Originally posted circa January 2016 on 20Nothing
Desire is a funny thing. It drives you to do ludicrous, sometimes heinous things, all in order to gratify your urges. It can hound you, consume you even — and to never satisfy that longing is to know hell.
It would become a costly endeavour, then, that during the 90s, kids desired effectively everything. My sordid list of obsessions runs approximately so: cars, then Thomas the Tank Engine, then Ninja Turtles, then Street Sharks, then Space Jam, then Pokemon, then drinking so much alcohol that I pass out. I’m still currently enjoying that last obsession, actually.
But it is the strongest, most bizarre fascination that we focus on today: that of the crazy world of the Pocket Monsters. What was it about Pokemon that would captivate children around the planet, I wonder?
Was it the marketability and collectible nature of its titular creatures? Was it the groundbreaking trading aspect — the idea that we could receive a prized Aerodactyl in exchange for a Jigglypuff deceptively nicknamed Mewtwo (let’s be honest — I was kind of a dick)?
Or was it the beloved anime, aka twenty episodes of filler with the occasional relevant plot point peppered in? It’s hard to say, but the point is that Nintendo had found a profit bell cow the likes of which it had never seen before.
And they rode that bad boy harder than a Rhyhorn.
Basically anything you could name had the Pokemon brand slapped on at some point. Colouring books, board games, lunchboxes, skateboards, even platform shoes. There was no end to the madness, but there was no bottom to our (parents’) wallets.
The chaos has since subsided, and now we’re left with the remnants: closets stuffed to the brim with useless and worthless Pikachu curios, the shameful reminder of our greed. For most, the solution is fairly academic — if you’re not using it, you throw it out, right?
Tragically, this has been a task too daunting for me to tackle. I’m not sure if I would qualify as a hoarder, exactly: I don’t have unwashed mugs and newspapers from the 70s strewn about my room. But I do find it incredibly difficult to let things go.
So deep was this issue that I even made a blog to give all of my departed belongings one last dedication. It’s been a slow and meticulous process, and some five years since starting it, I’m still surrounded by crap everywhere. But I do have two less Beetlejuice figurines, if that helps.
I’m wondering if it’s sad yet how much Pokemon paraphernalia I have tucked away here and there. There’s about twelve different plush toys best suited for prepubescent children, complete with a pull string Pikachu that vibrates for some unknown, horrifying reason.
But I can’t just jettison them, can I? I remember that day in 1998 when I dragged my mother to the KFC, strictly so that I could acquire a bounty of cuddly companions. However, I had learnt too late of their existence, and was told on my arrival that they were no more. Instead, they had Play-Doh.
The fury! The indignation! Fuck you, Play-Doh! You destroyed my dreams.
Through thorough searching of whatever form of eBay existed before the millennium (or perhaps it was Napster?), I would later receive these toys. At last! A Dratini to share all of my secrets with. How could I betray mom’s hard work now?
After all, some of these things could come in handy, I keep telling myself. My impressive assortment of Pokemon cards, for example, might return to relevance at some point. I laboured over acquiring every last card in the Base Set (including the legendary Charizard, which brandished an eye-popping price tag of $100 back in the day).
Then… we were introduced to the Jungle Set and Fossil Set and Rocket Set and [insert meaningless prefix] Set, and inevitably our collections were never complete again. But hey! I managed to construct a pretty sweet Machamp deck that always bested my friends. They still run these tournaments, right? Perhaps I should get back into it? This could be an unexplored career avenue for me, after all.
Even things that are no longer in working order remain in my possession. Pokemon roller stamps that can’t roll, two handheld pocket Pikachu devices that haven’t had a battery change since before the Spice Girls broke up, and most marvellously, a Charmander watch that used to feature very rudimentary animations that purportedly told an amazing story.
It also had this fantastic feature where Ash would very loudly and obnoxiously declare what time it was. Which seems redundant, considering it was clearly visible onscreen too, but that didn’t stop me from stabbing that button again and again with such fervour it eventually got stuck.
Most telling, perhaps, is the notion that maybe I’m not even done yet. Observe the fact that I’m still a mindless consumer who continues to buy each major game that comes out, feeding my addiction to ‘catch ‘em all’, or more accurately, trawl the online trading network for stupid deals that net me everything I want with minimum effort. Pro tip: breed a shitload of Eevees. People love Eevees.
And because I’m rather fond of the drink, I occasionally find myself on bleary-eyed online shopping sprees that net me even more questionable doodads. A few months ago, I was the proud new owner of a fancy schmancy d-Arts Venusaur figure. It has dozens of points of articulation, precise, gorgeous design and detachable vines that make it the most photogenic thing in my possession (my wife excluded, I suppose).
But here’s the thing — why did I need this in my life? How have these vines and points of articulation enhanced my wellbeing at all? IN WHAT WAY WILL VENUSAUR CURE SOCIETY’S ILLS?
At the very least, he does look desirable, as far as warty foliage dinosaurs go. And at the base of it all, desire was what led me into this peculiar craze of Pokemon to begin with. Here we are, some twenty odd years later, and I’m still armed to the teeth with all of the knick knacks and Klingklangs. Go ahead, judge me if you like — I’ve got a Dragonite that will surely bash you, should you dare.