Back when today’s college student was in elementary school, Pokémon was everywhere. Recess wasn’t recess without students playing on their Game Boy Color systems or trading Pokémon cards.
The Pokémon generation may be older now, but the franchise isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Pokémon Black and White Version 2 was released in Oct. 2012 — 14 years after the release of the generation that started it all — Red and Blue versions.
And college students are still interested in playing the game they grew up with.
The Penn State Pokémon Society has seen incredible growth since its inception in spring of 2009, said its founder, Alex Zwiazek.
“When we started out, we were very unorganized,” Zwiazek, Class of 2011, said. “There were only 20 or 30 of us, and we really didn’t know what we were doing.”
Now, he said, the club has a significant following on Facebook. The club has gone on club-organized trips and has even been recognized by Nintendo, he said.
“The club is equally as passionate now as it was then, but it’s miles beyond anything I thought it would become,” Zwiazek said. “It’s very impressive and a lot more organized than it ever was before.”
What kept him coming back to Pokémon after all these years is a sense of competition and friendship.
He said it’s easier to be more interested in playing the game when he has friends to challenge. Now that he has graduated, he finds himself playing less often.
Other members of the Penn State Pokémon Society also said that friendship is a big part of why the game is so popular among college students.
Nic Freda, organizer of a Pokémon Society tournament held this past Saturday and Sunday, said he has organized and run events much larger than the tournament held here on campus. He said he has come across many participants who have stayed interested because their friends attend events with them.
“As corny as it sounds, friendship is a reason why people keep playing the game,” Freda (sophomore-computer science) said. “It’s why people keep up with it in college and in the workforce.”
Others have different reasons for keeping up with Pokémon through the years.
For Valentina Ceccarelli, treasurer of the Pokémon Society, playing the games offered her a confidence boost when she was growing up.
“I wasn’t necessarily a sporty type person,” Ceccarelli (sophomore-German education) said. “Every time I picked up a Pokémon game, I knew I could have fun and come out a winner.”
However, Ceccarelli also said that she knows many people in the club enjoy Pokémon for its social aspect and for the challenge of adapting one’s gaming strategy to each new generation of Pokémon.
Marcus Foster, store manager of Gamers Arena, 421 E. Calder Way, can attest to the “consistent, if not rising” selling power of the Pokémon video games.
The store, which has been open for about three years, has been selling Black Version 2 and White Version 2 consistently well since its midnight release, which sold out at the store.
“When a new Pokémon game gets announced, everyone gets the itch for the old,” Foster said, adding that recently he has sold copies of the original Red, Blue and Yellow versions.
One of the reasons he believes the game sells so well is that it can reach all age groups. Foster said that while some might claim Pokémon is a “kiddie game,” he has seen college students and even adults come into the store to make purchases.
“It’s really for everybody, and that’s what makes it so successful,” Foster said.
Foster said he believes the game has remained popular with college students because it hasn’t changed its outlook much since the release of the first games.
Unlike other game series, it has not done a “reboot.” A reboot, Foster said, is where a game operates in a particular way, then a new sequel is released and its style completely changes and the plot is reset. This usually happens because the game isn’t selling well.
“This is the same game college students played when they were kids,” Foster said. “There’s more Pokémon and more variety, but the game has essentially stayed the same.”