Gotta Catch ‘Em All

I spent some time recently with a group of teenage boys who, even though apparently its deemed not ‘cool’ anymore, still get together to play Pokemon. For some reason, the craze that swept the world when they were four years old is still alive and well in their hearts. For the uninitiated, Pokemon began in Japan in 1996 before sweeping through the rest of the world in the form of a game, cards, cartoon and of course thousands of licenced items including clothing and toys. The game takes place in an imaginary land inhabited by creatures called Pokemon (pocket monsters). The object of the game is for the player (Pokemon trainer) to catch as many of the creatures as he or she can which is where the slogan ‘Gotta Catch ‘Em All’ comes in. The more Pokemon caught, the more badges trainers receive with the hope of becoming a Pokemon master. Pokemon trainers battle their Pokemon against other trainers’ pokemon at gyms to gain experience and more badges. Pokemon don’t die in battles which is nice. they just faint or fall asleep and need to go to the Pokemon centre to be restored.

In 2004, Nintendo released a study about the benefits of the Pokemon games. A survey of 2098 parents revealed that:

  • 77% (of parents interviewed believed that Pokemon games) enhanced strategic thinking
  • 76% promote positive values
  • 68% improves memory skills
  • 60% increases mental agility and awareness 

Several pokemon battles later, I asked the boys why they enjoyed playing Pokemon and what they saw as ‘educational reasons’ for playing it. This is what they came up with:

  • Fun – First of all its fun. We enjoy hanging out and doing something we don’t need to think about too much. It’s social.
  • Multitasking – Who says men can’t multitask? we can play Pokemon, eat, trash talk each other’s Pokemon and have a conversation all at the same time.
  • Evolution and Genetics – Pokemon breed and evolve. It’s all about genetics as well as survival of the fittest and working out how you want your Pokemon to turn out – who to breed them with and how to train them.
  • Probability/Statistics – There are lots of mathematical skills involved in playing Pokemon. Each Pokemon has different strengths and when they go up against each other you need to be aware of the probability of your Pokemon winning against the other one and the statistics of your Pokemon in past battles to decide whether to use them or not.
  • Predictions – Being able to predict outcomes is handy and relates back to life. If something behaves a certain way you can be relatively sure about what happens. If your Pokemon is a certain type and a particular level you can predict how its going to go against another Pokemon.
  • Problem Solving – When you battle you look at weaknesses in your team and build on them without taking away from your strengths. It helps you assess the other team quickly too and strategize the best way to win and to constantly reassess and try again.
  • Cooperation/Negotiation/Organisational Skills – Transferable, useful skills for real life that occur when planning to trade Pokemon with each other. You need to have your team organised and balanced with different types of Pokemon in order to be able to battle whatever comes up. Negotiation is very important to get that elusive Pokemon in order to complete your team.
  • Memory – Not only do you have to have a great memory to remember all of the different Pokemon, you need to be able to recall their evolved form, what type they are, what level they are, and where the elusive and rare Pokemon can be found in the wild.
  • Compassion and Responsibility– It takes empathy, compassion and responsibility to become a real Pokemon trainer. A caring trainer looks after their Pokemon and makes sure they are well fed and rested in order to get the best performance out of them. Pokemon also has great examples of friendship and loyalty between Pokemon and trainers and also between trainers on quests.

    Pokemon battle

What I found really interesting was the way the boys related the skills back to their own lives and how they used what they have learned playing Pokemon to help them in different situations. It was also obvious that I underestimated what boys got from playing video games and I look forward to more playing and conversations to unravel the mystery.

One thought on “Gotta Catch ‘Em All

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