In Defense of Pokemania

It pains me to admit this now, but I have just resigned to the fact that I can never live in Pallet Town. I am, however, still trying my hardest to become the very best like no one ever was. That’s it, you guessed it: I’m playing Pokémon Go.

I first learned about the game last year, when Google, game developer Niantic, and The Pokémon Company released a video teasing viewers about a Pokémon adventure just like the ones we were used to in the anime series and classic games, but this time, in real life.  Suffice to say — and using contemporary Internet parlance — I was #shook.

But first, a refresher: Pokémon ranks high up on my favorite anime list, right next Magic Knight Rayearth and Neon Genesis Evangelion. I’d have to admit though; it took me a while to get into it. It would, after all, air every Friday night, which not only meant that it competed with one of my other favorites, the tokusatsu classic Power Rangers, but also that I’d have to settle with watching it out of order. After watching the episode where protagonist Ash Ketchum healed his Charizard after it got frozen by a Poliwrath’s Ice Beam attack however, I became hooked. And with good reason — not only did the original series feature fantastical creatures guaranteed to pique any budding geek’s interest, it also had, at its core, quite the protagonist: for a 10-year-old boy, Ash was not only independent, he was also willing to learn from his mistakes, and was determined to move past all of his failures.

And who could ever forget the series’ original range of games? I still have vivid memories of my friends and I battling wild Pokémon, cheering whenever one of us managed to capture the rare ones, and consoling one another whenever the games crashed. I mean, who else remembers the countless reboots that failing to capture that Red Gyarados in the Lake of Rage entailed?

At the risk of sounding like a pre-teen with the emotional quotient of a newly hatched Togepi, Pokémon changed my life. It taught me that life, like a stroll through Kanto, Johto, Hoehn, and what have you, wouldn’t be complete without challenges and battles and that one should always be prepared lest he end up bruised and beaten.  But it also taught me to not be afraid to ask for help, that there’s nothing wrong with running to our Nurse Joys, Officer Jennies, and Professor Oaks when things get too tough.

And I think it’s safe to say that the rest of the world agrees with that sentiment, that Pokémon is a life-changer. After all, 100 million people — that’s the current number of players the game currently has on record as of press time — is enough proof to support that claim, right?

But I digress; there’s still a vocal minority claiming that it’s just all about nostalgia, a last-ditch attempt at reclaiming the lost innocence of our childhoods, that’s fuelling this current Pokémania we have right now. But whatever. Maybe that’s what we really need. I mean, have we not read stories about parents learning how to play the game just to connect with their kids? Or players exploring parts of their cities that they never even knew existed? Have we not encountered stories about how the search for invisible monsters allowed people to go out more and even befriend complete strangers? I rest my case.

A quote I read some time ago goes like this: we tend to gravitate towards certain things just when we need them the most. And, cheesy as it might sound, for a budding geek from the provinces, that’s what Pokémon and its message of perseverance, of being the best, was.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go. I’ve got some catching left to do.


This piece first appeared on GISTPH.COM