Year Made: 1996-2014
Platforms: Gameboy, Nintendo DS, Nintendo 3DS
Price: $39.99 (based on latest game price but pre-owned versions or earlier versions of the game are cheaper)
Content Areas: English Language Arts, Math, Science
Suggested Age Level: Elementary School, Middle School, High School
Play Length: 30-35 hours (on average)
Number of Players: Single Player or Multiplayer (for battles and trades)
Difficulty Rating: Easy
Earlier, we were going to release a review of another incredible game, but then the gaming community lost a crucial figure, Iwata Satoru, CEO of Nintendo since 2002. Iwata was responsible for growing and continuing many of the classic franchises that have created lifelong gamers and Nintendo fans as well as leading the company toward innovative systems and games. For me personally, Nintendo is the reason I started gaming. I was a daycare kid who would watch in complete awe as kids played Pokemon on Gameboys. The games left my fingers itching to try the games and see what it was all about. When I finally had a Gameboy Advance of my own, Pokemon was the first game I played and it was the first video game that I not only loved but I also learned from. Pokemon was a haven for me. It was a way to connect with other kids and experience accomplishment and pride in my hard work. Iwata Satoru was the CEO of Nintendo ever since I fell in love with the Pokemon series (and later the Legend of Zelda series). If it wasn’t for Nintendo and Iwata’s work, I don’t know if I would have found my way into gaming and eventually to creating Gamindex and working to bring games into education. Call it personal bias, but it only felt right to honor his memory and his work in even this small way.
One reason Pokemon has stayed successful across so many generations of the game is the sense of accomplishment it provides players. The game is easy to learn but allows room for players to experiment with strategies and find what suits them best for their journey to be a Pokemon master. Players are encouraged to find what style works for them and when they are successful, the game attributes it to their teamwork and efforts at raising their Pokemon. It builds players up and encourages them to both acknowledge the hard work they have put into the game as well as the teamwork with their Pokemon that lead to their victories. These are all empowering messages for students to hear and begin to embody. Pokemon also features a combination of a classic format that is easy to learn and players can relate to regardless of which version of the game they play
One challenge that has persisted throughout the series is that each game only contains one save file, making it impossible for anyone to share the same game cartridge without overwriting another person’s game. The game is also rather long with playthroughs averaging around 35 hours. Players can play smaller segments and understand the basics of the game, but it takes longer for a player to experience the full journey. Another challenge that can be frustrating for students who want to collect as many Pokemon as possible is that some of the Pokemon are only available through special events, making it difficult for players to then catch all the Pokemon they can.
Whether in English, math, or science class, Pokemon can serve as both an introduction to material and an example. Pokemon was the first entertainment-focused game to also teach me. Pokemon can only learn four moves at a time, but there are over 600 moves total, requiring over 600 names. From “Aromatherapy” to “Evasion” and “Foresight,” the moves in the game teach vocabulary to players and requires the use of context clues for them to understand the word and what that ability does. Pokemon is also a modern example of the hero’s journey as a player leaves their small town to embark on a quest to become a Pokemon champion. Students can chart out the hero’s journey through the world of Pokemon and apply similar concepts to classic works of literature.
The types of moves and types of Pokemon can also be used to work with fractions and basic science concepts as well. In battle, Pokemon attack types determine how much damage opponents take. If attacks are super-effective, the points double, but if it’s not effective, then damage is halved. Students could work with varying damage amounts and use fractions to determine who would win a battle in how many hits. Similarly, in a science classroom, looking into why certain types are effective against others can lead to discussions of basic science properties. For example, asking why electric types are super-effective against water types can lead into a whole lesson on conduction and properties of water or asking why water is super-effective against ground can lead to a discussion about erosion and its properties. Even if you don’t have a class set of Nintendo 3DS’s to pass out and hours and hours to play the game, using Pokemon as a basis or introduction to class concepts can solidify concepts for students, pull student interest and expertise into the classroom, and add some excitement to the class.
Iwata Satoru was a CEO, but first and foremost, he loved games as a gamer who knew how to use his own love of games to inspire others. He encouraged his team, worked and played alongside them, and brought a love of games to millions. In our own classrooms, we should reflect that same excitement, passion for our work, and respect for the people we work with (in our case, our students) that Iwata showed in his life. As Iwata passes on to his next great adventure and Pokemon evolves into its twentieth year, these powerhouses will continue to leave a cultural impact across the globe and inspire kids to pick up a game and learn through play.
Educational Rating: 6/8
(Classroom Tech Friendly, Motivation, Concrete Learning, Additional Skills, Feedback, Difficulty, Accessibility, Extension)
Overall Rating: 7/8
(Immersion, Environment, Storyline, Replayability, Entertainment, Gameplay, Originality, User Control)