How Pokemon Made Me a Gamer

I used to be quite the “Pokemon” fan.  I have since, for whatever reason, outgrown my interest in the series, but it used to be such a big thing for me and has gone on to make a rather large, though somewhat indirect, impact on my life, that I needed to write a post about it.  “Pokemon”, if you’re not familiar with it, is a series that manifests itself in many forms, including cartoons, card games, video games, etc., involving Pokemon trainers that catch creatures called Pokemon, which they use to fight in battles and such.  It’s a rather simple concept, really, but addicting (oh, the countless hours I spent collecting Pokemon and leveling them up in “Pokemon Silver”).  I hear that there are now more than 500 kinds of Pokemon, which I find a bit crazy at this point, but okay.  (For me, the original 151 will always be THE Pokemon.)

The series first caught my eye quite a while ago, when I was rather young.  I saw Pikachu, the most famous Pokemon of all, in a store, and I thought it was quite cute, and when I brought it up to a friend at school, he asked me if I was a fan of the series.  Well, to be honest, I had actually not even heard of it yet.  As I said, this Pikachu thing was pretty cute, but I didn’t know what it was.  It was at this time that my friend enlightened me, and I became an instant fan.  I found the anime on TV, and I made it my goal to learn the names of all 151 Pokemon (yes, that’s all there were back then).  I watched the show and found sites on the Internet (my first major expedition into the mysterious terrain of the world wide web), and I made a list of each new Pokemon I found.  In a way, like Pokemon trainer Ash Ketchum, I wanted to collect all the Pokemon…even if only in list form.

Finally, I went beyond just watching the TV show and started collecting the cards, though I didn’t usually play the card game.  For me, it was fun enough simply collecting as many cards as I could get my hands on, especially the most rare kinds of all, the holographic cards.  (Because shiny makes everything better.)  And I must admit that this series actually made me rather wasteful, as I started spending my allowance on expansion packs every chance I got, as the mystery and the suspense of finding out what cards your newest pack contained was just too much to pass up, even when I usually didn’t get anything that great.  I also traded cards with friends and bought single ones at the baseball card store nearby, but my obsession didn’t stop there.  I even went to the theaters for the movies so I could get the special promotional cards and bought the movies as soon as they came out for yet more special cards, cards which I now find are worthless, causing me to be reminded all the more that such ploys were really shameless bribery to further encourage kids to harass their parents for stuff.

And then, a new development in my “Pokemon” obsession came about when “Pokemon Stadium” was released on the Nintendo 64.  My friends and I then began spending all our time playing this game together, including staying up late during a sleepover, a very bad idea because, once we did go to bed, I was much too excited to fall asleep.  Because this is what I had been waiting for.  This was before I got “Pokemon Silver”, and it was just so great to go beyond the cartoon and the trading cards and actually participate in the series and to actually do battles with friends that involved more than flat cards and those little colorful rocks.  “Pokemon” video games was as close as I would ever get to being a real life Pokemon trainer (something I dreamt about on occasion, only to be disappointed when I woke up and found I was not in the possession of any real Pokemon at all).  And so I managed to convince my parents to buy the whole family a Nintendo 64 for Christmas, as we had Christmas money that would cover the price of the console, and they had enjoyed the Super Nintendo.  And so I got my Nintendo 64, sorry, our N64, no, it was mainly mine, and while I had dabbled in Super Nintendo goodness prior to the N64, it was mainly my parents that played video games up until that point.  But, with the N64 now a new member of the house, that all changed.

For the first time ever, I began to play video games every day, and at first, I had a blast with “Pokemon Stadium”…until I realized that playing this particular game alone rather than with friends was not that fun.  Sure, it was great at first, but I found the battles against the computer to be totally unfair (they would put your Pokemon to sleep the entire battle, then proceed to beat you up while you were defenseless, which left me quite outraged), and I quickly grew bored of the game.  But, at this point, I had my real taste of video games.  My life had changed, and I found that I couldn’t step away from gaming even now that the interest I once held in my previously sought after game was gone.  The Super Nintendo was great, of course, but the N64 was what really hooked me into the world of gaming.  Fortunately, there were other games I could get my hands on now.  Around the same time I got my desired game, my parents also bought “Banjo-Tooie” and “The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask”, and now that my own game was just not doing it for me anymore, I decided I’d try out their games.

First off was “Banjo-Tooie”, and I loved it.  So much.  You all know by now how much I adore that game, so I won’t get into the details.  It was just so fun, and it wasn’t terribly long before I played far past my dad’s save file and beat the game.  Then, I played it several more times before that game grew old, as well.  Next, I turned to “Majora’s Mask”.  My mom had played only a little ways into it, and since watching her play through the first three days of the game where you play as Deku Link thoroughly stressed me out (I was so scared of the moon falling, not helped by frequent nightmares around that time period of asteroids crashing into Earth, possibly or possibly not inspired by this game), I got her permission to continue from her save file so I could skip the very stressful beginning, starting the game out with the comfort of knowing my trusty ocarina could save me from a moony fate at any time I called upon it.  And you know what, this was another fantastic game!  I explored.  I ran in terror from Blue Bubbles and Wolfos.  I also became strangely proud of myself when I killed my first Chuchu (I know, I was a pathetic gamer back then if such a feat thrilled me so).  And then, after wasting lots of time with such nonsense, I got serious, and I finally began to actually progress into the game, shortly after finding the Deku Palace and playing through my first dungeon, Woodfall Temple.

