Pokémon GO is out, and this is by any metric a wonderful thing. As someone who grew up during Peak Pokémon, I have a few thoughts on this.
- It’s a cultural phenomenon in a way that feels very linked to the kind of internet culture that existed when Pokémon first emerged in 1996. A relatively small group of people betraying social convention to do a thing that from the outside might seem valueless and nerdy. The last few great tech phenomena have felt different from this because there’s always been a social payoff. Pokémon GO, true to its original game incarnation still has a veneer of antisocial dorkery that feels very warmly insular for those playing.
- At what point does something pass the threshold of being a part of modern popular culture and become an artifact of the past? At what point is something considered retro, despite its continued societal presence? I’ve seen a lot of sneering that the return of Pokémon is just part of the typical twenty-year pop culture cycle, but unlike Blink-182, Pokémon has at no point slowed its momentum. The franchise itself has been impressively consistent, now being 16 seasons into it’s TV show, 17 movies deep, with a new flagship game coming out next year, on the same clockwork as the last 10 games they’ve released. Pokémon fever is definitely a throwback to 1996, but it’s interesting that it’s not the franchise itself that has come back, just our palette for it.