Growing Up in A World of Pokémon by Samantha Reynolds
Pokémon is a global phenomenon that premiered over 25 years ago. It consists of dozens of tv shows, movies, video games, card games, toys, plushies, and a variety of other merchandise and collectibles. In honor of the next generation releasing soon, I wanted to share a bit of its history and what Pokémon means to me.
-The original cartoon and card game where release in the late 90’s and quickly grew in popularity among kids, teens, and adults of all ages.
-The word Pokémon is short for ‘Pocket Monster’ which is the original Japanese based name for the creatures in their universe.
-Many Pokémon are based on real-world animals/creatures, but are a larger size and have abilities that are unique to each one.
-Pokémon can be found in a variety of regions, towns, and environments, that have different elemental abilities that can define a Pokémon’s type.
-Those who catch/train Pokémon are known as Pokémon Trainers.
-Many trainers travel the world in hopes of either collecting all of the different variations or by battling their strongest Pokémon against other trainers, and at times Pokémon Masters, in hopes of reaching a status of Pokémon Master themselves.
-As Pokémon grow in strength, many of them are able to go through a process of evolution, in which they transform into a stronger creature.
-To reach Master level with battles trainers travel to different regions and battle a series of Gym Leaders, upon the gyms defeat the trainer will receive a badge to honor their victory
-The original series of Pokémon monsters known as Generation One consisted of 151 creatures (including base forms and evolutions.)
My first experience with Pokémon was when I was around 6 years old. My brothers had just started playing in card game tournaments at our local card shop, and shortly thereafter received their first Gameboys when Pokémon Red/Blue first released to the platform. I had been dying to play in the tournaments and would steal their Gameboys as often as possible to play the video games. About a year later I finally received my own Gameboy and was blessed with Pokémon Yellow -the third game in the series to release with Pikachu as the main starting Pokémon.
Throughout the following years the Pokémon craze just grew and grew. I’d play in school during my lunch hour, and it wound up getting banned for being considered a form of ‘gambling,’ as amusing as that was. I watched the cartoon every morning I could, and was there through all of the emotional moments… when Pikachu first learned to bond with Ash Ketchum (the shows main character.) When Charmander’s flame almost went out, and when Butterfree flew off to be with the love of his life and said goodbye to his friends. The original show was full of so much heart and it was an honor to follow Ash’s journey throughout his goal to become the greatest Pokémon Master of all time.
In 1999, the first Pokémon movie hit theaters and let’s just say… amazing. The world was touched by this story of sacrifice and heart, at Ash giving his life to end a terrible battle, and all of the Pokémon shedding tears for him which floated to the center of the battle ring and brought Ash back to life. We met the rarest Pokémon Mew and Mewtwo and learned through them that the circumstances of one’s birth are irrelevant. It’s what a person or being does with the life that they’re given that is much more important.
In the early 2000’s the next few generations of Pokémon released, followed by more creatures, cards, video games, shows, and movies. I collected the cards and video games up through high-school but I eventually fell out of playing and collecting and sold most of my collection. Throughout the years, I continued to watch the shows/movies, play the video games on occasion and still keep the interest there, but Pokémon, to me, felt tedious, and just plain boring. Much of the content/stories felt like repeats, the monsters themselves felt like they were running out of ideas. I learned there’s literally an ice cream cone, garbage bag, apple pie, giant nose, some weird skinny floating heart frisbee thing, etc. versions of Pokémon… I think it’s just hilarious to think of some of the… odder… designs over the years.
In July, 2016 its first mobile game Pokémon GO was released and the literal world went crazy for it. Pokémon GO is a fitness-based combination game/app that brought catching and training to the real world. It’s given us the opportunity to explore our communities, nature, and locales in order to hunt out and physically have our own Pokémon journey of adventure, training, catching, and being our own best Pokémon Master. I, like many, was instantly hooked and would walk for miles on end every day to hit local Pokéstops, engage in gym/raid battles, and once-released, challenge friends and local folks to battles. Over the years this game has continued to evolve, and bring more monsters to its world and really build the Pokémon community back up as a whole.
As of 2022, the ninth generation will release, and will bring the total number of Pokémon monsters to over 900+ different creatures, evolutions, ideas, and concepts. I’ve recently started collecting the Pokémon cards again as of the Sword n’ Shield releases and it’s nostalgic seeing some of the creatures I grew up with in addition to hundreds of the other designs over the years. While Pokémon isn’t currently a main hobby for me, it’s something I grew up with in my 30+ years and something I will always hold close to my heart.
Over the generations Pokémon has taught many of us to believe in ourselves and never give up, a concept which has held true and will continue to do so for many years to come.