I'm a mid-thirties, married guy with a kid in kindergarten. And yes, I play Pokémon. I have a mortgage, obligations, responsibilities, and still have a desire to play games and watch cartoons that are geared toward a younger age group. So what's the deal?
I'm not ashamed of it, either. I'm proud of the fact that I play Pokémon–both the video game and the collectible card game–when others say I should be cheering on the local football team or working on cars or some other acceptable behavior for a grown up man.
Meh. I'll define myself, than you very much.
About the time the cartoon started airing in the US, the Game Boy versions of Pokémon Red and Blue were released. I didn't play them at all, since I didn't have a Game Boy at the time.
But then Pokémon Yellow was released and I got a Game Boy Color just to try out this phenomenal game everyone was talking about.
I played it and liked it, but didn't give it much thought and proceeded to forget about Pokémon for a few years.
Pokémon TCG and Ruby/Sapphire
Fast-forward to 2003 and the release of Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire–the third generation of Pokémon games. My wife and I had just purchased the Game Boy Advance a little while before that and when the new Pokémon games came out we decided to give them a whirl. Instantly we were impressed with the changes in the game and got into it.
We even started playing the card game, but our addiction didn't last long because we didn't really know anyone else who played. After a while we again forgot about Pokémon.
The New Obsession
After my son was born in 2010 I've always been on the lookout for games we can play together. Pokémon X and Y came out, this time on the Nintendo 3DS, and we again decided to give the game a shot. Something clicked in me and I was instantly obsessed. I beat the game fairly quickly, and got into a lot of the post-game content. I then moved onto the remakes of Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire. After that my wife and I went out and bought nearly every one of the Pokémon games we missed in the years we didn't play. Since then I've played and beat a game from every generation.
So what's the appeal?
I've put a lot of thought into the "why" of things and I think there's several parts that have made me really like and respect this franchise.
- It fosters a sense of good sportsmanship. The anime and games are all about competition, but the main characters are always exhibiting a sense of grace when both winning and losing that most people can learn from. It's refreshing to see someone determined to do their best but handle defeat just as well as handling victory. It's a great lesson to teach.
- Friendship is a value. The key things taught in the anime and the game are: friendship, loyalty, and kindness. The world can always use a bit of that.
- It taps into the collector mentality. I've got the bug for collecting things. I have a huge G1/G2/Beast Wars Transformers collection, an insane library of books and anime, and hard drives full of music. Collecting Pokémon fits right into that.
- It's something I can do to connect with my son. We both enjoy the games and the cartoon, so we can do it together and both genuinely have fun. I'm not pretending to like it like I do with Peppa Pig or the Fresh Beat Band of Spies (bleh.).
- There's a deeper level of technical challenge below the surface. Sure, you need to know your type match-ups when going into battle, but there's more: optimal move sets, breeding for the right nature, abilities, stats, and egg moves, learning to balance a team-makeup for various competition formats, playing the competitive metagame, and so on.
I tend to enjoy min-maxing my gaming quite a bit. I had spreadsheets to manage my World of Warcraft character back in the day, and sure enough I have spreadsheets now for managing breeding competitive Pokémon. It's great.
The card game is pretty similar, but the reason I got into that is simple: I wanted to play a collectible card game, and Magic: The Gathering can be pretty overwhelming with its numerous rules. Pokémon makes more sense for the way I view those card games. And even with its simpler ruleset the metagame is still pretty intense and can take some serious work to become good on a competitive level.
If you haven't given a serious (or even a semi-serious) look at Pokémon at all, I suggest giving it a try. Sure, the anime is campy and predicable with Team Rocket always trying to do their thing to ruin everyone's day (They'd get along swimmingly with Dora's enemy Swiper the Fox). But there's an innocence to it and heart to make it enjoyable, with mechanics and subtle nuances that make things really fun. It's really more than just an intellectual property for kids. There's something there for everyone. So do it! You know you want to!