I Am An Adult Pokémon Fan

But I wouldn’t want to explain it in completely neutral, factual terms. Reading the last paragraph, you probably glazed slightly, switched to another tab in your browser, or chose that moment to start skimming the rest of this article in a disengaged way. So instead I would probably explain it like, “oh, it’s like… it’s just this stupid thing. It’s a way to kill time.” I would pause and say something like, “I mean, they’re really cute. It’s just fun, I dunno.”

Everyone has moments in life where they become briefly aware of how substantial is the wall between themselves and other people. Saying you’re playing Pokémon to someone who idly inquires about your portable video game system and then goes “isn’t that a kids’ game,” prompting you to try to explain it’s really like an all-ages thing and it’s actually pretty complicated to where adults can still be engaged with it, is generally one of those times.

Maybe if I were in a generous or energetic mood, I’d say something proudly defiant. There’s that popular line of thinking that it’s progressive to loudly proclaim your eternal childhood, under the assumption that true maturity and self-possession come with fully owning your interests, rather than worrying about how old you are ‘allowed’ to be to enjoy them or what society thinks. In accordance with that philosophy I should find true happiness by yelling ‘Girafarig’ in my apartment as loud as I want, whenever I want, and when someone goes “are you actually yelling about Pokémon,” I should go, “fuck yes I’m yelling about Pokémon,” and they would admire my uniqueness, self-ownership and timeless zeal for living.

There are Pokémon events where if you go to certain stores you will be able to download a rare Pokémon for a limited time. If there is one I want, I go. When I go to the big, eternal-childhood paradise of the Times Square Toys R’ Us, where there are life-size Harry Potter LEGO sculptures, the miles of realistic stuffed toys call out to me with their plastic eyes as I walk by. When there is a bin full of stuffed dogs that are all the same, I have to resist the urge to buy one so that it will feel special.

I go down the escalator past the gigantic ferris wheel into the part of the store where they sell video games (it proclaims GAME ZONE or something, I think) and I stand in line with a lot of 8 year olds holding portable Nintendo systems, with their parents who have brought them to get the rare Pokemon being offered. It is loud and kids are grabbing at things they want to buy.

I mean, really, I’m not usually the only non-child in the room, but I still picture myself turning to someone’s mother and explaining, with an abashed expression, “it’s for work.” She would look at me with the dawn of understanding in her eyes, and say, “oh, what do you do,” and I would say, “I am a video game journalist,” and she would nod in total comprehension, even admiration. Maybe she would even tell her son, as we approached the store assistant for download instructions, “let the lady go first; she’s working.”

However, that wouldn’t happen even if I did capitulate to self-consciousness, to the reflexive urge to explain myself to strangers. Most people, even if they understand how one could make a living writing about Hollywood or movies, don’t understand how someone can make a living writing about video games. You can, but as Pokémon games have not meaningfully evolved their design since the late 1990s, there isn’t much to say about them. It’s not work. I go to those things because I want to, I guess. It’s not like I go to all of them, either.

Although playing Pokémon games on a practical level mostly involves hours upon hours of walking around in circles in tall grass until a Pokémon jumps out so you can fight it, each game does have a loose story, and sweetly naïve dialog. The games are about people partnering with mysterious creatures to find success and happiness in the big, big world. The games’ paper-doll child characters live in a universe of ever-present possibility; Pokémon is about battling, but no one ever gets really hurt. They learn life lessons on understanding and communication among different groups and cultures, and the value of friendship, teamwork and loyalty.

Maybe if you’re the sort of person who still fleetingly considers mass-manufactured stuffed toys as in need of rescue, something in you will be attracted to the kind of game where someone shouts to their fantastical friend-for-life, I choose you. Or maybe if you’re the kind of person who feels foreign and amorphous in crowds of parents who you often imagine to be giving you strange looks, there is something appealing about cute faces, two-dimensional smiles, and endless digital lands of repetition.

In the beginning of the newest Pokémon game, Professor Juniper tells the player character, a kid who is about to set off with two dear friends on their rite-of-passage Pokémon-training trip, some words of advice.

“On this journey, you will meet countless Pokémon, and many people who think in different ways!” She says. “Through all these meetings, I deeply hope you find something that you alone can treasure.”

