`Pokémon. Just the word evokes a range of emotions in gamers of all ages. First coming into the world in 1996, the second-most lucrative gaming-related franchise in history has carved an incredible niche for itself through generations of games, anime series, trading cards, and more. It was a staple amongst the youths back in my day, and has existed for roughly half of my time on this wonderful little orb of ours – and yet, by circumstance, chance, and some deliberate actions, I’d avoided it for nearly all of that time, never becoming involved with any of its many incarnations until very recently. I’m going to take some time now to go back through my non-history with these adorable little creatures, and how I’ve come to love them as if they were a part of my childhood experience just the same.
The most important piece in my not having been involved, probably, was that Pokémon has always been a handheld game, and I never owned a handheld system. From the original Game Boy on through the latest generations, I just never got on the bandwagon, preferring to keep myself confined to the television-bound consoles of the day. Even now, I don’t actually own a handheld – but we did pick up a Nintendo 2DS for my six-year-old son this last Christmas, so there’s one in the house now, even if it’s not exactly “mine”. Lack of handheld aside, I just didn’t quite get the appeal of Pokémon in my younger years; I was 15 when it came out, and all the supporting media seemed aimed at younger folks than myself. Whether by wilful denial or obtuse misunderstanding, it just never grabbed me with its “Gotta Catch ‘em All” mentality that seemed more suited to goal-completion oriented gamers more than myself. Throw in my complete disinterest in anime at the time, and it just never got my attention in a good way.
It’s not as if I wasn’t tangentially exposed to the world of Pokémon, mind you. The cultural phenomenon was unavoidable, assaulting me on every front, which I think pushed me further away. As new games and media piled up, the daunting list of unique creatures grew, and I felt more and more alienated, as if I’d never be able to grasp the whole thing. From the outside, it seemed like missing out on the beginnings made it so I’d never “get” it by jumping in late. The booming roar of media-blitz really turned me off as well, since, like many an impetuous youth, I saw it as force-fed consumerist bullshit. I guess it was a bit of my early counter-cultural internal rebellion that helped me write it off then and there, and to keep on doing so for more than a decade. However, this isn’t just a story about how I rejected Pokémon, but how I came to accept it, as well. That part, as it happens, took place just a week ago.
As I mentioned, we picked up a 2DS for the kiddo over Christmas. Since then, I kept watching as people I knew – many of whom I respect as gamers – went on about how good both Pokémon X and Pokémon Y were; from here, I started to get the itch to try it out. Folks assured me that prior history wasn’t necessary. As I watched the cultural insanity that was Twitch Plays Pokémon take shape across the internet, I really came into a strange clarity about the importance of the series to a lot of people, and what a monumental part of their story as gamers the whole franchise really was. So, emboldened by all of these factors, I finally took the plunge and bought in, picking up a copy of Pokémon X to play on my kid’s 2DS. Pretty much right away, I got hooked.
I’m quite a few hours and five badges into my Pokémon journey now, and it’s really quite the magical affair. From picking out my starter (Froakie) to the latest struggles along the game’s story, it’s been more thoroughly enjoyable than I ever would have anticipated. I keep pushing on, trying to focus on completing the game’s expansive story, but I keep finding myself sidetracked by all of the wonderful things that the world of Pokémon has to offer; from looping back through to gather levels or evolutions for the creatures already dwelling in my numerous boxes to picking out pairs to breed or just wandering aimlessly through the world in search of more additions to my growing Pokédex; there’s just so much to do that I’m not sure I’ll ever feel that it’s complete, and I’ve never been one to get into the finer points of game completion. If you’re like me, and never picked up the franchise, there’s a lot to love and learn, and I definitely recommend it; if you’re a seasoned veteran of years of training and battling, I’m almost jealous that I didn’t get here until now.