I was, and still am a huge “Pokémon” fan. So it warms my heart to see the franchise reinvent itself in what could be the most popular Smart Phone game since “Angry Birds.”
Pokémon was met with insurmountable popularity in the late 90s. I know, I contributed greatly to its popularity. I loved the card game, the series, the Gameboy games, pretty much everything about the mysterious world. But with popularity invariably comes controversy.
The franchise was met with hate by church groups, episodes of the show were censored, and soon, accompanied by popularity, it became one of the most controversial franchises of its magnitude.
The controversy, and even the popularity probably weren’t in executive director Satoshi Tajiri’s mind when he sculpted the franchise. The idea for Pokémon stemmed from Tajiri’s fascination with insect collecting, which he loved to do as a kid.
A little history behind Tajiri:
He became fascinated with arcade games in his teenage years, this caused him to frequently cut classes as he failed to graduate high school. He would eventually receive a high school diploma then attend a two-year technical degree program at the Tokyo National College of Technology.
When he was 17 he began writing and editing a fan-magazine called “Game Freak” focusing on the arcade game scene. It was hand-written and stapled together. Ken Sugimori, who later illustrated the first 151 Pokémon, saw the magazine at a shop and became involved.
Soon they started making their own arcade games. The idea for Pokémon came in the early 90s/late 80s after Tajiri saw a Game Boy and the ability to communicate between Game Boys. A game of collecting made sense on a handheld console, and Tajiri went on to pioneer the idea of connectivity between handheld game consoles suggesting Game Boys use link cables so friends can play with one another.
After pitching to Nintendo, they were lukewarm to the concept at first. Soon they were able to start creating the game.
I find it interesting that a game, or franchise, created on the basis of “connectivity between friends” became so controversial in the long run. Now it has been reincarnated in a Smart Phone game that requires people to get out of the house and walk to places. In a way, Pokémon has always tried to think outside the realm of isolation-gaming.
All it will take though, is one kid walking in front of a car or someone wrecking their car while playing the game, to turn a positive into a negative.