North Texas Daily

‘Gotta catch ‘em all’ bridges the generation gap

‘Gotta catch ‘em all’ bridges the generation gap

‘Gotta catch ‘em all’ bridges the generation gap
October 06
23:33 2014

Katelyn Hoagland / Intern Writer

Last year, excitement filled room 180 of the Business Leadership Building until the space felt too small for the League of Pokémon Trainers.

Their president, Paul Barrera, had just stumbled upon a sparkling Pokémon on his dual-screen. He knew he’d never catch it alone. Moments later, 20 members crowded around him, spamming the option to send help.

“I really hope this works,” he says.

The others lean in and the anticipation is almost too much. The Pokéball moves in one, two, three times.

Then, it darkens.

“Yes!”

A place for fandom

When Barrera was a freshman two years ago, there were no organizations focused solely on Pokémon—the Anime Club was too broad for what he was going for. He founded the League in hopes of meeting others interested in Pokémon. The club had 30 members its first year, and that soon grew to more than 100 people by his sophomore year.

This year’s League has had a slow start, but Barrera encourages others to join.

The club has monthly gym challenges where less-experienced players will get to challenge some of the best to win prizes at the end of the academic year as well as friendly games between members for practice.

But it’s not just about playing the game, whether through dual-screen or trading cards. The club watches old episodes, talks about events they want to hold, like kickball tournaments followed by picnics or Halloween parties with pumpkin carving contests, and provides students with a chance to bond in a comfortable environment.

The League of Pokémon Trainers provides plenty of opportunities for interested parties to stop by. The club meets in room 180 in the Business Leadership Building at 6 p.m. every Friday and Saturday.

“Pokémon is about making lifelong friends and exploring,” Barrera said. “This club is about meeting people with similar interests, hanging out, and networking.”

Pokémon reigns supreme for first fans

In 1996, Pokémon made its debut for Gameboy, taking flight quickly and selling millions of units worldwide. A year later, Pokémon released its first anime episode, playing with the heart strings of children. The trading cards were released in the U.S. in 2000 and began a competitive movement for Pokémon fans.

Freshman League member Zane Dean remembers his trip to Indianapolis last year, where thousands of participants watched the last two competitors battle it out center stage. The audience had reacted to every move the players made, tension rising as the crowd watched a projection of the game.

They’re all on the edge of their seats, watching the HP bar as the clock ticks down. The second the hand stops, the audience is jumping up and down, cheering on the current winner.

“People went crazy for that stuff,” Dean said. “It was like watching someone win the Super Bowl, but it was so much more than that.”

That’s why some fans will spend hours on end playing trading cards with competitors and traveling cross-country: Pokémon created a tight-knit community of competitive gamers that never really lost interest in the franchise.

According to a case study conducted at Stanford University in 2004, Pokémon was successful because of its flexibility, general design and storyline. This industry reflected values such as the need to collect, the desire for rewards, the temptation of exploration and the freedom to cater to children’s demands.

Despite the franchise’s goal to market solely to children, many first generation fans remain loyal to Pokémon for its social, competitive and entertainment value.

“It’s a game whose core mechanics are skill, strategy, and luck,” Dean said. “But Pokémon, as an experience, is being able to express what you like and your different strategies with other people. As a whole, it’s this shared experience with everyone who plays.”

The Pokémon legacy continues

The first time Dan Coleman encountered Pokémon trading cards, he had no clue how the game worked. He bought one single booster pack and hoped for the best, staring at those until he got bored. His collection grew, and his mother’s caution lessened over the years. 

His first game was Pokémon Sapphire. It’s Coleman’s favorite to this day.

While Pokémon was more enjoyable on a young child’s allowance, Coleman admits that it’s still fun as a junior in the Honors College: simple, carefree fun.

He remembers a time when his younger cousins assumed he knew nothing about Pokémon. They taunted him until he caved in.

“What about these Pokémon?” they demanded.

He proceeded to rattle off what levels the Pokémon evolve at, what moves they can earn, and how powerful those move are. The children were shocked.

For some, the initial novelty Pokémon fans felt those first few years wore off. Somehow, it seems like the new generation has got it covered.

“I think there’s a core that’s always there,” Coleman said. “Maybe, individually, people will go through phases and go in and out of [Pokémon]. If you look at it on a national level, there’s not really a change. It’s just a constant turning engine. “

Featured Image: Zane Dean, left, and Collin Palmore practice battling each other in their Pokemon games for the Nintendo 3DS. The League of Pokemon Trainers met last friday in Business Leadership Building 180. Photo by Rebecca Carr – Staff Photographer

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