I have an unopened copy of Pokemon: Omega Ruby sitting on my table. I have writing to do. I have a long, long list of things I need to do that aren’t writing. I should have never bought this game. But I did. And I’m going to play it.
Pokemon’s been around since the nineties. Running with the “Gotta Catch ‘Em All” theme, it played on the inherently compulsive need to collect of every ten year old gamer’s developing mind. Now, two decades after exploding into existence, Pokemon’s still as relevant as ever. Well, not as relevant as ever, but probably more relevant than it has any right to be.
Is it market saturation? Maybe, in part. Every game comes out in at least two separate versions, with the occasional third version or direct sequel to follow. There’s still an (awful) anime, and you can’t walk into a Gamestop or a Hot Topic (although, why would you) without seeing a handful of Pokemon plushies. Pokemon cards are still around, too, in case you’ve missed them. In between game releases, the visibility of these products starts to fade away from stores, but every time a new generation of Pokemon games is released, all of the aforementioned products burst back onto the shelves like they’d never left. They can come and go, and seemingly without diminishing returns–although, to be fair, I have absolutely no idea what diminishing returns are–and that’s pretty wild.
The covers of the two newest Pokemon games, “Omega Ruby” and “Alpha Sapphire.” These two are remakes from Gen 3.
Every one of these generations adds a handful of new features and new Pokemon to set it apart from those previous to it, but generally every generation is simply more of the same. Gen 2 had breeding (and therefore, Togepi), Gen 3 had gardening and fort building, so on and so forth. Each one of these generations features vague and ultimately uninteresting writing (aside from witty quips from NPCs) wrapped around around a now 750+ wide bug hunt.
It’s been hypothesized before, and I think it bears repeating: one of the most defining factors of Pokemon’s everlasting prevalence is the franchise’s ability to cater and appeal to two entirely separate age groups. Kids love collecting and trading the the creatures from the cute ones to the utterly ferocious ones, and grownups collect and trade the cute, super fighting monster buddies as well. For many, it’s a way of reliving the childhood fun of, well, collecting stuff. For the majority of the older audience, it’s a feeling heavily rooted in nostalgia. With Pokemon being as big as it was in the nineties, a vast majority of adult Pokemon players either never ditched the habit, or ditched it and came back to it years later for any number of reasons. Maybe it’s purely nostalgic. Maybe it’s just that Pikachu guy. Pikachu himself is a testament to staying power. Pikachu stays relevant in game thanks to competitive buffs via light balls and cosplaying costumes.
You see, buried deep under the levels of mundane plot and cheery animations of your average Pokemon game lie some seriously complex mechanics. Once you’ve spent a few weeks researching and a few hundred hours grinding, you can totally grasp a vague understanding of the constantly evolving (pun intended) competitive Pokemon scene. It’s all about specially bred and trained stats and type match ups while trying to outsmart and outguess your opponent’s next move. It’s an incredibly detailed system that’s easy to pick up, but beyond difficult to master.
Like I said, it’s only a couple hundred hours of grinding. It’s not like I logged over 200 hours on Pokemon X or anything. And it’s not like I’m just afraid of logging 200 more on Pokemon: Omega Ruby. Or 300, or 400, depending on whether or not I breed for a shiny Togepi and a shiny Goomy.
I guess, what I’m trying to say is that I’m just waiting for the right time to jump in and play, and what I’m definitely, absolutely, and totally not saying, is that time will probably be as soon as I finish typing this sentence.
I’ve lied before.