Ownership is a very strong feeling. Knowing that you own something and that it is fully yours is quite empowering. We all learn about ownership at some point in our lives, and usually struggle with the meaning throughout our younger years. I was taught at a very young age about ownership by my father; owning my mistakes, owning my accomplishments, owning pets, and physically purchasing something – making me the owner.
When I was 13 years old, the Game Boy Color was released in the US. During this period of my life I really started taking notice of gaming commercials, and boy, did I pay close attention whenever a commercial played on TV for the Nintendo handheld. My nephew and I were really into Pokemon cards at the time – I wasn’t too impressed with the show, but I watched anyway – and had always wanted the Pokemon game. At the time, there were only two colors to choose from: Pokemon Red and Pokemon Blue. My nephew and I decided to try and persuade our parents to get us each a Game Boy Color and a game. Of course, we each had to get a different color, in order to obtain all 150 elusive Pokemon, which seems like such a miniscule amount compared to later iterations of the franchise.
Anyway, as hard as we tried, our parents weren’t going to buy us the handhelds, as they wanted to teach us a lesson. If we wanted the system and game, then we would have to work for it. As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, I would travel to Sacramento and stay with my brother and his family just about every summer and winter break. During the few weeks I was able to stay with them during Christmas break (I really miss having three weeks off for Christmas break, by the way), Steven and I set out to work our tails off to purchase the latest Nintendo system.
I remember going to various houses of friends of the family, cleaning gutters, pulling weeds, mowing, trimming bushes, cleaning pools, and many other odd jobs. We would usually tag-team a job in order to finish in half the time so we could move on to the next job. Over a period of only a few weeks, I learned many tasks and skills that I perform and use today. I’m not able to hire a gardener to take care of our front and back yard, so guess who gets to do it? That’s right – me, myself, and I.
We would wake up fairly early, even though we were on break from school, and quickly throw on our work clothes. We would hitch a ride with one of Steven’s parents – usually his mother – and begin our daily work. It sounds a bit weird, but I really enjoyed working. I mean, I was with someone I enjoyed being around and I was doing physical work, all while inadvertently learning about responsibility.
After only two weeks, we both had just enough money to purchase exactly what we wanted. The time had come to be rewarded for our initiative and hard work. We took a trip down to the local Toys R Us (remember that store?) and bought our systems. We asked an employee to open up the case to get a Game Boy Color system and game, we brought the items to the register, and we spent the money out of our own pockets to buy the items. I had my first taste in true ownership, as this was the very first major purchase I had ever made.
Steven and I spent the next week capturing Pokemon and unfolding the story found in the little game cartridges. It was incredibly addicting; finding and capturing new Pokemon to own, then leveling them up to fight other trainers. There was something magical about owning the little pocket monsters. I absolutely hated it when they would faint in battle, and I would try to prevent that at all costs. I didn’t like to see the little things suffer, especially the six I narrowed down as my favorites.
I vividly remember my battle with Giovanni in the Viridian City Gym. I went into the gym with my Charizard leading the way, only to get defeated by one of the Cooltrainers spread throughout the puzzle in the gym. When I lost, I was devastated; this was the first time my Charizard had fainted. I couldn’t believe it. Charizard wasn’t going to be leaving my elite group, so I simply moved him to the second position in the lineup. I went back in, learning from my mistakes, and arrived at my goal: Giovanni. Of course, he had managed to massacre all of my other Pokemon, leaving only Charizard left to try and win it all. I lost yet again. I had to save and put the game down, as I had found myself a little stressed out. Looking back now, I realize why I had been so surprised with these losses and why they affected me so much: every time I lost a battle, I lost something I owned in the game.
I had worked incredibly hard to level up my Pokemon, notably my Charizard, only to lose multiple times in Giovanni’s gym. In this, I had a taste of another aspect of ownership – losing ownership of something. I can’t say I liked it much, and to this day it greatly bothers me when I hear about people stealing from others. I have no doubt that this game and my first purchase combined to play a part in shaping my feelings towards ownership and all that it encompasses.
The losses also taught me something else other than loss of ownership; something I feel is much more important. If we lose something, we are entitled to feel bad about it, but when it comes to material items we shouldn’t stress over it. Though my Pokemon had fainted, and I lost some battles, I could always go back to my latest save point and start anew. My Pokemon, though disappearing for a time, would come back to fight for me again.
Ownership is a great thing. Not because we learn to purchase or obtain something, or because we can call something “mine.” It is a great thing because it helps to remind us that things are fleeting in this life, and that sweating the small stuff is a waste of time. It’s a great thing because it helps us to appreciate the things we do own while we have them. It reminds us of more important aspects in life that we “own,” such as friendships, relationships, accomplishments, and even failures.
Ownership helps to shape us. My father and brother taught Steven and I what it means to work for something, to be responsible for it, and prepared us for what happens in every day life. Pokemon Red helped to clarify this lesson in a way that truly reached my young gamer mind. What made the game so memorable was that these things that I worked for and owned – the Pokemon – were the visual I needed to understand ownership, much like owning a pet. Until this point, every pet we had was technically owned by our parents. Every piece of clothing, the houses we slept in, the yards we played in – they were all under the ownership of our parents. But these Pokemon? They were ours.
Pokemon taught me a lot of things that would play into larger lessons later on in my life, and I learned them indirectly. Only when I began looking back on my short life did I see what purchasing and playing the game meant to me. These were vital lessons for me to learn, since my mother had died at such a young age; it empowered me in a way I had never felt, and it made me feel older, which is what most younger boys and girls strive for. Ownership, loss, and not worrying about the small things that will arise throughout life – who would’ve thought I would begin a long journey in learning these concepts with such a tiny cartridge and handheld gaming system? Not me, that’s for sure.