20 years of Pokemon: Gotta catch all the memories

One student explores the popular franchise’s legacy and personal impact

I have a vivid memory from 2000 when I was seven and my grandma was still alive. It was past my bedtime and I was sitting in our bathroom with the lights off playing Pokémon Silver on my Game Boy Color. This was years before any handheld had a back light so of course, I had the reading light that attached to your Game Boy so I could see what I was doing.

My heart sunk into my chest when my grandma opened the bathroom door. She took my Game Boy, told me to go to sleep and I think I cried about it. In hindsight, why would I try to play Pokémon discreetly in a room that everybody in the house uses?

2016 marks the 20th Anniversary of Pokémon’s first video games, Pokémon Red and Pokémon Green, which were later translated into Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue in the United States. There have been nearly two-dozen video games released since then, not to mention the popular anime series and movies to accompany these games. This is a franchise that I grew up with. It’s a franchise I grew to love and adore.

Just thinking about the pilot episode of the anime series where Ash gets his Pikachu gives me the best nostalgic feeling. Remember when Pikachu obliterated that flock of Spearow from existence to save Ash? The anime series gave life to all the pocket monsters we saw in the video games and I can do voice impressions of so many Pokémon because of this. The series was also apart of my fond memories of Saturday morning cartoons.

RIP Spearow

Another fond memory is going to see the movies in theatres with my siblings. When you saw the first movie, Mewtwo Strikes Back, you received an ancient Mew Pokémon trading card with your movie ticket and I thought it was the best thing in the world at the time. It was so shiny. That first movie felt so theatrical and it was so surreal to see all the characters you grew to love on TV now on the big screen. I can’t forget to mention the epic Ditto battles in the climax along with Mewtwo’s existential speech.

Pokémon expanded my imagination and took me to a different place as a child. It’s all about raising creatures, growing with them, and discovering the world. Why wouldn’t you want to take a team of your closest companions and travel across the land searching far and wide?

Beyond that, the series made reading fun and actually improved my reading skills. It expanded my vocabulary and I gradually began to read faster. My love for Pokémon brought others and me together. My friendship with a really good friend of mine actually started when he invited me over to play Pokémon with him.

When the goings got rough, Pokémon was always there. If I was feeling stressed or just wanted to unwind, I could always rely on my six-member party being there when I turned my handheld on. I knew Pokémon couldn’t solve any of my problems but I knew it was always there to help me escape from them for a bit and even put me in a better mood.

My obsession with the Pokémon franchise has slowly subsided over the years. It’s due to a mix of added responsibilities with age that take up my time and the number of Pokémon that are added with each generation. There are currently over 700 different creatures in the Pokémon universe and that number is growing. I grew up with and can memorize a good 400 of those, but I’m not sure I can keep up with the future of additional Pokémon. My brain can only take so much.

I may not be as emphatic about the franchise as I was 10 years ago but that doesn’t mean I won’t still get hyped for the announcement of new games, like Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon, set for release later this year. I like to think that these new games will be ones that seven-year-olds will be staying up late to play for hours on end in their bathroom.

Pokémon has added a certain kind of joy to my life that nothing else has been able to replicate. It’s helped me develop as a human being and has brought me closer to the people in my life. I’ve put countless hours of my life into the series and I definitely don’t regret it. I want these to be games and anime my children have the opportunity to enjoy like I did. Thank you, Pokémon. Thank you for the 20 years of memories.

Photo: (CC BY 2.0 by Yoshikazu TAKADA)

Gabe Hewitt

Gabe is a junior mass media student at MSU. He's usually up for anything. You can find him on Twitter (@gabehewitt) or you can email him at gabriel.hewitt@mnsu.edu.

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