Otaku Parenting 101: Introducing Your Children to Pokémon Gaming

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Gotta Catch 'Em All With Your Kids!

Pokémon is a fun, international phenomenon, ranging from card games to anime to video games. It really is a phenomenon that has swept the globe. It is also something most kids will eventually want to explore. Having four kids myself, I know introducing them to the classic role-playing game side of Pokémon was something I wanted to be careful about doing. So, as I am wont to do, I’m here to give you some suggestions for when you desire to do the same with your children. As always, every parent and child are different, so know that your mileage will vary with any of my suggestions.

2DS with Little MDMRN
My son playing his 2DS.

Initial Considerations

Can your child read? That’s the first question you need to ask yourself before introducing any of the Pokémon RPG games to your child. You can always introduce them to Pokken Tournament (Wii U) to give them a taste of the characters. The anime is a lot of fun and will get them psyched about the characters and allow them to dig in further as they get older. Believe me, they will be psyched.

Now, what about your children who can read? The big question becomes what game should be the first to introduce them into the wonderful world of Pokémon RPGs. For that, I have three different approaches and suggestions. Each have potential benefits and potential pitfalls so make sure you also consider what equipment you may have at home as well as your own children’s interests first and foremost.

Shorts are so comfy
Shorts are comfy!

Start at the Beginning: Generation 1

Many parents love the idea of starting at the beginning by introducing their children first to Generation 1 (Pokémon Red/Green/Blue/Yellow). This is a great nostalgia trip and you can currently purchase each of the main three Generation 1 games for the 3DS family of consoles from the eShop.

The big benefit to Generation 1 is that it’s familiar to the parents as well as the children. It has simple characters, simple controls, and the plot actively tries to push you along. With simple controls, it helps younger players get accustomed to some of the basic game mechanics you will continue to see in the Pokémon series. Getting used to the basics of catching Pokémon, searching for Pokémon, and the classic format of Gym Leaders is helpful for younger players. Pairing this with the Indigo League anime (available now to stream on Netflix) allows the players to learn about the very beginnings of the Pokemon universe alongside Ash/Satoshi. It can be great fun!

However, going back to the original game myself I notice a few things that may turn off new players. First, it has relatively simplistic black and white graphics compared to current generations of games. There are minimal animations and while it is a fun nostalgia trip, there isn’t the vibrancy of characters and colors you see in the current games. Also, the game can be incredibly slow to play as a first-time player. That can be a benefit for helping your kids along the way, however, without the running shoes, it takes forever to get from town to town. It takes a very long time to back-track when you miss something (and first-time players always miss things), which can become very frustrating when you are new to the series.

Ominous Comments
Ominous Comment from Pokemon Sun/Moon

Dive In Now: Current Pokémon Generations of Games (Gen 7)

The most current generation of games is definitely a fun and useful place to start for most children. Why? Frankly, it is most likely the game that most of your children’s friends will already be playing and be most familiar with. The anime is also starting to air on Disney XD, which allows the new players to learn about the Alola region and explore it alongside Ash/Satoshi in the anime series. The graphics are also a vast improvement over previous games with fun animations, colorful designs, and just some wonderfully done sequences. The new starter Pokémon introduced in Sun/Moon are awesome with something for everyone. My son and I both started playing this together concurrently and each picked very different starters. The newest game also has a lot of online support, allows for online trading, and has some solid post-game activities for players which increase the lifespan of the game.

There are, however, some downsides. There are a lot of Pokémon in the Alolan Pokédex, over 300 in fact. For younger players, this may feel a bit overwhelming as they try and try to fill out their Dex with a lot of effort. The game is also filled with a lot of fun callbacks to previous games. For those of us who have played multiple Pokémon games in the past, that’s a lot of fun. For the younger players, they’re just going to be confusing or fly right over their heads. Also, unlike the Generation 1 games, there is some more complexity in the controls. That’s not the worst thing in the world, but for younger players, it may make it a bit more difficult.

A WORD OF WARNING

The 3D functionality of the 3DS series of consoles is not good for children 6 or under. It can cause serious damage to their developing eyes, so be sure to keep the 3D functionality off or (as I did) get a 2DS (or NEW 2DS XL) instead. The 2DS is a relatively inexpensive option with no built in 3D functionality. Both me and my 8 year old son have red, original 2DS consoles. The recently announced NEW 2DS XL is another great option that looks fantastic and will allow for Amiibo functionality. Each of them provide a good looking, solid option to play current generation Pokémon games while protecting your younger child’s eyes from the potential harm the 3D functionality can cause.

