Pokémon Powerhouse

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Image courtesy Pokémon Videogame Championships

Have you ever collected lightning bugs on warm summer nights or collected stamps, rocks, even dirt from places you’ve been? If you don’t know the wonders of collecting, think twice about not only the kind of joy it brings to people but how that very concept helped launch the biggest game franchise in history.

There are many things people can collect in this world but, in the virtual Pokémon World created by Japanese video game designer Satoshi Tajiri, you can compete to collect all 801 Pokémon or at the very least, become the best Pokémon Trainer/Gym Leader of them all. Though 801 is a daunting number, Pokémon did not start with that many. It didn’t even start with the name Pokémon.

When Satoshi Tajiri was a high school student, he was a prime gamer. He didn’t achieve high honors in his classes but his fanzine Gamefreak, first published in 1981, became a top seller in the dōjinshi (doh-o-jeen-shee (1))-self-published magazines- shop of his hometown Machida. His fanzine, handwritten and edited by him, gave other gamers tips and tricks on how to collect highest points in popular video arcade games he played, like game creator Tomohiro Nishikado’s 1978 game Space Invaders and Japanese developer Namco’s 1982 game Dig Dug, who’s namesake was the cover of Tajiri first fanzine (2). 

Ken Sugimori, a fan of the zine, contacted Tajiri about collaborating and so, he became the illustrator of Gamefreak.  In 1986, Tajiri and Sugimori, decided to use their gaming skills to create a video game of their own. Thus, Gamefreak turned from fanzine to video game developing company (3).

The word Pokémon is the hybridization of the English words pocket monster spelled in katana -the Japanese alphabet used to spell foreign words. Poketto monsutā was then shortened to Pokémon (4). Tajiri got the idea for Pokémon from his childhood adventures of collecting bugs. He believed others could experience his joy of exploring and collecting. He worked on the main programming while Sugimori illustrated all 150 Pokémon. They pitched their game idea to game publisher Nintendo and were granted money to start creating the game for Nintendo Gameboy. After many delays due to programming bugs, Gamefreak, in collaboration with the art studio Creatures, finished the first generation of Pokémon within six long years.

Pokémon Red and Pokémon Green were published in 1996 for the Gameboy system. A last-minute Pokémon was added to the game which turned the total of created Pokémon to 151-  but it was never meant to be released and it was never mentioned to the public when Nintendo published the first generation games.  However, some sold games contained a programming bug that ended up releasing the added Pokémon named Mewtwo (5). This unintentional move is was turned the Pokémon franchise into a cultural phenomenon. It created a myth about mysterious Pokémon and sparked a continual interest in playing every game in order to catch the rarePokémon (6). Every generation after Pokémon Red and Pokémon Green now includes one unique Pokémon only obtainable by trading with other Pokémon players who are playing the opposite “color” of their game. 

Each Pokémon game with the same Pokémon (apart from the different rare Pokémon) are one generation. Any game with new Pokémon creations becomes the start of a new generation. The Pokémon franchise is now in its seventh generation with its 2016 release of Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon for Nintendo 3DS handheld system (7). However, the generations are not the only things creating the franchise $1.5 billion annual earnings (8). It also consists of the Pokémon spin-off games, like Pokémon Pin-Ball (Gameboy Color) and Pokémon Snap (Nintendo 64), and the animated show Pokémon (released in 1997 and still airing new generation episodes today (9)). The animated show follows 10-year-old Ash Ketchum from Pallet Town, in his pursuit of becoming an elite Pokémon Trainer. Due to the popularity of Ash and his electric mouse Pokémon Pikachu, the special edition game Pokémon Yellow (Gameboy Color) was created.

Pikachu is to the Pokémon franchise what Mickey Mouse is to Disney (10). Not only is Pikachu an adorable rare Pokémon but his personality on the show also makes him unique. He is a stubborn and loyal friend of Ash. He and Ash have a unique relationship where even the show’s supporting characters point out its weirdness: Pikachu does not live in his poké ball, the item used by Pokémon trainers to catch and store their Pokémon. He instead walks freely next to Ash and Ash respects his decision to do so.

In the famous episode, Electric Shock Showdown (11), Ash and his friends, Brock and Misty, travel to Vermillion City to battle against Gym Leader Serge for a Thunder badge. Pikachu is beaten by Raichu, the evolved version of a Pikachu. While in the Pokémon hospital recovering, Pokémon nurse Joy gives Ash a gem that helps Pokémon evolve. However, Ash chooses to leave the decision of evolving to Pikachu, which is a rare move. It is common and often sought by Pokémon trainers who want to be top Pokémon Gym Leaders, to evolve their young Pokémon into a stronger stage of its life. By Ash letting Pikachu decide, it solidified him as not only a caring Pokémon trainer but a true friend to his Pokémon. Pikachu, by choosing not to evolve, became the icon of the strength one has even if you are at a young stage in life (in the episode, Gym Leader Serge continuously calls Ash and Pikachu “baby”).

