Back in the late 90s, my 4th grade self received a promotional VHS tape in the mail, convincing me that I had been specially selected to receive a "top secret sneak peak of a phenomenon called Pokémon." I vividly remember getting my first Pokémon card on the school bus, my classmates and I singing the theme song at the top of our lungs, and amassing a horde of pristinely kept cardboard, akin to a weird juvenile Smaug.
Though we traded, battled, and imagined together for years, by the end of middle school I was convinced that I needed to move on to more mature gaming choices. So I packed up my beloved monsters and swapped Pokémon for Magic: The Gathering. After a little over a decade of adulting (and years of "grown up" tournament play), however, I discovered quite a few unexpected reasons to be drawn back into the expansive world of Pokémon.
The first generation to experience the original cartridge-based Pokémon games is now in their 20's and early 30s. We entered a mostly analog world, but rapid technology advancement gave us a digital childhood. After seeing the world re-defined by historical events, graduating into the Great Recession, and trying to navigate an adulthood that never follows the playbook of generations past, it's not surprising that we're looking to reconnect with a simpler time. Every Pokémon from the past eight generations—that's now 896 monsters—is included in the TCG.
While the kid-centric storyline of ten-year-olds venturing across the world, unsupervised, to battle other unaccompanied minors is arguably more empowering for children than it is for current adults, playing with your favorite characters conjures up those warm fuzzy childhood memories—but with challenging in-depth mechanics and strategies that are suitable for adult players. The card art ranges from amigurumi crochet Pokémon to captivating, highly detailed foiled art variants, making for an awesome collection.
And it might just be me, but slowing down and playing a game of offline Pokémon with my old glass damage counters takes me back to the days when the world wasn't quite so fast-paced.
Pokémon offers one of the most welcoming and inclusive communities I have been a part of. The game welcomes both young and "seasoned" players for all events, while consistently adhering to strict standards for respect and the code of conduct. I've worn the hats of player and LGS staff over the years, and the dedication players display in upholding the spirit of positive interactions has always pleasantly surprised me.
Whether you play at home with friends or join a local Pokémon League for sanctioned play, the social experience of Pokémon is incredibly fun. And if you find that competition is more your thing, you can join regional events around the world, going big by qualifying for the Pokémon World Championships which awards over $500,000 in prizes (even for age 18+!).
Compared to other TCGs, Pokémon is impressively affordable. Top-tier standard decks can be found at a fraction of the price you might see in other card games, with format staples typically re-printed frequently. New players can purchase high-quality introductory starters, including everything needed to play the game, for between $10 and $30. And if an experienced player wants to get into the TCG, but finds themself with a low budget, the unofficial Pokémon Pauper format is both accessible and entertaining.
The Pokémon TCG keeps learning friendly and simple for newcomers, but engaging for veteran players. For roughly the cost of a fast food lunch, you can pick up a nicely balanced pre-built theme deck that comes with everything you'll need—even an illustrated paper play mat that shows you exactly how to play. The new Pokémon Battle Academy comes with a high quality game board and can teach a whole family to play in minutes! Documentation, rule books, and community support are widely available and easy to follow.
You don't have to know more than the basics to enjoy spectating events. Newer players can quickly pick up complex strategies from watching online competitive play events. And if you do have a background in another TCG of choice, you might find yourself poring over the latest metagame and turn 3 win combos. Decks are constantly changing, new mechanics are regularly introduced, and players can use the game's mechanics in creative ways—but with so many resources available, absorbing information is effortless.
Finally, from all the photos and event videos, it's easy to see that Pokémon isn't just for kids. In fact, if you go to Regional or World Championship events, you may even notice children as young as kindergarten age playing alongside their parents (i.e. the original targeted generation). At my home, Pokémon is something we all eagerly look forward to playing with each other, and can be incorporated throughout each day. We brush our teeth with Pokémon Smile, snuggle with our Pikachu plushies, and practice strategic concepts with our family Pokémon TCG Library.
The game allows us to work out logic problems, practice planning ahead, and improve our social skills over a quick game. The kids love representing themselves through their specific teams of creatures and engaging in pretend play. As parents, Pokémon can function as an invaluable learning tool and motivator. We love connecting with other families and organizing game nights, and building our local community.
At the end of the day, I love being able to share this longtime interest with my kids and make new memories. Watching them discover their excitement for the game the same way I did, I'm confident that Pokémon is here to stay.