A little over two months ago marked the 20th anniversary of the pokemon franchise. For many, pokemon was something they heard about or participated in when it was popular or during their younger years, but many, like me, grew up with it, stuck with it, and drew inspiration from it. But what is it that makes pokemon so special and enduring?
Pokemon offers not only a world to explore and love, but friends and companions to be at your side while doing so. There are hundreds of pokemon, but in any one particular journey through the game, it's easiest if you pick a few to be by your side rather than try to use all of them. It's a bit like being a coach and pet owner at the same time while traveling the world.
Alongside the companionship of your pokemon, you also get a few similar lessons in each game. Time after time, the game points out that the thing that sets you apart from your rivals is that you win through understanding your team and caring for them. Logic, ideals, and power are shown to be beaten by compassion, team work, and determination. After twenty years, I only wish the mechanics behind the games could better reflect these great lessons, but when it comes to enjoying games, I've always paid more attention to the lessons taught by the story rather than the mechanics.
Pokemon also offers a mirror to the sort of hard work and determination that people need to achieve real world goals and become champions in whatever achievements matter to them in real life. In each game, you start off with weak pokemon that can barely do a few things. Often adding a new pokemon to your team also means putting in some extra training. But by continuing forward, you and your team get better and stronger until you can pull off amazing things. While it’s certainly easier that a lot of real world goals, it’s the sort of optimism I like to see. If you keep trying, you'll get the experience you need to overcome the obstacles and reach your dreams.
But these are only the most blatant lessons of pokemon. I think it also offers a few more subtle lessons. In each game, there’s a wonderful world out there to explore and your friends and family offer their best love and support as you go out to take it on. Respecting and living in harmony with nature and pokemon is also a topic that comes up frequently in the games. The pokemon games make it easier to see how life is about more than only humans.
Pokemon has also been personally meaningful to me for much of my life. Like many, I got into through the games, show, and cards during elementary school and middle school. I loved it and got a chance to shine in a regional card competition as I studied and practiced the card game. I think it taught me a lot about what sort of competition and people I enjoy being around.
As I grew a little older, I lost some of my interest for a few years, perhaps foolishly thinking pokemon was for kids. I’m glad that didn’t last forever, though. After a break from it, I got drawn back in to Pokemon through the mystery dungeon series, and Pokemon has been a part of my life since then. That particular game inspired me in such a way that I began to see the stories possible in the world of pokemon and so I took up the craft of writing to tell one of my own while sharing in stories told by others online, many of which would become close friends.
From there, I also took up art to tell my story in a different way, encouraged by an online group. I tried my hand at doing competitive pokemon battles with the newer games and had fun, but I enjoy the creative aspects of the fandom more than the games, now.
Pokemon has been a world of fun, adventure, and friendship for me and so many others for twenty years, and I hope that it can continue to be that for many more. I’d love to see more innovation in the series to make it more true to the types of stories and ideals that the games want to convey. I also feel that if they treated it more as something for people of all ages to enjoy, they could tell much better and deeper stories with Pokemon. After twenty years, Pokemon has its traditions that have kept it strong, but it will be the innovations that make it even greater in the future.
And if anyone wanted to know, Charizard and Flygon are my favorites.