How Much Has Pokemon Influenced Your Life?
In all seriousness, the Pokemon franchise itself really didn’t influence my life all that much. I watched the animated series only because I like animation in general. The manga never held my interest. I do enjoy the video game series, but it’s not necessarily an exclusive love; my supreme love of Tetris can conjure up far more romantic poetry than my love of Pokemon. And even though the card game was probably the most interesting for me, it was mostly (at first) just an alternative to Magic. Sure, fine, I won’t lie in saying that I don’t enjoy myself while playing any of the games. And yeah, I suppose I play Pokemon games more than, say, Star Wars games. But just playing the games or watching the animated series themselves didn’t instill me with some new sense of reality, or any new ideas, or new point of view. All Pokemon has been for me was a way to kill time in the most fun way possible.
Instead, what REALLY affected my life was my involvement in the Pokemon community, or, the Pokemon community’s involvement with me. I believe that my actions or the actions of others is what inspired life changing experiences for me. I invested a lot of my time and energy in interacting with the Pokemon community, and I’m not surprised that I ended up getting a lot back in return. The life lessons I’ve learned during the height of my interest in Pokemon has had such a profound influence in my life, I’m still applying them to my life today. Now if I had to choose the one, single entity that personified all the major changes in my life involving Pokemon, it would have to the web site I’m most known from, Pokemon Aaah!. While I was pretty active with the PokeGym community, my heart, soul, past, present and future was always entwined with PA!. But even then, Pokemon Aaah! the web site isn’t as important to me as the actual people that were involved its creation, good life and eventual passing. So basically, the people who helped PA!, above all else, is what truly influenced my life. Not the games, not the site, not the fake cards, but the people themselves who brought it all together. At this point, if you want to, you could skip down to the last paragraph for the quick answer.
I treated PA! more like a business than a hobby. I mean, sure, I enjoyed doing it and all, but I had a major Unique Hits addiction, and so I did everything I could to help make the site rise up and up some more. But there was a reason why I had a Unique Hits addiction: never in my life have I ever been so popular. I still haven’t been able to achieve the same kind of popularity with my current projects. Thing is, I was a very unsociable, bookish kid in elementary, junior high and high school. I never was really popular, and I really didn’t have much to be popular about. Now for someone like me to then build a web site, have it get 1,000 unique hits daily and then have a ton of people say to me “Man, I LOVE your work!”, it was like tossing gasoline on a fire. I really didn’t care if it was about Pokemon (though I suppose I was grateful that it was about something I enjoyed), I just kept going on for the ride, months after months and year after year, just so I can keep tasting my newfound popularity. In the end, my interest in keeping PA! alive taught me plenty about how to run a web site, and, well, even a business too. Mostly because, as I’ve been able to learn, running a business is no different than running a web site; you want to get people interested in your work, you have to hire and work with employees, so forth and so on. And now I’m in the stage of my life where I’m interested in actually running a real business, the knowledge I’ve accumulated from running PA! has been extremely applicable to my current business plans. Isn’t that grand?
Fake carding has helped my life out too. Aside from giving me the opportunity to teach myself Photoshop, 3D modeling programs and such, making the cards themselves was always a thrill. Probably the most important thing that faking has proved to me is that that people CAN actually be entertained by the kind of stuff that I create, and that I’m not just going around in circles with what I do. Plus the whole idea that I pretty much popularized an entire segment of Pokemon fandom is also still a major stroke of my ego. If at any time I feel down and blue, I remind myself of how people out there who’ve never met me but are still having a fun time doing something I helped take root and grow. Now if only I could have made some money from it…..
Even though I billed Pokemon Aaah! as a one man show, I did try to get whatever people I could involved in the process, mostly just to relieve some of the pressure off of me doing all the work. I really didn’t have much of a personal relationship with most of the people I ended up hiring to help out with PA!, and I suppose that itself was a catalyst for a lot of the issues I went through with PA!. But not only did those people affect my life, they affected each other’s lives, for better or for worse. To be honest, it weights heavily on my mind to think about all the people I’ve personally affected and then say to myself “I did that to them” or “I was responsible for that.” It’s pretty… well, heavy.
