Change your mind, and you change your world.
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Poking Mongo by Tobias 8 months ago
Have you heard of Pokemon GO? I doubt it; it's quite obscure. By sheer chance, though, I've managed to stumble upon it, and - in a continuing effort to distract myself from the darker things in my life at the moment - I've been poking ∞ Mongo ∞ a bit recently, and would like to ramble a bit about it.

But before I do, I'd just like to say that I haven't heard back from the hospital about my brain tumour yet, which is annoying. They were supposed to be doing a biopsy of the cells they extracted from it during the surgery, and I don't know whether that involves just looking at them under a microscope, or cultivating them in a petri dish to watch how (and if) they grow. If it's the latter and I've yet to hear back, I suppose that's a good sign, as it means they're not growing with alarming Rapidash. I mean rapidity. I'm avoiding actually looking up what a biopsy is because this thought eases my anxiety in a way that the truth might not.

Anyway. Pokemon GO. I'm not going to be typing the accents on the letter e, because it's a chore. Bothers me though. But not as much as the number of people using the incorrect plural 'Pokemons'. Shudder. Bothers me as much as 'legos'. But I'm too much of a pedant.

Pokemon has been a big part of almost my whole conscious life. I discovered it when young, when it was new and first a fad, and it consumed me like nothing else ever had (other than perhaps Digimon, for similar reasons). There was just something about capturing and training your own little creatures that appealed to my younger self far more than the 'boring' humans in most other games, with their (marginally) more complicated social interactions that lacked the sugary simplicity of something like this.

I somewhat vividly remember starting my Red version up in the car as soon as we'd left the shop, getting a Charmander and calling it Chargrill for some reason that made perfect sense to child-me (a trend I've sentimentally continued with most Charmanders I've had to this day). I was so poor at the game though! I had little idea what I was doing, and while I think I caught at least a few other Pokemon, I didn't use any of them; I won every battle with Chargrill, generally by using Scratch over and over again. I suppose back in those days, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, I didn't have access to the internet or any kind of community, and things like type effectiveness were poorly explained in the game; moves had scant descriptions too so you couldn't really see what any of them did. I ended up with a level 100 Charizard that knew Scratch, Slash, Ember and Fire Spin or something stupid like that. It's sort of embarrassing to look back on... but I think I still have that cartridge somewhere.

I got much better over time, of course. I got a second Red version so then I could replay it without losing my old save data, and I must have restarted that (trading my final party to the original Red version at the end each time) dozens of times. I probably had every Generation I Pokemon on my party at least once, and did novelty playthroughs - like using only a single Rattata, which I never evolved - before I knew that other people did such things. (These days I know all the ins and outs of the gameplay mechanics and have built games of my own around them or variations of them. I'd still be terrible competitively though, I imagine.)

I only ever played with my younger brother, though when Pokemon cards became big, I remember those becoming more of a thing amongst my few all-male oddball friends and I. I got a shiny Charizard card in a booster pack!! I was so madly excited about that. It's gone now, though; lost - like so many of my childhood things - when I left my father to live with my mother and step-dad when they moved to Australia (I made the decision during a summer I stayed with them, and we never returned to collect any stuff or to say goodbye to him).

I also have fond memories of a holiday to the USA, where my brother and I got Pokemon Gold and Silver before it was out in the UK. Though this was more recent than the Generation I era, most of the memories of that remain as bare feelings, their details having eroded with time.

It's oddly difficult to place the whole Pokemon thing on my personal timeline. It's supposedly at least 20 years old as a franchise, but I remember the cards especially being a big fad when I was in secondary school in the UK, before I left for Australia; I was in years 7 and 8 there, so I must have been around 11 or 12 or something? But that was only about 16-17 years ago, so hmm. I don't remember it being a Thing when I was younger than that, in primary school... but I discovered Digimon then? It's interesting, looking back on a not-even-long life and struggling to place these things. It'd be nice to have perfect recall.

I got every new version as it came out since then - looking forward to it more than any other game, even though they're always the exact same formula - so I've followed it, grown up with it. Many memories of playing it with my ex, not all of them pleasant, sadly (due to my own stupid envy)... I never used to give nicknames to any Pokemon unless I intended to train them, in which case I gave them names I thought were interesting in a serious way. She gave silly names to everything she ever caught, though, and I picked up the habit; a great way to engage the imagination and to play with words, that! I named many of my Pokemon deliberately foul names, though, amused by absurdity as I was; in HeartGold, my party consists of a Houndoom called "SEXRAPE" (har, har, roll eyes), a Scyther called "ARSEPOKER", an Octillery called "ORGASMO", and - more boringly - an Ampharos called "SHONKERS" and a Girafarig called "PALUMPOLUM".

