Welcome to our world, Pokemon!

Childhood game makes a big comeback

By Derick Hutchinson
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It was every kid's dream growing up.

What if I could be like Ash Ketchum, traveling the world with Pikachu by my side? Life would be one long adventure, searching for Pokemon by land, air and sea. I would trade with my friends, battle my rivals and catch as many different kinds of Pokemon as I could.

Now that dream is a reality. Well, sort of.

For the generation that grew up clinging to a GameBoy Color -- squinting through a worm light after dark and trying to finish one last battle before dinner -- Pokemon Go brought the game into the real world.

No, you can't hold Squirtle in your arms or have breakfast with Charmander like Ash used to, but you can walk outside your front door, search around your neighborhood and capture as many virtual Pokemon as your phone battery allows.

Within hours of the game's U.S. release, I found myself walking around the nearest park, capturing Pidgey, Weedle and even the occasional Spearow. Instead of using a directional button to control a pixilated character, I walked around on my own two feet, in my own town, uncovering dozens of the little creatures.

I can imagine the excitement I would have felt as a child, venturing out back to our little creek while water Pokemon wander around. That's what I found Thursday. When I went near a pond, there were water Pokemon. When I walked through the grass, there were grass Pokemon. It might seem impossible that Pokemon could inhabit our world, but when you have to go out and explore to find them, it feel more real.

I remember as a kid, maybe 5 or 6 years old, trying to figure out Pokemon Blue on my GameBoy Color. For hours I wandered the lands surrounding Pallet Town, defeating countless Rattata and Pidgey with my ever-strengthening Squirtle.

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I was growing bored of the repetitive one-hit knock outs when I (somewhat accidentally) used a Pokeball to capture a Pidgey.

Wow, what a feeling! My very own Pidgey! I got so excited I went ahead and caught each of the next four Pidgey I saw. What did I do with a party full of Pidgey? I don't even remember. The fun came in catching something, adding it to my team and looking for more.

That's the part of the experience that's captured in Pokemon Go. It's not about battles or training or collecting gym badges, it's about searching different places and finding as many Pokemon as you can.

Not that battles have been left out completely, of course. A simple stroll around town might show you that the local church is a gym! And the cemetery is a place to find items! At the Baptist church a few blocks from home, I found one of my friends to be the gym leader. What could be better than beating your friends only to have them return to the gym and find your Pokemon there instead?

Will I spend hours of every day chasing Pokemon around the world? Of course not. The original generations of Pokemon fans have jobs, families and responsibilities now.

But that doesn't mean we can't pull out our smartphones while we walk to the store and catch a Diglett for old time's sake. Pokemon is over 20 years old, and so are many of its fans. Luckily, it's not too late to catch 'em all.

To all the new Pokemon Masters, your very own adventure awaits (if the servers stay up long enough).

Which Pokemon are you most excited to catch? Let us know in the comments section below!

 

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