A Diverse Community is Why Pokemon Succeeds

Today, the next installment of the Pokemon franchise is released in the form of Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire. The remakes of the 2002 games Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire are one of Nintendo’s biggest releases of the year, with over a million pre-orders in Japan alone.

Part of Nintendo’s success is the massive appeal their games have across so many different groups of people. The games connect people over international borders and go to great lengths to encourage people to play together and share their experiences.

For Nintendo, it doesn’t matter how old you are or what your gender is. There are few other brands that defy stereotypes as well as Nintendo does.

Matt Ryan, Communications Manager at Nintendo of Canada, says this is because people never stop being kids at heart.

“The Pokemon fandom is huge. Kids of all ages—I say that as if I’m a kid, I’m 37, but I’m a kid—love to get together with other players, especially with Pokemon because you can battle, you can trade,” says Ryan. ”So when we bring groups of fans together they really enjoy it and have a good time.

Ryan says he is far from the oldest fan of Pokemon. His first Pokemon games were Diamond and Pearl in 2006, fairly recent installments compared to the first games released back in 1996.

“I think a lot of people who are playing the video games started when they were kids. Some of them are 20, 30, 40 years old now and still playing the games,” says Ryan.

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There is perhaps no better example of this than a father sharing his passions with his son. John Barkiw, 40, has been playing Pokemon since Red Version in 1996. Now his 7-year-old son is playing Pokemon too.

“I had an old DS with an old Pokemon game, and that’s how he got into it,” says Bartkiw, referring to his son.

‘“[The appeal] is a combination of being family friendly, so there’s violence but it’s not really violence,” says Bartkiw. “And then there’s strategic elements to the game that appeal to older kids as well, and adults.”

Benjamin McEachrane is a 19-year-old game design student at Sheridan College in Ontario, Canada. He says Pokemon has taught him games can be made to appeal to everyone. He says games don’t have to just be for young adult men anymore.

“I think originally it started out more geared towards kids. But now that those kids have grown up and evolved, the company has grown up and evolved with them. So Pokemon is really good at making sure they keep their fans happy,” says McEachrane.

With so many different types of people, it can be tricky to get people together. People who can relate to each other form communities. McEachrane says Pokemon is particularly adept at this, which is what brings the franchise so much success.

Betty Rodas, 21, says Nintendo’s willingness to be inclusive extends to the fans.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re 2 or 40 or 21. It’s such a welcoming community. They don’t judge how you dress or whatever,” says Rodas. “And you see people making friends and street passing. Being like hey where’d you get that. Or hey cool game lets battle. It’s like a family. We’re a Nintendo family.”

In the end, Pokemon is all about the fun. Everyone has his or her own favourite part of Pokemon. For Rodas it’s the adventure. She says she bonds with her Pokemon in the same way she bonds with the community while on an adventure through her own little world.

Alex Boe