(Checking the PC, I see in the first box - neatly devoted to Grass types - contains a Skiploom called "FISTRAMMER", a Jumpluff called "PUBICSTINK", a Bulbasaur called "WEEDGROIN"... In another box, an Arcanine called "FACEMUNCHY". A Voltorb called "OBESE MAN". A Magneton called "THREESOME!". A Koffing called "GROGBOLLOK". I could go on. Would I do that these days? A not-at-all-quick perusal of some of the boxes in my X and Omega Ruby versions reveals that yes, probably. Though even those recent games feel like they're from a lifetime ago.)

...Opening those old games up brought forth a flood of feelings and memories, especially related to the Pokemon I'd chosen for my team and spent a lot of time with. My favourite Pokemon team ever was on the Gold version I started in the USA, where I had a Houndoom, Ampharos, Octillery, Girafarig, Tyranitar, and Articuno (my HeartGold team was largely an attempt to give those old memories new life). The last two bother me since one's a legendary and the other's a pseudolegendary; these days I prefer to avoid those since I suppose I feel the appeal to base desires ("RARE AND POWERFUL!!") seems too much like low-hanging fruit, lacking in originality. I remember the only time I battled against a random person in school, in year 7 or 8, with my Gold team (so Gold and Silver must have been out before I left for Australia? Confusing), and he laughed at my Girafarig because it seemed like the sort of pathetic, weak, unremarkable thing that most people would ignore in favour of a team full of SHINY LEGENDARIES!! or something. And then I won. I'm not the sort of person who delights in beating others, but I do remember feeling proud of that because of what I'd won with.

Girafarig's been my favourite Pokemon since then, and one was there with me in Omega Ruby during my 'spiritual awakening' at the start of last year... Moments after that transcendent, life-changing experience, I returned to playing that particular Pokemon game, playing one of its minigame things (that I can't remember the name of) with that Girafarig while brimming with bliss... Girafarig is indelibly linked to my happiness, it seems!

But Pokemon's also linked to pain. I remember on a previous website - one I'd made to hide and lick my wounds, though with more community features than this - I made the mistake of saying that I longed for a partner who'd be passionate about Pokemon, as I was, because it'd been such a big part of my life that someone who knew nothing about it would be as if from another world (one of the reasons I like the whole Pokemon GO thing is because the number of people who understand this world has increased immensely now). Sadly, though, someone cruel who wanted to hurt me made a fake account with an Eevee as an avatar, professing on her profile her love of these games, as well as various other personality traits I'd said I like. She sent me messages in order to gain my trust to the point where I'd give her permission to read my personal posts... which I - foolish and desperate and too naively trusting as I was - eventually did. After which... sigh. It's not worth thinking back on. I spent a week lying on my bed thinking about suicide, though, doing nothing; the world felt inescapably cruel, and I felt unable to endure those who made it into Hell.

That wasn't even all that long ago... though thankfully it feels like forever. I've distanced myself from it now.

Anyway, going back to the early days with Pokemon, my childhood, Generation I... I remember roaming around the area surrounding my home with my brother and/or friends, fantasising about encountering real Pokemon in the wild. There was a power station nearby, and I clearly remember imagining mustering up the courage to go down the long road that led to it to catch Grimers and Magnemites. "If only!", I thought.

(Also, earlier I complained about the incorrect plural 'Pokemons', but apparently, since Japanese as a language makes no distinction between singular and plural in word forms, and Pokemon is Japanese, the plural of every Pokemon species name is the same as its singular. "10 Pikachu" and so on. I'm uncertain whether I want to follow that rule because 'it's correct' or whether I should add the 's' for the sake of clarity. Also, this isn't worth the thought or words I'm devoting to it!)

So Pokemon GO is essentially a dream come true, at least as much as our current technology will allow it. Of course I was going to embrace it.

I'm amazed though at how everyone else has as well. Why? From what little I know, it's based on a game called Ingress, which seems to have had essentially the same gameplay? But that wasn't popular. At least not like this. I can easily imagine the nostalgia for and continuing interest in Pokemon building hype for this mobile app, but I would have expected it to be limited to the same niche of nerdy types who buy each new generation when it comes out.

