For 20 years, Pokémon has been taking my money. 20 YEARS!! Holy crispy Charmander! The calculations are sound: My younger brothers were in the first wave of fans; the Spawnlings are in the current wave. Still, that’s a lot of money to pay out over such a sustained period of time. What could possibly appeal to two separate generations and maintain such high levels of fandom?
20 years ago, Pokemon was a quiet little computer game just starting out in Japan. In fact, it had hardly even been heard of in Australia.
For most Pokémon fans, the franchise didn’t really hit Down Under until 1998 – with the introduction of Pokémon Red and Blue. I think that was about the time the anime started as well.
I still remember the first major event in 1999 when Mew was distributed. There were huge crowds of kids and teens, with some supervising parents trying to figure out what was going on. There was a fairly even share across genders too. The goodies on offer were appealing to any fan. My brothers scored the card and the Gameboy Pokémon for that one… and still, neither of them are willing to part with any of that loot.
Back then, it was just starting out. We bought the Gameboy and the games. I took my brothers to the movie and we were all excited about the super-powerful Mew. We bought a few cards and learnt the card game. Then I left for university, and they had to buy their own cards.
Fast-forward 20 years and they are still fans. Okay, so they aren’t tuning into every episode. Sure, they also aren’t running out to grab the latest code for a rare Pokémon on the 3DS. But they both still have their card collection in special folders filed away on the shelf. And when they travel for work, they still take their original Gameboys, with either Pokémon Red or Blue. I kid you not.
What is the appeal? Exactly the same as the appeal to our spawnlings: innocent aesthetics with the underlying cut-throat strategy. My brothers would have been 8 and 10 years old when Pokémon first came out. They adored it – cutesy little characters, battling it out for fame and honour (questionable conduct really), and able to transfer easily between Gameboy and card game.
Let’s jump to the current generation who, in my opinion, have a far higher saturation than my brothers at the same age. Sinister (9yo) and Nefarious (6yo) both have access to the TV shows; the movies; the books (manga and reference guides); the stuffed toys; the card games; the online games; and the Gameboy games (albeit the original Gameboys because we like starting them at the very beginning… it’s a very good place to start). Even Zaltu (2yo) has access to the toys.
After spending so much money on with my brothers back in the 90s, I refuse to be caught up in the same manner of expenditure with our spawnlings. I’ll be the first to admit I was excited about our kids loving something I was familiar with. However, I had dreams of my brothers partaking in a little Pokémon exchange ceremony with the spawnlings, and hand down their collection to the next generation.
If there is one thing that has NOT changed in 20 years of Pokémon, it is the competitive nature it instils in all the players. There will be no passing of the flame from First Wave Fans to Current Fans – Hell no!! Do you have any idea how HARD we had to work to catch the elusive Growlith in Pokémon Blue**?!? Good grief, sis! Let them build character!! Make them battle, like we did. Kids these days… <blah, blah, blah>
Of course, kids these days have access to Legendary Pokémon with much higher stats and hard-hitting powers even I can’t keep track of. When the spawnlings challenged their uncles to a duel, with the chance of winning some of the older cards, I thought this would be an easy win. Help cut my costs.
How do the new cards compare with the slow-build of strategy with 20 years experience?
… Not as well as I hoped.
I am still paying for Pokémon in this household. And doing all my own stunts:
Maybe some day I will be considered the ‘cool Grandma’. When the next generation starts their Pokémon addiction, I’ll know exactly what to spend my money on. Again.
** Anyone else still trying to find Growlith in Pokémon Blue *cough* joke!!