For me, Pokemon has always been a game that conjures up intense feelings of nostalgia. I invested so much time and love into that video game when I was young, and I still retain all that knowledge to this day. I can look back and see that it was of no ultimate consequence. All video games are merely 1’s and 0’s being read and yet, it was important to me. It’s funny how those trivial things shape us most. I’ve often pondered how much more hopeless the world seems and how cynical I’ve become as I’ve grown older. It’s only now, after the passage of time and the expansion of my intellectual scope that I can grasp how truly inconsequential that game was. But it is also precisely because of that same intellectual scope that I can also see how indicative that game was of who I am.
Pokemon is a magical land inhabited by humans and creatures. These creatures are called Pokemon. In this land, the people catch the Pokemon and use them to battle one another. These Pokemon come in a variety of different breeds with different “types” with their own sets of strengths and weaknesses. As you battled other people, your Pokemon would level up and evolve into their next form. The goal was to become the Pokemon Master. The premise itself is simple enough, but the brilliance of it is the endless possibilities that it creates. As of right now, there are 693 Pokemon. Each one is unique. And since the game itself is so open ended, you could literally play for years and never “beat” the game.
Reflecting back on my obsession with Pokemon, I can observe some things about myself. I see a young man who was obsessed with cramming his head with knowledge. To this day, I absolutely retain that trait. In fact, it defines me in a lot of ways. That never-ending search to learn more, to be equipped with knowledge, is a road that I travel further on daily. There will always be more facts to memorize and I need to know them. But, it’s not just the facts themselves that are important.
The facts become truly important in their relation to one another. When the pieces of knowledge whir and click like a machine, when that knowledge equips me to react in the moment and make a strategic judgment, there is nothing like that thrill. All these ideas become valuable as they become like tools in my toolbox. They are components of a moving machine that I thoroughly understand and can manipulate. Let me offer you a very simple example. Let’s say I’m a fire type Pokemon. Fire types are weak to water types. Now, how will I choose to counter a water type when I encounter it? I have a number of options. Perhaps my fire type is pretty bulky and can take a hit. Well, I will invest training into their defense or special defense to build up their resistance to the opponent’s moves. Or, I could go a different route and perhaps learn a move that will counter a water type. I could also simply have an electric Pokemon (water is weak to electric) in my team that I can switch in to deal with the water Pokemon. Either way, I need to know the strengths and weaknesses of each Pokemon and how they interact with other Pokemon.
This is how I view ideas, and particularly struggling through concepts. When I face new ideas, I take them apart, understand the perspective, analyze their strengths and weaknesses, then I put it back together and see how the engine runs. I test it by throwing things at it or replacing parts. To change the analogy, the idea is like a bridge and I start running trains across it to see where it will break. Pokemon taught me this. I download a mass of information into my head, and this information then becomes a massive toolbox with which to construct a machine, in Pokemon, that’s a battle strategy, but in life, that leads to a comprehensive understanding of a concept.As a child, Pokemon simply brought me joy. It stimulated my mind and gave me drive to achieve things, even if they were only digital. The point is, those digital achievements taught me how to think and thereby achieve physical goals. It’s funny to say, but I stand before you today as a product of a video game I played as a child. A video game that fed my passion for learning, and that gave me an outlet for my endless thirst for complexity.
by: Matthew Stanley