At first it was all darkness, then the lights were on, showing an old professor past his prime. Gray hair, a white lab coat, and a welcoming smile.
The gentle professor talked to me; telling his stories about a world where creatures with unbelievable potential exists. A world where adventures and mysteries are in every corner.
I was six years old at that time and on my hand was an old Gameboy Color with Pokemon Red plugged on its back. The sound of Pallet Town was embedded on my memory ever since. I pushed the directional buttons and made my character walk, not know where to go rushed towards the big establishment a few walks away from my in-game house.
It was the Pokemon Lab.
But of course the last paragraphs were a draft I left for months so let us get the ball rolling.
The thing that puts Video Games above other forms of Entertainment
Of course, I picked Charmander. Flames and all that, they just appeal so much to hyper active 5 year olds back then.
Now that I’m looking back to it it was probably that moment where it all began – the reason as to why this game spawned a behemoth of a franchise and merchandise.
It can all be traced back to that point. The moment where the game made you choose who you want to travel with.
You see my friend, before Pokemon, your choices when it comes to RPGs were limited to which sword has the highest stats or which armor was the best against this enemy. Games had a set protagonist and characters you can play with.
Although some games did allow you to choose who to take or who to travel with, it was very limited.
Pokemon had 151 “characters” you can mix and match. Available to you at any time that you desire it.
Choose who to travel with, choose how they play, choose their names, choose their attacks.
Gamers love choices, and Pokemon is a game about it.
A kid with a normal house, normal mom, normal clothes but extraordinary quest
We’ve heard it all before – the stories of chosen ones with extra ordinary powers that will save the world. Swordsmen and warriors that trained for countless years to finally go in a journey to defeat the evil king. Mages and sorcerers capable of destroying the world and sometimes, even the universe.
And then there’s Pokemon’s protagonist – a normal kid with nothing but Pokeballs and a bicycle. Just like every kid that owned a Gameboy minus the Pokeballs.
It was a brilliant strategy.
The protagonist was not the character in-game. It was me, my 5 year old self.
A normal protagonist with no extra ordinary trait was a brilliant concept during its time – during a time of plumbers with fire balls or elves in green clothing with master swords and stuff there was this kid who befriended Pokemon and forged a story through his own efforts and limitations.
As a kid I can project myself towards the character I was playing as and believe me, it worked so well. I was screaming CHARIZARD USE FLAMETHROWER across the hallway all day.
Video Game Community
The first of its kind
Almost every game has a community now. We have YouTube channels, dedicated Facebook groups, forum threads, forum sites.
But during its time, Pokemon had a community unlike any other.
Handheld and connecting these handhelds – that’s the secret ingredient.
The internet was pretty weak back then so games connecting to each other are pretty rare. The Gameboy changed that and Pokemon played a vital role in it.
Back then the idea of pitting your Pokemon against another kid with Pokemon was phenomenal. You can bring your Pokemon game anywhere since it’s in handheld and look for other players, if you have link cable you can battle it out or trade exclusive Pokemon.
And it spawned an insane community, a community that transcended the test of time.
Children were bragging their Level 100 Charizards at school and pitting them against each other. People cried at how Earthquake and Tauros were overpowered, people traded Arcanine for Ninetales, Oddishes for Bellsprouts.
It developed a living and thriving community. Probably the best community a game could have. Rabid fans and all that.
Some even say that the handheld gaming would be dead without Pokemon.
And without Handheld gaming we probably won’t have any mobile games on our smartphones.
That’s how strong Pokemon was – choice, setting, and the ability to share your experiences with other players.
So yeah, gotta catch em’ all?