“Catch them all!” I remember the first time I heard this famous slogan. It was in 1999, a few years after the first Pokemon games were released in Japan. I was six years old and I had my usual breakfast: Eggo waffles. It was Saturday morning, so I was also watching cartoons. Suddenly this new cartoon that I had never seen before started playing. The narrator was describing a world very different from ours, a world filled with those animal creatures known as Pokémon, which could be captured and trained in battle! The minute the theme song started, and I heard “I have to catch them all” at the end, I was hooked.

This cute little guy is called Pikachu! It is by far the most popular Pokémon.

Over the following months, I witnessed the growing popularity of Pokemon firsthand. All the kids in school had Pokémon cards, and if they were really lucky, their parents would also buy them a GameBoy so they could become their own Pokémon master, like Ash Ketchum, the main character in the cartoon. After months of watching other people play the games, fight and create their own Pokémon teams, I couldn’t take it anymore; I had to get a GameBoy.

Lucky for me, my birthday was just around the corner. When my mom asked me what I wanted, of course I answered with “a GameBoy Color with Pokemon!” Sure enough, on my birthday morning, I opened a brand new GameBoy Color and my very first Pokemon game: Pokemon Gold.

No other game had previously caught my interest as much as Pokemon. It perfectly mimics the feeling of going on an adventure by giving you control of a character with no name and no personality with one goal: to catch all the Pokémon you can. It allowed me to really immerse myself in the game. Every day I encountered new and different Pokémon to catch, and the feeling of finally gaining a gym badge after a long battle with another trainer was second to none. It felt like I was going to have my own Pokémon adventure from the TV show, and I loved it.

Fast forward 16 years to 2016 on the 20e anniversary of the first game’s release and I still have the same feeling every time I start a new Pokemon game, that feeling of adventure and discovery. Apparently I’m not the only one, as the franchise has managed to sell over 200 million copies worldwide, and that only counts video games! In total, the Pokemon franchise has grossed over $ 37.76 billion and is the second most successful video game franchise, just behind Nintendo’s. Mario, which is truly an achievement. Pokemon even managed to land a coveted Super Bowl commercial for the first time this year.

So what kept people interested in this series for so long? With that question in mind, I interviewed a few Pokémon enthusiasts.

So what first brought you to Pokémon?

Charessa Sistek showing off her poke-a-ball at a local convention.
Charessa Sistek showing off her poke-a-ball at a local convention.

Michael sistek: “I got into Pokemon because my parents bought me a GameBoy Pocket with Pokemon Yellow. I never even knew what it was before that, but it captured me instantly.

Charessa Sistek: “Michael is what brought me to Pokémon, actually. I would sit and watch him play for hours.

Deric Phan: “The cartoon, of course.”

What made you a Pokémon fan for so long?

Michael: “I really like the gameplay and the design of the Pokémon, so I keep playing the games and probably always will.”

Charessa: “It’s such an integral part of my life that I couldn’t imagine life without it. It’s like an old friend who has stayed with me over the years.

Deric: “A mixture of nostalgia and probably hype for the new games. It’s always fun trying to figure out which new Pokémon is going to be introduced!

Is there anything about the show in particular that you really like?

Deric Phan with a few of his Pokémon Pikachu and Jiggly Puff friends.
Deric Phan with a few of his Pokémon Pikachu and Jiggly Puff friends.

Michael: “The aesthetic of raising a team of Pokémon that is unique to me. Also, restoring my “completely” habits with more and more Pokémon and items to obtain. “

Charessa: “The Pokémon designs, especially the original 151. They’re creative and cute, and I love cute things!” Plus, some are so cool it looks like a status symbol when you have them.

Deric: “The games have a main character with no real personality, so it’s easy to fulfill the Pokémon fantasy he’s trying to sell.”

It’s clear that Pokemon has become a huge part of people’s lives over its 20-year lifespan, and for good reason. Pokemon makes players feel like kids again and encourages people to connect with each other by trading and fighting. Each new game feels like a whole new adventure, as the developers are constantly incorporating new Pokémon to catch into each game. One thing’s for sure, as long as there are Pokémon, I’ll always want to catch them all!

Even though Pikachu is the audience's favorite, Charmander has always been my favorite.
Even though Pikachu is the audience’s favorite, Charmander has always been my favorite.