Months before the release of the 2016 Sun and Moon generation, the Pokémon franchise went to a different level of playing by adapting itself to the world of ARG (alternate reality game). In collaboration with Niantic- an American software development company- they created the downloadable phone application, Pokémon Go. By using the real world as its playing field, players can now search and compete with Pokémon in their own backyards. The current daily active players of Pokémon Go globally is 5 million people (12). 

With the Nintendo’s newly release system, Nintendo Switch, there is much anticipation on what is to come from the Pokémon World franchise.

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

  1. AnimeNewsNetwork. http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/lexicon.php?id=16
  2. 2004 interview with Satoshi Tajiri, part 1: the beginning of Game Freak. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vBULijYK6wI
  3. Pokémon: The Story of Satoshi Tajiri. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h1tOsta5z5Q&t=3s
  4. Steinmetz, Katy. July 19, 2016. The Surprising History Behind the Word Pokémon. http://time.com/4411912/pokemon-go-word-origin/
  5. Cartoonami. February 29, 2016. An Oral History of Pokémon. http://www.ign.com/blogs/cartoonami/2016/02/29/an-oral-history-of-pokemon
  6. Cartoonami. January 12, 2016. Fixing the 20 Years of Pokemon Timeline. http://www.ign.com/blogs/cartoonami/2016/01/12/fixing-the-20-years-of-pokemon-timeline
  7. http://www.serebii.net/pokemongo/
  8. Lamoreux, Ben. July 13, 2014. The Pokémon Company Generates $1.5 Billion Annually. http://www.gamnesia.com/news/the-pokemon-company-generates-1.5-billion-annually
  9. Thomas, Lucas M. February 10, 2011. The Pokemon TV Retrospective: After 14 years, Ash Ketchum’s cartoon quest is still going strong. http://www.ign.com/articles/2011/02/11/the-pokemon-tv-retrospective
  10. Minotti, Mike. February 29, 2016. How Pikachu went from rare rodent to media icon. https://venturebeat.com/2016/02/29/how-pikachu-went-from-rare-rodent-to-media-icon/
  11. Pokémon Tv.Pokémon Episode – 14 “Electric Shock Showdown” (2/2). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qKSsxrMUhmE
  12. Smith, Craig. April 19, 2017. 80 Incredible Pokemon Go Statistics and Facts (April 2017). http://expandedramblings.com/index.php/pokemon-go-statistics/
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The Mysterious Package Company

The MPC, operated by a purposefully unknown group since 2012, delivers well thought out, authenticated stories to or on behalf of its members. Membership to the MPC is needed but it is 100% free and anyone can apply though, membership is not guaranteed; It is up to the discretion of the MPC. If you become accepted, the MPC sends you an anonymous email detailing the next steps you need to take in order to receive or send out a story package. Per Darwin Law on the blog ,The Nerdery Public, there are three levels of packages that range in prices:

•The Bespoke Experience.  It started at $799.00 and involved conversations with The Curator to ensure that your experience was completely unique.  [A] line…in the description was, “As much or as little control as you wish…”

•The next level was three different stories involving various mailings over several months.  All of the stories were about $179.00.

•The last level was their quarterly mailer, “Curios & Conundrums”.  They had the catch up for the previous installments plus a sign up for the next chapter.  Both together, before shipping and handling, $50.00.

On June 8th, 2015, liaison Jason Kapalka, “co-founder of PopCap Games (Bejeweled, Peggle, Plants vs Zombies), [who] got involved with the MPC several years ago, eventually becoming an investor and advisor” (J. Kapalka), started a Canadian Kickstarter campaign to raise 20 thousand Canadian dollars (about $15,369.25 US dollars) for the multi-chapter project, The Beast, “described as Cthulhu meets Viking lore” (Chelsea Stark).

The company reached their goal within 9 hours. On the last day of the campaign (July 8th) 1,291 backers pledged $422,390 (about $339,960.06 US dollars), “making this the second most successful Canadian Art Kickstarter, and the fourteenth most successful in Canada overall” (The Curator).

Per the MPC website, mysteriouspackage.com, the following steps are followed by the company:

Step 1: The Pledge

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Our stories begin with The Pledge, often an unexpected letter, and often regarding a relative or other previously unknown person. This is the start of the adventure, a puzzling moment of intrigue that draws the recipient into the scheme.

