In case it wasn’t already painfully obvious, I most certainly do play Pokémon. In fact, I not only play Pokémon, I eat, sleep and breathe Pokémon whenever humanly possible. There are some folks out there who might think poorly of me because of this, but for the most part, I’m too engrossed in the latest generation to give a flying Drifloon what they think.
To be fair, the image conjured up by the thought of your stereotypical Pokémon player is quite young. 11, perhaps 12, with glasses and a Nintendo DS that was bought used from GameStop. While I do have glasses, I’m a healthy 24 years of age and my Nintendo DSi was purchased brand new, thank you very much.
I do fit the mold of the aging gamer, however. Kids playing today weren’t even a glimmer in their parents’ eyes when Pokémon Red and Blue hit shelves. Some of those about to enjoy this fifth generation may not have even been thought of when Gold and Silver came out either. I, on the other hand, played feverishly through all four of those in pursuit of my goal to catch ‘em all.
I never did.
But that hasn’t stopped me from playing. Admittedly, I took a bit of a break during the Game Boy Advance years, but that was due to focusing more heavily on consoles. I keep coming back year after year. Prior to my Pokémon Gold’s battery dying, I had logged nearly 200 hours. That’s over 8 days out of my life that I spent trying to get my stupid electric sheep to 100. (Okay, well, I only say stupid because the battery died before I got there. I still love you, Ampharos.)
I keep playing because, regardless of anything else, I can assemble my team and take on the world. I can build, mold and level my little monsters into the shape I see fit. It’s not all that unlikely that someone out there has Pidgeotto, Shinx and Bidoof sitting in their party just like I do, but that means little when each one of those has their own moveset, stats and other hidden values attributed to them. This is my team. There are many like it, but this one is mine.
Even though you have to start from scratch when you boot up each new iteration, it’s always a joyful experience to build that special group of ‘mons that you end up taking to the Elite Four. There’s something satisfying in a primal way about earning badges with critters that were hours earlier naively foraging in the wilderness.
It’s not all that surprising, really. What better way to invest the player in the game other than to have them build something from the ground up? If they’ve put the effort into training them, chances are that they will be more concerned with whether they faint or emerge victorious. There is a little bit of the player in every evolution they unlock.
That’s why I keep playing, anyway. Each Pokémon is unique in one way or another. Even if some are woefully underused, like Dunsparce, they all have their benefits and drawbacks. Well, maybe not Dunsparce. He’s just terrible any way you look at it. But that’s the outlier. Promise.
At this point, going into Pokémon Black and White, I’ll have been training some of the same Pokémon that I’d brought on my journey in Pokémon Emerald. I may have been late to the party on that one, but my Sceptile will still wipe the floor with any wayward Sandslash. Plus, False Swipe. I mean, c’mon.
Given that Pokémon Emerald was released in 2005 and I probably grabbed it in 2007, some of these creatures have been with me for nearly four years now. They came to Diamond and Pearl via Pal Park, then followed to SoulSilver and HeartGold and are going to come to their final resting place on my new copies of Black and White.
Clearly, I have a strong attachment to my smattering of captured bugs, dragons, ghosts and everything else.
After four prior generations, they certainly know what their audience wants and how to continue pleasing them. It’s obviously worked in my case. How can you not love a company that mixes a squirrel with a turtle and calls it Squirtle? It’s a play on the word “squirt” to boot! That there is just character design brilliance.
Have a tip we should know? firstname.lastname@example.org