Let me tell you about a special region in the Pokemon world, so hidden, that it has yet been developed. It’s called Plato Cave. It was here that a trainer named Socrates grew up along with all of his friends and their pokemon. Their journey always remained in that cave, and they would always do battle inside it, competing over who could be the best. But one day, Socrates wanted to do something else to be the very best.
Against his friends, family, and pokemon’s wishes, Socrates took his first steps out of Plato Cave. To traverse into a pokemon world beyond his imagination. And what he found expanded everything he knew about pokemon. There were more species than the ones found in Plato Cave. There were more trainers to battle. But most of all, his world became much bigger than he had expected.
Excited, the trainer Socrates wanted to go back into Plato Cave to tell his friends what he had found. But alas, he soon regretted his decision… as a swarm of Zubats attacked him and his pokemon unexpectedly.
Bastardization of Plato’s allegory of the cave aside, this is how I feel about the release of the latest installment to the popular phenomenon: Pokemon Go. There were plenty of things going through my head as I awaited its release, glancing through social media of what my friends are doing, and occasionally getting a chance to actually play it before the servers went down. But from the moment I started the app last night to hitting the uninstall button the next morning, I realized something: I’ve had enough.
If I had an opinion of this game, it has already been spoken for me in the countless posts about it on social media. There are fun things about it, but there are also things that worry me about it. Like most other phenomena that go viral over the Internet, I would have normally looked the other way, because all we do these days is thread the latest big story only for us to forget about it for the next big thing days, perhaps even hours, later. But seeing how this one directly relates to something that I used to talk about all the time, it has encroached on my thoughts in the most uncomfortable of ways. Pokemon Go is the closest thing we have ever come so far to getting Pokemon in the real world, and I’ve grown tired of it.
Perhaps a little backstory is necessary in understanding why I have come to this conclusion. I started playing Pokemon Red when I was 10 years young, when its US release first came out. And if you asked anyone who knew me back then I was hooked! I remember playing Pokemon on my brick Game Boy for hours on end. I remember discussing the anime (or cartoon, for those who didn’t know) with friends during recess and lunch. I remember writing entire journal entries in class about my adventures as a trainer who was destined to be a Pokemon Master. Maybe the cool kids took a casual liking to Pokemon by collecting the cards or playing the video game in their spare time when they were not playing kickball or four square, but Pokemon was my game. And being the nerd that I was, I would defend it when no one else would.
Now I will admit, my alliance with Pokemon wasn’t as pure as others. Some people often refer to the playground war between Pokemon and Digimon, to which I say “what’s the big deal? I like both!” Unfortunately, even that conversation was short-lived, as I began to focus on other things in my teenage years, like choir, creative writing, and in the strangest of ways, Jesus. What I knew of the world was expanding rapidly, being involved in so many different activities, that I had forgotten what it meant to “be the very best like no one ever was.” And for a time, I didn’t have to think about what was an integral part of my childhood. But even so, my world became so much bigger, that I fell into a deep depression in my college years, taking over 10 more years just to figure out how to manage it, and I still don’t think I have it all down yet!
I suppose I am what many would call a “genwunner” in the Pokemon universe. I actually played through all the games up until Ruby and Sapphire, but the later games just didn’t have the same impression on me as Red and Blue. I regretfully skipped the Diamond and Pearl games because I was busy with other things and didn’t own a Nintendo DS until much later. My second wind of Pokemon didn’t really come until the release of Black and White — by now Gen V — and that’s when I started playing Pokemon by a different tune. Indeed, it was Black and White that inspired me to craft the ‘fic you can find on this blog, Professor Ginkgo Chronicles.
It was my new awakening to the Pokemon series, as I invigorated my creative muse once more. I found myself enjoying Pokemon again, and in the off chance, bonded with others who still loved it. I even had my hand in a few rated battles with a team that I constructed mainly from my own knowledge, not from whatever everyone else was using. Sure, I lost most of the time, but occasionally leaving a seasoned competitor butt-hurt from winning with such an unorthodox team felt satisfying; because to me, my Pokemon team were more than just battle partners or mere pets. They were an extension of who I was. That theme would later be reflected in Prof. Ginkgo’s experience in the ‘fic, but that should have come with a huge asterisk.
