What Makes Pokémon Special?
February 27th 2016 marked the 20th anniversary of Pokémon. People were sharing what Pokémon meant to them and ideas about how the franchise has stood the test of time. I didn’t get a chance to ponder over this at the time, but wanted to write about some of my own thoughts as to what makes Pokémon so special.
What first drew me to Pokémon was the idea of being able to take care of my own monsters and to share the journey with a bunch of companions. I guess it appealed to the nurturing part of myself (I always loved keeping pets anyway), but I also liked how I could express myself through my choice of what to put on the team. There are over 700 different Pokémon at the time of writing this, so there is plenty of choice. It’s interesting to compare teams with your friends and to have that joy of revealing them for the first time in battle. We’ve all ended up associating different types of Pokémon with ourselves as there are cute ones, tough one, cool ones and mean looking ones to suit all tastes (I like dragon types of course; Gible and Axew are my favourites.)
There’s nothing like your first Pokémon experience. I really enjoyed unlocking new areas to see what I could find. There’s the excitement of catching new Pokémon and finding out what type it is and what it can do; Levelling it up to see what it’ll turn into. Unfortunately, even as each generation adds new Pokémon to discover, you can eventually reach a point where the game ceases to surprise you in this way. Luckily the game has other strengths to maintain your interest. On the surface many might think Pokémon is just for kids, but there is also a complexity to the system that can appeal to adults as well. I guess the game can maintain appeal no matter what stage of mastery you’re on, and the addition of new Pokémon continues to add new strategies. The game uses a simple turn-based system with a rock/paper/scissors type match-up, but the choice we make for the move set and the way we train stats onto our Pokémon gives us a lot of control over the outcome. When played competitively Pokémon does favour those with more experience, but every so often a battle can still surprise you.
Training for battles can be time-consuming and admittedly I find it can be too reliant on luck (I lost in a tournament to a very low accuracy move, even though I had the type advantage… ouch…) If playing competitively isn’t your thing Pokémon still has a lot to be enjoyed. For example, collecting things is fun. The social aspects of the game can bring friends or even strangers together, as they share to fill their Pokédex. We’re able to download Pokémon now, but a part of me preferred having to travel to events at various game shops as this allowed fans to meet up. I’ve always found the community to be a lovely mix of people from different age groups, genders and ethnicities. On attending events – even at tournaments – the vibe can be very friendly.
Overall I think Pokémon’s success can be attributed to the fact that it can appeal to so many different types of people. The Pokémon themselves have also become visual icons (who wouldn’t recognise Pikachu?) and it’s ideal for merchandising. Pokémon is still able to attract new fans while maintaining the old. I think some of us even find the images of Pokémon to be comforting as they remind us of happier times during our childhood. On the reverse of that Pokémon has also helped many of us to get through tougher times while growing up. It can be nice to escape to a simpler world to hang out with my Pokémon companions when everything gets on top of me.