This semester, I am taking a course (as in yes, I am actually getting credit toward my graduation) on the Pokemon trading card game. Gaming/comic books/trading cards/etc. are, as far as I understand, stereotypically male activities. So, it’s not a huge surprise that the course instructor and one student are the only two women involved in this class. I didn’t think much about it until the instructor took attendance during our second meeting and commented, “Oh, well, of course the one girl taking this class isn’t here.” Some of my classmates jokingly grumbled at this, but I was too busy being excited about not contributing to the “girl gamer” population to be upset about being a straight man surrounded by other straight men. I am not nearly as knowledgeable about pokemon as some of my classmates, which does not bode well re: my ability to win tournaments, but I am really enjoying being just another nerd. I’ve always been a nerd, and I was never feminine enough to attract some of the more unwanted attention that some girl gamers have to deal with, but it still feels very different.
I played the pokemon video game when I was a kid, and I come back to it every once in a while. I think it was one of the first ways I expressed my true identity. I played the first game when it came out. I was in third grade, about eight years old. You only had one option, which was to be a boy, with a few standard options for the name or the option to enter your own. I split 50/50 between using the standard name, “Ash,” and entering in what eventually became my legal name. Eventually, with one of the new pokemon games, there was the exciting, new option to choose between a boy and a girl character. I made a game with a girl character, played it for a few minutes, then restarted and made another boy character, the first in my pattern of choosing the male version even when there were options.
Sometimes I feel like I am taking the time to experience everything I missed out on not growing up as a boy — comic books, trading cards, etc. etc. As I go through my second puberty and fight off my second round of serious acne, I am also doing what I should have done at thirteen: learning how to shave, how to talk to girls (as a guy), coming into my own as a person. And pokemon is a true coming-of-age story: a young boy setting out on a journey, the age old trope plus a bunch of made up animals with magic powers (more or less).
It’s fun to come back to one of the hallmarks of my actual puberty while going through my second, much more accurate puberty. The trading card game seems to be this great in-between of video games and LARPing where you don’t have to get into a costume and hit people with foam weapons, but you get to be a bit more involved than when you are just punching buttons on a screen. I have secretly always wanted to be a pokemon trainer (among other things), so this is the closest I will probably come.
“Gotta Catch ‘Em All!” by https://growingupgareth.wordpress.com/ is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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