Life Lessons Through Pokemon

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The world-wide phenomenon that is Pokémon all began when Satoshi Tajiri, a Japanese video game designer, reminisced of his times as a child catching tadpoles and insects. With the help of Ken Sugimori and Shigeru Miyamoto, they developed the company Game Freak, which was quickly picked up and funded by Nintendo. This was the birth of Pokémon, and it has since transcended past video games and on to manga, anime, cards, film, and toys.  While Pokémon may seem like a simple child’s game, the brilliance in its concept is that there are many themes and morals both children and adults can learn from. Didn’t think there was anything to learn from video games and cartoons? Here are four clear life lessons Pokémon teaches us.

Bulbasaur, Charmander, Pikachu, and Squirtle. Image via Antonio Jesus Villaran Lopez on Flickr.

Lesson 1: Be the best that you can be

One of the most obvious themes in Pokémon is to always try to be the best you can be. In both the games and the anime, the ultimate goal of the protagonist is to become a Pokémon Master. The individual must travel across various lands, capturing and training Pokémon in hopes of receiving all eight badges of a given region, while defeating the elite four—a group of Pokémon Masters which reside in every region.  The original theme song of the anime even says: “I wanna be the very best, like no one ever was.” Pokémon teaches us to not be satisfied with mediocrity, but to strive to improve and become the very best selves we can be.

Lesson 2: Hard work and dedication pay off

With over 600 Pokémon in the new games, it is easy to overlook the weaker ones in hopes of catching and training stronger ones. Pokémon, however, rewards those that have the patience to catch and train the deceptively weak. An example of this is the Pokémon Abra. This is a psychic type of Pokémon that immediately teleports upon battle, making it very difficult to catch.  However, if you are patient and keep trying, this Pokémon will develop into the all-powerful Alakazam.

Ash Ketchum and Pikachu together in the pilot ...

Ash Ketchum and Pikachu together in the pilot episode, “Pokémon, I Choose You!” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Another example is the harmless fish Pokémon Magikarp. This Pokémon seems almost useless, as it cannot do any damage and feebly splashes around in place. However, with enough care and dedication, within a few levels this harmless fish transforms into the raging dragon known as Gyarados, and is yet another example of how dedication pays off in this game. It teaches the lesson that sometimes we may not have the tools to be successful, but that with hard work we too can be strong.

Lesson 3: No one is an island

The creators of the original game developed an ingenious concept; that it was impossible to catch every Pokémon on your own. In the original game there are 150 Pokémon that one can catch individually, however there are two versions of the game each with different Pokémon. As if that wasn’t enough, some Pokémon could only evolve if traded over to another game.

What the creators did was make the game social. They designed it so that players need to play with friends and family in order to achieve success. It was impossible—without some hacking at least—to catch them all on your own.  Pokémon teaches us that true success can only come if you let others help. No one can achieve their goals alone; we all need a helping hand sometimes.

Lesson 4: We are all equal, but we are all different

The Pokémon world is made up of numerous types of Pokémon, each with their strengths and weaknesses.  In the game, you control six Pokémon that become part of your traveling party. Now, you could always just train one type, such as fire, and go through the whole game doing that, but chances are you wouldn’t get very far (especially, for example, against a water type). The key to Pokémon is catching and training different types of Pokémon to create a diverse team. The game teaches us that the gym leaders—who specialize in one type—often fail because they too have a weakness. They forgo the inclusion of other types, and thus ultimately fail against those that incorporate diversity.

Even the weakest Pokémon or unlikely types can prove victorious over what some may perceive as powerful. An example of this is the lowly bug type Pokémon. They often get no love from other players, but they are strong against the all-powerful psychic types. Ultimately, Pokémon shows us that while we are all different, we are all equal. And, there is no better way to illustrate this than what is said at the end of the first Pokémon movie, when the genius level Pokémon Mewtwo has the following wise revelation:

“I see now that the circumstances of one’s birth are irrelevant. It is what you do with the gift of life that determines who you are.” – Mewtwo