On a Deeper Level VII: Pokemon as Time Capsule

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Image via polygon.com

By Michael Dellapi, Highlighter staff columnist

After playing an extensive amount of “Pokken Tournament” with my suitemate, I quickly became nostalgic over the Pokémon games that had shaped the majority of my childhood. Likewise, I decided to put down “Pokken Tournament” for the time being and looked towards my 3DS. (This occurred partially because my suitemate was beating me to a pulp in the fighting game itself, but that is irrelevant.) Before settling down to play a Pokémon game on my own, my suitemate pulled me aside to show me the Pokémon he has gathered over the last year or so in “Pokémon: Alpha Sapphire.” I was soon exposed to a wealth of Pokémon from a multitude of different generations. These Pokémon were given to him from friends and family, from being competitors in battle, or from attending certain events. It was as if I was being welcomed into a space back in time, with each character representing something much larger than what was being shown. This sensation was heightened by the actual names of the Pokémon. Here, I was offered a glimpse into every that held meaning not just in my suitemate’s life at the time, but what was generally culturally relevant at the time of naming. I found pop culture references, outdated internet memes, and YouTube personas all fully represented. In many ways, Pokémon truly acts as both game and time capsule.

When I refer to Pokémon as acting as time capsule, I am more accurately insinuating that Pokémon is essentially timeless in many ways. Compared to many other retro games that have current iterations, Pokémon arguably spans the generational gap the best. The Mario franchise is constantly seeing changes and reinventing the wheel in most cases, for better (or, at times, for worse). There is a fundamentally huge difference between playing a Mario game in the 80’s versus playing one that was released recently. Pokémon, conversely, has seen considerably minor changes in the mechanical structure of the game across its entire lifespan. This can admittedly be seen as a point of criticism for most, considering one could say that they have been playing the same game for decades now. However, any large-scale changes would drastically change the approachability of the game itself. Part of what makes Pokémon such an alluring phenomenon is that it is so stubbornly consistent. As a colleague of mine put it, “everything that’s added or taken between generations of Pokémon is done so very carefully.” Every generational change in Pokémon holds meaning in some way, enabling it to act as a sort of milestone of culture across generations.

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