I had just turned nine years old, a few days into the fourth grade. Sitting with my usual bowl of Honeycomb, I turned on the TV for my pre-school programming. Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z were my shows of choice, but that day was different. A new cartoon appeared on my screen. It was called Pokémon, and I was instantly hooked. Cartoons were always my escape from reality, even as a child. Something in Ash related to me. We were around the same age, and both dreamed of adventure. His companion, Pikachu, looked cute, and I was hooked from the opening moments. Who would’ve known that Ash protecting Pikachu at the end of the pilot would be the start of a wonderful relationship with Pokémon?
A few weeks later, Pokémon Red launched, and I begged my mother to buy it for me. After some convincing, she purchased the game, and it was the only thing I played for months. I wanted to catch all 151 Pokémon. I did everything in my power to do so. Unfortunately, I realized the Blue Version was required to do so. My journey couldn’t be complete because my friends didn’t get Blue. Alas, my love for Pokémon could not be shaken.
When Pokémon Gold and Silver launched in 2000, I saved money and bought both versions. With the use of a link cable, a borrowed second Game Boy Color, and hundreds of hours of gameplay, I captured all 251 Pokémon in that game.
The times they are a-changin’
Pokémon was my entire life for almost two decades. From mainline titles to the spin-offs, I tried to get every single one of them. I loved Pokémon Stadium and Pokémon Trading Card Game. Whether it be on the Game Boy, N64, or GameCube, these games were the best. Then it all came crashing down in 2012 when Pokémon Black 2 and White 2 launched. I wasn’t sure why, but the game just didn’t interest me. After that, I skipped X and Y, as well as Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire. My friend convinced me to get Pokémon Sun and Moon, but after a few hours, the games didn’t interest me, so I traded them in.
I was 27 and no longer drawn to what sparked my interest in the RPG genre. These games were accessible, entertaining, engaging, and friendly. While new features and Pokémon were added with each release, the games felt oddly similar. With that being said, I found myself trying the more unique Pokémon experiences from the past few years. Pokkén Tournament satisfied me as a fighting fan, but I only played for a few months. Pokémon Go held my interest for almost a year, but when my friends stopped playing, I did too. That game was all about the social aspects, but with no one to play with, what’s the point?
With Pokémon: Let’s Go Eevee and Pikachu launching this week (you can read our review here), I wondered: did I outgrow Pokémon games? That spark that drove me towards the popular franchise started to fizzle. I see my friends getting excited about the new installment, and I’m sitting in my room waiting for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate instead.
Pokémon, it’s not you. It’s me.
Despite Pokémon being a franchise aimed at children, there is a large adult fanbase. People my age, who grew up with the series, still play. There is even a 70-year-old man who plays Pokémon Go with 11 cell phones. The franchise seems to transcend the generational gap. People both young and old both find a lot to love about the brand. With the trailer for Pokémon: Detective Pikachu launching yesterday, it’s clear that there is still a lot of interest in these characters. For someone who is in a slump with the games, I adored the trailer for the film.
My biggest problem is that I don’t want to stop loving Pokémon games. They are an essential part of my life. Unfortunately, I think I’m fatigued. Just like with open-world video games, I think there is an overabundance of Pokémon, and it’s overwhelming. Do I walk away from the franchise for the time being? Do I give Pokémon: Let’s Go Eevee a shot? The dilemma is figuring out when to walk away. Pokémon isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
The question is: should I say goodbye to the franchise like Ash when he let Butterfree fly away or should I take a much-needed rest and come back when the next mainline game launches? It’s a difficult decision, but as a 29-year-old, I’m having trouble keeping the sparkle in my eye that Pokémon gave me twenty years ago.