From 1996 to 2016: Pokemon Through the Years

When our generations were younger, there was likely a common word floating around the playground. It was a word that gave us a rush of excitement as we pulled out either a deck of cards or a small cartridge that we dedicated nearly all of our free time to. It was a word that gave us frustration, to which we couldn’t extinguish unless we successfully completed a battle.


The original Japanese version of Pokémon Red, Blue and Yellow were released on February 27, 20 years ago. As one of the most celebrated games of the 21st century, Pokemon has acquired fans from all four corners of the world. The game was also adapted into movies and had a series of very successful TV shows. Characters were plastered on everything from hats, to shoes and beyond. So in other words, if you don’t know what Pokemon is, maybe you’ve been living under a rock for your entire life.

I distinctly remember the first time I was introduced to the game. I was almost eight, and my older sister brought her three-binder set of Pokemon cards and her little, yellow GameBoy Pocket down to the kitchen counter. She flipped through the transparent pages, and I watched with envy and starry eyes. There were shiny ones, neon ones, monochromatic ones, ones with names I couldn’t pronounce and ones with cool pictures of weird creatures on them. At the back of the last binder, in a special little holster, there was a golden one. It was the coolest thing my eight-year-old eyes had ever seen. Needless to say, she didn’t let me touch it or even look at it for long periods of time for that matter. I watched her begin to enjoy battling, while playing the video game, and we both found ourselves shouting at the box and bonding over the wins and losses. These are some of my fondest childhood memories.

Flash forward to about five years later, when we moved from Michigan to Georgia and my family had a garage sale, in hopes of getting rid of random things before our move. My sister’s three-binder set of cards laid on the table, and I watched as people came by and picked and chose which ones they wanted and didn’t want. I remember noting how there were people of all ages coming by and flipping threw the pages, defining every age boundary I had previously set. A middle-aged man took nearly four pages worth of cards. My younger neighbor jumped at the chance to finally look through them and take his pick. And a teenage girl smiled as she picked up what was left of the three binders.

Now, over 10 years later, I find myself dumping hours upon hours into the same little, yellow device. I’m still searching Goodwills and second-hand stores for old Pokemon games, in hopes of finding more editions to my ever-growing collection.

I asked Khalifaziz Birden, a New Orleans first-year and a self-proclaimed aficionado on the subject, why he thought Pokemon was such an important game and why people are still playing it after 20 years.

“Not only is it a game you can play with your friends, but it’s also a game where you need friends to help you complete the game,” said Birden. “That is, capture all the Pokemon. It’s a revolutionary game because it forces you to interact with people.”

Well there you have it, Pokemon is clearly an intergenerational game, still accumulating fans to this day.


Photo from Wikimedia Commons

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