There are very few games that can be credited for shaping the gaming community into what it is today. But in its 18-year history, Pokemon is more than deserving of that notability.
When Pokemon first burst onto the scene in 1996, it took the gaming world by storm, turning an entire generation of children onto gaming. It’s hard to believe that the ‘Gotta Catch ‘Em All’ basis developed from creator Satoshi Tajiri’s childhood love of insect-collecting.
What made Pokemon an unbelievably endearing game was the interactivity encouraged among players. At the height of its popularity the world of Pokemon felt like as much of a social movement as it was a gaming experience.
This level of interconnectivity has since gone on to become a major feature of games to this day. When growing up, the idea of battling against a fellow Pokemon trainer was a rare pleasure.
Today, that same interconnectivity has popularised the massively multiplayer online fantasy games, such as World of Warcraft.
While the Pokemon games have played a huge role in the franchise’s success (with the addiction rates going through the roof), Pokemon spread its bizarre creations beyond the realms of gaming and into card collecting, toys, lunch boxes, and of course, and perhaps most famously, the anime series which is still running to this day. Pokemon didn’t just take over the gaming world.
It DOMINATED everyday life for this generation. Today, Pokemon has become so embedded into the common culture that even transportation is not out of the franchise’s reach, with Japanese airline All Nippon Airways launching its own line of Pokemon jets plastered with characters from the franchise. You’d have to search to the ends of the earth to find an adult or child who isn’t familiar with a certain yellow electric mouse.
The ‘collective monster’ formula popularised by Pokemon also paved the way for other monster-based franchises, such as Digimon and Yu-Gi-Oh! Yet both franchises haven’t had as much luck branching out, and are mainly known for their anime series. The Yu-Gi-Oh anime concluded 10 years ago, while Digimon squeezes out a new series every few years. Yet, Pokemon has managed to thrive thanks to its ever-expanding media.
Over the years, there have been various tests to Pokemon’s popularity. The increasingly dazzling graphics brought about by the sixth generation consoles (Playstation 2, X-Box, Gamecube), gave the original games a somewhat dated look. Pokemon’s first era arguably ended with the discontinuation of its flagship console on March 23rd 2003 the Gameboy.
The franchise has made considerable developments over the years (You try playing Red against X), yet Pokemon has remained the same. And perhaps that has always been its greatest asset. Pokemon made its reputation through the collecting and training of pocket monsters, while encouraging interactivity in the gaming community on an (at the time) unprecedented scale.
Today, Pokemon has a value for both kids and adults. The new games provide a captivating introduction to the franchise, while adults over 20 can find new ways to enjoy a game that dominated the childhood of hundreds of millions.
With the eighth generation of games in motion, Pokemon may not be the literal game-changing juggernaut is was a decade earlier, but that has not stopped the most recent games such as X + Y from breaking new records as the fastest selling game on 3DS, with four million units sold in its first week. This figure alone is a testament to the franchise’s ongoing popularity. Even when gamers are eagerly queuing to pick up the latest game-changer, there will always be room for Pokemon.