Yesterday was a big day for me. Not physically, you understand, but emotionally and virtually. Pokémon GO finally came out.
If you’re reading this, you’re probably my friend (thanks for the click, mate), and you’ve probably downloaded Pokémon GO already. But if you haven’t downloaded Pokémon GO and you don’t know what it is, it’s a game developed by Niantic Studios, the folks behind Ingress. The mobile game allows you to go about real life, catching Pokémon, levelling up and fighting for gym ownership.
Here’s the trailer.
I was never into Pokémon cards, but like millions of other Australian schoolchildren (maybe even billions, who knows), I plonked myself down in front of the TV every day after school to watch Pokémon, singing along to the theme song and trying (and failing) to learn the Pokérap. My parents wouldn’t buy me a Gameboy, but I had a Gameboy emulator on my PC and would play through Pokémon Crystal over and over again.
Nostalgia is big business these days. Of course, it’s always been, but it’s more obvious now. In the past decade we’ve seen franchises continued, reinvented and resurrected. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles live again, and the Ghostbusters are once more busting ghosts, albeit as women. (We’ll talk about that another time.)
Those two franchises began in the 80s, slightly before my time. I’m a firm millennial – early nineties, which means that I grew up with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Friends, Motorola Razrs, Cartoon Network, Cheez TV, Harry Potter, yo-yos, Beyblades, Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Spy Kids, and of course, Pokémon. If any of those things invoked a pang of nostalgia in you, you’re not alone. Despite the fact that my childhood was objectively not that long ago (only about a decade), everything has changed.
A lot of people make fun of millennials for being nostalgic for a not-so-distant past, but the fact is, the world has changed a lot in the last decade. We went from Nokia bricks to iPhones, dial-up to NBN, PS3s to PS4s, VHSes and DVDs to 4k, 3D to virtual reality, and from primary school to the workforce. Terrorist groups have risen and fallen, elected leaders have been shuffled like so many Yu-Gi-Oh cards, someone died in a self-driving car, and Facebook and Google now own pretty much all of the internet.
At the same time, social media has become ubiquitous. And at its core, social media is an exercise in nostalgia, intermingled with a sense of the immediate. Just now: I’m playing Pokémon GO. Three years ago today: you were in France. He’s just uploaded the rest of the wedding photos from December 2015. Here are the Snapchats we saved when we went out drinking last weekend.
Can you blame us for being so nostalgic?
There’s no doubt I’ll write more about Pokémon GO. I’ve had it for less than 24 hours but I already love it. It’s more than just a fun game (which it is, of course), it’s a link back to my nine-year-old self, sitting in front of the TV and butchering the Pokérap. The world was probably just as fucked then, but I didn’t know it. I didn’t know that Pokémon would be the gateway to my pop culture obsession, or that it would be something that would matter to me in my twenties. I mean, I don’t think I really thought about what my twenties would be like as a nine-year-old. I certainly didn’t think that I’d be able to catch Pokémon in real life (via my phone). What a wild world.
So whatever. Listen to vinyl, take polaroids, binge-watch the X-Files and catch Pokémon with your friends on Pokémon GO. Be nostalgic because we kind of deserve it. (But also don’t forget to make your own stuff, because we need things to be nostalgic about in ten years time, yeah?)