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Pokemon, as I remember it


This article was originally posted in here but the original got lost to time (both on this site and on my deceased computer), so what I have chosen to do is reposting the "improved version" I managed to recreate from memory and publish on a forum I used to do write-ups on. Hope you enjoy this trip down memory lane, in all its bumpy glory!

Pokemon was the first series I remember to have spawned its own micro-universe amongst my peers.

Sure, today that's nothing special, with series like "Stranger Things" and "Game of Thrones" both benefiting from having near-psychopath fanbases devoted to documenting and sharing every single detail that occurred within their canon universes, but at the time this was incredibly novel. For the first time ever, we had a common conversational topic and something we could all give our opinions on, because no-one was more expert on the subject than the guy sitting next to them. It was precious.

For the series to have enjoyed the success it did as fast as it did it (it was already THE hot topic on the school yard at the start of that week) was weird indeed, because Magic Kids had broadcasted the first episode of the show on the really weird Saturday night slot... at like at 10 PM. Eight-year-old me was already falling asleep when the first notes of the Pokemon theme blasted through the humble speakers of our living room TV. I was hooked instantly, but I didn't expect that many other kids would have watched this thing as well, at such ludicrous hour.

Well, everyone did it.

Turns out that Magic Kids (perhaps acknowledging that they had made a mistake) snuck the first episode back into the rotation by Sunday, right in between two of their highest-rated shows: Nivel X and A Jugar con Hugo, so all of my classmates had a chance to watch it as well. 

What followed was the aforementioned micro-universe having its own Big Bang and giving itself shape for the remainder of that year and all the way until Season 3 had commenced airing, when most interest on the subject matter had already faded. But man, those years are something I really enjoy looking back on and I feel happy to have been a part of such a thing, because it seriously gave me a chance to get to know some kids I had never really had anything in common with and that ended up becoming some of my closest friends down the line.

There were lots of fun things happening during those first weeks, like the artsy kids drawing renditions of the Pokemon we had already seen or what they thought future ones would look like. Eventually there was some profit to be made out of such drawings, and some of the better ones were being sold for the price of a chocolate bar (around twenty five cents) during recesses. It amuses me to no end how there was a black market for Pokemon-related art being run by a bunch of eight-year-olds, but that's part of the magic.

It didn't stop there, either.

Someone else I knew had kept a journal dedicated to foreseeing any forks on the road the series would take, according to their own moon logic. These were entirely baseless assumptions, but none of us had access to the games and were only gaining our info from the show as it aired, so those were some good guesses to make, even though most missed by a mile. Something like that would hardly exist today (at least on such a scale) and in the end, that's really sad.

As the series grew in popularity, so did the scope. What had originally started as something we could talk about on lunch breaks had suddenly expanded to the whole school and one could easily find himself talking to complete strangers about what their favorite Pokemon was or other world-shaping topics. I met quite a few people this way, some of which I'm struggling to remember the names of, but I sure know who their favorite monster was.

It didn't take long for merchandise to start getting produced and sold and there were quite a few items on display, but none more popular than Panini's Pokemon Stamp Album.

Panini was a stamp juggernaut and had always held licenses for popular kids shows and stuff like the FIFA World Cup, so there was quality to be had. For the price of a dime, one could get a hold of a packet containing six stamps each and take on the responsibility of completing the album, to redeem some worthless price I can't even remember what it was, but that was only secondary... having the stamps was fun in and on itself (and, as expected, there was also a black market for that).

I came within two stamps of owning the whole set, shortly before they stopped printing them. I'm honestly surprised to have made it that far, considering there were lots and lots of repeated ones and some I only ever got once and never saw again.

As more episodes of the show aired and more information about the universe became known, most of the aforementioned stuff became either relegated to a secondary place or stopped being relevant immediately. There was still some profit to be made out of drawing the Pokemon, but making guesses on future plots was no longer desirable and that kid's journal stopped being updated by mid-season 1. However, nothing dealt a more serious blow to those artistic expressions than the Pokemon games themselves.
Most --if not all-- of us were too poor to afford a Gameboy, but that didn't stop us from playing the games under a new, fancy term called "emulation". 

This is how I first saw the power of emulation. I can almost hear the buzzing sound of my rusty PC mixed with the iconic tunes of the game.

For the price of $1, someone would copy Pokemon Yellow (plus a really primitive emulator) onto a fittingly color-coded floppy disk for your pirate enjoyment.

Pokemon was effectively what introduced me to the emulation world and just another reason for which I hold it as one of my fondest childhood memories. That said... I did mention that the emulator was really primitive, and here's why:

It couldn't make a save.

Oh, it'd TELL YOU it had done a save. It'd also mostly load it back up IF you hadn't closed the emulator... but once your computer (or the program) was off, your data was lost to the void. That made it impossible to play through the game and effectively meant that you had to start over every time you felt like playing, but none of us actually cared and did it joyfully every time... well, until we did not.

I remember getting pissed off (no, not just mad, pissed off) when I finally managed to beat Brock and turned the computer off for the night expecting to pick it up from where I left it off. Furthermore, the idea of copying things from the floppy disk into our computer's main drive rarely crossed any of our minds, and the constant gameplay and reloading eventually wore the disks down. The guy who sold them had also lost the originals, so there was no replacement and none of us had internet at the time, so we couldn't continue on. 

I have always blamed the sudden lack of interest on the universe that followed on this.

Just to put it in numbers, I got the floppy in 1999 but couldn't resume my game until 2004, when I had already gotten an internet connection. There was no way such a thing couldn't be felt among us kids.

Still, Pokemon remained an extremely popular thing until the start of the Johto Journeys, then only hardcore fans would keep up with Ash's adventures... and none of them stuck around by the time the gang made it to Hoenn.

I didn't watch a single episode of the show until I read a passing comment stating that Black and White (season 14!) had "gone back to its roots", but I didn't stick around for that, either. Bluntly put, I missed the micro-universe more than I enjoyed anything within the canon one. All of us who lived through both wholeheartedly agree on that.

So that's why I chose to tell about the show describing it as a really fond childhood memory that introduced me to a ton of fun things and ideas (particularly emulation). And that's Pokemon, as I remember it.

What about you, though? Did the franchise make such a splash for you as well? 

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GH0STWRTR010 Posted on Apr 02, 2021 at 04:18 PM

Wow ! this article takes me back. I always remember how exciting it was to find any new news on pokemon in magazines or just about anywhere. I even remember seeing some old artwork that had unused pokemon and it didn't hit till later on that I would never see them in the game or show. of course, the text was always in Japanese, and I couldn't read it but I always recall the thrill of seeing something new during gen 1 and 2 eras. I was lucky enough to be able to play the games by borrowing them from my brother's friend but of course, giving them back meant losing my game data.

Silvervix Posted on Apr 01, 2021 at 02:45 PM

Thank you very much!

And duuuuude, my computer couldn't handle GBA emulation, either! I got SO disappointed when Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire would flat out crash my potato XD

Benjanime Posted on Apr 01, 2021 at 02:13 PM

i have a stepdad who thought i should have grown out of the whole pok'emon thing by the time i was 13 (at that time the millennium happened) but i still had some merchandise laying around, having one of the children's books from scholastic that featured an episode from the anime, a couple of those rubber bouncing balls with a pok'emon inside as well as a binder of trading cards. at times i really do miss when the phenomenon first happened as a fad and all of that marketing went into it.

i too dug into the world of emulation and played pok'emon red and blue, though my computer was such a potato back then that it couldn't handle GBA, so i just stuck to the originals. great article, silver! i'd love to see more pok'emon related articles here.

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