My friend mentioned passing by an elderly couple playing it on their ancient, tiny phones in the first couple of weeks after the release, before it was even officially released in the UK. I myself see all kinds of people of all ages wandering around with their phones out, probably playing it (often in couples, to my envy, though often the woman looks frustrated and ignored).

I find it odd. I don't dislike it at all, and I feel it's doing a lot of good by getting people to get out and explore more, but... Well, I suppose it just appeals to the basic hunter/gatherer in us all. Perhaps. I don't know.

I imagine most people already have a good idea of the whys of the social phenomena aspect, have read loads about it, have followed all the news and hype and such that surely comes to them via social media. I feel like I'm missing out a lot due to my fears of integration with the real world... My friend's mentioned a bunch of hilarious images and videos about it that she saw but I never did or do because I avoid all that. I feel like an alien, yet I can't seem to escape my fears...

I feel equally alienated when I wander around alone while playing it, aware that I'm an odd-looking single man who's cut off from the people I weave between and around...

I feel a strong sense of competition or comparison from it, though, as I imagine many people do. Perhaps it's best then that I don't see more people's progress? I mostly compare myself to my friend, who's able to go out and play it with her boyfriend for long periods of time, in a town where Pokemon and PokeStops are abundant, while I have to wander alone in this place where there are only like two PokeStops, a 20 minute walk between each one. And of course I was hospital-bound during the midst of the fad, and fell behind because of that.

I've been well enough to go walking for the past handful of days, so I've been doing that, desperate to 'catch up' to some imagined goal (I don't want to ask my friend about her stats because I'll only feel bad). I feel better while out walking than I do sitting in front of this computer, which is interesting; I would have thought the exertion would have exhausted me more than it does. My vision does feel a bit odd at times, or I feel that there's something slightly off with my perceptions or sense of self... but it passes, and it's only faint when it's there.

Yesterday, I walked for an hour to a 'nearby' town, which is much more populated than the little suburb where I live. It was teeming with PokeStops! And people. And Pokemon more interesting than the Weedles, Pidgeys and Rattatas that I exclusively but infrequently find closer to home. One of them made me really quite giddy:

I'm amazed such a thing would even appear at my level, and that I caught it, in only like three Great Balls! (I've encountered many a Pidgey or Zubat with ~200CP that escape more often than this did.) Its CP is more than twice my next highest, so the whole thing is baffling. But exciting! Feels like it makes up for my lagging and deficits in every other area!

Of course, this excitement is partly based on my ignorance. If I kept up with social media, maybe I'd see that this is nothing special. But I'll cling to what morsel of fun I can find in my otherwise empty life.

Though I'm sad to have missed much of the fad, I'm glad of this as a distraction, as motivation to get outside (which helps me recover faster, I'm sure), and as a pleasant reminder of nicer times in my life (internally, if not externally). It still seems odd to me that it's as popular as it is... But I have no objections to it!

I wonder what it's like for younger people though; children experiencing Pokemon for the first time. As I said, I grew up with Pokemon; I watched it develop, and developed alongside it. I remember Generation I when it was new. So those whose first Pokemon game was one of the later ones must have a very different experience of it all compared to me.

But I suppose it's like my relationship with Final Fantasy... I played VII first, and only found the earlier ones through a kind of online archaeology, regarding them as curious relics from which what I knew had developed. Then, as my familiarity with them grew, they developed their own place in my heart too, and I felt I knew the whole series intimately even if I hadn't been there from the start. Perhaps Pokemon fans whose first game was something like Diamond - or even Pokemon GO - feel the same?

And yet as I've witnessed each Generation of Pokemon species appear with each successive generation, they feel so different to me... Pokemon GO has only Generation I Pokemon, and a big part of me resents that since I'm so tired of them. They've been there for years, and their designs are so bland compared to the later ones. Yet there are other people who feel more strongly attached to them because they were what they first met when they were less jaded... It seems like posturing though when people who started with a later Generation still claim the Generation I designs are superior; like 15-year-olds who boast about how the only 'real music' comes from the 80's, or something. I don't know.

Anyway, I feel that this incredibly long self-indulgent ramble has no real value or anything, but I enjoyed writing it, and it helps me feel a bit better, and that was the point of this blog, so... yes! I'm just happy to have a distraction from everything.