Jimmy Cannon, also known as MegaX, was the first person I got on board to help me out. We knew each other during high school, and he introduced me to Pokemon, so I suppose it was only natural that I had them help me out in PA!. Due to a lack of internet connection, he wasn’t around for a lot of the early days of PA!, but he did become active around when The Echidna and purity came on board. (More about them later.) Jim and I became closer friends during this time, helping each other’s problems as well as being involved in each other’s personal lives. In a sense, I suppose we both helped each other survive high school until we finally managed to make our way out with the rest of the Class of 2000. Now when Ech and pure branched off to form Pokemon Zeo later on, Jim followed along with them, becoming one of their illustrious staff members. That actually created a lot of resentment between Jim and me; I felt betrayed that he would leave me and join Zeo. I saw something in them I didn’t like and felt that Jim didn’t or couldn’t see the same things I did. Jim however didn’t want to play the middleman between two sets of friends. We later fell out of touch for some years afterwards the PA!/Zeo split. In the time we didn’t talk however, Jim became more involved with Zeo. He incidentally found his wife through Zeo, Jen, who was known as AirialaX on their forums. Once Jim and Jen’s child, AJ, was born, it would actually create a rift between Jim and the rest of Zeo staff. While Jim, at the time, treated the rest of Zeo as his trusted friends and allies, they in turn ridiculed Jim for his actions and turned their noses up on him. In the end, Jim managed to see what I originally saw in Zeo and its staff, and finally broke away from them all. Jim and I later eventually reconnected, apologizing to each other for the way we acted towards one another concerning Zeo, and now are closer friends than ever before. I suppose if there’s anything I learned with Jim, it’s how to treat good friends, and how to spot when things go awry in a friendship. It also is, again, pretty heavy to think about how we’ve affected our lives… if PA! never existed, although maybe we’d still be friends, we maybe wouldn’t be as strong of friends as we are right now. Plus Jim probably wouldn’t be happily married too. That’s probably the most important thing for Jim himself.
The Echidna and purity were the second and third most important people I got involved with PA!. To say that they didn’t affect my life much would be a bold-faced lie, despite the fact that I really only knew them personally for about a year before we parted ways. Now if you don’t already know about my history with them, I’ll quickly explain. Back during PA!’s early years, maybe about a year after its inception, I was contacted by The Echidna who turned out to be a fairly talented fake card artist in his own right. I was very much interested in bringing someone like him into the ranks in order to help feed my Unique Hits addiction. Soon after his arrival, purity showed up on the forums. The two would eventually create a partnership that not only helped PA!’s popularity, but it is a partnership that continues on to this very day. However, as time went on, things started to become less peachy. Ech and I started to become more rivals than partners, with each trying to one up each other. This eventually caused us to have a falling out, and Ech and pure would then split away form Pokemon Zeo. I can safely assume that we all took this split fairly personally, as did our fans, since once Zeo had established itself, each of our web sites and communities would continue to fire shots across each others bows. I eventually gave up caring about them and started minding my own business, as much as I’m sure they all did too. I won’t bother getting into any more detail about all the petty squabbles we’ve had. However, in dealing with all those petty squabbles, as well as learning more and more about their personal lives after the initial breakup, I began to see a more unadulterated vision of the human condition. I began to soak in more and more about how we acted towards each other and soon realized that I did not like any of it at all. Our trivial squabbles, or in thinking back to them, eventually helped me understand more clearly about the distinction between maturity and immaturity; I did not consider our relationship during and after our falling out as something a mature one. I’ve since tried my best to not repeat what we’ve done to each other to everyone else I’ve met afterwards. So I suppose, in short, they helped me become a less judgmental and more mature individual… far more than I feel I would have been able to become if I never interacted with them to begin with. That’s a good thing. … Incidentally, in thinking back to all the stupid crap our sites involved each other in, I can’t help but laugh at how ridiculous it was. This mostly came after I realized that, say, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera fan sites engaged in the same petty stuff as PA! and Zeo did. Once I found out about about that, it really put the whole silly situation, one that I once felt was a really important deal, in its tiny, little place.
