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Pokemon?

I'm wondering if anyone can explain what Pokemon's are and what they represent. I know there are lots of little characters that are associated with trading cards, video games and such but I'm not sure for what age level they are appropriate. I have a four year son who has begun requesting Pokemons due to influence from his friends at day care. I thought these characters were geared toward the pre-teens. Are they similiar to the Power Rangers and Ninga Turtles that my son is not allowed to play with or are they more towards the Disney/ Blues Clues end of the spectrum?
August 1999
Pokemon are little "critters" from various sources such as water, fire, plant, etc. They evolve into different stages by battling other Pokemon. No one dies -- they just battle each other using their powers. Battles are usually short. The object is to "catch" as many Pokemon as possible as a trainer. There is actually quite a bit of strategy to catching, evolving and battling Pokemon which surprised me. For a young child, the fun is in collecting and trading cards, wearing the t-shirts, watching the videos. The older kids get into the strategy part--who can beat who, what evolves into what, etc. I've watched the cartoon show and played my son the card game and decided that it was a positive form of entertainment (whereas the Power time.) The only warning I would have is to wheedle cards from the younger kids as the young kids don't always realize trading is for "keeps".
Sigh. Pokemon is the current big thing that's addictive to the 4-10 year old crowd -- think Power Rangers, or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and hopefully, this too, shall pass. It's Japanese, and some of the cards and toys are of course, quite valuable. The name Pokemon is an acronym for Pocket Monsters. There are 150 of these little monsters, some cute, some weird, some just plain ugly. It doesn't stop there -- these creatures evolve into other creatures: ie Pikachu (endearing mouse) evolves into Raichu (not so endearing mouse) etc. There are human teenagers who "train" the creatures. There are card games that involve trading and strategy. The cards list different types of strength and weaknesses, and "damage" levels.

I'm sure I'm missing major portions, but my son, almost 7, adores this . It drives us nuts, but we indulge up to a point. For those parents who want to know more, I recommend the Official Pokemon Handbook published by Scholastic. Your child will adore it, but you'll actually begin to understand this mysterious phenomenon.


I know very little about Pokemon, other than that it appears to be a fad that has swept in upon our children like the fog over the bay. I look forward to other parents comments too. My almost-5 son has jumped head first into it, thanks to his cousin ("hey, look what I have") and grandmother ("grandma, would you get me Pokemon"? "OK"). I've looked at his cards, and while they are designed in a cute fashion, they tend more toward Power Ranger/Ninja Turtle than Disney/Blues Clues (in fact nothing like Blues Clues). I myself intend to do more research into Pokemon to see if it is appropriate for our family. On the surface Pokemon doesn't appear to be real violent and such, but it certainly isn't entirely innocent of the flavor of competition and "mine card beats yours".
Pokemon are a big hit among elementary school kids (my son included). But my four yr old daughter is into them now too. There are trading cards, a board game, gameboy games, videos, etc... The cards are harmless-depict cute little creatures with funny names. The computer games and the videos show the cute little creatures battling each other. So I say buy a pack of cards for your child ($3 at the comic store on University just above Shattuck).
I watched my younger siblings play Pokemon a little and this is what I was able to construe: Your playing character explores a rather vast terrain and attempts to discover, capture, and train a multitude of various "wild" Pokemon which inhabit the terrain. I think there are 4 different Pokemon cartridges, at least for the Gameboy, and you have to have all 4 to catch all the varieties of Pokemon. Once you've tamed or trained your Pokemon, they can fight for you against other Pokemon. I believe you can also link Gameboys with other players and have your Pokemon go up against theirs. (So it's *kinda* social. ???) Different Pokemon have different special skills and strengths; hence the passion for "collecting" them all.

I'm afraid that the real life comparison that came to mind for me was cockfighting . . . but I don't mean to imply that the level of violence is the same. (For one thing, there are no real "live" animals to get hurt.) Generally my impression of the "ambience" of the game is that it's more cute and whimsical than violent, but you'll have to decide whether the overall premise is too violent for you. It seems to me that your child might be able to collect cards or pictures of Pokemon (rather cute Japanese-style drawings) and still remain somewhat innocent to the violent premise of the game -- but maybe I'm naive to think that. (I'm also probably not terribly opposed to Power Rangers or Ninja Turtles either -- though I wouldn't deliberately expose my child to these or foster an interest, I don't think I would try to prevent it. Not that this issue has really come up yet for my 2-year-old son.) Anyway I hope this information will help you decide whether you'll want to allow or try to prevent your child's further pursuit of Pokemon.


