For most of my life, I have not played Pokémon games, and I’ve been fine with that. Like a lot of people my age, I was swept up in Pokémania and loved Red/Blue and later, Gold/Silver, but after that, I just sort of moved on. Pokémon was my gateway to the wider world of Japanese role-playing games like Final Fantasy, and I kept branching out with very little desire to return. But for the first time in nearly 20 years, I’m thinking about going back to Pokémon, almost entirely because my friends won’t shut up about it.
It has been truly funny to see the number of group chats and DMs I’m in slowly give in to Pokémon talk as almost everyone I talk to regularly gets hyped for Pokémon Sword and Shield this weekend. This includes friends of mine who don’t really game much. If I had to guess why, I’d say it’s because the success of the Nintendo Switch has lured them back into video games, leaving them perfectly primed for Pokémon nostalgia.
While I liked Pokémon plenty as a kid, I’m not particularly wistful for a return, mostly because the monster-collecting video game itch is better scratched for me by games like Persona. I prefer the stronger focus on narrative and character those games bring, and don’t really see myself going back to the looser, cheery good-times vibe of Pokémon.
But still: it’s all my friends are talking about. Because of this, I am considering letting myself be peer pressured into buying this damn game. I like talking to these people, and I like watching them all gush over weird little monsters shaped like teapots or whatever.
I also think of Pokémon like sports. While I would love to keep up with them, I don’t really have the time to watch football three days a week. I can, however, dip in every once in a while, enjoy a game, and ask folks about how they feel this season, all while eating their snacks. Football is just the framework—dynamic and exciting from moment to moment but also largely built around a familiar structure that doesn’t really change. You can come and go as you please, be as invested as you have time for. It’s there for a community to form around.
So yeah: I don’t think I have it in me to make it to the end of a new Pokémon game, and I definitely am not interested in Catching Them All. But I do want to hang out with people I like, hear how delighted they are by their squad of fuzzy monsters, maybe trade or battle them or whatever you do in those games these days. The bunny looks cute. Maybe I’ll pick him.