Lao Tzu, the founder of Taoism, once wrote: "Too much success is not an advantage. Do not tinkle like jade, or clatter like stone chimes."
Lao Tzu's words speak directly to the essence of Pokémon. There is such a thing as too much success, and Pokémon has it. This is the Tao of Pikachu.
Pokémon is, along with Mario and possibly Tomb Raider, one of the few gaming franchises that just about everybody knows - it's not exactly the first game that comes to mind when one thinks of overlooked gems. In its various incarnations, it has sold well over 100 million games, second only to the Mario series, and is far and away the most successful mobile game of all time.
And yet, for all its sales, when they draw up the all-time greatest game lists, Pokémon doesn't rate. Not a single game on the list appears on the latest IGN Reader's Top 100 games list, a list that features, among other highlights, Smackdown vs Raw 2006 and two separate Ratchet and Clank games.
If it does show up, it's always an afterthought: No. 70 in 2005 and No. 72 in 2003 in the IGN Editor's lists, behind such luminaries as NCAA Football 2003 and Rayman 2. Not that The Escapist itself fares any better - this is the 74th issue of The Escapist and the first time Pokémon has been more than a passing reference.
The problem lies in the Tao of Pikachu. Pokémon became so much more than a game. It became one of those ludicrous kids' phenomena, a Tickle-Me Harry Potter that inspired media hype and religious hate across all boundaries and creeds, that its soul - one man's dream encapsulated in a Game Boy cart - was forgotten.
Forgotten, not just by the general public but, shamefully, by those who call themselves gamers. It became so associated with children that we gamers, a group as concerned with our image as a roomful of pimply teenage Goths wearing last year's fashions, ostracized it.
Compared with Harry Potter, the multi-billion kids' franchise that succeeded it, the reaction to Pokémon is put into stark contrast. Despite its massive success, indeed oftentimes even because of it, adult fans who enjoyed the books have stuck with it. They proudly state that they enjoy children's literature; at worst, they half-hide their reading behind the "adult" covers.
Pokémon, by comparison, is sniffed over; it's that thing kids play. We'll be over here, running down hookers in Grand Theft Auto because, you know, that's what maturity is.
Gaming loses. Again.
A Journey of a Thousand Miles ...
As the Pokémon tsunami engulfed the West, the great mouth of popular culture swallowed up a little game, originally created to let city-born kids experience the same joy its creator experienced collecting bugs in a then-rural part of Tokyo.
A game that was originally about kids collecting and trading together, a game in which no blood was spilled, no wardrobes malfunctioned and which emphasized loyalty and friendship became associated with schoolyard stabbings over trading cards, litigious accusations about racketeering and animal rights whining.