What pops into your head when you hear the word ‘Pokémon’? Do you imagine the cuddly yellow face of Pikachu, the franchise’s mascot for a little over two decades? Or do you perhaps recall the hundreds of other adorable, elegant, silly, or downright terrifying creatures that are members of the huge Pokémon family? From Abomasnow to Zygarde, these ‘pocket monsters’ come in a startling variety of shapes and colors, one of the most appealing features of Pokémon, whose meteoric rise to popularity is still going strong to this day.
Over the past few days, Lasallians have been wandering around places like the Henry Sy grounds or the amphitheater, staring into their phones while trying to catch that Ekans or Rattata. Conversing with a few of these students-slash-trainers, they reveal just what it is that powers the phenomenon of Pokémania.
Gotta catch ‘em all
Pokémon has long been associated with the fun and laughter spent in our childhood days peering at a classmate’s Gameboy or Nintendo DS, cheering on their battles and sharing the thrill of catching ‘em all. A lot of us still fondly remember Ash, Misty, and Brock as they traveled around, meeting friends, collecting badges, and always foiling Team Rocket’s plans of stealing Pikachu. Most of the games are an addicting and innovative mix of strategy, adventure, and RPG, with only three primary goals—capture Pokémon, win battles, and become a Pokémon master. These games’ simple mechanics and charming graphics have succeeded in captivating generations, turning the franchise into a beloved household name. In fact, just this year, Nintendo celebrated the 20th anniversary of one of the franchise’s original games, Pokémon Red and Blue.
What is Pokémon Go?
Recently, Pokémon has been turning heads making headlines again with the newest addition to the franchise, the immensely popular mobile gaming app called Pokémon Go. Finally released in the Philippines last August 6 amidst enormous hype from the community fans, it was eagerly downloaded by thousands of excited would-be Pokémon Trainers. Lasallians have been seen braving the heavy rains just to catch Pokémon at the Pokestop located near the Henry Sy gate, or trying to beat the Pokémon gym located in One Archer’s Place, or even flooding social media with the insignias of their respective teams.
For those who have managed to avoid the craze altogether, Pokémon Go was developed by Niantic and employs GPS and groundbreaking technology to bring an augmented reality experience that is both immersive and unique. For once, would-be Pokémon Trainers can venture out into the real world and encounter Pokémon in their neighborhoods and other places outdoors. The app utilizes your phone to determine your location, and generates pocket monsters that appear on the screen to simulate what it would be like to live amongst Pokémon.
The type of Pokémon that appear is often determined by location, so players will have to roam around the real world in order to truly catch them all. Harold (II, CIV), a self-confessed Pokémon addict, shares that before the app’s release, he was not too keen about playing the game in the Philippines because of the heat and pollution around Manila. However, he still had fun theorizing about the types of Pokémon that would appear in Taft when the game was released. “I [thought that maybe [there would] be electric types like Voltorb and Magneton in Goks because it’s the computer science building and ghost types like Ghastly and Gengar in the chapel,” he says. “There [would] even be legendaries in the Dean’s office.” While Harold’s predictions may have been slightly off the mark, the prospect of travelling around and seeing different Pokémon remains one of the game’s most appealing aspects.
While there is more to the game mechanics, the reason Pokémon Go is truly turning heads, however, is the way it has brought the community together. Many Pokémon fans, young and old alike, have been sharing stories of their adventures outdoors on social media, whether it be making friends at a Pokestop or spending the day at the park catching Charmanders. Some stories that have been posted online are of the stranger variety, whether its catching a Pidgey during the birth of your child, or even stumbling upon a dead body while searching for Pokémon—the results are sometimes heartwarming, sometimes scary, sometimes hilarious, but altogether unforgettable.
Pokémon Go’s immense popularity can be attributed to the nostalgia it brings out from generations of kids. Anthony (II, CIV) tells the story of how he built his entrepreneurial skills by buying and selling Pokémon Cards as a 4th grader. “Earned me quite a profit, thousands. For a 4th grader, that was a lot.” The Pokémon Trading Card Game was a collectible card game based on the video games, which several Lasallians fondly played and challenged each other over as children.
For Kim (I, LGL), she and her classmates formed a sense of camaraderie by trying and mostly failing to do the Pokémon rap from the original series. “I remember in elementary, me and my classmates would try to do the Pokérap during recess. It was so funny because most of us could never get it right!” Even as a college student, Kim is still a big fan of the franchise, which some people misconceive as only being for children. “Pokémon is just one of those things from your childhood that you never really grow out of.”
The future of the game is still up for debate—Pokémon Go might not stand the test of time, and be forgotten like several other pop culture phenomena. “Maybe [it’ll last],” Anthony muses. “The fans are living the dream as Pokémon trainers. It’s not just a console game anymore. Augmented reality makes it feel more hands on, something that people, particularly fans, have dreamed of.” Only time would tell if the hype will last, but even the nay-sayers cannot deny the sense of community that the game brings not just students, but players everywhere. It’s a driving force unlike any other that has brought together a huge group of people across generations and different walks of life.
Whether you play the game or not, the next time you see someone with their head bent over a phone, just remember that they might be part of a phenomenon that may be revolutionizing the way we socialize with others. For now, many Lasallians will continue having the times of their lives catching Pokémon all around the campus and trying to take over the gym in Andrew for their respective teams.