20 Years: How Pokémon Changed Our Lives - Day 2

By skylight and Stathakis. Art by Tikitik.
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february 23rd, 2016

dear diary:

Heracross by Tikitik

What got me into Pokémon?

When I was five years old, all of the cool kids at the daycare had Game Boy Colors and Red/Blue/Yellow versions. My parents, strict as they were, insisted despite my incessant requests that I would never own a Pokémon game, as video games were a waste of time. After having resigned to the fate of only getting to watch my friends play, the Gold and Silver versions came out, and to my surprise and delight I received a Game Boy Color and Pokémon Silver for Christmas; my cousin received the Gold version. For the next several years, we explored every nook and cranny of these games, and by the time Ruby and Sapphire came out, we were ready to explore a new world. Ruby, Sapphire, and the RBY remakes kept us busy for another few years and somewhere in the interim my cousin and I became competitive with each other, so instead of trying to explore as much as possible we shifted our focus to trying to raise the strongest Pokémon and defeat each other in battle. Not being one to take a challenge lightly, I searched the internet for the best battling strategies and discovered the many Pokémon communities that existed at the time: Marriland, GameFAQs, Serebii, SuperCheats, and of course Smogon. As more time passed, I eventually crushed my cousin, who had not devoted the same effort to her research, and gradually her passion for the game died. With my childhood rival no longer willing to spar, I sought out stronger opponents and returned to those communities to find them.

What are my favorite Pokémon memories?

The one common thread through all my favorite memories is the fleeting euphoria that comes at the end of a hard-fought battle. I got my first taste halfway through Silver, when I took down Lance's last Dragonite after countless tries. Years later I got it again after beating my cousin. Since then I've enjoyed a ride of many ups and downs. The first time I peaked #1 on the Shoddy Battle ladder, I was on the clouds the rest of the day. My next big high came when my friend reyscarface beat the ever-intimidating MoP in an OST game. As I played more and my range of emotions at the game inevitably dulled, I've derived the most satisfaction from using unconventional strategies in tournament games, and when I win an important game with a Shuckle, Venomoth, or Aggron, I feel the same rush that I did those many years ago as a kid.

Even greater than the victories I've enjoyed are the memories I've made with friends in the community. I'll never forget the night my SPL team took turns reading excerpts from 50 Shades of Grey in a Skype call, or the night my friends and I stayed in and played randbats drinking games, or at worlds when we had people taking turns playing their Grand Slam games on the hotel TV while everyone else spectated and made fun of whoever was playing at the time—our own personal up-close SmogTours chat. For all of the hate it gets, this community has made competitive Pokémon an unforgettable experience and an important part of my formative years.

How has Pokémon affected my life?

Pokémon served many different purposes at different stages of my life. Earliest on, it was a way for my cousin and me to get close despite not having many other things in common. Later on, it was my primary coping mechanism following my little brother's death. Later still, it became an outlet for me to hone my critical thinking skills and express my creativity in a unique way. I've learned a lot of lessons about dealing with adverse or unfortunate situations, dealing with politics and drama, living with friends who hate each other, and many more things I'm likely forgetting. Pokémon has helped me learn how to deal with pressure and manage probabilities and measure risk/reward, and more recently it's even been the primary motivator for me to pick up hobby-level computer programming. To say that it's been a source of personal growth for me would be an understatement—more accurately it's been one of the primary forces driving me to mature as a person. Tangibly, Pokémon helped me get into my top-choice colleges and has sometimes been a talking point at job interviews. Intangibly, I might have learned the lessons I did from Pokémon through other means, but I doubt I'd have had as much fun doing so as I did through this seemingly innocent children's video game.


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