Pokémon (short for “Pocket Monsters”) is a franchise spawned by Nintendo that has encompassed nearly every medium possible for children: widely popular video games, hit TV shows, accessible and thought-provoking trading card games, and more. This article centers around the handheld games, but there are also a number of console games that have similar themes and multiplayer options. The video games center around the capture, training, and cultivation of several Pokémon, eventually leading up to the defeat of several superior Pokémon trainers known as gym leaders. The goal is to become the most powerful Pokémon trainer in the world.
Violence: The Pokémon video games generally revolve around the defeat of other Pokémon to gain experience points and subsequently level up. In these battles, the object is not death— the opponent is merely rendered unconscious, known as KO (or knock-out). Pokémon cannot die and are revived with either items or the help of Pokémon hospitals known as Pokémon Centers. The playable character does perhaps get into some mischief with the enemies who are trying to take over the world, but all violence is tempered to be suitable for children, such as mild electrocution or equivalent comic violence.
Gambling: It is possible to gamble in these games, usually just by playing slots—prizes may be won and it is possible to spend a lot of in-game money on these machines.
Sex: In later incarnations, breeding of Pokémon is possible. There is no sex shown, but it is clear that a simple knowledge of how breeding works must be present.
The game is easily saved through the menu in the world map, but during a battle this is not possible! The battles are turn-based so it is possible to put the game down and leave it running and have nothing change, but to be able to turn off the system, a real save through the menu on the world map must be done.
For the most part, the handheld Pokémon games center around a youth coming of age in the Pokémon world. At a certain time (generally thought to be 10 years old) you will get your first Pokémon and venture off into the world on your own to become the greatest Pokémon trainer that ever was. There are many different enemies in each incarnation of the game, but for the most part, the enemies’ story is secondary to the fight to level up your Pokémon and defeat the “elite” Pokémon trainers of that world. Along the way you must collect gym badges to prove that you are strong enough to reach the final battles. Each gym gets harder and harder to complete and training of Pokémon may be necessary.
Originally conceived by Satoshi Tajiri in 1996, the first three Pokémon games were released for GameBoy in Japan under the names Pokémon Red, Blue, and Green. In the U.S., only Red and Blue were released. The wild success of the Pokémon games led to the popular animation series being released the next year. The anime has been running for over ten years now and is still as popular today as it was when it was first released. With each release of a new handheld game, there typically are new Pokémon species released and a new anime series released as well to promote the game.
Here are a few ideas for engaging with your kids around Pokémon:
- Compare the Pokémon to any family pets you might have and ask them how they think pets would like to be treated. A lot of the newer games include gauges of how loved your Pokémon feel when you use them. Encourage them to keep those scores up.
- Use the training and leveling up mechanics in Pokémon to discuss why it’s important to work hard to get better at something or to get something you want. You can explain that when you’re faced with a challenge, you can think about overcoming hardships and leveling up, much like your Pokémon do. You can also point out that your kids will be come stronger and smarter as well as grow up physically.
- Talk about the complexities of feelings around winning. Lots of Pokémon depends on your ability to win and defeat challengers. Talk to your kids about how it feels to lose and help them understand that while winning is important, not everything needs to revolve around being the greatest. Sometimes having happy Pokémon and a team you love is more important.
The Pokémon culture has expanded to be absolutely huge—there is even a whole store in Tokyo dedicated to Pokémon gifts and toys (called The Pokémon Center). Many older gamers also enjoy playing the Pokémon series. The images, specifically of Pikachu and a few other select Pokémon, are so widely recognized as international symbols that no introduction is necessary.
Pokémon has a lot of names to learn. For a list of all of the names of the Pokémon (there are upwards of 600 now!) please visit this link
Other terms to know include:
- Pokeball—the small orb in which Pokémon are captured and stored
- Badges—medals earned by defeating gyms
- Gyms—arenas for battle that must be defeated in order to advance the game
- Pokémon Center—a place to heal, store, and care for your Pokémon
- Elite—the elite Pokémon trainers (numbers vary—also known as “The Elite Four”)
- Evolving—the process of reaching certain levels to become stronger and look different