Pokemon is the second most lucrative videogame franchise of all time, topped only by the legendary Mario. How could something that seems like a simple game about capturing animal-like creatures and using them to battle other people’s creatures reach such success? Well, maybe it isn’t quite that simple. When the first two Pokemon titles, Red Version and Blue Version came out in 1998, they blew up instantly and the world had to acknowledge that these games were something special. Pokemon games, when you take a closer look, contain elements of appeal which transcend age, gender, and culture. They’re simple enough for a seven year old to enjoy playing through the main storyline without much difficulty. They’re complex enough for adult players to spend hundreds of hours forming, and perfecting their team for competitive battles with opponents from all over the world. There’s something to be said for a game that’s well balanced on so many levels.
One of the more obvious things people like about the Pokemon videogame franchise is the element which appeals to the collector in us. The original games had 150 unique and interesting creatures to catch (well 151 if you were in the know) but over the years, that number has increased to a somewhat intimidating 720! So you travel through a virtual land riddled with unique locations to explore. Each environment yields the potential to encounter some interesting new Pokemon specific to that place in the game world. Any Pokemon you find can be captured, thus becoming a new companion on your journey. The more you use your creature to battle against others, the stronger it becomes. Most Pokemon, after gaining enough experience in battle, or by a variety of other means, are capable of evolving. Evolution in the Pokemon world is when a Pokemon essentially transforms into a bigger, stronger, usually cooler-looking version of itself. So if you’re really into collecting, or just can’t seem to stop playing, you’re encouraged to find, capture, and evolve them all!
Another thing these games get right is the aspect which appeals to the strategist in us. There are so many Pokemon out there, and they all have their own unique attributes when used in battle. They all have their own strengths, weaknesses, special abilities, and a pool of attacks to choose from. A team consists of only 6 Pokemon, and with so many options out there, creating the team that’s just right for you requires a lot of thought and research. After you’ve put together a team you’re confident about, you can challenge all your Pokemon-playing friends to prove that you’re smarter and more of a tactical thinker than they are. You’re also able to go online and challenge other Pokemon trainers from around the globe.
When it comes to Pokemon, the possibilities are limitless. Jumping into a world with those possibilities, that’s also entertaining and intellectually stimulating at the same time, this is something that appeals to quite a lot of people. Having obvious merit to such a large group of individuals defines the pop culture aspect of Pokemon. As stated by Jack Lule, “Popular culture is the media, products, and attitudes considered to be part of the mainstream of a given culture and the everyday life of common people.” I believe that a franchise with such a solid foundation and such a wide appeal will absolutely continue to prosper for many years to come.