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The Power of Pokémon: Why Catching ‘Em All Helps Alleviate My Anxiety

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I am a millennial. That means I get my news through a carefully curated twitter feed, I insist on photographing all my meals and I have a mess of issues of all varieties. Also, I’m a nerd: I start hyperventilating when the latest Marvel movie drops, I have very real opinions about magic systems in literature and video games are to me what luxurious spa days are to others.

At this point, video games are commonly regarded as art, and in many ways they’re at the forefront of digital and visual innovation. But can they be considered truly therapeutic? Yes, actually, according to both scientific and anecdotal evidence. Boom! Take that, haters.

Pokémon games are, for me, the pinnacle of video games as a form of therapy. Practically speaking—especially now, with the advent of the extremely awesome, extremely free Pokémon Go—they are a very low-cost way of blowing off some mental steam. But more importantly, all Pokémon games meet my Geeky Triumvirate of Therapy (trademark pending):

1. It fulfills my need to control everything. From who’s on my team, what I name them, how I evolve them, even what stats I could choose to EV train, Pokémon gives you a remarkable amount of control. This soothes my poor millennial mind: control is something my generation has precious little of. I am a control freak and proud, and Pokémon lets me indulge that shamelessly.

2. It fulfills my need to interact with cute things. I defy you to tell me that Jigglypuff isn’t brain-bendingly adorable. That lullaby? GTFO, because I am done. Pikachu is a fat lightning hamster who has a deep love of condiments—my dream pet, to be honest. Even Dragonite, a totally dope, fearsome orange dragon, has a cute li’l smile and the most adorably rounded tum. It absolutely slays me. Pokémon are virtual little buddies that you can hang out with. Everyone knows hanging out with puppies and kitties is great for your psyche—so why not do the same thing with the virtual, hypoallergenic kind of pal that you don’t have to clean up after?

3. It fulfills my need to smite my enemies in battle. Yes, this is bloodthirsty. But after a long day, what I really want is to find a teen-aged NPC with an inferior lineup and CRUSH HIM IN BATTLE. Screw you Timmy, ain’t no way your 3 Pidgeys can take my team! I wanna be the very best, like no one ever was—including you! And no, you can’t have my transponder number. ‘Nuff said.

But time for some realness: I have anxiety, along with a whole other mess of mental stumbling blocks. As a geek kid looking for her people, I used to distract myself with pre-made stories of science fiction and fantasy and all kinds of other worlds, in whatever format I could get my hands on them in: books, movies, tv shows, or audio recordings of my family members reading fairytales to me. Stories about dragons n’ stuff were my ticket to a more peaceful headspace. But videogames are stories that you can make, and control (to an extent)—and as I’ve said, control is a big deal. It’s soothing, and important. When I need to distract myself, my go-to is a videogame, and if I’m in a particularly bad way, you can bet I’m hitting up the Lavender Tower but hard.

The reason is simple—there are no barriers to entry with Pokémon as there are with many other narrative forms. Easy in; easy out. I don’t need to remember where I left off, or why I want to catch them all. I can just pick it up, play around, and immediately start feeling more at ease. For my quick shot of mental wellness, I need my Pokémon.

In all seriousness, Pokémon is engrossing, which means that through some top-secret combination of plot, gameplay mechanics, and digital witchcraft, there is a game out there that can focus my anxiety-riddled brain for long enough for me benefit from the sense of control, the cuteness, and the vicious bloodletting it brings me. And if the massive Pokémon Go craze, or palpable excitement over Sun & Moon is any indication…I’m not the only one. So get out there and battle your brain demons with pocket monsters, kids, because Professor Oak would totally agree with me about this.

Also, I feel compelled to add, Team Valor FTW.

featured image via Mr Aesthetics / Shutterstock.com

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Caroline Perny supports progress, equality, and inclusivity. She’s a geek girl, book lover, and all around enthusiastic nerd. She lives in Astoria with her boyfriend, an alarmingly large collection of swords, guitars, novels, and one extremely sassy cat. Follow her on Twitter @CarolinePerny.

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