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Pokemon: How Old is Too Old?

Pokemon Diamond - NDS Screenshot - 88760

Who here remembers playing Pokemon, away from your peers during lunch? Secretly trying to keep your GameBoy Pockets and Colors out of the hands of school supervisors, as you discussed the finer details of Mewtwo and Charizard with your close friends? For me, that was my first year of high school. Yep, horray for 1996.

Flash forward 12 years later down the line, and I'm still lining up to buy the newest iteration; something that won't change any time soon with the announcements of Pokemon Black and White. I'll be reaching the high 20s at that time and it doesn't seem like I'll stop playing, at least for a good while. Which brings up the question, how old is too old for Pokemon?

While the game will always be misconstrued as a 'child's game' among many gamers who consider themselves to be part of the hardcore gaming elite, many adults and college students have continued to play Pokemon ever since the beginning of the franchise. Look at the Pokemon Video Game Championships for example; while the senior circuit was held for anyone born before 1993, many of the participants were in their early to late 20s and were just as excited to be there as their junior counterparts. I'm no exception, although I did take a nice six-year hiatus from the franchise during my days as a college student at the University of California- Santa Barbara. It's just that the more I think about it, the more I start to think that Pokemon actually receives a bad rap thanks in large part to: a) it's a Nintendo product, but mostly b) since it's filled with colorful creatures, a lot of gamers will take one look at it and immediately dismiss it as 'made for kids.'

If that were the case, however, how do you explain Nintendo's willingness to incorporate what I consider to be one of the most hardcore breeding/capturing systems around? Sure, it's easy to catch a Pokemon, but when you consider the fact that their moves, natures and individual values usually tend to be randomized into worthless garbage, it's easy to spend more than a 100 hours either soft-resetting or breeding in order to produce Pokemon that are worth using competitively; if that can't be considered 'hardcore' then I don't know what is. I can almost guarantee you that Nintendo isn't expecting 6- or 7-year olds to understand the intricacies, nor spend the time, of breeding Pokemon just to get 'perfect' Individual Values. After all, the only way that I personally learned about them was through the Internet and not all kids have access to it.

Then you have the fact that competitive Pokemon battling is filled with enough strategic and bluffing elements to rival even the long-held pasttime of chess. When you compete against an opponent, one of the most crucial things that you could do, in my opinion, to turn the tides in your favor is to bluff or read your opponent's next move before it even happens. Any player worth his or her salt will be able to tell what moves your Pokemon have, whether or not they'll be super effective and what combinations you might be trying to use. In other words, Pokemon is 90% cerebral and 10% luck - which to me is the most appealing aspect of the game, and is the reason that I continue to breed endless amounts of Pokemon trying to get those perfect IVs.

Another close examination on the average age of Pokemon players would have to involve looking at Web sites such as Pokemon Merriland, Smogon University and Serebii. Although it's a given that children probably do register for these sites, children cannot run these sites. It takes a full-staff of people who have experience with web design, programming and art to generate any web content; and in this case, they more than likely have to be Pokemon fans. Then, you have the people whose hobbies involve hacking Pokemon and Pokemon video-game cartridges, which I will not get into detail here. However, with the amount of time and complexity that it takes to reverse engineer a Pokemon game, it's something that no kid would have the time or knowledge to do unless they're a child prodigy; which in that case, they probably wouldn't be busy playing Pokemon as they would most likely be working for NASA.

Perhaps this post isn't anything more than me venting out my frustrations with people who refuse to understand why I would choose to play Pokemon over something like Call of Duty or World of Warcraft. Or to those who think they've outgrown the franchise that they used to love just because they got older. However, for every one of those people, there's over seven million people who will agree with you that Pokemon is here to stay. So you can keep your fragging and your endless guild raids. I'll take my pikachus and gym badges any day.

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Jason Young Jason is a journalist based out in California. He is currently part of the freelance writing staff for GameZone. Prior to working with GameZone, Jason had previously worked for Gaming Target aggregating over fifty reviews and previews of different video games ranging from Xbox 360 RPGs to PC Bishoujo Games. He graduated from the University of California- Santa Barbara, with a B.A. in Liberal Arts/Film Studies.
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