We pay careful attention to all aspects of what we send: the date of the stamps, the style of the postmark, the age of the paper… how everything feels in the hand is as important as what is written on the page.

Step 2: The Turn

more2-21029eb4c8536ad392b18812658385dc.pngThe narrative continues over weeks or months, supplying additional information to bring the story into focus. This is The Turn: photographs, old newspaper clippings, diary pages, patient records, and in some cases, coded messages. These all work to compel the recipient to research what is happening to them, and hook them into the storyline.

We take a great deal of care to base the locations, people, and events of our stories in reality as much as possible, so when you search for the sanatorium, or experiments done at a particular Gulag, or the bankruptcy of a particular publisher online, a wealth of additional information appears, filling in blanks and making everything feel more authentic.

Step 3: The Prestige

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The climax of our experiences arrive in one of our handmade wooden crates. They are painted and aged to fit in with the narrative, and then nailed shut.

Step 4: The Rouge 

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All adventures must eventually come to an end, and our experiences are no different. We cap the story with a suitably mysterious black envelope, containing an elegantly sealed message on parchment.

The note reveals who was behind this wonderful gift, as well as offering immediate membership to the recipient. It furnishes a moment for reflection on the experience as a whole, and provides some necessary closure.

The Mysterious Package company brings to mind an excerpt from Reality Is Broken by Jane McGonigal:

Gamers want to know: Where, in the real world, is that gamer sense of being

fully alive, focused, and engaged in every moment? Where is the gamer feeling

of power, heroic purpose, and community? Where are the bursts of exhilarating

and creative game accomplishment? Where is the heart-expanding thrill

of success and team victory? While gamers may experience these pleasures

occasionally in their real lives, they experience them almost constantly when

they’re playing their favorite games.

The real world just doesn’t offer up as easily the carefully designed pleasures,

the thrilling challenges, and the powerful social bonding afforded by

virtual environments.

The MPC gives you a virtual reality that fits in your real-world mailbox. The mystery behind the pieces of mail and items sent by the MPC stimulates the brain to try to figure out what the story means. That usually means the receiver of the package will most likely start researching the truth behind the items. Seeing the connections between the research and the the items in your hands stimulates the brain to want more pieces of the mystery puzzle which increases the probability of them diving into the MPC preconceived world.

In Raph Koster’s Theory of Fun, he explained how “the human brain is mostly a voracious consumer of patterns…Games are just exceptionally tasty patterns to eat up” (pg. 14).  The pieces sent by the MPC are part of a larger puzzle. Finding the answer to the puzzle is the game being fed to your brain. The MPC’s precise detailing creates a pattern of authenticity that blurs the magic circle.

Just like the assassination game Killer, as described in Pervasive Games, the MPC “breaks the boundaries of games by using environments, people, and information from the everyday world. [It] takes the fun of the game and brings it to the everyday like… it takes the tangibility and realness of everyday life into the game” (Montola, Stenros, and Waern pg. 5) The MPC is also a collaborative game rather than a competition (pg. 38). The wide arrange of items sent to you will push you to interact with others who may know more about a certain aspect of the game piece mailed to you. For example, a letter in a different language will have you ask people you know or online communities for translations.

The overall theme of the game is historical mystery based on non-fiction, fiction. The purpose of the mystery to is to give mystique and thrill  into the receivers life.

Social Constructs: the items created for the mystery are created with attention to detail. If it’s a story from 100 years ago, the paper used, the penmanship, the verbiage, the items delivered, will be exact to that era of time.

 

 

1. Law, Darwin. December 14th, 2014. <http://thenerderypublic.com/shameless-plug-sunday-mysterious-package-company/>

2. Kapalka, Jason. June 8th, 2015. <https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/jkapalka/the-mysterious-package-company-presents-the-centur>

3. Stark, Chelsea. July 2nd, 2015. <http://mashable.com/2015/07/02/mysterious-package-company/#bFdJjyaGwaqi>

4. Curator, The. July 8th, 2015. <https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/jkapalka/the-mysterious-package-company-presents-the-centur/posts/1287695>

5. <https://www.mysteriouspackage.com>

6. McGonigal, Jane. Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World. The Penguin Press. New York. 2011.

7. Koster, Raph. Theory of Fun for Game Design. Paraglyph Press, Inc. Scottsdale, Arizona. 2005.

8. Montola, Markus. Stenros, Jaakko. Waern, Annika. Pervasive Games: Theory and Design. Morgan Kaufmann Publishers. Burlington, Massachusetts. 2009.