The timeless appeal of Pokemon monsters


Pokemon - the small, adorable creatures with special fighting abilities - have been around for more than two decades, and they're as popular as ever, mainly due to families sharing the legacy.

More than 7,500 people from 49 different countries were expected to attend the annual Pokemon World Championships in Washington DC on the weekend. Most appeared to be in their 20s or older.

"I'm 24, but I know I look young," joked Amanda Gunkle, decked head-to-toe in the gear of Pikachu, the iconic yellow Pokemon. "I've been a fan (of Pokemon) since my early childhood," she said.

It's clear why Pokemon appeal to young kids, but for many older fans, Pokemon represent nostalgia and novelty.

The Pokemon franchise launched in Japan in 1996, but didn't take off in the United States until the early 2000s.

The brand - estimated to be the highest-grossing media franchise ever - produces video games released in pairs every one to two years, with a new batch of Pokemon.

It also makes trading cards that players use to battle each other, an animated TV series, and several movies.

"We're definitely seeing some inter-generational fans," said Elvin Gee, a spokesman for the Pokemon Company. "It's amazing to see parents pass on their cards, or pass on their video games to their children."

The franchise's popularity is also due to the recent success of smartphone app Pokemon Go, a game that lets players walking the real world hunt virtual Pokemon, as well as the film, Detective Pikachu, which has grossed more than US$430 million (HK$3.35 billion) worldwide.

New Jersey native John Kim drove down with his family so his two older sons, ages 11 and eight, could compete in the tournament.

"I really like it for (my sons), because they have to learn to lose gracefully, to win gracefully. They learn rules, they learn to accept outcomes," he said.

Championship prize money - which runs up to US$25,000 for the card game tournament - is mainly offered in the form of scholarships or travel certificates, particularly for players under 18 years.

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November 2019

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