These are characters in a game that is a cartoon, Gameboy game, and has trading cards and figures representing the characters. My stepson (11) has it, and my nephew (5) of a very careful sister in law has it too. It runs the range of ages. The game involves searching through a forest for the characters or trying to "win" them in gyms. Each character has different "powers", all somewhat violent, but some as simple as the ability to make another character fall asleep. The object is to either collect them in the forest by throwing a Pokeball into the bushes, or to put your best character you've already collected against another one in one of the "gyms" in a battle. There is definitely fighting, but all pretty low level. The player must be aware of each character's powers and be strategic to a certain extent to work the game. A 4 year old may be a little young to understand the concepts of the Gameboy game, but the cards and figures I'm sure would be facinating. The challenge with my stepson is keeping him from playing the gameboy game all of his waking hours. And he now has a significant collection of the cards and figures which can be challenging to come by, and expensive of course. Good luck!
I too have a four-year old son who has gotten *very* into Pokemon, having been introduced to the them at daycare. I have mixed feelings about it. I'd rather that he not have been exposed at all, but now that it's there, I'm not going to forbid it. I've decided that as a parent it would be better to give him the tools to evaluate what's out there in our culture than to ban it outright or try to shield him entirely from it. [We don't allow toy guns in the house, but I don't do anything about his imaginative play and I do give him information about guns. When he is old enough we may take him to a shooting range and teach him gun safety.] I don't think I'd let him play the pokemon videogame, but the cards, figurines and books are fine. He treats the Pokemon Handbook as an encyclopedia and "learns" a little bit about nature by discussing each creatures "gimmick" with me (fire, water, smell, etc)- so I guess there's a positive side. He's also been walking around singing the theme song and pretends he's a different Pokemon every day, so I suppose his imagination isn't suffering.

The show is kind of a cross between a "sport" and animal training. Yes, cockfighting comes to mind as well as do wrestling and some of the martial arts. The most often used word in the show is "attack" but none of the creatures ever gets injured. How can you teach your child that electricity is dangerous when they see this adorable little animal shoot bolts of lightning at another one that just goes "ahhh" but is unhurt (how many times does the road-runner "die" per episode?). There are three "heroes" in the show, but I'm not crazy about the character of the older boy who is constantly acting like a male dog around a female in heat. Girls on the show are always evaluated by beauty (though the bad-guy team are good-looking "popular-kid" thieves with a questionable "motto").


About pokemon. The thing I don't like about it is the "gotta catch 'em all" slogan and premise. Basically the kids are constantly trying to get more-cards, games etc. It seems to feed into a feeling of greed and competition that is rampant in our society. I remember that feeling of anxiety when you don't have the cool thing that everyone else has but with this game that feeling is a permanent feature since "getting em all" is basically impossible. ( my son at 3 is too young thank god, but I'm a teacher and have seen the pokemon fever sweep through the school). How do we redirect? When my student wanted to make a pokemon mask I told him he ahd to invent his own and he did come up with a very creative version. It's a real challenge!
On the subject of Pokemon. My husband and I inadvertently got our 5yo son started on Pokemon. We saw a trailer for a video on another Japanese animation film. We don't have cable and didn't initially know about the tv cartoon. The first video was about a boy coming of age (10 or 11) and being eligible to begin his Pokemon training. The stories have a lot of lessons to teach that are applicable to most children.

As we got more involved with Pokemon we appreciated the fact that the main character is constantly battling with his desire (ego) to achieve "trainer" status and the condition that the little pokemon characters MUST BE respected. There are some very Zen undertones to the lessons. Gender is not an issue because both girls and boys can be trainers -- (the girl constantly following the main character around is already an accomplished trainer-to-be herself) -- and some of the pokemon themselves evolve into different genders. There is no foul language (depending on how you feel about the selfish impatient characters being called jerks or stupid) and even the so-called bad guy/girl team seem to have a soft spot. The "violence" consists of battles between pokemon that end when the pokemon is exhausted, (which are fought by special attributes that the different pokemon possess, NOT with weapons), it is a BIG NO-NO to push the pokemon beyond exhaustion and there are pokemon centers (hospitals) where the pokemon can get rejuvenated. There are a few goofy characters which seems at times to stereotype certain personalities (valley girls and surfer dudes) but they are relatively harmless portrayals.

My son also has a couple of sets of cards but understands the trading issues about as well as he understands money. I imagine if a parent spent money on the more expensive collector cards the trading issue could become quite a problem but I feel this falls under the category of parent monitoring. The gameboy games require a good reading knowledge but can be entertaining if someone familiar with the game (and able to read) helps to set it up.

Bottom line -- true, it's a marvelous marketing campaign, but there's a heck of a lot more trashy and violent stuff in popular culture/media for little kids to be "entertained" by. Incidentally, I am personally quite attached to "Pikachu" the electric rat. (Pikachu is the first pokemon obtained by Ash, the main character.)


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