Saturday, February 27, 2016
Pokemon is Weird.
In the magenta storage ottoman I rest my feet on while writing sentimental sap like this, there's an old red flip phone buried under tangled cords and a set of speakers I keep telling myself I'll eventually find a use for. I haven't tossed it into one of those "phones for soldiers" cardboard boxes yet because I've been meaning to get a single video off of it: a video of a preteen me pestering my late dad at the Pokemon Regional TCG Championships.
"What's it like being here?" I ask in my best news reporter voice. "The people want to know! They really, really want to know!"
"Weird," he replies. I shove the camera closer to his face and the conversation devolves into babbling.
I think I have a guess as to what Dad was thinking that day. He was thinking how it had been six years since this madness had started and I was still as big a fan as ever. How I'd asked him for Pokemon Sapphire with the same enthusiasm as when I'd asked for Pokemon Blue.
More than that, he was looking around at all of the full blown adults still going crazy for Pokemon, a series that - for all the chaos it caused when it exploded into the United States in 1998 - everyone had figured would just be a phase.
Fast forward to 2010 and another set of TCG Regional Championships. Heartgold and Soulsilver fever is in full swing. Blown up posters of cards from the HGSS sets featuring Unown script line the walls. Walking around, I absentmindedly read the text of one of the cryptic cards, and I hear an awestruck voice to my left.
"You can read that?!"
I look over at this kid who couldn't have been more than 11, looking up at me like I have superpowers. "Uh, yeah. It's just English, but kind of fancy, see?"
He squints. "Oh! Thanks lady!" And he runs off.
I remained there for a bit, stunned at how old I felt and remembering how back in the day, when Nintendo was getting ready to wide-release Pokemon 3: The Movie, we all had how to read Unown speak hammered into our heads. Right, of course, a kid that young wouldn't have had that experience.
"Huh," I thought, "weird."
Pokemon isn't the first thing I love to hit 20, but it is the biggest pop culture phenomenon in my geek arsenal that I remember the inception of. Mario, Transformers, Marvel, My Little Pony, LEGO: Those are all things that existed before me, but Pokemon didn't. It found its footing with us elementary schoolers on the playground. It was predominantly ours before it belonged to anybody else. Sometimes I stop in the middle of whatever I'm doing while playing Pokemon on my 3DS and stare at my screen, taking in all the stereo sound and millions of colors and how dude I can press a button and trade Pokemon with a stranger in Norway.
I could go on and on about how Pokemon has impacted my life. It's influenced the kind of content I create, connected me with lifelong friends, and done a great deal to expand my world in the years since I watched the anime and knew this was going to be my new favorite thing.
But if I did go on and write my autobiography from the perspective of link cables and shiny cards and waiting in a line at the movie theater while playing my Gameboy Color, I think it'd become bogged down and not convey my feelings, which are rather simple at their core.
My point is this: I love Pokemon and I'm glad it exists. May it keep pushing the boundaries of technology, connecting people, and inspiring new generations for the rest of my time on this planet.
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