20 years later, Pokemon has taken the world by storm AGAIN
To say that Pokemon Go has been successful is the understatement of the year – the latest mobile game has already caused Nintendo shares to increase by a whopping 53%, and it’s not even out in the UK yet.
In 1996, we were exposed to the world of Pokemon and kids went mad for it. The concept was simple – go around and capture as many Pokemon as you can, train them up, battle with them and win yourself new Pokemon. At the time there were only 150 Pokemon, which provided enough variety to ensure that capturing 150 was challenging, but not too many to lose track of. These pocket monsters were creative and likeable too; you didn’t feel like you were capturing them for the sake of getting 150, but more because you wanted to capture and train your favourites.
Since, iterations of Pokemon games have been churned out annually. Since the original Pokemon Red and Blue games, Pokemon Yellow, Gold, Silver, Ruby, Sapphire, FireRed, LeafGreen, Emerald, Diamond, Pearl, Platinum, HeartGold, SoulSilver, Black, White, Black 2, White 2, X, Y, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire have been subsequently released, with Sun and Moon to be released later this year. Currently there are now 721 Pokemon in total.
After Red and Blue, the endless amount of Pokemon introduced to the franchise and its reluctance to evolve away from its GameBoy focused formula encouraged young children to engage with the franchise and immerse themselves in its ever-growing world. However, the kids who were hooked on Red and Blue evolved themselves into teenagers and subsequently left their pocket monsters behind. Even if they tried to keep up, the number of new Pokemon to keep up with was already a hassle in itself. As a result, Pokemon was left behind by the Red and Blue generation as a fond memory and an unforgettable craze that defined their childhood.
Now, Pokemon Go has gone back to its roots and has used nostalgia to target the Red and Blue generation. It’s an incredibly smart move by Pokemon. The Red and Blue generation are now in their twenties and are armed with a) smartphones and b) independence. These twenty-somethings use their phones religiously as a dependable source of entertainment and information. Additionally, these twenty-somethings are independent, which means they travel around going where they want, when they want and truly value the importance of travelling itself. Whatsmore, they all still have Pokemon nostalgia buried somewhere deep in their memory. They might not know it’s still there, but it is.
Just how iPhone brought together a phone, an iPod and the internet, Pokemon Go has brought together smartphones, lifestyle and nostalgia, and it’s one hell of a cocktail. Using augmented reality, users are now able to use their smartphones to capture Pokemon in the real world and are encouraged to explore the world to discover new Pokemon. This already appeals less to young children who may not have smartphones or the liberty to explore themselves without an adult. Next, Pokemon Go currently only features the original 150 Pokemon found in Red and Blue. Again, this appeals less to really young Pokemon fans who are familiar with the full range of 721 Pokemon and don’t understand the significance of the original 150. Conversely, the twenty-something Pokemon Red and Blue generation are reunited with the original 150 that they fell in love with as kids through the use of their indispensable smartphones, whilst travelling to work or travelling around the world.
Even expert Dr Jamie Madigan, author of the book Getting Gamers: The Psychology of Video Games and Their Impact on People Who Play Them, says that nostalgia is a potent element in gaming addiction.
“If nostalgia is in play, and it evokes this positive emotion . . . our brain can substitute the question, ‘Does this make me happy’ for ‘Is this a good game?’”
Dr Clay Routledge, professor of psychology at North Dakota State University says, “it wouldn’t surprise me at all if this Pokémon Go phenomenon was making people make new friends because they have these shared memories.”
Targeting nostalgia can be seen in other mediums too. The recent Ghostbusters film, Independence Day sequel and Finding Dory are all relying on nostalgia to reel in viewers. Blink-182’s latest re-emergence as well has blessed this year with nostalgic elements too. Clearly, the power of nostalgia is a force to be reckoned with. Pokemon Go developers Niantic had released a similar AR game, Ingress, which received significantly less success than Pokemon Go. Thereby, Pokemon Go, which capitalises on nostalgia as well as modern day technology and lifestyles, has struck gold.