Pocket perspective

Hey, I think I am finally getting the hang of this finger painting thing. The quality of my work is almost as mediocre as it is with more traditional media now, rather than simply being downright awful. The iPad still has some weird quirks, though, like the way it auto-corrects “simply” to be “simony.” If my blog posts randomly slip into Catholic dogma, I swear it’s not my fault.

And this will be the last Pokémon doodle, swear on my pen-pal’s pancakes. I’ve just taken an interest to the franchise lately, and not even particularly because of the games themselves. Sure, HeartGold is well-made and scratches a certain compulsive itch, but it really isn’t incredibly different from the last who-knows-how-many iterations of the series, and I don’t expect the upcoming Black & White generation will change much, either. Game Freak sort of painted itself into a corner by including the entirety of the first-generation world and bestiary in Gold & Silver, because now incorporating all brazillion* existing critters into each new chapter along with all their extant moves in addition to a bunch of newcomers is simply expected of them. I suspect the next gen derives its titles from the fact that the sheer weight of each game’s content will cause them to collapse into a black hole or a white dwarf, destroying the very fabric of the universe’s free time in a tragedy of cosmic proportions.

No, what I find truly interesting about Pokémon is the culture surrounding it. I spend more time reading forum threads about the games than I do actually playing them, because they’ve developed an amazing fan culture.

Back when I was in college, lo those many millions of years ago, I was wandering with a friend through the aisles of Toys R Us, mainly because there wasn’t much else for a tea-totaling, non-football-loving person to do in a small West Texas city on a weekend. Eventually I stumbled upon a sad little corner of G.I. Joe figures, all ignored and dilapidated in their horrible neon packages and bizarre Street Fighter/Jurassic Park tie-in sub-lines. Across the aisle was a vast number of Power Ranger toys, flooding the shelves and clearly selling at a much faster clip than the Joe toys based on the relative levels of dust on each. It was a moment of revelation for me as I realized the stuff I grew up knowing and liking was completely irrelevant to an entire generation of kids. To them, all the toy tie-in cartoons I watched after school were about as interesting as Howdy-Doody or Soupy Sales had been to me.

Fortunately I had enough of a sense of perspective back then not to feel old about all of this. I mean, I was still in college. Rather, my curiosity was piqued. Eventually, I reasoned, the kids who grew up watching Power Rangers and such would be adults, and they’d look back on the media of their childhood with the same fondness as I regarded the Joe comics I’d read as a kid. But Power Rangers seemed so asinine relative to the better days of Larry Hama (who, P.S., is awesome); would the next generation of humans really have nostalgic fondness for this stuff?

In Pokémon, I have my answer. Of course childhood nostalgia is a powerful force for our self-absorbed society; I was simply looking to the wrong catalyst. I don’t doubt there are kids who pine for Power Rangers, but I suspect they’re seen by their peers the same way people my age regard guys who swear Thun-Darr the Barbarian was a work of sublime genius. No, the true motive force for nostalgia for the fledgeling nerd-adults currently finishing college or muddling away at their first jobs is Pokémon. Which, I have to say, gives me a little more faith in you guys.

HeartGold and SoulSilver seem to have kindled that spark of nostalgia among people who counted the original Game Boy versions among their first videogame experiences, and understandably so. Pokémon as a game — disregarding all the ancillary material, none of which seems particularly worthwhile — was a dense creation, a tiny Game Boy cartridge crammed to bursting with creatures and content. And there was a fascinating streak of darkness about it all, like the creature Parasect, which looks like a hermit crab but actually is a zombie insect being controlled by the shell-like mushroom on its back. Grim!

Pokémon was crammed so full of content, in fact, that it was incredibly glitchy, resulting in hidden treasures like Mewtwo and terrible mistakes like MISSINGNO. That unique combination of refined gameplay, rich in-game lore, and a profusion of glitches that toed the line between deliberate secret and borderline disaster was a fertile playground for young imaginations.

Of course, I missed out on all of that at the time. So it’s been fascinating to read forum threads in which I see other people’s shared childhood experiences refracted through the lens of adulthood — a small window into what life might have been like if I’d shown up a decade later than I did. And, also, a lucid insight into what has ultimately proven to be a pretty fascinating videogame creation, despite my first impressions.

* A brazillion is a complex number. It is the numeral one followed by a number of zeroes identical to the current population of Brazil.

16 thoughts on “Pocket perspective

  1. A slight correction: Mew was the one you could catch through a glitch in Pokemon, not Mewtwo. Yes, I know it seems like it should be the other way around.

