I, like many others, grew up with Pokémon.
There was the anime series, the trading card game to go along with it and, most importantly, Pokémon video games. I literally do not remember Pokémon not being a part of my life.
I still play the games, whether it’s Red, Yellow, Silver, Gold, Pokémon Pinball or Pokemon Stadium. Even recently, when Pokémon Sun and Moon came out this November, I had to wait until break to play because I knew that when I started I would be at it all day. There is always a familiar sense of adventure, entertainment and nostalgia. Being able to evoke those emotions in fans like me is likely the reason the franchise is still going strong.
This past summer, in July 2016, Niantic released Pokémon Go as a free app for smartphones. I wondered to myself, “How good can this game be?” I downloaded it out of sheer curiosity in order to compare it to the originals.
I was hooked. I did not want to get addicted to finding Pokémon in “the wild” but, clearly, I had become Ash.
Every day, I was off on an adventure to an unfamiliar land with my trusty Pikachu and the closest thing to Pokéballs I had ever held in my possesion, ready to catch anything that happened into my territory. I went on long walks to hatch eggs, hunts to find Pokémon I did not have and even mapped out where to find Pokémon that had eluded me. My goal was simple: “Catch ’em all.”
By the end of August, my enthusiasm had waned. I felt like I had seen all the Pokémon in my area, and with school starting back up, I knew I would not have time to play anymore. I only picked up the game if I had nothing pressing to do.
Then I heard Generation 2 of the game would be coming out in February 2017, in which 80 new Pokémon would be released. I told myself I did not care.
But I cared A LOT.
On the morning of Feb 17, my phone was fully charged, and I was out for a hunt. Hoothoot, Spinarak, Natu, Mareep and Marill were mine! There were 80 new reasons to become addicted. I felt, if not for a brief period, like the game had just come out.
It is now early March, and sadly the fun is waning again. Perhaps the reason is the winter weather, or that 4 o’clocks have taken precedence. Or maybe it is because I am the only one of my friends who is remotely interested in the game.
Some of my peers who didn’t grow up with the game don’t quite understand the magic that comes with connecting to something that reminds you of your most beloved childhood memories.
I do not see any other Pokémon hunters around campus like I did over the summer in New York City where the streets were littered with players. People became bored of the game, but I still try to play when I can so, just for a moment, I feel like I am catching Pokémon in real life, something I have dreamed about forever.
Pokémon Go allows me to tap into the person that I once was. I am reminded of the days when I would pray that my GameBoy would turn on. And if it did, I would get lost for hours in a game that might look basic compared to current ones, but to me will always be thought of fondly. I’ll never forget the black and white graphics and blurry Pokémon sprites.
Maybe I am growing up and away from Pokémon.
I know there are Pokémasters of all ages, and you don’t have to look further than Reddit to confirm that. Even my mother is seen on her phone with the app open sometimes. But the magic of Pokémon doesn’t seem to last as long as it once did.
The reason is not the technology that is so much more advanced, it is just that life has gotten in the way. Growing up has meant responsibilities, promises to keep, work to be completed and little time for the fun I once had.
I miss the levity of youth. However, although I do not have the lazy days I once did, I do have fond memories. If playing Pokémon for minutes at a time brings me back to the hours of fun, then it’s worth it to me. No one is to judge and there is still a thrill to be had when seeing the Pokédex register a new Pokémon.
Even as I’ve gotten older, I’ve always been focused on catching ’em all.
Austin Katz, ’19, is an assistant news editor for The Brown and White. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.