USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘pokemon’
Adulthood
Childhood
Digital
Humor
Life cycle

Flip Phone Accessories

Informant is a Facebook page that regularly posts memes. As the page’s primary following is teens and young adults, most of their content is humor based on 1990’s & 2000’s American youth culture.

Flip Phone Accessories

This particular post shows an early 2000’s cell phone with an excessive amount of Pokemon accessories. Such accessories were a fad in the days of the flip-phone. The Pokemon attached to the phone are from the years 1996 to 2006, highlighting the target audience of this meme page. By combining the retro mobile phone with an excessive amount of once-trendy, Pokemon themed folk objects, this satirical image is aimed to evoke nostalgia for people who grew up in this era.

Folk Beliefs

Pokemon Catching Superstition (Gotta Catch em’ All!)

About the Interviewed: Max is a twenty year old college student at Pasadena City College studying Architecture and Fashion Design. His ethnic background is remotely Swedish, though his family has been in America for a couple generations.

I talked to my friend Max about  pop beliefs and superstitions around popular video games he’s played.

Max: “I know this one about Pokemon. It’s actually pretty well known.”

I asked him to elaborate.

Max: “Pokemon is a video game where players have to catch these magical creatures. You wanna catch as many as possible. The actual science behind catching each one is actually kind-of crazy. It depends on the power level of the thing you’re trying to catch, how strong you are, what pokeball you use, etcetera.”

“When I was a little kid, me and all my friends believed that there were secret ways to hack the game, like you could change the results so that you always got your catch. Things like that.”

“The rumor was something like, when you’re in battle with a Pokemon you want to catch, you have to hold down both the “down” button, and the “B” buttons at the same time on the controllers. The funny thing is, it didn’t make a difference at all. It was all in our minds. But everyone I knew did it anyway.”

I asked Max where he felt the beliefs originated from.

Max: “I don’t know. It was just that Pokemon was so popular. My friends were doing the down B thing, so I sort of did it too.”

“It doesn’t help that Pokemon games were really hard.”

Summary:

A popular belief persists among American juvenile players of the video game “Pokemon”, that monsters are easier to catch if you hold down both the “Down” and “B” buttons. There is no evidence of the trick actually working, but the belief is widespread.

The “down-B” trick that Max informed of me seems to be a tradition observed in American children who played the Pokemon games growing up. I’d actually be interested to know if other cultures had similar luck granting gifts when playing games with large luck-based elements such as Pokemon. It seems similar to the tradition of “blowing on your dice” for good luck. 

 

Digital

Pokemon Capture Button Press Ritual

Click here for video.

“So as a kid, I was a huge fan of the Pokemon games. Best game ever, just putting that out there. So there’s quite a few times during the game where you have to catch these Legendary Pokemon. Like you know, in like Pokemon Yellow you go into the cave and you’re like ‘Oh my god its a Mewtwo, I need that Mewtwo’, right? So I have like 20 Ultra Balls and I’ll be like ‘Oh crap. I need to catch this thing before I’m out of Pokeballs’, so I go in and like every single time I throw a Pokeball I have to do the traditional moves. Once you throw that Pokeball you have to press left, right, left, right, and then while you’re doing that you have to vigorously press the A and B buttons. That increases your chances of catching that Mewtwo. Trust me it works. Try it next time.”

This practice of mashing buttons while trying to catch a Pokemon is incredibly widespread. Everyone that I’ve seen play Pokemon has done something similar. It is almost like a nervous fidget while waiting for a successful capture or a failure. Everyone I’ve watched does it differently based on where they grew up. In my hometown, the common practice was to hold the A button and tap B in rhythm with the twitching of the Pokeball. As children, we had no understanding of programming or how games were designed. We didn’t know that the designers of our Pokemon games never programmed in any functionality for button pressing to affect Pokemon capture rates. To us, Gameboys were these magical boxes that did things when we pressed buttons. I think we just assumed that pressing buttons while a Pokemon was being captured would affect the probability of catching the Pokemon because why would it not? This ritual speaks volumes about how we see new technologies. When we don’t understand things we tend to come up with rituals to deal with them. When we catch a Pokemon due to random chance, but happened to be pressing a certain button combination, we’re often lead to believe that pressing buttons works. For many people, these button patterns became consolidated because every once in a while, they appear to work.

There is an incredible amount of folklore and rumor surrounding the Pokemon franchise thanks to the internet and poor translation. In 1998, When Pokemon first achieved mass appeal in the United States, the internet was just burgeoning. I remember going on “gaming tips” sites that often featured wild rumors and had little-to-no fact-checking. What complicated things was that a lot of literature about Pokemon was in Japanese, the game’s original language. Many of gaming tip sites were run by people with no knowledge of Japanese, so often they just took pictures that were available in Japanese gaming guides and made an educated guess as to what the pictures were trying to illustrate. As a result, there were many theories and rumors, mostly incorrect, about the game.

In Pokemon, the main goal of the game is to catch a multitude of colorful monsters and battle them. Perhaps this explains why the game is so incredibly popular. The core concept of the game plays into our drive to collect, dominate, and compete. A friend of mine once compared it to a more interactive form of stamp collecting.

Contagious
Digital
Magic
Musical

Lavender Town Syndrome

The informant is a college student from Reno, Nevada.

This supposed “syndrome” is a piece of online lore which comes from the Pokemon video games for Gameboy. The informant first stumbled upon a website about it while he was in high school. However, he played the games when he was seven or eight years old. In the game, the player travels from town to town, advancing towards the end. One of the towns is called Lavender Town. In it, there is a tower full of ghosts of wandering souls of Pokemon who have been murdered. When the player enters a new area, the music changes. Each town has its own song, and the informant recalls Lavender Town’s being particularly creepy.

This song is central to the lore which has become an online legend. According to the legend, when the first prototypes of the game came out in Japan in February of 1996, there was a spike in illness of children who bought and played the game. These “illnesses” supposedly made them mentally unstably, resulting in a spike in suicides and violent behavior. According to the legend, the high frequencies used in the song resulted in these physiological changes. The informant does not actually believe the legend is actually true, mostly because it is posted on a page called “creepypasta Wiki”, a page for stories that are generally made-up internet hoaxes. Still, there are entire forums filled with lengthy theories about missing frequencies and ghosts in the machine. The following is a link to the song, as heard in the final, U.S. version:

 

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