Ruby Title Screen
The Title Screen from Pokemon Ruby

My Outside-The-Box Suggestion: Generation 3

Wait, what? No normal person would suggest going all the way back to Generation 3 to start their kids out? That’s not the beginning? Why start there? Hold on a moment and I’ll explain. I have actual reasons. No, really!

So, why am I so high on Generation 3? First, some history. The Generation 3 games (Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald and later, FireRed and LeafGreen) were the first Pokémon games to appear on the Gameboy Advance. The games are a lot of fun and have some useful firsts that were not introduced in the previous generations. First, these are the first main entry game (sans Crystal from the end of Gen II) which allows the player to pick their gender. This is important as it allows the players to feel more connection with the main character by being able to pick male or female.

While it misses the many customizable options in clothing you get in Generation 7, it’s a big step forward to include more Pokémon fans. Being on the Gameboy Advance, the controls are also relatively simple making it easier for new players to jump into the Pokémon universe. The Generation 3 games are also the first which introduce the running shoes! Go back and play any of the Generation 1 or 2 games at the very beginning. I’ll wait…

Notice how slow the game seems to move when you can’t run? The running shoes make a huge impact on the early parts of the game making it feel higher paced and allowing you to back-track much more easily than you can in previous generations. The game also provides you with a very well defined villain. There are few redeeming qualities about the two villain teams. They both want to, effectively, destroy the world and their leaders are clearly mad. They also want to do so using some devastatingly cool looking Pokémon. Which brings me to my next point – you have eight different legendary Pokémon you can encounter in the games (Groudon, Kyogre, Regirock, Regice, Registeel, Rayquaza, Latias, and Latios). This adds to the replayability as the younger players are looking for some interesting new Pokémon.

An interesting plot point in this game and in very few others, in the Generation 3 main games your main character has a father…who you meet…in the game. Also, through the plot, you eventually get to face off against your father. This had never happened before this point. It may be a weird plot point to note, but it makes it more interesting and differs from the norm.

Have a child who’s not super interested in only battling? No problem as the Generation 3 games introduce the players to Pokémon Contests. The Pokémon Contests are a fun and unique side-adventure mode which allows for continued play long after beating the main game mode that isn’t the usual fighting your way through a crowd of Pokémon.

Now, I get there are some concerns with Generation 3. The games are on the Gameboy Advance. They have replaceable batteries that eventually die. They are not graphically as nice as the current generation. Don’t want to go that way, no problem, you can always get Pokémon OmegaRuby /AlphaSapphire (ORAS) for the 3DS family and have the same fun level of gameplay. The big difference between the two is that ORAS has more advanced controls, but being able to play a more current game with better graphics may make it more accessible in general to new players.

Me in my union suit (Kigurumi) playing Pokemon Moon.
Teaching my kids to love Pokemon, one silly union suit (Kigurumi) & match at a time.

Introducing a Love of Pokémon

In the end, just as I said with my previous articles, each parent needs to know their own children. Some kids may not want to play an older game. Some might want the newest and coolest. That’s fine, I am just here to provide three schools of thought on how to introduce your children to Pokémon games.

However, with all of this said, one of the most important suggestions I can provide for any parent with a new child player is to play whatever game you introduce them to alongside them. Already played the game? Start over. No really. I don’t care that you have a totally complete Dex and they’re just a kid who doesn’t. Do it. Playing these games alongside your child is a ton of fun in such a different way than playing it by yourself ever was. The first time I sat down next to my son and he traded me a Machoke so I could help him evolve it was magical. He and his sister were staring at the 2DS screen brimming with excitement to be able to see their Pokémon evolve as we traded it together! That alone was worth the price of losing that old save file.

With that, have you introduced your children to Pokémon? If so, what have you tried? What worked? What didn’t? Let me know in the comments!

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Matthew Newman

Matthew Newman is an environmental engineer (Professionally licensed in Maryland). He’s also a level 7 Dad of 4, husband, Christian, anime and Star Wars fan, Perler enthusiast, beard aficionado, and all around geeky guy. When he’s not chasing his kids or working, he’s probably asleep.

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