Pokémon GO is the latest craze to sweep the nation. It launched a little over three weeks ago, but with how incredibly popular it’s become, it feels like it’s been around for months. It’s a mobile app that utilizes AR (augmented reality) technology by using your phone’s camera and GPS, which allows players to walk around in the real world and catch Pokémon to train and battle and ultimately become a Pokémon Master. It’s a game that’s captured the hearts of millions of people in all different generations. Like any fad, its popularity will most definitely wear off in time, but as of right now, there’s no end in sight.
I personally haven’t caved and gotten the app, although I’ll admit I was tempted. The game has invaded my daily life even though I don’t play it. My co-workers have caught Pokémon while we were all eating lunch together. I’ve seen Instagram posts of Pokémon at concerts and on sidewalks. One of my friends even tweeted about seeing a group of elderly women playing the game. It’s united people of all ages, undoubtedly an amazing feat.
Pokémon debuted in 1996, making this year its 20th anniversary, a commendable milestone indeed. The extent of my experience with the franchise consists of playing the mini games from Pokémon Stadium and Pokémon Stadium 2 for the Nintendo 64 with my siblings for hours on end, as well as dancing to the original Pokémon theme song for a jazz routine when I was eight. I also distinctly remember when I was in third grade, a kid in my class was so obsessed with Pokémon to the point where he used to say “Pika-” before he sneezed.
The recent Pokémon hype has got me thinking about fads in general and the lasting mark they leave on society. When you’re a little kid, everything feels like a big deal. You get caught up in the hysteria of the newest thing, and if you didn’t have the latest toy or game that everyone else was playing, you were doomed to be left out, until the next big thing came along, of course.
Having grown up in the ’90s and early 2000s, I experienced my fair share of fads. Take, for example, Beanie Babies. (Sidenote: Remember when we thought they were going to be worth thousands of dollars someday?) In the span of a decade or so in which I collected those adorable animal plush toys, I had accumulated approximately 400 Beanie Babies. I wound up donating most of them, but I still have about 50 or so in a basket at the foot of my bed, as I couldn’t seem to part with them (sentimental reasons, you know how it is). I still have my very first Beanie Baby, Snip the Siamese cat, who sits on the desk beside my bed because she’s my favorite. (Sorry to all my other Beanie Babies. They all have a special place in my heart). At least 20 or so of the Beanie Beanies I’ve kept have the tags cut off because I used to think the tags hurt them (yes, when I was younger I believed the toys were sentient à la Toy Story).
The point I’m trying to make in all this is that while fads inevitably fade over time, they never truly go away. Instead, they become a part of pop culture history. What was once a national or even global phenomenon eventually turns into a distant memory tinted by the rosy glow of the wonderful (and, admittedly, bankable) sentiment we all know and love to experience, nostalgia. It just goes to show that you never know what’s going to be a hit, but once something does become a hit, oh, man, is it unstoppable.