemon guide more intensely than any homework. I played Pokemon on the bus, at lunch, and during any short break we had at school. Trading became a black market, where we would trade pokemon cards for their virtual counterparts. There was at least one kid who was selling Mews. He had a game genie, and “trading” with him felt like breaking the law.
Then a year or so later, we all drifted away from Pokemon. The birth of the PS2 and our newly found teenage-hood made little pocket monsters seem sort of lame. My Pokemon red was put into a drawer with my brother’s Blue version. The Game Boy Advance replaced the Game Boy Color and many of us started to forget about the game we loved so much. Games like Super Smash Bros. and Pokemon Snap made us think about the little monsters again, but for my age group, playing Pokemon in High School was not really the wise thing to do. Instead we played Magic: The Gathering and more serious videogames on the PS2. Cool right?
I remember the day that I got BACK into Pokemon. I was reading about the games finally making the jump to the 3DS. I was turned off by Pokemon Black and White, but X seemed so cool, so classic, but still so new. I immediately pre-ordered Pokemon X and awaited its release.
Playing Pokemon again felt strange. I knew some of the monsters from my adolescence, but was curious to find out what new creatures existed in this world. I picked Froakie as my starter as I tend to love water Pokemon and I’m a big “frog-guy”. I remember having to recharge my 3DS twice the day I finally started playing. That’s how I became a PokeManiac for the second time in my life.
It’s weird to be knocking on 30′s door and playing Pokemon. You often find yourself saying, “but this game is for kids? right?” It is. It is for kids, but it’s also for everyone. I like to champion Nintendo’s ideology quite a bit. They have found a way for their characters to be timeless, nostalgic, and innovative at the same time. We saw this is Super Mario 3D World most recently. Pokemon is no different. It’s is easy to pick up and play, incredibly easy to save and put down for later, and it’s rewarding. The American consumer wants them all, or at least all the ” ‘ems” they want, so it appeals to their greedy sensibilities.
In the end it feels a bit strange; being so into Pokemon at my age. It’s like watching Mickey Mouse cartoons or eating lunchables. No matter what age or level of enjoyment, there’s something about the situation that feels just a bit awkward. I attribute it to Pokemon being such a big part of my early awkward years. We didn’t want to look any weirder in High School than we were, so the Pokemon had to go. Kids were made fun of for “still playing pokemon” and while I don’t like to cave to peer pressure, it was bad enough being a super nerd as it was. Eventually as an adult you don’t care anymore. If someone insults you for playing pokemon you can quickly shrug it off and wish them a good day of watching sports and dressing up as their favorite character…I mean…athlete.
I pre-ordered Pokemon Omega Ruby the day it was announced, and rushed to my mailbox the day it arrived. It felt weird to dismiss something for over a decade only the be salivating for the next installment. I needed ORAS like it was a fix. I’ve been playing Omega Ruby almost nonstop since November and it’s everything I wanted it to be!
In the end it feels strangely nostalgic to still have that appreciation to Nintendo’s pocket monsters. While they’re a bit childish and a little silly, it’s sort of cool to still have them in my life. Not only will it connect my generations to future generations, it helps ensure that Pokemon stays around for a long time. In the end that’s really what we want. We want our interests to remain relevant and still hold some weight. So one day we don’t have to explain to younger kids who Pikachu is, they’ll just know. I hate those awkward “This is Bugs Bunny” moments.
I’m happy that Pokemon is still as widely popular (if not more so) that it was 16 years ago. There’s a sense of pride when I fire up the 3DS to embark on yet another trip to the likes of world of Pokemon. I hope they stay around for my children to play them when they hit that magic age where it makes sense to them. Though, I’ll still feel just a little weird when I say “I choose you, Pikachu!”.