Some members of our wonderful OTAQUEST team are a little too young to remember the first wave of Pokemania. For those of us with a gray hair or two, the 25th anniversary of the franchise has us feeling a little strange. It was just yesterday that we were packing away trading cards in our Ash Ketchum backpack, begging our parents to go to Burger King for those golden cards tucked away in Pokeballs, hiding under our blanket at midnight with a flashlight in one hand and our Gameboy in the other.
It’s no overstatement: Pokemon absolutely defined many of our young lives.
Today, the Pokemon Masters of yesterday are grown up, some with families of their own. We have jobs, responsibilities, and those simple days filled only with ‘catchin’ them all’ are far behind us. Despite that, it’s never been easier to step out and grab that nostalgia with both hands: Pokemon Go, something which would seem impossible two decades ago, has many of us living our dreams of venturing out into the real world to continue our journey.
For many here at OTAQUEST, it’s impossible to approach the anniversary in silence. We have a little reminiscing to do, if you’ll indulge us.
The question of the day: How did Pokemon shape your life?
Community/Social Media Manager
I had played a game or two by the time Pokémon hit the scene in 1998, but those weren’t things I woke up thinking about. They didn’t take over every waking moment of my formative years, and they can’t be given the credit for helping to ultimately lead me to where I am today. Along with Sailor Moon, I credit Pokémon for spearheading my lifelong journey through Japanese culture, and for sparking my passion for the language itself. I’m not alone in this, which makes it more special.
A friend came over with a Game Boy and Pokémon Blue, and the rest was history.
Here, a brief collection of Pokémon related memories (kept brief): the first holo I ever pulled was a Gyarados, in the parking lot of a mall in Florida. I remember sitting in the blazing sun at summer camp, surrounded by other kids ready to be Pokémon masters. I wrote a poem at age nine that ended up being published nationally about (you guessed it) Pokémon cards. (Oh, it’s a literary masterpiece, and when I track it down, it WILL be on this site.)
Happy 25 years, Pokémon. I don’t think the words exist to thank you enough for so many happy memories.
1998, A girl I’m sitting next to on a plane shows me Pokémon for the first time.
1999, for a grade-school Halloween party, I’m wearing a homemade Ash Ketchum costume.
2000, forced my father to watch the third Pokémon movie in the theater twice in one day.
2001, after weeks of trying, I beat the ‘gym leader’ at Pokémon Cards at my local card shop.
2002, I’m screaming in the Pokémon Center in New York.
2005, I looked for my old Lugia toy that surely got thrown away.
2007, my friend and I start Diamond and Pearl at the time in my living room.
2010, somehow I became the photographer of my friend’s Pikachu and Red cosplay shoot at a convention.
2013, pretty proud of myself for understanding *most* of the Genesect movie in Japanese.
2011, I watch 90s one hit wonder ‘The Presidents Of The United States Of America’ a play ‘Lump’ at a Black and White launch event.
2016, I’m watching other people scream in the Mega Pokémon Center in Ikebukuro.
2017, I grow furious after losing my 3DS with Pokédex complete Pokémon Moon on a train.
2021, I’ve written three articles just this week for Pokémon’s 25th anniversary.
We take everything for granted now since Pokémon has become so big and commonplace. The way it’s enriched our lives over the years almost feels like it’s always been around, but you really should have seen it when it first came out. Pokemania really was something spectacular and came crashing through the scene like a tidal wave nobody expected. Pokémon’s concept seemed so fresh and unique and was unlike anything else out. Literally no video game franchise at the time was nearly as cool. What else was a kid going to play in his free time? Rayman?
At the height of Pokemania, every kid had a Game Boy with Pokémon Red & Blue tucked away underneath their desks as if it were the Bible. When recess came along, those same kids were handing out the trading cards on the playground like they were sleazy Las Vegas casino men at the blackjack table. Kids also had the toys, the shirts, and could recite the anime’s English theme song better than they could the American National Anthem. Pikachu and his ilk were inescapable and invaded practically every facet of the media. And when Pokémon sparked controversy and concern from the conservative crowd, it only made the franchise even cooler for me. You mean to tell me that I’m ‘summoning demons from the underworld’? How heavy metal! No wonder Pokémon took over the world of pop culture after grunge music fell off the map; it’s just as rock-and-roll as Nevermind and as close to Beatlemania as my generation will ever get.
Beyond just being a stellar franchise, the advent of Pokémon marked a special time. It’s hard not to get nostalgic for the days when Pokémon ruled the world. Being raised in a football household, I’m not sure I would have ever explored nerd culture if Pokémon didn’t come along and make Japanese video games accessible and cool for me at such a young age. I certainly would never have explored the rest of Nintendo’s catalog either, meaning no Zelda or Fire Emblem. With that in mind, I say thank you Pokémon for that fun moment in time that shaped who I am today.
