One wouldn’t be remiss to say that a 21-year-old man boy still playing a game designed for children is a teensy bit silly. Despite the fact that Pokémon’s late ‘90s status as a cultural phenomenon has long worn off, its popularity has surprisingly never waned. No, I no longer watch the rather awful TV show and I don’t spend money on the trading cards, but every few years I still find the time to drop $40 on a new game to play. This year it will be on Oct. 12, when the first iterations designed for the 3DS will be released. Normally, even for me, this wouldn’t be cause for much celebration. Contrary to what I said above, my time spent with the series is inconsistent. I do not follow the games as devotedly as some of my friends and haven’t actually played one of them since 2010. Even then, I can only admit to enjoying it in a fairly casual sense. I play for fun, and a lot of the time, I never even manage to finish the game before I lose interest. But any quick search online will tell you there is a huge community of players who spend hours and hours building and training their own teams for highly competitive multiplayer. Those fans are Olympic swimmers and I’m over in the kiddie pool.
I don’t think anyone, not even Nintendo, planned on the series having the longevity it does. I imagine most parents just played along, waiting for the next big thing to come along so they didn’t have to get in line for “Pokémon: The First Movie.” Actually, given a title like that, maybe Nintendo did realize how long it was going to stick around. I can’t remember any other movie that ever had the gall to make the subtitle “The First Movie.” In any case, Pokémon, the child-engrossing fad, was short-lived and by 2000 its status in my schools, and others I assume, was relegated to inane jokes about it being “kid’s stuff.” And yet, to this day, Pokémon is one of the most consistently successful and popular video games to exist.
Whereas the fan base seemed to outgrow the trading card game and the show, the games seemed to grow up with the fans. New mechanics and game systems were added in each consecutive iteration and, in spite of the rise of mobile gaming, always manage to break at least 10 million copies sold without fail. In an age where companies struggle to sell two million copies of a game and still call it a failure, this is very large number indeed. And while it has certainly picked up new fans over the years, many of them were there at the beginning.
I’m sorry if this comes off as a bit rambling a times, but it’s amazing just thinking about how popular this series is and just how long it has maintained that popularity. I mean, this is a game where you play as a boy or girl who, at the ripe age of 10, goes off on their own to capture wild animals with superpowers to fight them against other people who have captured their own animals in some attempt to be the best at this. Among these people include other little girls and boys, biker gangs, psychic mediums, ghosts, organized crime, eco-terrorists, and sometimes even divine and world-ending forces of destruction. You know, for kids.
BY ZACK WEBSTER firstname.lastname@example.org
ILLUSTRATION BY JADE GOLEN.