Tuesday, October 1, 2013

15 Years of Pokemon

 Hello Pokémaniac People!

I was on reddit and someone brought up that today (Sep. 30th 2013, this may be published later,) is actually the 15th anniversary since Pokémon Blue and Red debuted to shelves in America. This filled me with incredible feels, and I ended up writing a fucking novel about my love of the game, and decided I could edit this into an article for reasons. REASONS.

This actually marks a time in my life when games stopped being just enjoyment or general childlike wonderment, but it really make me feel crazy deep emotions about video games. You see, I've been struggling writing reviews of games for the past year, mostly because of horrifying procrastination, but also because what I write tends to come out really, really gushy. I don't like to focus on the mechanics of games, I mean, I recognize them and analyze them like everyone else, but what I tend to focus on is the emotional gravity the game pushes onto me. I don't so much play games for fun, but to feel truly happy and alive and like everything in this fucking planet is A-OK while I'm doing it. It's a weird muddy affair that causes my grammar to suffer, as evidenced by the previous statements and the ones you are about to read, and many times I convince myself nobody wants to read it. 

But fuck it.

I got this game on or near October 4th, 1998, which would have been my tenth birthday. That means my 25th birthday, Friday, is my TWENTY FIFTH FUCKING BIRTHDAY HOLY SHIT OH GOD I'M GOING TO DIE SOON. Anyway. The added feels of this game coming out the week of my birthday, and my getting it on my birthday, made me remember my experience with the game so fondly it might make you sick to your stomach. Enjoy.

My Life with Pokémon 
This was an important time for me. I had gotten a lot of crazy video game stuff for my tenth birthday, including my first Playstation with games (a partial trade my father pulled off for working on a guys Firebird), and I had spent the earlier part of the year playing this first Playstation and obsessing over how the hell to be Resident Evil 2. Technically, I got the PS much earlier in the year, sometime around summer, as a sort of late-Christmas-but-not-quite-birthday-present. I could only play this PS at my dad's however, and with all the crazy graphics and 3D rendering I sort of reverted to playing Gameboy games at my mom's house. The seed was planted however--I wanted more video games like crack, and I was freaking out.

 My birthday was coming up, and Pokémon was just released. I asked mom for it after seeing the commercial of kids making cute monsters fight and I lost my god damn mind and begged for it. She was planning on getting me a game for my red gameboy I got for a previous birthday anyway, just had no idea what.

I only ever had 2 games for it (Iron Man/XO Manowar and Batman: Return of the Joker, both of which were shitty ports of home console games) and had to borrow games from friends, which was a dire political issue. I asked for the blue version because I thought you could only get the Pokémon that was on the cover, and I wanted the turtle thing, because I like turtles, motherfucker.

I opened it up as my last gift. I remember it was last because my mom has always saved the shit I really wanted for last, and I remember being especially mind-fucked. I carefully removed the game from the package, put it in the DMG, and was...surprised at how much reading and boring shit was involved. I just came from gaming on the most amazing game system I've ever seen, seeing fucking Clair Redfield's "photo-realistic" face in cutscenes, shooting shit. This didn't look like it did in the commercial.

 I was mildly upset at first, however, something strange happened: Four hours had gone by. Four.  And the next day, six hours disappeared. From then on, pretty much every day went by quickly. I struggled, at first, but the game gradually became more natural, and I began to love it more than anything I have ever played in my life. I loved the cutesy artwork, the weirdly dark back story of some of the monsters, the shadowy Team Rocket, everything. I played that game every damn day, little by little, with no guides or no coherent strategy whatsoever...until one afternoon...I beat it. I had burned through handfuls of AA batteries, playing the game for so long it actually damaged the label of the game from excessive heat. Seriously.

Yup, heat damage. I remember it happening.

I had finally finished it: At my babysitter's house, friends at my sides with their Red versions in hand,  I teared up with the purest childlike happiness I ever felt. I had spent countless hours of grinding in tall grass, trying over and over to catch Mewtwo, burning through hours of training to defeat the Elite 4, and finally wiping the shitty 8-bit smirk off of that asshole Gary's face (or Red, I think I named him Red.) The ending music to the Staff Credits crawl was the most important moment in my 10 year old life. Over time, our little Pokémon cabal gradually all finished the game, and we all restarted our playthroughs just to do it all over again, as a team of Poké breeders, traders, and opponents. We heard rumors of new Pokémon being hidden in the game, GameSharking, and we hotly debated whether or not it was possible to catch a Mew (nope). It was a group of kids all sharing a mostly single player experience. It was more than a game to some of us--it became our lives.

The time just after I beat Blue Version was the most complete I ever felt as a kid. It was the first game I ever finished. It was the first RPG I ever played. It was the first time I felt like I could actually accomplish something. It was mind altering to be able to see real progress in something that I did my own way. I got to make choices, I got to customize my play style, I got to name the characters and feel involved in the story, I could explore, I could gamble, I could train, and most of all I could share my experiences with friends who also had the game--I never experienced that before. I never sat down with a group of other kids to discuss how to play a game and the things we've experienced. This was more than jumping and shooting shit--this was living via a virtual character in a virtual world, experiencing things that happen in the virtual world almost as if they actually happened.

After this, I became a Pokemon nerd, got into Japanese culture, and in a short time I started to really figure out what I liked. I became obsessed with the feelings I felt with that game, trying as hard as I could to recreate them. I was now a certifiable video game nerd, and I started beating other games with renewed resolution, chasing that high that Pokémon Blue gave me. I stopped asking for anything else at Christmas time and birthdays. I wanted video games, anime, and Pokémon. That's what I lived for.

This is only most of my TCG collection. Can't bear to get rid of it.
 I took this pretty far. I became obsessed with everything Pokémon; from the clothes to the trading card game. I can very clearly remember the first time I cosplayed, before I even knew what that was. I dressed as Ash for the premiere of the first Pokémon movie (much to the embarrassment of everyone involved). Pokémon was the first anime I obsessed over. Pokémon TCG was the first trading card game I ever played, and god damn did I play it. Pokémon was the first manga I read. Pokémon CDs and cards were the first things I ever imported from Japan. It was the first time I recognized that another culture could create something I really, truly loved.
Pokémon was fucking formative for me.
I also just really dug the artwork in the manga.

Aside from completely informing most of my obsessions for the next decade and beyond, this is essentially the story of how video games became my favorite hobby. I always enjoyed games, I had an NES growing up and I got my first Gameboy at around age 7. I had always loved them, but they were mostly a way to pass time when I was bored, or when there were no other kids around to play with. It was never about deep feelings, or learning or sharing experiences. 15 years later, nothing makes me feel quite as happy as sitting down with a close friend and just playing a video game together. Hell, I just love watching people play. I have spent a lot of money as of late on numerous consoles and games, from the Famicom to the latest PC stuff, but the best feeling I ever got from a game happened when I saw those GameFreak Staff Credits for the first time.

With 22 years of gaming under my belt, from the first time I picked up a controller at age 3, with hundreds of games played and thousands of hours of gameplay, I can honestly say Pokémon Blue was the most important gaming experience of my life. It was an important stepping stone in my development as a person; I can't imagine what my life would have been without it. And for that, I'd like to say Happy Birthday to Pokémon Blue and Red. Thanks for changing the way I look at games, and...everything...forever.

So today I'll be popping in good 'ole Blue, and reliving a little slice of my childhood.

Thanks for reading.

No comments:

Post a Comment

What you want?