"Gotta Catch ‘Em All" - Special 151st Post Tribute to Everyone’s Favorite Japanese Import

Blog Rewind: In honor of our birthday, Q.L.M. is reblogging some of our favorite posts from yesteryear!  When almost every entry I posted consisted of original material, there was a time when 151 posts felt like a real accomplishment. Now that I reblog much more material than I generate, post count seems like less of a noteworthy element.

That being said, I still really love Pokemon, and using Q.L.M.’s 151’st post as an excuse to explore the meaning behind this deceptively simple video game was an opportunity I took without a moment’s hesitation <3!

questionableliterarymerit:

To commemorate my 151st Tumblr post, I’d like to showcase this image of the 151st Pokemon from the original 1998 Pokemon Game roster and talk a little bit about what Pokemon means to me. Say Hi, Mew!

“Mew!”

I believe I was a freshman in high school when these games first came out, so while people my age tend to remember the world’s fascination with Pokemon, it’s people who are slightly younger than me who actually participated in that obsession en masse. My Pokemon comrades are always either slightly younger than me, or (thanks to the popularity of the latest generation of gamesdrastically younger than me.

Co-workers with children are always so surprised when I am able to engage their offspring in conversations about the minutiae of Pokemon. We easily launch into discussions about the value of S.T.A.B. moves (Same Type Attack Bonus) or muse about what type of Gym Leaders we might be if given the chance to start one of our own. Their parents always have their mouths open in shock when this happens. They look at me like I just spoke fluent Italian, or Martian. To them, I’m The Horse Whisperer for 10-year olds or else Cesar Millan with video game savvy. On the outside, it looks like I’m nurturing or sensitive to the idiosyncrasies of small children, but that’s not the case at all. The truth is that I’m simply delighting in the practice of my native tongue: Pokebonics.

I think a lot of people view Pokemon with a high degree of skepticism. For many, at its peak of power, it was an ode to materialism. The infamous tagline “gotta catch them all” commanded an entire generation of children to obsess over their hand-held games for hours upon hours. That video game franchise expanded and overtook every possible product avenue: a TV show, toylines, card games, clothing, food….

Pretty much anything you could slap Pikachu’s face on was fair game (and sold like the dickens). Still, what a lot of people don’t realize is that Pokemon, for all the crass consumerism associated with it, actually has some very sentimental, organic roots.

Pokemon creator, Satoshi Tajiri, used to collect all kinds of critters when he would go on adventures, exploring the uncharted regions of suburban Japan. He would look for insects, tadpoles, and other creepy crawlers in the forests, fields, and ponds near his home on the outskirts of Tokyo.

Once industrialization took over that region, and both the literal and professional landscapes began to shift to make room for the digital world, Satoshi yearned to find a way to incorporate his boyhood playtime into a unique video gaming experience. Pokemon was the intersection of those two worlds. It was a way for children living in an urbanized environment to have the same kind of experiences Satoshi had as a kid. It was a way to explore a new world and commune with an environment via its inhabitants. In this manner, Pokemon, despite it’s electronic trappings, is still very much rooted in natural structures and the importance of relationships. Who knew?

In 1999, Time Magazine published a fantastic article about the origins of Pokemon (Link Here or Click Image Above). In addition to framing the Pokemon roleplayer as a kind of Nintendo-Thoreau, the article also talked about how the idea of “battling with monsters” was actually a old practice in Japan. It was born somewhere between WWII atrocity and lingering, boyhood innocence.

In the final paragraph, the author(s) write(s):

  “Yet collecting Pokemon and pitting them against one another is not a new kind of quest, simply one tweaked with technology. In Asia, fathers and grandfathers still tell of growing up in the midst of World War II, of nights of not knowing what to do with yourself except sneak into the tall grass of the countryside to catch crickets, then take them home, cupped in your hand, to raise in the dark of matchboxes, training the insects for fights with the crickets of other boys who have been on the same nocturnal hunt. The more experience each cricket has had, the better a fighter it becomes—the tiny surrogate for the boy unable to fight in the war going on all around him. Pokemon is that kind of game. Except that there are many kinds of crickets, and all are potentially friendly monsters with fabulous powers. And nobody dies.”

Just a little something for the naysayers to chew on…

Pokemon is popular because it provides companionship via little pixelated monsters that both represent us and entertain us. We Pokemaniacs project our hopes, wishes, fears, and personalities onto our Pokemon through customization the same way other people might change their clothes or cut their hair. Our choice of Pokemon, our battle style, the nicknames we pick…all say something about who we are, and what we care about. They fight for us. They are loyal to us. They grow and change and become stronger with us. In this way, they are just like the crickets mentioned in the article. They are our advocates. They are our avatars. 

Pokemon is deep. Okay?