In danger of sounding like a Poké-hipster, I started playing Pokémon before it was cool! Well, at least in America. I started playing Japanese versions of Pokémon Blue via ROM and Gameboy emulator. Ever since then, I’ve felt an undying dedication to the series, even as waves of fans came and went and came back and well, you get the idea. As I got older and discovered different interests (ladies), I moved off of Pokémon (albeit temporarily). When girlfriends came and went, in the downtime between relationships, I would always go crawling back to my first true love — Pokémon.
There Are Many Different Levels of Fandom
When I bumped into some folks at a local comic convention dressed in Pokémon garb, I learned that not everyone stopped playing Pokémon throughout the years — most fans were just playing the cards. Some were just watching the animated series. Others were even more casual, just appreciating the characters, collecting plushies, and dressing like the creatures.
Turns out I wasn’t as hardcore of a fan as I thought. In fact, I was pretty casual compared to some folks! I played all the games, but never actually tried to compete. This was the time to expand my horizons.
Competition Isn’t Easy
One of my new Pokémon friends introduced me to the wild world of Pokémon competition. I had battled Pokémon before, but I was not ready for the beating I received from this dude. I knew how to play the damned game! It all seemed so simple to me, but there was more to it than simply knowing what elements were strong against Grass-types. “The best way to get better…” he said, “…is to get beaten.” This couldn’t be more true.
As you play against different people, you start to learn which Pokés are overused by the general population, thereby forcing you to prepare with a counter. This is what they call “the metagame.” The more you learn about it, the better you get. Once I learned this, I was excited to tell the world about my latest discovery! Now I just needed to find more people to compete against …
Age Is Just a Number
When I reached my 30th birthday, I was still playing Pokémon (Pokémon X/Y to be specific). I considered myself to be one of its most hardcore fans at this point. Just as I thought my days of Pokémon-ing were coming to an end, Pokémon GO came around. The sudden resurgence in popularity meant that it was okay to love Pokémon again — even as an adult! This was my golden opportunity to find some like-minded individuals.
Little did I know that there was an entire subculture of older fans who have continued playing. YouTubers and hardcore competitors in their thirties returned from out of the woodwork. They began to dominate the Pokémon scene, proving even those over ten years old want to catch ’em all.
Some People Never Go Back
Not everyone is ready to get back into Pokémon, though. All of my ex-Pokémon-loving friends refused to return to the land of battling digital monsters. Even with the argument of “it’s cool to love Pokémon now” — the friends who I grew up with were just not ready to return to the scene just yet. Or maybe ever.
Legacy Fans or “Genwunners” known for their nostalgic love for the first generation of Pokémon, have all grown up. Their vision of the first 150 cannot be shattered. To them, Snorlax is the best designed Pokémon ever, and they will hear nothing against it! Genwunners will never take a chance at sullying their childhood, even if that means never looking at another new Pokémon ever again.
In Time, Dreams Do Come True
Pokémon generations 1–4 pretty much played it safe with the formula. However, the kids that originally played those games have grown up and made their fan fiction into reality by actually getting jobs at GameFreak and stepping Pokémon up to scary new levels. Since the roles of lead designers have switched over to former fans, we now have things that original fans have dreamed about since the Pokémon Blue days: Z-Moves, Mega Evolutions, Alolan forms, and Ultra Beasts.
The next main game in the series is going to be the first mainline, console-based Pokémon game ever — something fans have been asking for since Gen One. So the most important lesson I learned from being a Pokémon fan is that dreams do come true. You just have to wait until your peers (who dream similarly) get old enough to make those dreams happen for you.