Why We Can’t Outgrow Pokemon

Pokemon video game generations side by side

Thanks to my convenient location in Japan’s old capital, I am a short, inexpensive train ride away from the Osaka Pokemon Center. I’ve been known to take advantage of this on occasion, as evidenced by my Pokemon themed kitchen wear (Eeveelution chopsticks!), plushies, and other assorted Pokejunk that now litters my apartment and desk at work.

I love visiting the Center, not just for the merch, and most certainly not for the Pokemon Center theme song which plays on a constant  loop, but also for the vast array of people who come to Western Japan’s Pokemon hub.
You’ll find besuited salary men and women with their DSes, taking some rare time off work, trading Pokemon and battling with high school and college students–who are also connecting with elementary school children whose mothers took them in for a special treat. And of course, there’s even the occasional gaijin who comes to the Center while on their nerd pilgrimage across Japan, or resident ex-pat fans who simply failed to shake off the Pokemon bug they caught nearly twenty years ago.

There’s a question I’ve asked myself, as have many others, on occasion over the years, and it comes to mind anew when I see all of these different people gathered at the Osaka Pokemon Center (or when I wake up from a 16-hour Pokemon coma the weekend after Pokemon X and Y are released).  Many people have moved on from their childhood dreams of becoming Pokemon masters, but many more keep returning to each fresh chapter in the series. At the same time new generations of players become enamored with the prospect of catching them all for the very first time. So why does Pokemon maintain such a long-standing, international appeal?

There is no singular answer. Some fans are completionists, addicted to the challenge of collecting an ever increasing roster of monsters, others enjoy merely progressing through the main story, building a loyal team of Pokemon along the way. If you like a challenge, you can play through the entire game using a single Rattata, a Pokemon notorious for being pretty useless,  or build a team of your preferred elemental type. There are those who get in deep, raising meticulously trained Pokemon with a genetic pedigree you can only attain from hours of mind-numbing selective breeding in order to compete with the best in competitive battle.

There is something uniquely satisfying in being able to create whatever experience you want out of the game with whichever Pokemon you want. Pokemon is so attractive to such a diverse fan base because it offers the player choice and, with its ever increasing diversity of monsters and teachable moves, embraces creativity.

Photo courtesy of @Ugusyan.

 

  • Mike Potts

    I love Pokemon. We’ve had our ups and downs – I basically gave it up between Gold and Silver and Heart Gold/Soul Silver, I think Black and White, and to some extension X and Y are dumbed down, simplified, easy versions of the relatively hardcore RPGs I grew up with, etc – but overall, I keep coming back.

    I have a Cyndaquil and Totodile in the backseat of my car, I regularly travel to the NYC Pokemon Center. I joke about link cables. Somehow these games that have been, honestly, exactly the same game over and over again, have remained relevant. Its like Legend of Zelda at this point. You just know its going to be good, even if its crazy similar to the last one.

  • Craig Bamford

    I’ve never really thought it’s any kind of a mystery. Pokemon is a Nintendo-made JRPG, and if there’s one thing we know, it’s that Nintendo (and Sega!) make excellent, compelling JRPGs. They don’t do it a lot, mind, which is unfortunate…but the trend is pretty clear.

    (It does show how silly the whole “JRPGS ARE DYING!!!!11one” line is, though.)