When starting a role playing game (RPG) or adventure game from Japan the player is likely to come across a similar scenario and setting when they begin. They often tell the tale of an individual from a small town tasked with a journey. This journey might be a noble and heroic one of saving their family, home, nation, or even planet. Or it might be less grand in motive, but by no means less epic.
The journey that always sticks in my mind is the one made by the numerous trainers that the player navigates through the different regions that populate the world of Pokémon. Whilst it seems absolutely absurd for a ten year to be allowed to go out on their own to capture wild creatures and have them fight, whilst also fighting off the regional terrorist organisation, the journey that the trainer goes through still seems like a worthwhile endeavour.
Pokémon was one of the first games I properly immersed myself into, even though I never did “catch ‘em all” to me that was never my goal. For me being of a similar age as the trainer (and in what is now a rare occurrence I used my actual name) I embedded myself completely into the goal of being “the very best”, though unfortunately not “like no one ever was”. Nonetheless I had my team and I was determined to create what I thought was both a cool and effective team. By the end of my 60+ hours I had over a team of Pokémon at level 100 (and this was before the days of EV training thankfully) which meant that when playing over people I at least couldn’t be let down by my team.
What felt so rewarding about Pokémon was that despite only being a child in this large world, you were making a difference. You were altering your surroundings for the better. This was only as a result of becoming more knowledgeable about your surroundings, of Pokémon as a whole, and also perhaps most importantly knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your team. Of course simply gaining the knowledge wasn’t enough, as you had to personally train them, sure you might use the occasional rare candy, but that was a mere bonus, and Missingno (the notorious glitch/cheat) hadn’t become widespread yet during this limbo period where the web existed but wasn’t a thing yet.
Ultimately defeating the Elite Four and my rival (named after whom I considered my rival in real life) was a fulfilling experience, one that I instantly looked back upon admiring how far I had come and evolved as a person. It’s amazing how a videogame can create such a feeling in a person and continue to do so. Even though they have not done so to the same extent, the reason why my first experience with Pokémon had such an impact was due to the correlation with where I was at that time in my life.
Today however I occasionally feel a glimpse of that sense of achievement. This is something that once we really get into the swing of secondary school and all the way through university that we come across on a fairly regular basis, if one chooses to put in the effort. There are challenges that stand in our way (like there would be in a videogame) but through determination and perseverance we get through them.
The thing is once we “complete” our formal education we’re thrown into an almost endless Safari Zone. Visible achievable goals become more transparent and we’re left on our own trying to find, and then capture our own Kangaskhan. Longing for the days when those very days seemed to have a sense of real purpose, rather than going through the motions for some faceless body.
Pokémon is a story of hope, not of despair. It is a perfect world that does all it can to remain so. We unfortunately do not live in such a world. A world that if Mewtwo were to find it would struggle to have their mind changed. If we want to advance in this world we have to think back to the lessons we learnt during our journey through Kanto, Johto, Hoenn and every other region;it is up to us to become more knowledgeable and to train our skills. The world is fighting against us and it is the new generation that has to make it their own.