The difference between my experience playing Pokemon now as I did back then could be summed up simply: I have the mind of an adult!
It’s no wonder that most of my friends never caught on to reading the ‘fic or that I could barely understand kids of the new generation as they wanted to trade with me. Being an adult in the Pokemon world is uncool. That’s why the players in the game are children or young teenagers at best! My investment in the series now brought a slightly more mature bend to it, albeit I still engaged in an activity that was meant for children. But what became my refreshing look back on something nostalgic was something that I could never return to. Maybe some are easily inclined to return back to their younger roots the moment they revisit the memories of their childhood, but I cannot. No matter how hard I try, I cannot deny that my lens of experience looking back to that past has adult memories piled on top of them.
Such was my original intent on how I wanted to tell Prof. Ginkgo’s narrative. Prof. Ginkgo (also called Shuichi Oda) experienced the Pokemon world as an adult. Hopes to be the very best were long gone, as he experienced defeat, rejection, and death in ways that are irreversible. He came to realize rather quickly that becoming a Pokemon Master came with a dire cost, as both an outsider and an insider in the realm of the trainer. It was this experience that led him — me — to become an educator. In the aftermath of the original story, my hope was to express through Professor Ginkgo Chronicles a way for my adult self to still enjoy what the Pokemon world had to offer, even if it was through a different lens than that of the child. Unfortunately, what ended up happening among my peers was a much greater interest in the development of Pokemon warriors (cf. Pokemon Conquest) and the criticism that I didn’t have any legendaries in the narrative at all. I responded with the sequel Oda Twin Chronicles to expand on those subjects a little more, and for a while it was also fun to write. I even had a chance to share my other self through the eyes of the quiet but fiercely independent Shuko, Shuichi’s long lost twin sister. But seeing the state of which that project is in at the moment, I suppose you know what happened to that.
If you must know why even that project has been halted, my short answer is that I got busy with other things in my life. Pokemon doesn’t take up the majority of my time as it did in when I was 10. My world has expanded and Pokemon is only a small part of it now. I welcome the fact that Pokemon Go exists and people are enjoying it for the time being, but I can’t just let that activity be the only thing that I do right now. The same thing goes for all that anime that I watch for the sake of other posts that I do on this blog.
I am about as old as Prof. Ginkgo in my first ‘fic now, and if I had to do an age comparison, it scares me to think how much my life is starting to unfold like his. Maybe I’m not a PhD in Pokemon Studies with an emphasis on Trainer Relations, but I did just graduate Magna Cum Laude in Philosophy; and seeing how this is my second degree, a lot of my peers joked and said I may as well have been working on it like it was my Master’s. I suppose now I am looking for options that will get me into teaching as well. But what scares me the most is that I might actually think more like Prof. Ginkgo now than I did when I was 25 when I wrote the narrative the first time, especially in the thought that I might have “given up on humanity.”
So as I wrap up this rant about my feelings for Pokemon Go and this franchise, I need to let my 25-year-old self remind my 28-year-old self of a few things, in perhaps the weirdest of ways.
It’s okay to be an adult and still love Pokemon. Those friends of yours who are all fired up about the new game? That was you at one time, too. It is their way to reconnect with a franchise they love, and how they experience it in the present. Sure, you probably don’t enjoy it the same way they do; and that’s fine too. You have your own experience about what’s valuable right now, and you will probably have to revisit what that is soon enough. The Pokemon world is much bigger than it used to be, even with your other experiences beyond it. Others are enjoying that experience their way; and you have yours. You will always have something to share about a franchise that so many others also have fond memories of. What brought you to love this series is still true. It taught you how to be the very best. What that means to you may have changed for better or for worse, but it is something that you haven’t given up on. So keep going to be the very best… like you never were.