  2. Unfortunately, your statement that “the brazillion is a complex number” is incorrect. Unless, of course, the person making that statement lives in Brazil, at which point the value of the brazillion becomes “1 x 10^(population of Brazil) + i”.

  3. Oh, a brazillion. I thought for a moment you said brozillion, which is the average number of cans of Naty consumed on a Friday night.

  4. I’m part of that generation who looks back at Red/Blue with nostalgic fondness (also lived in a dull town in Texas), and though the PS1 FF games have a higher place on my nostalgia meter, Pokemon holds an interesting place there. See, I’m not much of a multiplayer gamer, and aside from Halo 2 and FFXI, I’ve hardly ever played games with other people. But Pokemon Red/Blue was a game that enticed me to buy that Game Boy link cable, just so I could trade with all the other kids at recess.

    And those glitches – wow! That really takes me back. I was also the only one who owned that monstrous GB Game Genie, and there was plenty of fun to be had with that after you caught your 151 or whatever.

  5. Pokemon hit just as I was entering high school, so I was young enough to have friends who played it, but old enough to be made fun of for it. It’s weird knowing that people who are just a couple years younger than me had an entirely different experience.

  6. It’s kind of strange to do it, but I found that the “kids these days” are just as inclusive as they were when RBY first came out. Last week, I went to a TCG event at my local boardgame store, and the kids were all eager to trade with me, even if it took them away from their league games that earned them this or that rare promo card.

    I really like the fact that while there will always be people who mock, or people who brag, or even just those jerks who think that success in a videogame makes them better than you, the vast majority of the kids who play this are just there to have fun, trade some imaginary monsters, and kick your ass.

  7. lol Thundarr The Barbarian. That show was badass. Part proto-He-man, part Star Wars. I learned if we ever allowed a comet to fly between the earth and moon, it would somehow cause the moon to disintegrate and transform the Earth into Detroit. I also liked how the wookiee on the show had a blonde mullet.

    I’m not sure why network TV suddenly started hating cartoons so openly, but all that kid oriented stuff is almost gone. I’m shocked to know Power Rangers is still on TV (after Disney bought it) and its been thrust into a 6 AM time slot on saturday. The prime time saturday morning slots are now occupied by dumb soap opera tweener crap or Saved By The Bell/American Idol reruns; the cartoons are practically extinct. The only exception is Fox, but evidentally the kids who watch it are assburgery furtards since they’ve been airing reruns of the same Sonic cartoon for the past 10 or so years which suggests the next generation of humans are going to be a mentally ill tragic parody of what it could have been. Or a clue Dave Halverson has been secretly cloning himself.

    Bah, this reminds me of weekday morning/afternoon cartoons. 3 stooges or Little Rascals even. Totally gone.

    man, reminiscing about saturday mornings sure is a downer. Way to make me depressed, Jeremy.

  8. Good work Parish, watch Yoshitoshi ABe draw on an iPad!

    The app is called livesketch HD. Give it a whirl, you could do wonders! ^_^

  9. Uh, yeah, I’m pretty sure any disparity between my work and Abe’s has very little to do with the tools being employed.

  10. What’s funny Parish is that if you weren’t telling us that these were iPad drawings, I would have just presumed you started posting art once again. I think they look really good — your color and lines are very much “your own” easily recognizable style.

  11. Ugh, did you have to reference Thundarr, of all the horrible 80’s cartoons to reference? I’ve had nightmares involving it’s cast chasing me around a dining room table. At any rate, I only recently got back into Pokemon, but was quite astonished to find that my announcing such lead many people around me to confess their still burning fandom, and in no time at all, I had an active adult pokemon scene closing in around me. O_o

  12. Everyone loves Pokemon, assuming you got into it as a kid. I don’t see many “new” fans in college, but you can bet your life that if someone is playing a DS right now, Pokemon is in it.

    It’s just a shame that Nintendo can’t make a game with Pokemon as cool as the first 151. And I assure you, that IS NOT nostalgia talking. :P

  13. @MCBanjoMike

    All real numbers are also complex numbers, but I’m guessing you already know that, otherwise I doubt you would have come up with such an amazingly awesome math pun!

  14. Small West Texas town? Did you go to Texas Tech or something? I’m in a small East Texas town myself (College Station) and also a tee-totaler, so I know how that goes.

  15. I felt that way about the game vs. the cartoon, until the cartoon’s battles started really good. Then they really left the game’s staid turn-based affairs in the dust.

    The games could use a more real-time battle system, where moves can be used to counter opposing moves.

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