Saturday, February 09, 2013

Pokemon! (And a General Evaluation of Human Action)

When my son was four, we played the Pokemon card game obsessively. Literally every day. And not like playing Go Fish or Candyland with him (out of a feeling of duty) - I liked playing as much as he did. In fact, he got his first starter kit and some booster packs for Christmas 1998 and we could not wait for Borders to reopen on December 26 so we could get more booster packs to tweak our decks. And I quickly realized what I loved about the game: it had four distinct parts to it, each of which was enjoyable. 

First, you had to shop for the cards. There was the anticipation, an almost gambling like addiction of not knowing what you'd get exactly, but hoping for the Magic Bullet to defeat all enemies.

Then there was the trading stage. (Obviously, my son engaged in this much more than I did.) This was the social aspect, hanging out with fellow enthusiasts, talking strategy, talking smack about how your water deck would annihilate them next time. 

Then there was the planning and building stage. Unlike the previous stage, this one was completely solitary, focused. This was numbers crunching (you have to calculate things in Pokemon like figuring out average damage per turn and how many turns a Pokemon will stay on the front line until defeated, almost as much as you used to with old fashioned pencil-and-paper D&D), geeked out, hours and hours late at night, sometimes cackling maniacally when a particularly good arrangement presented itself. 

Finally, you got to actually play. This is not really the social aspect, as you and your opponent are hunkered over the cards, totally focused on them and what you can predict will happen next. There is the thrill of victory, sometimes, but regardless of the outcome, you'll have to go back to step three (and maybe steps 1 and 2, as well) and start over before next time!

So I had always appreciated the game for how much enjoyment I could get out of it, and in several different ways. But I was thinking this morning, that other things I really enjoy in life, also participate in similar phases or steps to the Pokemon obsessions. Teaching, for example - I go browsing and shopping for books; I love (and now very much miss) the social aspect of sitting and talking with other teachers about our profession, about pedagogy and what we have planned and what works or doesn't; I read the books, plan the lessons, build the syllabus, think of the opening question for seminar; and then I actually teach. And cooking is even closer (since the shopping stage is more integral): I love shopping for the food (and what's available, local, and/or on sale very much contributes to the planning stage); it's fun to socialize with other foodies, even trade recipes or tips or even coupons or news of sales; then I plan the week's menus (around what was bought, and to maximize use of leftovers); then I actually cook and eat, which is really a more balanced activity than play, as I do the cooking alone but the eating is social, as is the praise for the victorious cooking. 

So, maybe I need some more hobbies that partake of all four! Knitting? Model trains? Who knows! 


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