It All Started with A Shoebox

by @ScottyDuzzeno

My birthday is at the start of the school year so a lot of my gifts tended to be back to school items which aren't very interesting to a 12 year old kid. For the first day of school my mom decided to wake me up early so she could give me my gift before I left. I tried to feign excitement as she handed me a shoe box. After all, kids need shoes and a new pair is nice to start out on. I was too sleepy to realize that the box was too light to contain the promised shoes but when I opened it up to see that solid plastic brick we lovingly called the Game Boy. I proceeded to lose my mind. It was single handedly the best gift my parents had ever gotten me. And one of the first games I got was Pokemon Red.

I picked out Squirtle, named it Hydro and was on my way! I bumbled my way through that whole game catching everything I could and teaching every ™ I could find to my Blastoise, HMs too! By the end of the game my unbeatable monster knew Surf, Strength, Bubblebeam, and Water Gun because science! I didn't have any friends who played so I proceeded to reset and do it again! I lost thousands of hours and even more batteries to that game but never regretted it for a second!

Pokemon slowly began to fall to the background as I moved to a new school and started making new friends until I heard that a new version was in the works. Suddenly Pokemon was all I could think about again and I quickly grabbed Gold version and Placid the Totodile and was off on another adventure! Spiffy new graphics, more legendaries, berries abound! I was in Pokeheaven. One day I realized a friend of mine had gotten Silver version and stumbled onto a new aspect of the game… battling! We caught the coolest Pokemon, slapped them onto a team and battled over and over although it usually came down to whoever used Mewtwo the best.

Eventually Ruby and Sapphire came out and I was eager for a new challenge so I grabbed a Mudkip named Kipper and went on a brand new adventure. Unfortunately I had to move again and no one I knew played the games anymore so Pokemon became something to hide rather than to share so I quickly lost interest and missed out entirely on Fire Red and Leaf Green. I only found out about those games years later after stumbling onto emulators for them.

Diamond and pearl came along next and for the first time I had a toss up on who to choose as my starter. Piplup was the obvious choice because of my love for water types but Turtwig and it's final form Torterra were such badasses. Eventually I went with Piplup because of my love of steel types and played through the game.

Things were quiet for a while as I went to college but eventually Heart Gold and Soul Silver came out. Finally a chance to relive what had been some of my best memories of the whole series. I picked up Heart Gold and started to flaunt my love of Pokemon instead of hiding it. I was beginning to become comfortable enough with myself that I wasn't scared of people picking on me for my nerdy hobbies. It was a small step but a necessary one. Because of this I started finding like minded people and realized that I wasn't the only fan out there.

Black version was next with White2 following shortly after. I grabbed up a Tepig both times. A giant wrestler boar with a beard made of FIRE? How could I not? I could finally play the game and share the experience with like minded people. I couldn't have been happier! I even stumbled onto my first Poketuber around that time, Shadypenguinn, and realized there was an entire community out there. Not only was I not alone I was part of a fandom!

And that's when it happened… Pokemon X and Y. The games were announced and it seemed like everything I could have ever wanted. I was grown enough that I could follow along with news and videos to see what I was looking forward to and it was the first time that I pre-ordered a game. Not just a Pokemon game, ANY game! I stood in line day one and sat in my local mall playing instead of going home. Pokemon Y blew my mind! They even had a Pokemon who was based on a knight. And what's that, is that a zombie tree? And over there, possessed swords? And there, Mega Kanto starters? Oh be still my beating heart. 

My girlfriend couldn't understand my obsession but she was alright with it. She would just shake her head as I obsessed over these little creatures I was breeding and battling. Wait a minute… breeding? You can breed Pokemon for perfect stats? You mean I could take my team which I loved and make them better? An entire new world was opened up to me. The competitive battling scene was a terrifying place but I had years of practice under my belt and knew I'd do fine. Unfortunately, the rest of the world was happy to prove me wrong. But not only did that not discourage me, it actually made me happy! If I had been playing for all these years and could be easily defeated by the first stranger I'd met then that means there are other people who are even bigger fans than me. I began realizing that I could feel comfortable with my love of not just Pokemon, but anything I liked.

And now here we are as I sit with my copy of Omega Ruby running around with my Swampert, "Bruh!" having adventures as my girlfriend (who is now my fiancé) lovingly shakes her head at my exploits.