Return of a Trainer
My Pokémon adventure began nearly 20 years ago, I was a tall, skinny, shy, unconfident teen just about to leave school and start work.
My Nan was taken ill with Motor Neuron Disease. You probably know it better as the "Ice Bucket Challenge" craze that swept the internet twelve months ago. She was an amazing woman never showing us grand kids the pain she must have been in when we visited and she just seemed to understand me better than everyone else.
Now I don’t do change very well, even now I like my routine, so with her becoming ill and with me about to leave school I became very quiet and withdrawn; much more than usual. I felt lost. I’d sit playing on my Game Boy when we’d visit not knowing what to say to my own Nan.
On a trip to the local shopping center I saw a Game Boy game with a beautiful, strong looking red dragon on the front. I’d heard of Pokémon but had not watched the anime. It hadn’t long started so I thought why not; I’d saved some cash from my paper round and treated myself. I got home booted up my trusty old Game Boy, which I’m proud to say I still own and it still works, and was greeted by Professor Oak who seemed to be struggling with remembering his own grandson's name.
You know how the rest of it goes but then the ultimate question appeared “choose your starter”….. There was no question in my mind after seeing the box art on who I was going to pick. Charmander. I called him Artoo. Not the best name for a Charmander, but I was/am a huge Star Wars fan. And so my adventure began, I played it all weekend lost in the Kanto region. All of my worries and fears disappearing as Artoo and I battled our way around Kanto exploring the land.
I took my Game Boy to Nan and Grandad's when we visited that weekend sitting quietly on the sofa opposite Nan, while Mom, Dad and Grandad were discussing how much Nan had gotten worse over the last few weeks. I pretended I couldn’t hear them it was easier than acknowledging the truth. “What are you playing” my Nan asked so I explained trying to making it as simple as possible. She struggled to get her head around games then it was time to go.
She passed away a few weeks later just before I left school but during those last few weeks Pokémon gave us a touch stone. Something I could talk to her about and still giving me a world to escape into.
12 months later
Gold and Silver hit! I’d started working a Y.T training course in retail; basically you worked 3 times harder than everyone else for a quarter of the pay. On my lunch break I ran to the nearest game store and bought a copy of Silver, booted up my old Game Boy and escaped into Johto. That was my lunch break/bus ride to and from work. I had friends there but they worked different shifts. I transferred Artoo and the rest of my Red team over into Silver and introduced the Johto Elite four to them. Then one day I stopped playing it. I can’t remember why, maybe I thought I was too old to play it, but I’d moved on.
A lot changed before Pokémon came back into my life, just around seventeen years give or take. I’d found myself. True I was, and still am, a tall skinny nerd, but I was married, a Store Manager for a video game retailer and had a one year old son.
Now it may have been just me but when I became a dad a lot changed. Seeing my friends for a drink became a thing of the past, going to the cinema, and I love my movies, were all becoming a thing of the past. Now don’t get me wrong I love being a Dad. It’s the most rewarding thing you can do with your life, but I felt like I’d stopped being me. I got up, went to work, came home, played with Bill and then went to bed. That was it. That’s all I did. My inner geek, the one thing that had defined who I was for the last 17 years, had gone. I felt I was out of that community for good and I was lost again.
Then Pokémon X got announced
One of the guys at work, Matt, was a huge Pokémon fan and talked about nothing else. He was desperate to convince me to buy it; I think only so he could destroy me in a battle.
I explained that I had played the originals but hadn’t played in years. I was tempted but just couldn’t convince myself I needed to play them again. Then some news broke, not only did you get to choose one of the new starters, but also one of the Kanto starters of well. I could have a Charmander again and that was that! I bought X on launch and picked Froakie. I loved the look of Greninja and knowing I was getting Charmander later on in the game. Besides I didn’t want two fire types -- sorry Fennekin. I got to the professor and there waiting for me was a male Charmander. Just like my old faithful Artoo; I knew Artoo was male when I ported him to silver. I called him Char, slightly more fitting, and off we went round Kalos, catching two shiny’s in the process.
Over the next few months. I got more and more into the game. Battles against Matt became more and more competitive as I learned the new system. I learned about EV training and suddenly our battles went from a 6-0 to a 3-0, 2-0 and after a move set change on Char I got my first win; a steel wing from Char KO’ing his blasted Sylveon. I was overjoyed! Char and I had our first win! Months went by and matches between myself and Matt improved becoming closer and closer. The other staff in store bought copies of the game to join in the battles.
Matt and I laid down a store challenge, beat Matt and win a legendary. We had a huge response from the customers. I had to join in to give Matt a break because so many turned up. Only two people beat us and over the next few months a community started to form. We now run a monthly tournament with trainers coming in for advice and tips.
Then 12 months ago we moved houses. During the move, I found my old Red and Silver cartridges. Excited to see Artoo and my old team, I dug out my old Game Boy and loaded up Silver but my old Pokémon had gone. They became the victims of internal battery failure. Gutted I turned off the Game Boy, my old friends that had helped me though my Nan's illness were gone. However, the adventure carry’s on! Char has already been through Hoenn, as has the rest of my Pokémon team, and while we wait on the next adventure there’s plenty to do on Battle Spot including more teams to build!
Not only that, but I feel like I’m a part of something bigger again. I’m still a Dad and a husband but I’m also a geek and proud. Pokémon gave me an escape when I needed it and later on a touch stone back to who I really am.
It’s given me something that’s just for me outside of home and work. It's enabled me to become part of a community again. This year I started recording and uploading to Youtube as a hobby and have made friends I’ve never met overseas as a result.
When my son Bill is a bit older I’ll introduce him to Pokémon. Maybe one day, I’ll have that proud Father moment of him beating me in a battle for the first time. I do know one thing, Char will be right there with me!
Artoo would be proud.
Thank you Gamefreak