Although I’ve been an anime fan for a while now, Pokémon was always on the edge of my consciousness until the last couple of years. I never played the Pokémon video games, or collected trading cards. Instead, what I knew about the franchise came through a sort of Japanese pop-culture osmosis. It’s really amazing how much the thing has grown over the years!
I learned to recognize Ash, Misty, Brock, Jessie & James, Nurse Joy, etc. by watching a few episodes, especially Generation 1. I knew the memes. Want some jelly donuts? And I would see cosplayers at conventions. I would also see Pikachu trinkets at the local Japanese and Japanese American stores.
To be honest, it wasn’t until Pokémon Go came out that I became a fan. I walked like crazy when it first came out, and I lost weight because of it. Pokémon Go keeps coming up with new ways to frustrate me (I can’t throw a perfect curveball, my inventory fills up too fast, and wild Pokémon keep escaping). But the unique real-world aspect of it helps to keep me from deleting it. Pokémon has caught me.
While my interest in the Pokémon games may have waned in recent years, I’ve never lost my fascination with what they represent. I used to fantasize about the idea of journeying through the Pokémon world, and I would be lying if I said I wouldn’t drop everything at the mere hint of making that dream a reality.
A lot of this is due to the sense of freedom and escape the Pokémon world gave me as I was growing up. I can recite entire scenes from the Pokémon 2000 movie due to the amount of times I wound back my VHS copy of the film when I was younger. As much as I love the first movie and many of the others, let’s just say if you’re going to make a disappointing remake, at least have it be that instead of my beloved Lugia film!
While I played the Pokémon games from the 2nd until the 6th generation religiously, no game got under my skin quite like Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum. The Nintendo DS was a formative game console which holds many of my favorite titles and blossomed in the genres I now play religiously today. It’s also where my time immersed in Pokémon was largest. Pearl was the game I put more hours into than any other (easily over 300!), all on a single file endlessly training and trading Pokémon and challenging the Elite Four again and again, while Platinum was also over 100 hours strong.
When I think of Pokémon, I think of that time. The struggle, the triumph, the trading with friends and online, even hacking the game to get Arceus. It means so much to me. Happy 25th anniversary!
As this franchise continues to evolve and innovate ways it engages with its fans, Pokémon’s first generation of monsters will always have a special place in my heart (I’m a Charizard stan you see). I still remember popping in the cartridges of FireRed and Emerald versions of the game. It was my first time playing any kind of RPG and I’ve always taken pride in trying to catch them all and complete my PokéDex.
Aside from the main games, I also enjoyed the Pokémon Dungeon series and a bit of Pokémon Go when it was at its peak. To this day, I still buy any merch I can from the franchise, whether it’s shirts from UNIQLO or a giant Pikachu piggy bank that stores all my loose change.
Seeing our generation grow up and introduce the franchise to their kids is just so inspiring to see. It’s still crazy to believe that Pokémon is celebrating 25 years of global success and I can’t wait to see what they have in store next.
According to Cimi’s 100% Accurate Test, I am a Nostalgic Pokémon fan. My favorite generations are the first and second, and will forever remain that way, for one simple reason: They are the only ones I’ve played.
Before you hurry to exclude me from the fandom because of my limited experience… you have to know that for a time, a small pocket of time during my junior high and high school years, I was in love with Pokémon. I still remember the names of all first and second generation monsters. I still have my Game Boy cartridges with a full collection (if you are too young to know, google ‘Game Boy trading cable’). My aged N64 has Pokémon Stadium in the cartridge slot. I still keep my first generation TCG cards in a nice Pokémon album binder. I went nine times to watch the first movie (just to get more of that sweet holo Mew). And that amazing theme song? I know the lyrics and the guitar solo by heart.
For a few short years, Pokémon was part of my life in a way that no other franchise would ever be again.
Does that make me a fan? I don’t really care, to be honest. My views on fandom are not favorable, and I don’t like to consider myself a fan of anything. Labels divide. But I was having fun. So. Much. Fun. I wouldn’t care if it was Pokémon or Digimon or anything ending with -mon, as long as it gave me a reason to play cards with my friends, exchange monsters over hot chocolate and D&D dice, fight over the best and strongest Pokémon in the middle of a Tekken tournament. But it was Pokémon, and I am grateful for all the memories I made and the friends I met.
I wish for the franchise another 25 years of success, and for all the kids who are into Pokémon to have all the fun in the world with the people they love. Because, in the end, that’s the only thing that matters.
Our memories of the franchise may be personal, but we know we aren’t alone. Pokémon hasn’t only touched the first generation of fans; it continues to pull people in to this day, with new releases and new monsters coming year after year. (Who’s excited for Legends?) It seems like everyone you talk to, regardless of if they were a massive fan or not, has a story to tell.
And that’s where we’ll leave our trip down memory lane… with you. We want to hear your Pokémon story. Were you a diehard first generation fan? Late to the party? Trading card collector? Pop into our Discord and let us know. Let’s keep the 25th anniversary party going. It’s only just begun.