For my birthday I wandered around, drank at bars, ate good food, and swiped as many PokeStops as I could find. In between beers and shots, I caught a Scyther and took on a gym. Like for so many others, Pokémon Go hit like a storm and I couldn’t stand by as a fair weather fan. Go is packed with nostalgia, but it wasn’t enough for my buried loved of Pokémon. I needed to go deeper.
It just so happened that my Pokémon cards were readily available. It was inevitable that a few hours into flipping through pages of old cards, I’d soon dig out the old games. From there I was beginning to remember the many, many days I spent with a Game Boy Color in my pocket. Just like with Pokémon Go, I wasn’t immune to the immense Pokémon craze that hit the United States in 1998. Pokémon Red and Blue were beguiling every kid who was enjoying their summer break. Red and Blue had their own unique sets of Pokémon that couldn’t be caught in the other as well as multiplayer battling. I had three good friends who lived nearby, and once we all had Game Boys and link cables, we were training, collecting, battling, and trading Pokémon constantly. We’d bring our Game Boys to school just so we could utilize our time on the school bus to make it a little further in the game. Middle school had started and we were surviving the mild Floridian winter with our Pokémon by our side. The games, cards, toys, and anime were barely enough to contain my passion. I began printing off Pokémon strategy guides, cheats, and anything else I could find from early internet fan sites.
Months went by and middle school started to change things. My friends spent less and less time on video games, and more time being social and trying to be popular. My time with the game became more and more solitary, though I wasn’t very sociable to begin with. I’d spend some weekends avoiding my friends because I felt like I needed to be alone. As my friends moved on from Pokémon, I compartmentalized my hobby. I bought a second hand Game Boy and copies of Blue, and eventually Yellow, so I could collect them all.
As I became more and more separated, my parent’s marriage fell apart. In the messy aftermath my mom and I moved into a much smaller home. A house doesn’t fit well into an apartment and so my room was filled with still-packed moving boxes. Most nights we survived off of leftovers, and my hobbies were filtered down to activities I could do alone, because now I really was. Pokémon Gold, Silver, and Crystal had now all come out and provided another adventure to embark on. Once high school hit I had started to move on to more mature games, when we could afford them, and reading more and more books.
Years went by. Ruby, Sapphire, Leaf Green, Fire Red, Diamond, and Pearl all passed by. High school was rough and I got through with books like Ender’s Game, The Once and Future King, and… when college came around I really wasn’t sure what to expect. I brought my Xbox but little else, not expecting to find others with my interests so quickly. My roommate played Counter Strike, another friend let us try his new Xbox 360, and another had weekly World of Warcraft raids every Thursday. Being nerdy wasn’t pushed to the side but instead, I made friends out of strangers.
Soon Pokémon Black and White would come out. The years of shared nerdiness meant my group of friends all owned a DS and we all were excited to play a new Pokémon game. It had been years since Pokémon Red and Blue, around eleven years since my parent’s divorce, and after years spent alone in a box filled room and filled with my own self doubt, I had friends to play Pokémon with again.
We battled, traded, and played together off and on until Pokémon X and Y re-fired our passion for the franchise once again. I could sit with friends again, trading and battling, and best of all talking about something deep and nostalgic that we all shared. Pokémon Go has been another opportunity to bring my friends and I together again. Even with the stiff and stark reminder of confusing days where I was losing friends and family, Pokémon continues to be a source of friendship and understanding.