Posted By: wraggster
When Pokémon arrived in the west it was already a franchise, an attractively wrapped, Pikachu-adorned package of games, TV shows, toys, films and lunchboxes. It can be tempting to overlook that Pokémon Red and Blue were indie underdogs once, made by a tiny, almost-bankrupt team for a technologically limited handheld seemingly at the end of its lifecycle. And like many of Nintendo’s more recent handheld blockbusters, the games’ astronomical success at retail wasn’t instant, but the result of slowburning but continuous sales over the course of years. Pioneering community interaction in an age prior to the mass popularisation of the internet, they were truly mainstream videogames, embodying the inclusive ethos that has since made their publisher very rich indeed. But Pokémon’s popularity is mystifying from the outside. How did a quirky, number-heavy, labourintensive strategy game make its name as something for the kids?To find what it is about Pokémon that’s so captivating, look at what its many imitators do wrong. They bombard the player with hundreds of collectible critters, for a start, but it wasn’t mere quantity of content that drove Pokédex obsessives. They engineer cutesy, bright character design, but that wasn’t part of Red and Blue’s appeal – there was literally no room for bright colours and zingy effects on a three-and-a-bitcentimetre Game Boy screen. They encourage you to fight and trade with your friends, but often pare the combat down to a basic slapping contest and reduce creatures’ individuality to little more than a name. Its rivals have always failed to understand that, ultimately, it’s the complexity that makes Pokémon so consuming, and that the basic presentation actually contributes to its appeal. The complete absence of pretty audiovisual stimulation leaves room for the imagination – of child or adult – to work its magic.