I mean, it’s just kind of this cute thing. It’s fun. TC mark

More From Thought Catalog

  • TheOnlySearose

    pokemonepisode.org has, quite literally, every single episode of Pokemon ever in the history of ever. Pretty swell way to pass the time ;)

  • http://twitter.com/FLYamSAM Denden

    Girafarig is Girafarig spelled backwards

  • http://twitter.com/raystraight Ray Straight


  • http://fastfoodies.org Briana

    I recently re-watched a Pokemon movie short where Bulbasaur, my favorite pokemon, picks up a crying Togepei in his vines, rocks him back and forth, and sings a “BULBABYE” to lull Togepei to sleep.

    I cried because it was so sweet.


  • http://www.facebook.com/TomSmizzle Tom Smith

    From the moment you mentioned “Who's That Pokemon!” to the end, this was running through my mind.


  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363230138 Michael Koh

    Leigh, can we be friends. You and I can be Pokemon trainers together.

  • http://www.noahtourjee.com Noah Tourjee

    Professor JUNIPER? What did he do to Oak?

    • http://www.facebook.com/wingedthing Leigh Alexander

      all the countries have different professors, professor oak is from kanto, professor juniper (she) is from unova

  • Alex Allison

    you're lovely, leigh. i enjoyed the approach v. much.

  • http://profiles.google.com/ryan.russ.anderson Ryan A

    “Maybe if you’re the sort of person who still fleetingly considers mass-manufactured stuffed toys as in need of rescue, something in you will be attracted to the kind of game where someone shouts to their fantastical friend-for-life, I choose you.” That's actually really kinda sweet. :)

  • http://brianmcelmurry.blogspot.com/ Brian McElmurry

    This was cute and sweet. Deep also, in a strange way. I'm a huge TMNT fan. Do you like Dragon Ball Z on saturday mornings?

  • http://twitter.com/rislynsey christopher lynsey

    I love Pokemon.

  • Rza422

    I always use the pixar movies to rationalise playing 'kids Games' both have one level for kids and another that appeals to parents/adults. Most people get it. Feel free to try yourself…

  • Pfft

    jesus christ you people need to get laid.

  • brittany wallace

    i liked this a lot

    my brother sold most of my pokemon card collection last summer
    when i found out i almost killed him

    also, once i made a fake pokemon card featuring a made-up pokemon from my imagination. i sent it into one of those pokemon fan magazines, and they printed it under the fan art section

    first time i 'got published'

  • Kablaamee

    Digimon – Digital Monsters – Digimon are The Champions!

  • http://www.calvinmarkus.com long chode

    youre corny but i like you

  • http://rikeberhardt.com Rik

    Thanks, Leigh, I think this is the first Thought Catalog piece that I could connect to! I think I still play because everyone else stopped (well, that and I was already older than most when I started). Pokemon is where I go when the world gets too real and I can be a kid again.

  • Rachel Butters Scotch

    Can we trade Pokemon? I'm playing White right now. It's pretty much the best.

    • http://www.facebook.com/wingedthing Leigh Alexander

      i usually only trade srsly when i have all my gym badges and am making lots of copies, but yeah

  • BenV

    I hope you take this as the compliment it's meant to be, Leigh, but this is now my favorite piece of your writing. Thanks.

  • soulunsold

    I was about to say “Pokemon? In Thought Catalog?” But then I read the 3rd paragraph on page two, and understood. Gave me a pleasant surprise. Good job video game journalist person. :)

  • GimliGirl

    I am sometimes ashamed that I have fallen in love with Pokemon at age 27. My hubby bought me Black and himself white and has lent me his Nintendo DS to play it on. Now I'm not.

    • BenV

      That's so awesome! My wife and I getting them for our anniversary next week, haha!

  • http://www.upbsel.blogspot.com Alice May Connolly

    I use Pokémon as a screening/flirting mechanism when I wanna date someone.

  • shane

    i played a little bit of white and i appreciate that they're breeching the 'should we rly force pokemon to do shit 4 us' moral territory but i don't really see how they can satisfactorily answer it. because like, if pokemon were real i would not force mine to do ANYTHING except hang out with me all the time

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=674905536 Virginia Althen

    I made a full-body fleece pikachu outfit at university and still wear it quite a lot. whenever i put it on, it makes me happy. i grew up with pokemon and still enjoy playing and watching it. there’s no reason to be ashamed. ;)

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