I played Pokemon Red when it came out.  It was just another game on my gigantic first generation Game Boy. The thing was about as old as me.  When I first inherited it from my mom’s boyfriend, it was mostly duct tape.  It would be several years until I replaced it with an Onyx Game Boy Advance SP.

The entire time I owned that original GB, I only had a handful of titles:  Tetris (of course), Final Fantasy Legend, Final Fantasy Adventure, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, a Chess game, and maybe another two titles I can’t remember. I’d swap games with friends but I honestly didn’t follow handheld titles too closely.

I bought Pokemon because all my friends had.  I picked Red upon request.  To me Pokemon was a fun RPG with an interesting mechanic.  In other RPGs I enjoyed collecting gear, but gathering monsters?  That was different.  Fun.

The lack of a “real ending” caused me to lose interest and I’m still not over the fact that the adorable little critters are KO’d instead of killed.  In other words, the gotta catch ‘em all bug never bit me.

A large part of my resistance to the obsession was because of age.  I was quite simply too old by the time Pokemon rolled out.  My cousins and a couple younger friends?  Holy.  Shit.

Despite my indifference over the years, I’ve never formed the animosity other gamers have to the Pokemon phenomena.  To this day I still can’t knock the initial games.  They were fun, different RPGs to a kid that didn’t see many games worth buying on a handheld.

As I aged and Gold and Pearl and Rhodochrosite were released, I began to notice something.  Japan is fucking awesome at selling shit to our kids.  Add ninja weapons and pizza to something and six-year-olds will murder each other at the mall to get their hands on it.  Make them catch monsters in their pocket?  The Apocalypse is upon us.

This brings me to my confession.  That I played Pokemon and don’t hate it is not the confession.

I saw a kid in a Skylanders hat, matching T-Shirt and sneakers.  He was buying a Skylanders picture book.  It’s easy to draw the conclusion that Skylanders is Pokemon gone super-saiyan.  What happened inside me though was different from simple recognition.

I became relieved that my son isn’t old enough to be subverted by Japanese Marketing Genius.  This was followed by immediate panic.  Pokemon is still going strong.  A new crop of kids is conscripted every couple years.  Once indoctrinated, they become neckbeardian zombies that purchase every Pokemon title in triplicate.  Skylanders may not have that lasting effect but damn is it a money sink for parents in ways Pokemon never was.  You have to buy pokemans IRL to play with them in the video game.

What else will exist when my 7 month old reaches the formative gaming age of five years?  That precious age when I first played the games that sculpted me.  Games like Dragon Warrior, Zelda, Final Fantasy, and Crystallis.

I was proud when my son wiggled to the entertainment center and pulled a 16-bit controller down to drool on.  His mother may disagree but I’ll never make him feel bad for playing a video game.  I’ll be damned if my boy will become addicted to toxic marketing weeaboo games, though.