In my mid-40s, my life is being so recently taken over by Pokemon. After falling into the Pokemon GO hole in 2020, and then chronicling its slow takeover of my spare time, I have since found myself the primary Pokemon GO correspondent for Kotaku. And now, as if that werent enough, I have finally discovered the TCG. RIP my bank balance. Today feels like a good day to have a friendly chat with you about the whole experience.
I was exactly the wrong age for Pokemon. In 1997, I had just failed the university exams we Brits take, and I was terribly failing to take the same exams I couldnt comprehend. In 1998, I began a much less intensive (and ultimately terrible) university course. I was just starting my writing career, kissing girls, and enjoying swimming rather than attending lectures.
Had I been ten years younger, or ten years older, I would have gotten it. But at 19, I fell down the gap between cushions. I remember a few years later looking at one of the mainline games, probably on GBA, and just being bewildered by it. You were a random kid, and then you were sent off into some long grass, and yeah, I was done. I now have no background, no basis, and certainly no notion of the powerful world from which it all sprung.
Pikachu was a name I could remember from two years ago. Since August 2020, I have taken a course that far exceeds what I had attempted at university over 20 years ago. And today, I have discovered myself deeply in love with the whole daft thing. Erm, and thats after Friday when my little boy and I spent over $200 on various TCG boxes and packs to commemorate a recent personal occasion.
Humble Bundle is having a Summer Sale that allows you to save up to 90% on games.
Im irritated by my younger self, but I dont blame him. Pokemon is unquestionably childish to an older kid, all cutesy cartoons and a TV anime that mostly communicates via squeaking. I mean, for me, it was unquestionably indistinguishable from, say, The Wuzzles, and that's fair enough. But if only I'd gone through the initial JRPG-ness that has meant Ive never found any love for Final Fantasy or
Im currently playing Pokemon FireRed, believing it to be a good compromise for closely experiencing the first game, without requiring me to deal with too much anachronism. And I am absolutely fascinated by the Trading Card Game, with the exquisite timing of only discovering it the week after the World Championships took place an hour and a half away from where I live.
Pokemon began, like all things in my life, through my son. He's now almost eight, but was five when this all began, and he's so grateful it's resurrected his life at such a wonderful time. Where he flits through fads (Lego Ninjago for a hot minute, then a brief obsession with Minecraft, and an extended flirt with How To Train Your Dragon...), Pokemon has persisted throughout.
Toby explained that he has been into Pokemon for a long time, most of my life, and he said, I have only just begun into it in the last couple of years, before realizing we were both talking about the same period of time.)
The first cards I think were introduced to him via the Pokemon magazine, which offers a couple of three-card packs taped to its front cover. These are, Ive since learned, like the free pills the drug dealer gives to someone. A local supermarket also offers the occasional checklane blister pack (that I know what these are called), and even less often, a tin.
The Pokemon Evolutionaries, an incredible team of video artists who created and released packs at the same time, hypnotized him, which initially sparked my suspicion and scorn, but then the hypnosis worked on me.
RealBreakingNate's kid-friendly YouTube channel includes a number of running gags and frequent outbursts about the importance of valuing oneself, as well as open candid conversations with two huge Psyduck plushies.
The only disadvantage of these cheerful, celebratory videos is the sheer volume of cards they generate, which leads to the inevitable devaluing of non-rare cards, even when they are beautifully rendered, or even excel as part of a battle deck. No one will be able to keep up with this pace and volume, nor will anyone receiving them as promotional material.But even this will, ridiculously, feel somewhat limited when compared with the amounts produced on YouTube every day.
A wonderful friend of mine gifted me an enormous container with previously opened Pokemon cards from his own childhood of the game. I've sorted these out into piles of 10, each with a reverse holo and a rare in each, and have been carefully delivering them to my boy over the months as well. It's not as thrilling as opening the foil pack yourself.
Then we discovered Pokemon TCG Online! The latest aspect of our ever-growing collection of waysPokemon invades our lives, I finally realized what all the code cards were really for. You download the app for tablet or PC (but, strangely, not phone), then scan in those QR codes, and for every card, you have a whole other digital pack to open! It's not the same, but, you know, it's methadone.
As brilliant as TCGO may be, it has the worst matchmaking. We had the starter cards it offers you, and the few code cards we purchased, but most everyone we saw were made almost entirely of Vs or better. It was a frustrating experience for a seven-year-old who struggles with losing at the worst of times.
I remembered the orange container. Code cards were everywhere, so I was apprehensive at first. Of the 70 code cards, maybe 50 were full packs, and it was like hed discovered the keys to the candy store. We now have a collection of decks that will easily hold their ground in most situations (except for Team-Ups, our constant bane).
My first ever playmat will arrive later this week. It's Snorlax-themed, of course. Every morning, I drink my coffee out of my huge Charizard mug. There's a Pokemon on my pillow cases. It's completely taken over. At the age of 44, some 25 years later, I finally grasp it.
Oh, and that pack of Vivid Voltage. Lets go. Lightning energy, Krokorok, Excadrill, Bea, Seedot, Phanpy, Poochyena, Voltorb, reverse holo Dusknoir, and...Whimsicott, non-holo rare. Oh well. There are ten more packs from other ranges in the bag ahead of me.