Long after Zeo split away and I started paying heed to my own affairs, I began to involve myself with people who would eventually end up becoming close partners-in-arms to me, even after I stopped working on PA! and involved myself in current, non Pokemon-related projects. Many of them too were people I met long before I put them on PA! staff, to which I put got them connected with PA! to help foster a closer friendship with them. Frankly though, there are a lot of them, so I’ll touch upon the ones who remain an active part of my career.
The partners-in-arms I’ve known for the longest is Jen Brazas, who was once known as TRCassidy or NeoQueenJen. She wrote a lot of articles for the Pojo and was a pretty good Pokemon TCG player and strategist. After we met at the 2002 West Coast Stadium Challenge in San Diego, we managed to stay connected with each other… our relationship has since gone slightly above “just two people who know each other because of Pokemon”. Right now both her and I are actively working on our own web comic projects, each of us helping each other become a better story teller and artist. Another partner-in-arm I’ve known for some time is Robert Young, who was once known as RyoShinX when he was working on PA!. I continue to keep in touch with him on a regular basis, as we both are giving each other “cheer ups!” about life and school. Robert came on board through the suggestion of my second co-webmaster, Joseph Zollo, who was known as PMX, when Zollo left. Robert and I fortunately managed to connect a lot on web design theories and methods, and we continue to encourage each other’s work, since we’re both in the middle of Computer Science degrees. And need I not mention David Klug, I helped him create his “Metropolitan Masters” fake card set. Today, he’s working on a lot of short films much like the ones I’ve made. I get the impression that I’ll be working with him in the future. Now with Jen, Robert and David, I’m not just talking about how they had an affect my life during my Pokemon years, but it’s also about how they are continuing to help guide me where I go from here on out.
But probably the most important partner-in-arm I’ve had during and after the life of PA! has got to be Julia Sprenz, who was known as Kaizeren Myuu at PA!. Julia was PA!’s resident artist long after purity left. She was also big on fake card making, so we worked together on a number of faking projects for various Pokemon events. We formed a pretty close friendship with each other outside of working on PA!, so it really went without saying that I slowly but surely began to form something of a schoolboy crush on her. The crush was however unrequited, and it eventually faded just as soon as I started going out with someone else I met from college. It’s kind of embarrassing for me to discuss anything about it, even after I’ve dumbed down the entire experience into just a few sentences. But hey, that’s life. I learned that it’s just you, me and six billion other people on this planet. We all make mistakes, and we all learn from it. In the case of my unrequited crush with Julia, the lesson I learned was “don’t have an unrequited crush.” Fortunately though, the whole situation, as embarrassing, confusing and frustrating it was for me at the time, influenced a lot about how I involve myself in potential relationships and doomed “situationships” today. If I didn’t involved myself with that unrequited crush, I probably would be living without that tiny bit of spice that make me that much more flawed and human. In any case, as far as I’m aware the two of us are still on good terms. Julia is also in the comics gig, so we’re also keeping in touch with each other through our work. So… all’s all that ends well I suppose.
There are a lot of other people I could mention who have been involved with PA! and have also influenced my life… but I suppose these guys were the real big ones. At least, it’s one of those situations where the top 5% influenced 95% of my life. Between Jim’s friendship with me, my petty squabbles with The Echidna, purity and the rest of Zeo, Jen and Robert’s continuing alliance with my interests, and the lessons I learned from my unrequited crush on Julia…. not to mention simply working on a popular web site….. while a lot of things have happened to me involving Pokemon, good or bad, positive or negative, these are the ones that really hit home with me. The thing is though, despite the fact that any of this could have happened to me at anytime from anyone and anywhere, it was our mutual interest in Pokemon that tied it all together. Was it really the people who influenced my life? Or was it in fact the entire world of Pokemon that truly was behind out actions? Who do I have to thank for me being who I am right now? Why am I asking you? 🙂