In a previous post I’ve mentioned the phenomenon of SportsCenter— a short ESPN TV show that allows you to catch-up on the latest sports highlights without having to binge watch athletic events all weekend and thus protecting your ability to “hang.”  Apparently it airs up to twelve times per day.  In any case, I keep referring back to SportsCenter as a worthy analog for many of life’s quandaries… one of which is Pokémon.

I recently visited one of my best friend’s in LA and she offhandedly mentioned that she doesn’t “get” Pokémon.  Her son tells her about it, but all she hears is Charlie Brown-style, “waaah-waa-waah-Damage waah-wa-Mega-wah-wah-E.X., Mom.”  And so I’ve decided to create a Pokémon Cheat Sheet; the Cliff Notes of Pokémon; the SportsCenter of first grade Japanese card collecting for all parents beginning their journey, or perhaps who’ve been proud Pokémon owners for some time but just tune-out when they hear anything involving damage and evolving.

Now I must warn you up front— PokéCenter will NOT teach you how to play the Pokémon card game.  My assessment is that it’s almost unlearnable unless you follow the step-by-step instructions of a “trainer” deck, which is most definitely rigged.  Personally, I’d recommend saving the learning of the real game as something you may do, should you find yourself unwittingly locked in prison with a couple of years to kill.

So the purpose of this PokéCenter is to provide you with the bare basics— The Executive Summary of Pokémon with just enough facts and questions so as to sincerely show enough interest in Pokémon that you can have intelligent conversations with your grade schooler and thus support your ability to “hang.”  If you finish the primer and are ready for more advanced vocabulary, I’d recommend starting with my first foray into Pokémon.

For those Pokémon diehards that stumble across this page— I have not meticulously fact checked everything in this post and have relied almost solely on the knowledge of a four and six-year-old supplemented by the Pokémon Deluxe Essential Handbook, Wikipedia skimming, and random Google searches.  If you’ve come across this page, you are certainly not the target audience and are probably looking for something more like this blog that writes a daily, I repeat daily, Pokémon card review and chronicles rare Pokémon cards published since the beginning of time… or 1996.

PokéCenter— A Pokémon Primer for Parents

Pokémon Premise:  The card game centers around fictional creatures called “Pokémon,” which humans capture and train to fight each other for sport (source: Wikipedia).  Possibly… a bit like bloodless cockfighting for kids?  But I digress…

The Basics: Pokémon is a media franchise with an animated TV show, movies, video games, comic books, toys and trading card games.  It’s second only to the Super Mario franchise.  If your kids have started talking about Pokémon, they’re most likely referring to the trading cards featuring different Pokémon creatures.

Pokémon “Guys”: I’ve used the term “guy” figuratively in this instance.  There are both male and female Pokémon characters.  There are gender neutral Pokémon as well as several that evolve into a male or female form, but I’m getting ahead of myself.  Pokémon guys are usually a new version of a somewhat familiar animal, insect or life-like organism (i.e. plasma).  Some notable Pokémon creatures to know include the most famous Pokémon, Pikachu (The Mickey Mouse of Pokémon) and some less known, more creative Pokémon like Mega Slowbro (Hermit Crab Pokémon), Pineco (Pinecone Pokémon), Spritzee (Perfume Pokémon), and Vanillish (Vanilla Ice Cream Cone Pokémon).

Key Pokémon Vocab: There are less than ten key words you need to learn to intelligently participate in Pokémon conversations.  If your confidence wanes and you need to fall back to a protective position, I recommend asking questions.  That said, if all else fails, just pepper your conversation with a lot of “Megas.”

  • Health or Health Points (HP): The big number in the top right corner of the card which measures how “alive” or strong your Pokémon is.
  • Damage: The little numbers in the bottom third of the card which measure how strong your “attacks” are on other guys.
  • Attack(s): The descriptions in front of the damage numbers that tell you what kind of attack moves the guy does when he is battling another Pokémon.
  • Strategy: A generously used term uttered by the “trainers” (aka humans) in all Pokémon television episodes.  Beware— after just one episode, you’ll find yourself uttering in your most Alvin-the-Chipmunk-esque voice, “Whoooo’s that PokéMON?!”
  • Types: There are 18 types.  Bug, Ice, Dark, Dragon, Electric, Fairy, Fighting, Fire, Flying, Ghost, Grass, Ground, Normal, Poison, Psychic, Rock, Steel, Water.  You don’t need to know anything except the word “type.”  I like to mess with them by asking about Umbrella types and Princess types.  I’ve noticed Jake and Nate are calling Psychic, “Sidekick.”
  • E.X. and Legendary: E.X.’s are pretty rare and are stronger than normal Pokémon.  They usually have fancy holographic pictures which just further advertises their specialness.  Legendary are very rare, stronger and harder to catch.  Jacob has only ever seen one Legendary in his entire life, and of course, Truman, our Pokémon sensei has it.  I have never been so lucky.
  • Evolution: All guys start out as Basic before they evolve.  Most guys can evolve at least once, sometimes up to four times in stages.  My favorite Pokémon, Horsea, evolves from Horsea to Seadra to Kingdra.
  • Mega: Used to describe a very strong Pokémon.

5 Questions to Ask: The most effective approach to bonding with your child on Pokémon is the Socratic method, also known as asking questions.  Believe me, this blog was the most collaborative family project we’ve completed in quite some time.  I’ve amassed my impressive Pokémon knowledge via simple questions and good ol’ fashioned listening.  Here are a few ice-breakers to get you started:
1) What’s your favorite Pokémon?  What type is it?
2) How much health do they have?
3) How much damage can they do?
4) How do they evolve?
5) How cool are they?  What makes them cool?
Bonus Question: Have you ever seen a Legendary?

Final Advice: Take a look through your child’s deck and pick a most favorite and a least favorite Pokémon.  This helps you to limit the number of guys you need to learn the names of and provides an anchor you can always rely on.  Now, I’ve gone the stereo-typical girlie route where my favorite Pokémon is Horsea because he’s soOoOo cute.  Nate really wants me to like Meloetta (Musical Pokémon) because she has long green hair and I think she’s supposed to be pretty.  “Mom, she is really rare and can use the power of 1000 E.X.’s!”  I just can’t do it.

I’ve decided my least favorite Pokémon is  Lickitung (Licking Pokémon).  It was a tough choice given Combusken is an unreasonably psychotic-looking, sharp-clawed chicken, Goomy is a “Soft Tissue” Pokémon, and Cubchoo has a foot-long frozen snotsicle hanging from his nose.  Although I will forever love Horsea, my go-to impersonation is Smoochum and her Sweet Kiss attack.

Your kiddos love Pokémon, you love them, the equation is simple.  You now have the tools and knowledge you need to hold your own on the playground.

And now I leave you with an inspirational quote from Alder (Per Jake, “a Pokémon battling champion”):

“even if we don’t understand each other, that’s not a reason to reject each other.  There are two sides to any argument.  Is there one point of view that has all the answers?  Give it some thought.”

Deep, right?


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