Gondolas are cool, aren't they?
We couldn’t let Pokémon’s 20th anniversary go by without adding our own walk down memory lane! For each of us, Pokémon has been something special and here are our individual reflections on the long-running monster collecting series.
Pokémon has been a constant in my life almost since conception. My first Pokémon memory was when my father, who worked as a delivery driver, brought home a beat up original Game Boy with an even worse for wear copy of Red Version. He said he “found it” in a truck he was driving in, but there are hundreds of different possibilities as to what truly transpired. I played the holy hell out of that game, and I still have the original game (not the Game Boy anymore, since I eventually upgraded to newer models as time went on). Pokémon continued with me throughout my life, as I’ve purchased each new release every year since then.
My first forays onto the Internet were for Pokémon reasons too, and I eventually found myself perusing and messing around on Pokémon forums. I actually honed my sense of humor on these sites, and while I may not be too proud of some of the shenanigans I pulled on people back then, I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t start out listening to Pokémon themed podcasts, yearning to record one myself and have other people listen respond like I responded to those podcasts back then.
My earliest memories of Pokémon can be best described as murky, yet fond. I remember going the whole hog on Pokémon, being pushed to the edge of playground fistfight death-matches on my willingness to defend Pikachu and friends over the clearly inferior Digimon. Being a small child through most of the 90’s, it’s impossible to say what roped me into Pokémon first, as life in the latter half of that decade was often a relentless inundation of Pokémon-related material. There were the games, the show, the trading cards, the toys, the books, the clothes, the novelty foods, the moral panics, and of course, those poor resolute souls who flew too close the sun with stout proclamations that Pokémon was just another fad.
Even at the time, six-year-old me, forming my first substantial gaming memories with Pokémon Crystal on a bright yellow Game Boy Color (Pikachu colors, of course), wouldn’t have believed them. Between my innumerable hours spent watching the cartoon, or collecting the trading cards, or playing Crystal or Stadium or Snap, or later Ruby, I couldn’t afford to believe that Pokémon was anything less than the best thing in the world. And now, 20 years after Red and Blue were unleashed onto an unsuspecting world, I’m less involved in the franchise, but nonetheless ecstatic about how it’s managed to endure and appeal all this time later. Thanks to the wide-eyed wonder of my younger self and the power of nostalgia, I’ll always see gaming as Pokémon’s world. Everything else is just living in it.
I’m going to be honest here, out of everyone at Chooch, Pokémon probably means the least to me, and it’s probably not even close in that respect. I probably couldn’t name a single Pokémon outside the original 151 off the top of my head. With that said though, there was a time when Pokémon was basically my everything. It was huge when it first made its way west, and I was one of the millions enchanted by its spell – I got a Gameboy one Christmas purely to play Pokémon Red and Blue.
I probably put a couple hundred hours into those games – most of which was into Red – and a further couple hundred into the TCG game. During that time, Pokémon was my life. I had magazines, books, toys, all of it. But just as deeply as I got wrapped up in it all, I fell out of it equally. By the time Gold and Silver had come out, my interest was waning, and it had totally evaporated by the next games. For me, Pokémon was a fad, but one that gave me a lot of enjoyment for a year or two, all the same.
Pokémon has genuinely been one of the biggest influences in my life. It was the first video game I ever owned. One day, my parents presented me with a blue Game Boy Pocket with a copy of Pokémon Blue inside. My uncle had found it laying in the middle of the road, lost by some poor kid during a bike ride or something. I was instantly hooked, loving it intensely, though I’m embarrassed to admit that it took me several weeks before I discovered I could actually save the game. I repeatedly made it to Lt. Surge in Vermilion City before those wimpy triple-A batteries would run out, but thankfully discovered I could save during a camping trip, finally discovering the option on the pause menu. After that, my Bulbasaur and I powered through the game, continuing to play it long after I had beaten every challenge in it, squeezing every ounce of entertainment from the little cartridge.
Pokémon did more for me than just the start of my lifelong love affair with video games. It helped me get my start on the internet, with my first community being a Pokémon forum. It also aided me connect with people in real life, helping me make friends with other fans who I might have had trouble interacting with socially otherwise. It helped me get through some dark times in my life, and even helped me identify that I was suffering from depression. I know I’d be in a much worse place today if some kid hadn’t carelessly dropped his Game Boy in front of my uncle’s house. While there are some franchises that would be better off ending before they hit 20 year, Pokémon is definitely not one of them. I hope when I’m an old lady at the age of 104, I’ll be celebrating the Pokémon’s 100th anniversary by booting up my Nintendo VR Chamber to play the latest game in the series.
For years I wasn’t very good at video games. I had been going into my brother’s save in Link to the Past and Final Fantasy II, casting powerful spells and beating powerful enemies I couldn’t get to on my own. I wanted to play more games, but my options were limited to my skill. Then Pokémon landed, and an obsession was born.
After its release I would be left with two Gameboy Colors, all three versions of the game, and several hours spent duplicating items with glitches and trading back and forth to prepare the best team I could. My original save, started in 1998, still sits on my Pokémon Red cartridge. The first game I did everything in. The first game I pushed to its limits. When my friends had moved on I remained fixated on catching them all.
It was the birth of my inner nerd. A potent mixture of curiosity and dogged determination. A convoluted motivation I can’t control that propels me forward. It’s unpredictable but aimable. It lays dormant, waiting for another subject to lay waste to. A powerful catalyst birthed by Pokémon Red in 1998.