Experience Points #2: Pokémon

It’s easy for those of us who don’t play video games to look at the medium and see nothing more than guns, violence, soldiers, killcounts, and candy-swaps. However, like any other creative medium, that description only scratches the surface of what video games have to offer. Join me as I share my experiences with video games, from the happy memories to the life lessons. If you don’t play games often, I hope this series convinces you to give it a try. And if you do play regularly, I hope you join in the conversation.

Everyone remembers Pokémon.

Back in the late nineties and early two thousands, Pokémon took the world by storm. Pikachu became one of the most recognizable characters in history, seeming to hit the heights of Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse over night. The games were the reason to own a Game Boy, the trading cards became more valuable than gold. Students in schools spent more time trading cards than learning, to point where many schools (mine included) banned the cards. While the Pokémon fever has died down considerably since it started, the games and brand as a whole are still a force to be reckoned with.

And let’s face it–we all have a favorite.

Mine’s Jolteon. He’s so cute!

But what was it about Pokémon that so thoroughly swept the nation up? What is it about the games, the anime, the trading cards, the stuffed animals, and so on that keep children coming back for more? Heck, what is it about the series that keeps people like me coming back?

I think the answer to that question can be summed up in two points: Innocence and Friendship.

Wait, don’t run away. Sappy or not, here me out.

Innocence. Every Pokémon game has the same premise. You play a young boy or girl who sets out on a quest to complete a Pokédex (an encyclopedia of sorts of Pokémon) and become Pokémon Champion, AKA, the best Pokémon trainer in the land. You do this by catching Pokémon, forming bonds with them, growing stronger, defeating eight gym leaders, and the current Champion. Simple, right?

Yes, it is. But talk about brilliant. Who hasn’t even dreamed about becoming the very best? What child doesn’t dream of living their house and going on some grand adventure? Along the way, in every Pokémon game, a sinister Team is trying to do something evil, but fortunately, you are the best person to stop them. Not only do you want to become the best in the land, but you also want to save the world.

Child Fantasy 101.

It helps when the people you are trying to stop are incompetent.

But taking it a step further than that, the world of Pokémon is a world, I think, anyone would want to live in. It’s a world where the only bad things that happen are able to be stopped by a young child and his team of creatures. The world is bright, happy, obsessed with Pokémon and all too eager to help the young person grow and develop. It’s sugary and sweet, but damn appealing.

Friendship. Here we go, here comes the cheese. But it’s true. When you play a Pokémon game, you grow attached to the creatures you catch. As I said above, we all have our favorites, but our favorites are often determined by the creatures we raised and battled with. Pokémon games are not short affairs–these are creatures that you will spend 40-50 hours (or more) with. You start to assign them little personalities, based on their nicknames and fight style. They start to become more than just data on a game.

They become your friends.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s played Pokémon, and felt bad when one of my team fell in battle due to a poor decision on my part. I’m sure I’m not the only one who scraped by a battle by the skin of my teeth with a little luck from my team.

A good pet can be a great pal in times of loneliness. In Pokémon, these pets become more than that. They become your team, the creatures that you spend all that time with and grow together. Through your guidance, they grow strong, and together, you become Pokémon Champion and stop evil.

Once again, who wouldn’t love that?

Plus, there’s a sense of pride too. Pokémon encourages trading with your friends and battling with them. You can meet your friends (and now, the whole world) in battle, and test your creatures against literally everyone. Winning a battle against a stranger is a joy, winning against a friend is a blast. And losing forces you to try again, train harder, and become stronger. Healthy rivalries form, and friendships not just between the player and his team, but between the players develop.

Pokémon as a series is here to stay. While the main games do not evolve (Hah!) as much as some would hope, there is comfort in knowing what you’re getting into. You’re going on a quest, forming bonds, and reaching your full potential.

Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?

What are your experiences with Pokémon? Why does it appeal to you?

Note: Images are courtesy of Bulbapedia. 

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