Asia

Pokemon and the power of nostalgia

  • 16 July 2016
  • From the section Asia
Pokemon Image copyright Goh Wei Choon
Image caption We began our Pokemon adventure on Game Boys. Today we continue it on our smartphones

Pokemon Go may be the biggest game on the planet right now, but its little monsters first sprang on the scene in the mid-1990s. The BBC's Heather Chen remembers the unique emotional connection the game made with its earliest users.

Some girls loved Hello Kitty. Others played with Barbie. I grew up with Pokemon.

For many '90s children, video game characters were almost like friends.

I was nine when I first discovered the game. So for me, Pokemon Go wasn't just the start of a craze. It was more than just soaring share prices and renewed interest in the Japanese gaming giant.

This was the news that would reawaken an entire generation of aspiring Pokemon masters, now adults.

Image copyright Nintendo
Image caption Only true trainers will remember their first catches and gym battles played out on Game Boys

Pokemon Go fever is a result of many things: a clever concept with smartphones, a viral marketing campaign and not forgetting the franchise's powerful emotional connection with fans.

Nostalgia is indeed a huge part of the formula, but there are other more emotional factors that could help explain Pokemon madness.


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Childhood dreams, now on your smartphone

Playing the first version of Pokemon back in 1996 meant relying on our trusty Game Boys - and a lot of imagination.

As young and aspiring trainers, we would roam around different worlds in search of rare Pokemon to fill our Pokedex encyclopaedias and learn more about our favourite monsters.

Many of us shared the same daydream: what if Pokemon were real?

Image copyright Ronald Grant
Image caption The popularity of Nintendo's app has created a new phenomenon of Pokemon players

Pokemon Go fulfils the fantasy we had growing up of seeing pocket monsters roam our world.

And swapping our Nintendo consoles for smartphones, hunting for Pokemon has now been revolutionised and brought to life.

To be the very best (like no one ever was)

There is still a thriving Pokemon nostalgia community online.

We share memes, reblog Tumblr posts and swap stories of our first battles - both wins and losses - and Pokemon memories, like this one.

Image copyright Tumblr
Image caption This viral Tumblr post showed what it felt like to play Pokemon

But the nostalgia doesn't stop there. Many also remember the hit cartoon show on weekends which took users on new pocket monster adventures.

And who could forget its catchy opening theme, with its uplifting message about doing your best to chase your dreams?

"I wanna be the very best

Like no-one ever was

To catch them is my real test

To train them is my cause

...

Pokemon, gotta catch 'em all!"

Image copyright PA
Image caption Let's face it: growing up we all wanted to be star trainer Ash Ketchum with his army of Pokemon

Being different is okay

But one of the most important lessons I learnt from playing the game, was that you don't need to follow the same path as everyone else to be the best.

You choose your own unique starter Pokemon and are strategic.

Many of us grew to love our first Pokemon which would even go on to become our friends.

I cannot emphasise how important a decision this was: the monster would become your first ever Pokemon, the one who you'd go into battle with.

Image caption There's a Squirtle in our BBC mail box!

Electric rodent Pikachu was always a fan favourite. Some liked cuddly grass Pokemon Bulbasaur but an even more popular choice was baby fire dragon Charmander which seasoned players gravitated towards. With the right training and attention, it could go on to evolve into one of the game's most powerful creatures.

It also happened to be the Pokemon of choice among all my friends. So I knew I had to be strategic if I wanted to defeat them.

Water extinguishes fire and I became a water Pokemon trainer, starting with a Squirtle who I named Bubba.

We went on to win many gym battles and claim badges together, all with the help of my heat-resistant army.

Finding him in the real world (while looking for my mail) was a dream come true.

And now I can't wait to see all my Pokemonsters again.