Announcements of a new Pokemon game get some people excited. I am not one of those people.
Wrong place, wrong time
Unlike my cohorts here at TMA, I am not a Pokemon fanboy. Thus, announcements of new Pokemon games just result in eye rolling and audible sighs. However, despite not being a fan of Pokemon (or Nintendo for that matter), I can appreciate what Pokemon has been able to do and for somehow staying relevant in a gaming world that has more options than one knows how to handle. I tried to play Pokemon but it just didn’t stick, and a large part of the reason why is pretty simple: I’m too old.
I don’t believe that you’re ever too old to get into a game and become a loyal fan, regardless of what demographic the game seems to target, but the fact is Pokemon is a kid’s game in the eyes of many. I disagree with that thought but I understand it, yet the reason I say I’m too old is simply because Pokemon was not a part of my childhood. We all know the power games had during our formidable years, and we all know that the games we loved then will be with us forever. Nostalgia is strong and some things we just never grow out of, nor should we. For some that is Pokemon. For me it was a little different.
When Pokemon came out on the Game Boy in 1996 I was in high school, so naturally the appeal of Pokemon was limited. The last thing you wanted when you were 16 was a deck of cute dinosaurs in your pocket. Then by 1998 when the Pokemon cartoon came out, I was graduating and starting college. (Of course, that didn’t stop my cartoon viewing. Believe me, even as a college freshmen I was enjoying Dexter’s Lab, Power Puff Girls, and Samurai Jack.) In terms of video games, it’s known far and wide that I’m not a big fan of RPGs, so even if the quirky anime style of Pokemon caught my attention, the game itself didn’t spark much interest and I stayed away. I kept true with my Tekken, Gran Turismo, and Metal Gear roots. I also figured that Pokemon was more or less a fad franchise like so many others before it. Little did I know how wrong I was.
So I never got into Pokemon. Call it bad timing, but let me admit one thing: Had I been four years younger I would have been all over Pokemon. The game concept of collecting appeals to me quite a bit…did then, does now…which is why I spent a brief moment of my life collecting another trading card game, Magic: The Gathering.
Same game, better art
I remember one of my friends showing me his Magic: The Gathering deck in class during my sophomore year of high school and I was hooked, if only because of the badass art. I will say that I was never very good at Magic and collected the cards more because I thought they looked cool than to play the game. But yes, I realize that the basic differences between Pokemon and Magic are few. Both games ask you to collect cards to build the ultimate collection of creatures that you use to fight opponents, but let’s face it, if you ask a 16-year-old kid which looks cooler, a smiling Charmander or a Mystic Zealot with an axe, which one do you think he’ll pick? For a while I was buying decks and casually playing Magic with friends but after a while I got keen to the financial blackhole that trading card games were and I quit all together. Instead I spent my money building computers and buying “real” video games. By then neither Pokemon nor Magic were blips on my gaming radar.
Now let’s skip ahead several years later after being married and having real life to deal with, when I made an attempt to play Pokemon and jump on the bandwagon. At the time I was in love with my new Nintendo DS Lite and I gave Pokemon a shot. I figured if a game series can last 15 years and still be popular, it can’t be all bad. Well, that didn’t work out so well. I forget which version I tried, but after an hour or two I just quit. I didn’t feel any drive or motivation to keep going. However, dipping my toe into Pokemon did lead me towards some Pokemon-wannabe video games that I did enjoy.
Somehow I ended up with Digimon World Championship on DS and played that casually for a long time. Digimon was a blatant Pokemon rip-off that involved raising dinosaur monsters and training them to fight. You did this by giving them things to do like lift weights and run around a track Olympic style. You also had to keep them fed and rested, but the game also worked while you didn’t so you had to keep coming back to make sure everything was okay. Honestly, if you put the Digimon game on my phone I’d probably play it again. So why did Digimon hook me and Pokemon didn’t? If I had to guess it’s because Digimon had almost zero RPG elements. You simply curated your farm, entered fights, earned money, and built up your stuff. There were no maps to explore or quests to conquer; it was action all the time. The other DS game that descends from Pokemon that I enjoyed was Fossil Fighters. This game had the same shtick of collecting dinosaurs to fight but Fossil Fighters had some added puzzle elements that took advantage of the DS’s touchscreen and I really enjoyed that. It felt new and unique and that’s what kept me engaged. Maybe I should have given Pokemon more of a chance but when it comes to video games, if I’m not hooked within the first 15 minutes of play (or less) I usually give up, and Pokemon is definitely a game with a much slower pace than I can accept.
I give credit where credit is due
In a few years Pokemon will be 20 years old. I admire that it has been able to stick around this long and still get gamers like TMA Editor Chris excited, but what I admire more is that Pokemon has more or less kept its gaming style intact. In a time when everyone wants better graphics, more speed, and bigger multiplayer action, Pokemon has seemingly kept true to itself thanks to what must be an engaging story, lovable characters, and the thrill of hunting for new monsters. I shall never poopoo Pokemon. I get it and I understand why it is (still) popular and addicting. In some ways I probably wish I was able to enjoy Pokemon but I don’t think it’s in the cards. However, at this rate Pokemon will still be kicking by the time my own child comes of gaming age so who knows, she might just want a Pokeball for her birthday one year.