Pokemon and me
Millennials at The Globe and Mail who grew up with the game explain why it ruled their world
I inhabited the Pokemon world mostly by playing the game on my Game Boy, night and day. The game had advanced mechanics that went beyond cute fighting monsters. You could customize a team and almost "bond" with them. I'd give them invented personalities and could imagine myself in the game easily. That spread to the real world, as I would walk around and imagine how my life would be different if there were Weedles in the trees or if a Dewgong were swimming in my pool. Friends and I would talk about it every day at school, too.
My first grade teacher actually bought us a chart for spelling Pokemon names because that's all we would write about, and she at least wanted us to learn how to spell them correctly.
My favourite was Charizard. He was the biggest and baddest, and in the television show that Pokemon had the best story with the main character, Ash. Their relationship started off rocky but over time, they earned each other's respect. It was quite a rewarding slow-burn for a kid's show. I remember asking my grandma to knit me a sweater with Charizard on the front, but she didn't have enough orange.
I remember my brother sitting me down at our computer and showing me how to play an early version of Pokemon Yellow. The game was in Japanese but that didn't matter. I was so young I could barely read in the first place. I just went through the motions and figured out what the Japanese commands corresponded to on the screen. It still managed to hook me despite my lack of comprehension.
It's just a great place to expand your imagination, especially for kids. Dreaming about what life would be like to live in a world of adventure and magical beasts is a great outlet for any child.
Every person in my generation knows the lyrics to the Pokemon theme song. There's no escaping it. The show itself was simple and camp but appealed to me and my friends for its emotional, exciting stories. The first Pokemon movie even deals with the ethics of cloning and class privilege.
Then there were the cards. I distinctly remember getting my first rare one, a Machamp, and taking it to school despite being terrified of losing it. I was approached by an older kid who offered to trade it for his Arcanine card, one of similar rarity. I accepted, and realized afterward that his Arcanine was a fake. (Fake cards had a purple back.) I had been duped. I have never forgotten this trauma.
My parents never quite understood, but they didn't try to stop me. I do appreciate my dad taking me to the second movie, Pokemon 2000, in a theatre on a Saturday afternoon. They played a fun Pokemon short before the actual movie. I remember having to tell him that the short wasn't the real movie, and that there was still an hour and a half ahead. He went to go stand out in the hallway for a while at one point.
My favourite Pokemon memory is getting my first Game Boy with Pokemon Gold version on Christmas morning. My brothers and I had peeked at our presents beforehand, so we knew what we were going to get, but my parents also threatened to take them away before Christmas. I had seen kids playing the video game at school and desperately wanted to join them. I felt as if I had been given a key to officially join the universe by getting that game.
Blastoise was my all-time favourite Pokemon. He appeared on the cover of Pokemon Blue. He was a giant turtle with water guns on his shoulder. Who couldn't resist that as a kid?
I first encountered Pokemon in a game magazine in the library as a kid. What was unique was that you could connect two Game Boys together to trade characters.
I've always loved the names and design ideas for each Pokemon – how Ekans and Arbok are snake and kobra backward. And that on the show Ash doesn't age.
My parents never understood my Pokemon love, not in a million years. However they supported us by buying the Game Boys and games. It kept us out of trouble.
I've played a bit on Pokemon Go, but I'm waiting for the official iOS release. It's like every kid's dream of Pokemon has become closer to reality.
Laurent Bastien Corbeil
I have always loved Jigglypuff, the most human-like, and fittingly also the most tragic, Pokemon.
He's one of the few Pokemon that is actually ambitious. Jigglypuff wants to be a singer. He doesn't care about battles or beating gym trainers. He wants to be famous. But he can't. He can't because people fall asleep every time he sings. To me, that seems like a horrendous curse. Imagine being an artist and not being able to truly express yourself. He's a tortured artist, in a way. And the thing that is torturing him is very real and it isn't just a metaphor.
No other Pokemon has this sort of complexity.
What I like best about the Pokemon universe is the sense of escape. When you watch or play it, you feel as if you are part of a much wider world. It's also very comforting. Yes, the world is large and full of monsters, but most of those monsters are actually very friendly. As a child, I thought that was reassuring. Also, every character in the show is fundamentally good. Even the bad guys. Pokemon, I think, is an optimistic show.
I was also a card collector. My parents spent a lot of money on this and they hated it. I hoarded the cards. Nobody knew how to play the board game.
On Pokemon Go, I'm level 7. It's very strange to feel this connection to your childhood again, to be interested in something you loved as a child. I wouldn't have expected it. I mean, it's not like I'm going to start playing with GI Joes again. So Pokemon is unique in that respect.
I know it's cliché and expected but I've loved that little yellow creature Pikachu ever since I can remember. My first Hotmail e-mail address was pika1992. I don't even have a good explanation behind my choice, except to say that Pikachu is ADORABLE. It also didn't hurt that it has one of the greatest powers ever: lightning.
I loved the wide array of characters, especially the cute ones. My habit of picking Pokemon based on how cute they were rather than on their strengths led to a fair number of lost battles.
I collected hundreds of cards – kept in pristine condition in binders, each one tucked into its own protective sleeve – played various versions of the Pokemon game on my Game Boy, and I have a vague memory of inviting friends over to play the video game on my Nintendo 360.
Most weekends, my father would drive me to the local comic book store and we would poke through their selection of Pokemon cards for hours. If he thought it was stupid, he sure didn't let me know it. To this day, I really appreciate that a man in his 40s took the time to sort through hundreds of cards with strange animated creatures on them. My collection of cards remains in the basement of my family home, and despite my assurances that he can throw them out or sell them, he still hasn't.
My older brother, however, made up an insulting Pokemon name for me, which he called me for years.
I downloaded Pokemon Go last night. While out to dinner with a group of friends from high school, it became apparent that I was the only one who had yet to play it. I'm slightly embarrassed to admit it, but after dinner our group of seven friends opened the app and took a stroll through downtown Toronto, with the sole purpose of catching Pokemon.
If anything, it's reminded me just how much I loved this show as a kid. It's also reminded me how addictive Pokemon games can be.
When I was 7, I had a $10-a-month allowance, so I didn't have enough to spend on Pokemon trading cards or a Nintendo DS, so I entered the Pokemon world through television. I remember it was on at 5 p.m. on YTV, which was prime time for youth programming, between Hey Arnold! and (minimal) piano practice.
It was the first television show I really followed. I religiously taped the episodes on my VHS and even clicked pause during the commercials for a superior rewatching experience. I watched them over and over again.
Why? Aesthetically, the ultracute animal-based characters fit in with my former loves, Hello Kitty and Minnie Mouse. Shoutout to Vulpix, a fox-like Pokemon. I wish my reason for liking Vulpix is because I identify with its struggle to be taken seriously as a strong Pokemon even though it doesn't look scary. But no. It's really just because it's so cute.
I didn't care much for the fighting, because what I loved best were the stories. The Pokemon on the show were all pure of heart and hero Ash Ketchum's healthy relationship with his Pokemon taught simple values like being loyal to your friends and treating people (and Pokemon) kindly.
I don't think Grade 3 me could succinctly explain why I loved Pokemon the series so much, but looking back, it was a consistent experience. Between the dedicated TV time slot and the neatly wrapped storylines, it was something I could count on. Pikachu would always save the day.