Written by Benjamin Lane.
The Pokémon franchise is celebrating its 25th anniversary throughout 2021, and the game is still popular among Harding students.
Originated in 1996 in Japan, Pokémon came to the United States in 1998 for Gameboys. Like in Japan, the game quickly became popular in the U.S., and its updates and spin-offs of the original game have kept it relevant. Now in its 25th year, Pokémon has announced a series of events the franchise plans to release throughout the year.
The franchise’s most recent event, a virtual concert featuring Post Malone, gathered millions of views since its release on Feb. 27. Malone, Katy Perry, J Balvin and other unnamed artists will release an album with 14 Pokémon-inspired songs by the end of 2021.
“If I’m being honest, I’m not a huge Post Malone fan, but I think it’s really cool that they have that connection there for people who do like Post Malone,” junior Malachi Shero said.
Harding has its own Pokémon community, and while there are no planned celebrations on campus, students are able to virtually celebrate if they choose. The community is sustained largely through the Pokémon Go app — which has over 1 billion cumulative downloads — and students can be seen playing the game around campus, even after its initial release in 2016.
“If you’re standing outside the Lee Building and you see somebody walking, looking at your group, looking at the Lee Building, looking at their phone, it’s: ‘You’re a Pokémon Go player,’” senior Riley Judd said.
Pokémon Go offers players the option to cooperate in battle against Pokémon characters. At these cooperative battles, Shero noticed the same people would attend each event, and he and other regular participants “naturally” grouped together. Now, Shero is part of a Pokémon Go GroupMe chat where players can coordinate their attacks. Judd also participates and has made friends through the app.
“I do have good connections with some of those people that I wouldn’t really have had without getting to go run around Harding, being silly trying to catch Pokémon,” Judd said. “It is still just good fun. There’s great fun in suspending your disbelief, catching these creatures who are now your best friends, raising them, meeting other people. With how far Pokémon has come, it’s so much easier to meet actual people via Pokémon and make connections that way.”
Sophomore Ethan Gardner is following the franchise’s anniversary events and releases. He is most excited for the release of the remake of Pokémon Diamond and Pearl — one of his childhood favorites — but Pokémon is more than a childhood game to him. “It helps encourage my desire to travel because it’s all about going throughout a region and making friends and creating bonds with people,” Gardner said. “It has always fostered and encouraged interacting with people in real life.”