Call me a little behind the times, but I was just recently introduced to the Pokemon games and have become rather enthralled with them of late. Namely in just how fascinating their rather idealistic and wholesome world is, but also in just how complex these rather simple looking children’s games really are. If you are like I was about a week or so ago, I will fill you in on the basics of this game. You are a young boy or girl who lives in this world of incredible creatures called “Pokemon.” You are given a Pokemon as a companion, one relating to one of the elements of fire, water, or grass (as apparently “glass” is an element), and sent out on a quest to discover just how many Pokemon there are in the world. Along the way you meet new friends, battle your Pokemon against wild Pokemon in an attempt to capture them and make them your new companions as well, and usually have some greater threat you end up having to deal with. Simple right? Wrong. There is so much to these little games that it makes my head spin. Thinking that there are young children – I have seen five year old kids playing these games before – who understand just how the game works is positively mind blowing.
First, there are those elements that I mentioned earlier. Well, those three are far from the only ones. There is also water, ice, dragon, rock, dark, psychic, ground, flying, electricity, and many, many more, each of which behaves differently against the others. Fire is strong against grass, for example, doing extra damage to them, and is incredibly weak against rock, doing little damage. Electricity is good against water. Grass against water. The list goes on. In fact, there is an entire chart out there that documents the various relations between the different elements. To me, it looks like trying to memorize the periodic table of elements, but one of my friend’s kids has the whole thing committed to memory. Its absolutely incredible. Then there are “hidden statistics” to each Pokemon, including how much they like you, how happy they are, their Effort Values – values that increase based on what they have fought – and others as well. The more I play this game, the more I realize just how complicated it really is.
So what does this tell me? It tells me that we have some really smart kids out there, as well as people who understand how to bring out that capacity for learning. It is no mystery that when you make learning fun, it makes it easier to learn. Well, here we have a fantastic example of memorization, complex puzzle solving, and even things like etiquette as your character has many people in the world that they must interact with, and although much of their interaction is limited to rather simple dialogue, it still depicts and even encourages positive social behavior.
I know that I am far from the first to realize the learning power inherent to games like Pokemon. It is also clear to me that the creators of this fantastic game really know and understand just how great the potential of their audience can be. Kids can handle complex challenges, so give them complex challenges but make them both fun and rewarding.
And honestly, these are some incredible video games.