Pokemon: A Secret Passion

By @PatFromPallet

One day, back in the spring of 1999, while staying home sick from school, I happened to be watching cartoons on The WB network. Little did I know, but that morning would be the start of something that would become a part of my life for the next 16 years. I found myself watching this show about a 10 year old boy that was on a journey to collect all of these little creatures, while also travelling the world, and battling with those same creatures. Needless to say, 12 year old me was hooked, and my Pokemon fandom had begun. I quickly convinced my parents to go out and buy the games, a copy of Red for myself and a copy of Blue for my 6 year old sister, so I could finally start my own Pokemon journey.

Unfortunately, this is where the story begins to change. The Pokemon craze that swept the nation never seemed to reach or affect my group of friends. The kids that I grew up with actually disliked Pokemon, or they pretended they didn’t like the games. So people that like Pokemon were seen as outcast or losers. So here I was, a newly found Pokemaniac, but I couldn’t enjoy the games or play the games with any of my friends. Being a 12 year old, having friends is pretty important, so instead of risking my friends while playing the “unpopular” Pokemon game I had to keep my fandom a secret. A secret that many people still do not know about me to this day.

Since Pokemon was deemed lame by my friends, I had a very small community to play and enjoy the games with. That community consisted of my sister and two male cousins, and that was it! I had three people that I could share my interest in Pokemon with. Being that I was so into the game it was very hard to keep my love for Pokemon a secret, but in the fear of being ostracized by my peers my Game Boy would always be at home, it was never out on the playground, it was never brought to school, and it certainly was never seen by my friends.

Given that my grade school friends didn’t get into Pokemon, I quickly realized that there was pretty much no shot that it was going to become cool when I got to high school. Going to an all-male, private high school was probably worse for my fandom. No one wants to be seen as an outcast in high school, everyone wants to be popular, or at least accepted. So if my secret passion of Pokemon had emerged it would have been a death sentence in my mind. Whether this fact was actually true or not is unknown, but I wasn’t taking the chance of letting my secret out.

So as Gold and Silver, Ruby and Sapphire, and Diamond and Pearl were released, I found that even my own small community had split in half as my cousins had lost their interest in playing the games. I was left with only one other PokeFan, that being my sister, to continue my journey with. Without my sister’s love of the games, and her continuing to play with me, my love for Pokemon may have died out long ago. So even though it was just us two, we continued to play all of the games, and tried our best to catch them all.

Eventually I went away to college for a few years, just as she was finishing up grade school. We continued to play the games, albeit not as regularly as we did as kids, but still got in some game play every now and then. When Black and White were released we bought the games, started playing, but something was missing. That spark of playing a new Pokemon game just wasn’t there, and for the first time in years I stopped playing. The dream was over as my journey was finished. Once I stopped playing I didn’t really get the itch to pick the game back up and start over. It was hard to just give up playing a game that had been such a big part of my life, but on the other hand, I saw this as an opportunity to break away from my childhood and put my love for Pokemon to rest for good.

Two years past and I hadn’t done much of anything related to Pokemon. I contemplated getting rid of my old Pokemon games and other memorabilia, but I could never bring myself to go through with it. I had put so much time and effort into keeping my secret love for Pokemon alive that I wanted to keep the memories around. The secret had never been revealed, but a part of me didn’t feel good with the way it had ended. I missed the excitement of the games. I missed the challenge of catching them all. Most important though was the bond that I missed when my sister and I would play the games together.

In November of 2013, I was wasting some time on Wikipedia and found myself reading about Pokemon Black 2 and White 2. The article quickly piqued my interest and a few hours later I had purchased a copy of both games on Amazon, one for my sister and one for myself. The games arrived within a few days and that spark had returned. After a short hiatus from the game I was back and I was hooked for good! I was so excited to be back into Pokemon and back into the games, but it was still not something that I was ready to share with the world, let alone my close friends and girlfriend. The passion was back, the love was back, and the secret was back.

Early in 2014, while searching the words “Pokemon” in the iTunes store, I found a show called “It’s Super Effective”. Little did I know, but that podcast would be the kick in the butt that would finally allow me to reveal the secret. I had no idea that Pokemon had a following from people in their 20’s and 30’s. I still had thought, that up to this point, that I was an outcast for playing a kids game. Being a 26 year old playing Pokemon just wasn’t cool, but then I started listening to “It’s Super Effective”. The passion that the guys on the show had was incredible. The effort and time they put into the show gave us an example of what you can do when you’re really passionate about a topic. If these guys were able to put out a podcast on the internet about their love for Pokemon, then surely I could begin to reveal to the people close to me that I played the games too. So after about 15 years of playing the game I finally let my secret out and it feels like a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders. No longer do I have to play the game secretly or discreetly, I can be open about it. Well that is as open as a shy person like me can be about it, but at least the secret is no longer a secret.

Pokemon is a game that I love. If it weren’t for me seeing a community of people, around my age, playing the game I don’t think I ever would have been able to be open with people around me about Pokemon. Now don’t get me wrong it isn’t like I am going around shoving Pokemon propaganda down people’s throats, but I can at least be honest with people now that I like Pokemon. I never thought that back when I was 12 that Pokemon would still be something that I enjoyed playing for the last 16 years, but here we are and my love for the series is as strong as ever.