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College Demographic Catches ‘90s Pokemon Nostalgia

Pokémon: We’ve been trying to “catch ‘em all” since we were kids. Many recall the days when we brought our Gameboys to school and traded away our Lunchables for that coveted holographic Mewtwo card. Pokémon wasn’t just a game, it was a way of life. And now, it’s all ancient Helix fossil history, right?

Actually, no. For many young adults who grew up with the series, the quest still continues. College students across the globe still adore the popular franchise in all of its various capacities (video games, trading cards and a television series), which on the surface may seem a bit puzzling, as Pokémon is generally thought of as being designed for a younger audience. However, among the highest consumers of Pokémon lore these days are young adults aged 19-24, according to gaming website Siliconera.

“According to Japanese sales tracker Media Create, early purchasers of Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire were primarily in their early twenties,” the website stated. “This suggests that the games were bought primarily by returning fans of the original Pokémon Ruby/Sapphire, which was the plan all along.”

First founded in 1995 by Japanese game designer Satoshi Tajiri and his company, Game Freak, Pokémon made its first landing as a video game for Nintendo’s original Game Boy. For those unaware, the premise of the game is to capture animalistic creatures known as Pokémon, sharpen their skills by battling other trainers, and ultimately defeat the Elite Four Champion, the greatest trainer in all the land. (Aside from you, of course.) Additionally, players must collect every species of Pokémon and record their data in a portable encyclopedia known as a Pokédex.

As of 2015, the franchise has spawned over 40 video games, an entire trading card series and a television show which has been on air since 1998.

Why has Pokémon still retained the collective admiration of our generation, you ask? For starters, the franchise has been around since the early 1990s, a decade in which most current college students were born. These days, we live in a world in which ‘90s products like Justin Timberlake, flannels, and crop tops remain ever-popular, so it should come as no surprise that Pokémon is still relevant as well.

Junior musical theatre major Jessica Stone believes this nostalgic connection is what keeps Pokémon alive in our hearts after all these years.

“I think that it’s more popular in college and beyond due to the fact that the generation of people in this age group grew up watching the original episodes on television, and played the original games,” she said. “There’s a definite feeling of nostalgia, and playing Pokémon with your friends takes you back to a time when you were sitting within a few feet of each other, squinting at dark game boy color screens, connected by a cord that could only reach so far.”

Another contributory reason for the franchise’s sustained popularity is its constant addition of new and innovative outlets for its fans. The franchise has over 1000 licensed products, including action figures, apparel, comic books, and more, according to a study by Salem State University entitled “The Pokémon Phenomenon.” And even those pale in comparison to some of Pokémon’s greater frontiers, such as an entire line of All Nippon Airways Boeing-747 jets adorned with Pikachu and other notable Pokémon iconography. You could say Pokémon has evolved (pun intended) from a modest handheld game into a cultural phenomenon.

“The series has expanded so much. They’ve constantly been adding on to it over the years,” said junior communications major Matt Silverman.

Among all else, Silverman thoroughly enjoys the immense levels of customization that the games bring. For him, Pokémon fosters creativity, community, and a break from the stresses of everyday college.

“My favorite part about Pokémon is that you can assemble your own team and arrange it however you want. Also, the online component is fantastic. You can fight your friends and see who was the best, ‘like no one ever was’, if you catch my drift,” he said. “It’s just a nice adventure to take you away from everything.”

Somewhere along the road, it simply became ‘cool’ to start liking Pokémon again. What was once deemed a nerdy hobby, and perhaps still is considered that in some circles, is now an eclectic fad oozing with retro charm. People still buy Nintendo DS systems for the sole reason of rekindling their childhood passion with their friends, and Pokémon fashion is still a common staple in stores such as Hot Topic and Urban Outfitters.

As for the future of Pokémon, only time will tell. There’s a chance that it could die as we millennials transition from the flexible college environment into the working world. On the contrary, there’s also a possibility that the big wigs over at Game Freak have found a formula bound to span the test of time. Perhaps the younger generation will latch on to the series in the same fervent manner that we once did. One thing is for certain, though: there will always be more Pokémon to catch.


Griffin Guinta can be reached at

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