I’ve always wanted to go more in depth as to why I love Pokemon so much. I wrote a piece a while back about how Pokemon helped me when I was younger, but I feel as if I didn’t truly get my point across. That article went on about how when I was ten I moved to a different area and had trouble making friends and such. This time, I would like to go back to the beginning and tell the whole story.

Pokemon Red and Blue were released September 28th , 1998 in North America. The show debuted just a few weeks earlier on September 8th, 1998; which was great way of getting children across the country excited for the game. I was only five years old when the games were released. I loved the show, but didn’t quite understand the concept of the game. My brother would always show me his team and I would get incredibly jealous. I had no idea who these Pokemon were at the time. I just knew that they had to be powerful if my brother picked them for his line up. I looked up to my brother a lot while growing up as much as any child with an older sibling would.

I remember watching the show week after week and wanting to live in that world. I would go into my back yard and throw any round shape object around the yard and shout the names of Pokemon that I would catch. It would be almost a year before I was able to play the game for the first time. I kept imagining myself running through Kanto and having these amazing adventures. After months of throwing tennis balls at my old wooden fence and having my father yell at me, I finally got to start my very first Pokemon adventure.

There I was, naming the character after myself and choosing my first Pokemon ever! I remember the excitement that rushed through my body. The biggest decision of my childhood stood in front of me and I had no idea what to do. I asked my brother for advice. He told me to pick Charmander and I listened. My excitement turned to horror as I was immediately faced with a battle. Gary, who I named Butt, challenged me with his Squirtle. (who is now my favorite Pokemon) After defeating Gary and learning the basics, I was on my way. Now, I’m not going to sit here and give you a play-by-play of my first great adventure. There’s more to it than that.

As I mentioned earlier, I looked up to my brother a great deal. Getting time to hangout with my brother was always a challenge because he was older and only wanted to go skateboarding with his friends. I thought that maybe him and I would be able to bond over Pokemon, but I was wrong. I would try to catch him on his way out to ask him for help. His answer was always the same: “You’ll figure it out.”

Pokemon Silver and Gold released October 15th, 2000. By this time I had finally had my own Gameboy and no longer had to bother my brother to use his. The mechanics were the same, but the Pokemon were different. It felt so amazing to start fresh. Johto welcomed me with open arms. This adventure was just as spectacular. This time around I had no help from my brother. I was finally growing up.

Ruby and Sapphire came to North America in 2003. I received the game as a gift for my tenth birthday. Being the same age as the protagonist helped me connect even more. I wrote about this part of my life with this game already in the aforementioned article. I won’t go into detail all over again, but this game really did help me with the transition of moving and starting over.

For three generations of Pokemon, I was there and loved every moment of it. I watched every single episode and movie. I couldn’t get enough.

My life changed right before Diamond and Pearl made their debut (2006). My parents had divorced and my world was shattered. I know its sappy and cliché, but it deeply affected me. I was forced to grow up rather quickly and had to throw whatever social life a child at that age could have aside. My sweet games were collecting dust. It almost broke my heart to know that I wasn’t going to be able to visit that world for a while. The same characters and creatures that were there since the beginning were now just waiting for me to breathe life back into them.

Fast forward almost a year later and you would see a very different Kyle. He wasn’t this smiling boy anymore. He was hurt and angry. Life wasn’t going the way he thought it should. Granted, this could be due to all the watching of romantic comedies at such a young age. I didn’t touch any video games for a little over a year. I would occasionally hangout with friends, but I only ever watched them play. Halo was always a big hit with my friends, but I never got into it.

My birthday was coming soon and I knew exactly what I wanted/needed. I just had to get my hands on a copy of Diamond/Pearl. I didn’t care which one. I just needed it. At this point in my parent’s divorce I was able to play my mother and father off of each other and it always worked out in my favor. My father was trying to prove that he was the better parent. My mother was always trying to make amends with me. I did the smart thing and got my father to buy me one version while my mother bought me the other.

I could finally dive head-first back into the amazing world of Pokemon. Things were much different this time around, but I loved it all the same. It helped me deal with the divorce. Much like the protagonist, I had a very absent parent. I saw myself in this boy who was striving to be the greatest. I was under a lot of pressure. I was about to enter high school and my life would change even more. Having the one constant back in my life helped me more than most people ever could. I know it may seem rather childish to think that Pokemon could bring me out of this dark place, but it truly did and I will forever stand by it.

I love to believe that most of us, if not all, have a piece of our childhood that still brings us comfort. Many people have things that remind them of their parents or family members. Mine isn’t that. Pokemon wasn’t about my family. It was in fact the opposite. Pokemon taught me to depend on myself and that everything would be okay. Pokemon was never about winning or losing. To me, it was about getting back up and trying again. You can’t let a loss stop you from trying. If you have a dream, why not do everything you can to make it come true. It also taught me that in life there will always be opposing forces and something moving against you, but that doesn’t mean you just throw in the towel and walk away. (Unless we’re talking about getting through a cave without HM05/TM70)

What I’m trying to say is that Pokemon is and always will be my favorite game. My imagination still runs wild just thinking about the landscapes and creatures inhabiting them. Being a child and having life changing events thrown at you can be very overwhelming and it always helps to have someone or something there. The game is one big metaphor for growing up and overcoming challenges. Pokemon was always more than just a game to me. Pokemon was an escape from the stress and hurt. The divorce was not the only thing Pokemon has helped me through. Even as an adult, I have gone to Pokemon to help ease my mind and relief stress.

Years later, I’m finally okay with everything that has happened in my past. Pokemon is still a very big part of my life. I once ran through a Target because I saw a Mudkip plush. There’s a painting on my wall of Pokeballs right below a shelf that holds the Mudkip plush, two Pikachus, three Pokeballs and quite a few Pokemon coloring pages. Trust me. My card collection is in my attic. Much like Mitt Romney, I’ve got binders full.

Posted by Kyle Muehlberger

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