Do You REALLY Gotta Catch ‘Em All?

I’ve been doing a replay of the Pokémon franchise lately, sort of around everything else I’ve been playing. It is my idle time game. During little breaks from other activities, or while waiting for something to finish (be it laundry or dinner), I’ve been filling that time with Pokémon.

I started playing Pokémon as a child, with Blue Version. I remember standing around the house, playing it on my brand new Game Boy Pocket, and learning the ropes as I experienced the game. My strongest pokemon in that first play through was my Pidgeot, followed closely by my Blastoise. I don’t remember any of the other pokemon I had on my team, but I remember those two. I remember choosing Squirtle because that was what was on the game cartridge and Pidgey because even as a small child I had an affinity for birds.

I know I beat the Elite 4, but I definitely didn’t complete the Pokédex. I had no one to trade with, since my brother had lied about what he was sending me and gave me some crummy pokemon for one of my rare ones (I had gotten very lucky in the Safari Zone), so it wasn’t like I was going to be able to trade with someone for the Red Version pokemon. I also had no other friends to trade with, since I was home-schooled and all my local friends had moved away or were other home-schooled kids I saw rarely and were frequently too religiously conservative to do something like play Pokémon.

That problem continued until high school, but there was still a draught of interested parties when I finally had friends who played video games and weren’t being driven into a culture of hate by Jesus Camp level religious zealots. Pokémon fell in popularity during those years, as the kids who grew up playing it toyed with the idea of growing out of it, but I continued to collect the games and be unable to find someone to trade with to complete my Pokédex.

In college, I was mostly busy with other things, like learning to be an adult, studying, and working, and I couldn’t afford the new games anyway, so the franchise fell off my radar. After college, I got back into it a bit, but I don’t know if I ever actually beat the Elite 4 in Pokémon X. I doubt it. Only with the advent of Sun and Moon, and one of my Pokémon obsessed friends moving to my town, did I really get back into the franchise (where I have happily stayed ever since).

I’ll admit I feel kind of like I missed out on a core element of the series, since I was always playing by myself, and I’ve never actually completed a Pokédex until recently (not a national ‘dex, just a regional ‘dex). Now, since I have the money, time, and resources to catch all the pokemon and finally complete a nation ‘dex, I’ve thought about giving it a try. Taking the time to catch every single Pokémon ever and doing the yearly event circuit to get the rare ones I don’t have. Seeing if I have what it takes to be a Pokémon master by running through the games, trading old Pokémon forward, and using whatever weird periphery services I must in order to finally collect them all in the latest generation of games or Pokémon storage services.

I doubt I ever will, though. These days, the games are mostly about the grind for me. Fighting the NPCs, collecting what I can in-game, comparing notes with the friends who play, and just trying to eke a hundred hours of fun out of the game before it winds up collecting dust for a year, at which point I inevitably delete my save data and start a new game just so I can continue the badge-collecting main “plot” grind of the games. That’s what the games are to me, now: a quiet, fun, solo experience meant to allow me some escapism and give me some simple, hand and eye oriented fun while my mind works on something else.

There’s a lot of value in that, which is why I’m doing the re-play of the series, but it also feels kind of nice to reclaim something from my childhood. Experience it again as an adult who isn’t beholden to the dictates of my parents and brother so I can just play the games without worrying about how much time I’m spending or how many batteries I’ve used. Plus, it’s also just a fun thing to do.

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