I almost didn't write this because it's kind of emotional at first BUUUUT... you asked for it :P
I cannot recall a time in my life that pre-dated Pokémon as becoming a Pokémon trainer represented a rebirth; a baptism in the pond of Viridian City, before which nothing existed, after which everything changed.
Just kidding! …Sort of. Pokémon was a huge trend when I was ten years old and I was a little late to the party, as I am with most things, it seems. Everyone had cards, video games, toys, school supplies, and everyone rushed home after school to make sure to catch up with Ash on the show—Pokemania had never been so great as it had been at my school in the late ‘90s. It was the period of time growing up when the cool kids were actually not cool because they weren’t into Pokémon and that is it’s own kind of awesome.
I still remember when I first received Pokémon Blue from my mom; I was dangling on the basement railing like a monkey on a branch and while I can’t recall what the circumstances were, I know she gave it to me early for some reason, smiling as warmly as she spoke as she handed me the box. It’s a really special memory for me that words can’t really articulate, but it was a very loving moment.
“…Do you want to have it early?”
“Ohh… I suppose [☺] ”
We weren’t very well off in a financial sense, so getting a gift that expensive was a bigger deal than I was cognizant of at the time and yet deep down, I think I knew. Everything my parents gave to me was a sacrifice and yet they did so with that same warmth, a hug, and a kiss. I think that’s what makes the loving, caring moment in which I received Pokémon Blue a more significant memory, after which everything definitely changed.
Because of the time in my life in which I received the game, life all around me was changing rapidly. Moving up to middle school, my sister getting ready for college, my dad having quadruple bypass surgery, my mom having more spinal fusion surgery, girls suddenly becoming interesting… life at eleven looked nothing like life at ten. In many ways, this was for me the most difficult time in my life and certainly so at that point. Pokémon became a way of making friends and connecting with others because by the sixth grade, I knew just about everything. Literally. I would get phone calls from friends asking things like “Kevin, what level does my Quilava learn Flame Wheel?”, “Kevin, who’s better, Heracross or Scyther?”, “Kevin, how tall is Mewtwo?”. He’s 6’7”, by the way. Our common interests helped me develop some significant friendships, one of which you know as Blue.
Blue moved to my school in the seventh grade and unlike everyone else, he didn’t need me to answer questions about Pokémon—he was every bit the Pokémon Master I was so immediately, we hit it off. What made it even easier was that Blue was the only friend within walking distance to my house that I had in our town so whenever I was allowed, I could mosey on over for some Pokémon fun. Our friendship became even stronger during “guys’ nights” at Blue’s house, which still are among my favorite memories. We would have a group of guys hanging out all night in the basement, playing Pokémon, watching movies, playing Smash Bros, staying up way later than any kids should, and be greeted in the morning by an amazing selection of tantalizing breakfast foods—sizzling bacon, scrumptious scrambled eggs, savory sausage links, wonderful waffles, delicious donuts, tasty buttered toast—OH! I love breakfast food to begin with and Blue’s mom definitely knew how to bring it.
At one of the guys’ nights, Yu-Gi-Oh! was introduced by Blue and we all started to get into that. Many believed it to mark the end of the Pokémon fad and for a time, it was. I never got quite as involved since local tournaments conflicted with soccer, which was always a love of mine, but not long after it exploded on to the scene, Yu-Gi-Oh! cards were no longer in our hands. Instead, Pokémon was back and as far as I can tell, it’s here to stay. It’s the longest-lasting hobby I’ve had in my life so far, even lasting longer than soccer, one of my earliest loves and at one point, potential career path, fizzled out after 11 years. Fifteen years later, Blue and I are still playing Pokémon together on opposite sides of the country and creating content and always trying to…