I had such a great time with these games (they are still some of my top video games of all time), I couldn’t get enough of them and began searching the stores for “Ocarina of Time” (which I got when they released it for a second time, for a reason I forgot, at Wal-Mart) and “Banjo-Kazooie” (which I later found used at a game store, my first experience with a game store that actually involved buying games and not “Pokemon” stuff).  And while my “Pokemon” hobby did remain for a long time, up until some time after the next set of 100 Pokemon were created, it eventually ended.  I had, at that point, amassed a very large collection of cards, all neatly organized in a binder, along with plushies and all manner of other collectibles, including a plastic Mew with a suction cup on the back, which I almost lost when I stuck it to a freezer at a store, and it almost didn’t come off.  But, it was my love of video games that endured far longer, a hobby that you all know is still strong.

Nevertheless, I must thank “Pokemon” for the great times I had with it, for all the wonderful cards I still enjoy looking at (I have so many first editions, I’m starting to think they’re not really that uncommon) and the ridiculous amount of time I spent playing “Pokemon Silver”, my favorite “Pokemon” game and probably one of my most beloved handhelds.  I adored the series, and I still have kept pretty much everything I own for it, but its greatest contribution to my life has actually been how it got me into video games.  Without the series, it’s possible I would have still played video games anyway, but probably at a much later date.  But, “Pokemon” gave me the push I needed.  At the very least, I may have missed out on the N64 generation and all the great games it had to offer.  And so, for that, I am eternally grateful to “Pokemon”, for even though my relationship with it has grown lukewarm, it has still brought me lasting happiness.

Pokeduck, But I Hardly Know Her…

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10 thoughts on “How Pokemon Made Me a Gamer

  1. Well, I must admit, I still love Pokemon.
    I suppose it’s hard to explain, but I love hearing the official announcements of new regions. Since I love animals so much, and many Pokemon are based on them, it’s always exciting to see what’s in store.
    “Majora’s Mask” was my first Zelda game, and you’re right, the beginning is a bit stressful the first time through.
    Do you remember if you entirely completed “Banjo-Tooie”, or did you just beat the final Boss?

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    1. They do have some pretty interesting Pokémon. I don’t know how they manage to think up so many different kinds. I guess they’re just far more creative than I am.

      I was just terrified about the beginning of “Majora’s Mask”. I partly wonder if that’s why my mom stopped playing shortly after.

      I did not beat “Banjo-Tooie” 100% on my first time through, but I did manage to complete it a few times since then. That game was just so great. The final boss was really hard, though. I had to use that cheat where your health automatically regenerates, and sometimes I would still lose. Even without any skin or vital organs, Grunty’s a tough witch to beat. (She was tough in the first game, too. Now that was a stressful battle!)

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  2. Actually, there’s 719 Pokemon now. And, yes, I’m obsessed with Pokemon. I was listening to the older theme songs earlier, and they brought back all the happy memories I have of when I was a child. I was so happy and nostalgic that I almost cried.

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    1. My goodness, there’s so many Pokémon now! I wonder how much longer it’ll be before they reach 1,000?…

      The “Kingdom Hearts” theme song, “Simple and Clean”, sometimes makes me cry from pure nostalgia. Especially when paired with the opening or ending cut scenes.

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  3. It’s never too late to get back into it either…pokemon x/y has (have?) been a blast so far (after skipping everything every generation after ruby/sapphire). Highly recommended if you can get a friend into it too.

    Speaking of KH3, are you psyched that we’ll finally be getting a proper sequel next year after…8 years of waiting so far?

    Also on that note, have you played the Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD Remix yet? Talk about nostalgia feels, the very first musical queue as the game loads up was enough to get my eyes all watery. It still chokes me up a little after having played it too. Oh the feels! THE FEELS! 🙂

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    1. I might have to check out the new “Pokémon” games some time. I sure had a great time with “Silver”, and now there are so many Pokémon I have missed. My 3DS actually has a “Pokémon X/Y” design on it, because it was a lot cooler looking than the plain versions. I have no idea what Pokémon are featured on it, though….

      I am definitely excited for “KH3”. It’s been so long since we’ve gotten a regular game for the series, and I haven’t been super thrilled with most of the games they’ve been releasing on handhelds throughout the years.

      And yes, I have played the “KH 1.5 HD Remix”. It was so fun getting to play a game I loved, but with extras I had never seen before, like the battle with Xemnas, which was awesome, by the way. (Plus, I completed a bunch of things I could never finish in the original game.) I am so excited to get the Remix version of “KH2” next. That’s my favorite “KH” game, and it apparently comes with a console version of “Birth By Sleep”, as well, which will be nice, as I think I’ll enjoy the game more on a console than on a little handheld.

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      1. It’s just hard to want to play the handheld versions. They’ve all strayed from what made the Kingdom Hearts combat so good in the first place and wound up making everything so much more complicated (story especially). Even after reading the wikis I’ve still only got a basic grasp on what’s going on. (if that!)

        KH2.5 is going to be great! I can’t wait for all the Final Mix content and do the Battle of 1000 heartless again!

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      2. Yeah, why did they change the gameplay so much in those games? Those games were just not that fun, and I just buy the manga now, so if I want to revisit the story, I can read the manga instead of having to suffer through the games again.

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      3. I’m thinking they were using them as test runs of sorts. Trying to get an idea of what mechanics would suit the main series best and which ones people would prefer. Idk, still annoying even if that’s a possibility.

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