In 1996, a phenomenon swept through the adolescences of Japan. It would later envelop North America in 1999, as one of the greatest craze in gaming history. Pokémon. A multi-billion dollar franchise in the United States and one of Nintendo’s paramount creations, second only to Super Mario. Satoshi Tajiri was the mastermind behind this imagined realm of the Pokémon; an idea, which originated from envisions that he had through his love of bug collecting. Many of the Pokémon design concepts mimic life’s creatures, especially insects. For example, Caterpie, a Pokémon that draws heavily on the appearance of a caterpillar belonging exclusively to the Swallowtail butterfly species. Moreover, there is Butterfree, Caterpie’s evolved form vaguely resembling an anthropomorphic butterfly.
Satoshi imagined these Pokémon through inspiration drawn from existent organisms, using his senses of sight and hearing, as many of these Pokémon appropriated their sounds from the noises that their actual counterparts make. For example, the character of Bidoof impersonates a lifelike beaver. Compare it with a genuine beaver. Notice the similarities in tones.
Furthermore, Satoshi realized that the children during his time had a mutual love of collecting. Nevertheless, he also discerned that due to the era of industrialization, most parks and grasslands were being superseded by urban infrastructures. Consequently, the insect population declined and most children took their fun indoors, making bug collecting an endeavor of the past. As such, he thought of how to combine his past hobbies with the present modern methods of enjoyment.
By chance, he came across two children playing with their Game Boys . It was from the link cable between the devices that the world of Pokémon, as we know it today was born. Tajiri commented, “The communication aspect of Game Boy – it was a profound image to me. It has a communication cable. In Tetris, its first game, the cable transmitted information about moving blocks. That cable really got me interested. I thought of actual living organisms moving back and forth across the cable.” He foresaw that this link cable could be a way for players to trade Pokémon with one another, which is the whole aspect of this role-playing game. He imagined an interactive game where children and teens alike can learn the joy of collecting in a rather peaceful recreation of reality. As such, the Pokémon were programmed to faint when they lose a battle rather than dying, as Tajiri did not want to indulge in the “pointless violence” which was already rampant in the gaming world at the time. As the game progressed in Japan and gained popularity, Tajiri also inserted a legendary Pokémon named Mew into the system as he imagined it would create “a lot of rumors and myths about the game.”
The world of Pokémon is a world of ingenuity. Drawn perhaps from actuality, but would not have came to be without a vision. Satoshi Tajiri created a gaming revolution from his ability to imagine, a trait that he could credit to Asperger’s Syndrome as it gives its bearer intense focus and interests. Ironically, what was meant to inhibit, spurn him on instead. Those with Asperger’s suffer from social reclusion and public awkwardness, however, that solitary life is what brings forth imagination, as what we do not have, we imagine, and will always strive to make into a reality.