My son kicked my ass at Pokemon: A story of growing old
Earlier this evening, I took my boy to his first-ever live Pokemon tournament. It wasn’t a huge affair, just a single room in the local rec center. But oh, this was a pivotal moment in both his life and mine. Geeky beyond measure, yes, but pivotal nonetheless.
My boy loves and respects me, and almost always listens when I tell him to clean his room or wear some freaking underwear. But the moment that we walked in the door, our roles completely reversed. He was in charge. He chatted knowledgeably with the guy running the show, proudly showed off his 60-card deck, and sat down to walk me through the basics of a Pokemon tournament showdown. All around him, kids and adults alike were wheeling and dealing their way through cards and dice and chips and energy and attacks and all kinds of other insanely complicated gamesmanship.
Now, here’s the thing. My geek credentials are impeccable. I know every single one of the bounty hunters whom Darth Vader sent to capture Han Solo in “The Empire Strikes Back.” I catch almost all the superhero and Lord of the Rings flicks in their first weekend. I write freaking comic books, for God’s sake. But here … here, I was as lost as my mom when she used to talk about Star Trek’s “Dr. Spock.” (Mo-ooommmm….)
Anyway, the basic plotline of Pokemon is incomprehensible, like all Japanese cartoons. Seriously, the whole backstory and mythology involved makes “Game of Thrones” look about as complex as a one-man stage show. All the little creatures can “evolve” into other, more badass animals, and they get turned loose against other such hopped-up creations in what appears to be some sort of brightly-colored, animated equivalent of cockfighting. (Things would’ve gone much different for Mike Vick if he’d wrangled Pikachus instead of pit bulls.)
But that’s the story behind the cards, which really doesn’t matter when you’re playing the game. As you can see from the board above, you’ve got to throw your best cards against the other dude’s best cards. It’s the equivalent of Texas Hold ‘Em, if each player had a deck and stacked it in favor of drawing royal flushes or straights. And if the number of hot chicks serving you drinks was reduced to exactly zero.
After some patient explaining by the guy running the whole event, I sat down to play my son … and pretty much immediately got waxed. I mean, he was throwing evolving and energy and poison and paralysis and all kinds of other hoo-hah at me. And what was the worst was that he was patiently explaining what he was doing as he was doing it, talking to me like … like … like I talk to him when I’m teaching him the crossover dribble or the chip shot.
Seriously, what the hell?
On one hand, this is right and proper, a generational change. I’m not supposed to stay up on every single trend my kids follow. But man, to feel so old and left out, to be looked at with something approaching pity at my ignorance by my son and these other Pokemon devotees … hey, you cardslinging punks! I can reel off thirty years of X-Men continuity! I actually understood Lost! I’m down with Joss Whedon! Seriously!
I used to chuckle at my dad, who went through the entire Star Wars: Episode I thinking the kid was young Luke, not young Darth Vader. But that kind of benign out-of-touchedness doesn’t seem so farfetched any more. And it’s going to be this way from now on; my kids will be into bands, books and people whom I don’t understand and don’t (or shouldn’t) care for. At least I’ve got the Daddy-goes-to-all-the-best-games thing to hold over their heads … until one of ’em goes to write for ESPN, of course.