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Next-Gen Gamers: Teaching Kids to Love Pokémon

Next-Gen Gamers is a feature where I explore the world of gaming through the eyes of my kids – literally the next generation of gamers, raised in a house that promotes playing together and sharing our time! It’ll look at games that appeal to kids more than adults, as well as those that are great for both, either through cooperative play or controller sharing.

I wrote recently about how, at the age of 30, I took the plunge and picked up a Pokémon game for the first time, jumping in to the current generation’s Pokémon X. This, in turn, led to my wife picking up a copy of Pokémon Y, since she hadn’t played the series since the second or third generation herself. From here, it didn’t take long for my six year old son to gather some interest in what we were doing, peeking over shoulders and asking questions about the games and their monstrous denizens. The timing of Netflix in picking up a whole slew of the Pokémon animated series worked out really well here, and we started putting that on for the kids to keep them entertained, but it wasn’t enough for the little gamer — and so, after some rooting around in forgotten boxes, my wife gave over her old, battered-but-functional Game Boy Color and a freshly-deleted copy of Pokémon Yellow Version.


The most fascinating part of watching the kid adapt to what is, from his perspective, ancient technology is that he really didn’t miss a beat. He didn’t stop to ask about the dated graphics, wasn’t put off by the unlit screen or the chippy music. I honestly didn’t think he’d have the wherewithal to hop into an older handheld like that, but it didn’t faze him a bit. He’s put in several hours, mostly spent just roaming around to battle wild Pokémon and the like, but he’s never been put off anything except for some lack of direction. He’s not overly concerned with completing anything, really; more with finding, battling, and catching as many of the little creatures as he can, though that’s not many yet as he still hasn’t defeated the first Gym Leader to open up more exploring grounds.

My son named his Pikachu 'Pik'. In fact, almost all of his Pokémon are named the first three letters of their  official "type name".

My son named his Pikachu ‘Pik’. In fact, almost all of his Pokémon are named the first three letters of their official “type name”.

Between the Pokémon games my wife and I picked up, the series’ presence on Netflix, and the beat up old Game Boy, we’ve had a lot of what the kid has taken to calling ‘Pokémon Parties’ — this, naturally, is a time when we all sit together on the couch, put on some episodes of the show, and play our respective games. I’ve moved on to Pokémon White since this all started, but that hasn’t changed an awful lot about how we go about our family time. While we’re piled up like this playing together, we share a lot about what we’re doing: what interesting things we’ve seen or captured, what we’re fighting against, what we’re trying to accomplish. It’s become a great bonding time where we can all come together and play, even if we’re all on different devices and games. It’s a nice thematic cohesion that keeps us all entertained separately, thus avoiding some of the frustrations that can come with sharing game-time with a younger, less-experienced gamer, but still allows us to do something as a group together.

Our Pokémon parties may differ slightly from other applications of the term, but they're still pretty great.

Our Pokémon parties may differ slightly from other applications of the term, but they’re still pretty great.

Perhaps the greatest part of family Pokémon time, though, is watching it all seep over into other areas. I’ve seen the kid playing with toys that he hasn’t played with in a while, holding elaborate battles and muttering to himself about experience awarded after the dust settles. He’s dead set on a Pokémon theme for his birthday this year, and has asked for Pokémon X as his only stated gift wish (though he hasn’t come up with a reason to prefer that over Y just yet). Even the younger one has caught some of the fever, even though he doesn’t seem to enjoy it as much; he recently threw a ball at my face while yelling, “Pikachu, go!” I may have taken longer than most to get in on the adorable little monster craze, but the impact it’s had on our family and our ability to connect together over a common interest is really great, and I’m glad I did.

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