We all have our own reasons why we love our favorite series. Whether it was the first game you ever played, or the one that wowed your imagination. For whatever reason it is the series you place above the rest. This week I wanted to take the time to tell the personal story of why Pokémon is that series for me.

I grew up in a single parent household and as an only child I spent the vast majority of my time alone. Even though people will say I’m talkative and confident now that was far from the case when I was younger. I was a shy and timid child and since I wasn’t allowed to play outside unless my mom was home, which she rarely was, I naturally spent my time playing video games. 

I beat the same games over and over so much I’m sure I broke a speed run recorded at some point. When I wasn’t playing video games I was either doing chores, in school, or receiving a beating from my mom while she was trying to cope with her own emotional problems. If my life was a TV show I would be playing the typical poor urban youth with no father figure who was in danger of getting lost in the system.

One day my mom took me to Sears and I came across the Game Boy Color kiosk and I immediately headed over there. In the GBC was Pokémon Yellow. I had no idea how the game worked or how to play, but for some reason it fascinated me. The only thing I knew of Pokémon was that it was cartoon that I saw on WB a few times before leaving to go catch the bus in the morning. My birthday was coming up and all I wanted was a GBC and a copy of Pokémon Yellow. 

I will never forget the amazing sensation of feeling like I was about to go on a real adventure because by that time I had got really into the show. I remember the first 10 hours of the game I spent trying to defeat Brock the first gym leader because I really had no idea what I was doing and Pikachu being the starter wasn’t a big help. 

I was branded a “problem child” because I would get so frustrated from being picked on at school I would scream and cry because I was scared to actually fight back. My mom’s way of dealing with the problem was, “If I don’t hit the kids she will hit me,” and she stayed true to her word. I was that kid who always wore long selves when I went to school. Unlike other inner city kids who would turn to drugs or other vices I got my high off of being a Pokémon trainer.

In my life where I spent my school days in the counselor office and my home life battered and bruised Pokémon was literally my escape into another world. My Pokémon meant the world to me. Pikachu, Charizard, Vaporeon, Pidgeot, Kadabra, and a very random Rhyhorn were my team. I and my Pokémon traveled the shoes of Kanto helping people and proving that we were special with hard work and training. 

Late at night when I felt like crying myself to sleep I would get a flashlight and play the game under the covers past my bedtime. I didn’t care when my mom would catch me because no amount of beatings could keep me from learning and growing as a trainer. 

It may sound silly but it if wasn’t for Pokémon only God knows what I would have done or tuned out. I use to feel utterly useless, but once I started my journey to be a master I felt like someone. When I read the words, “O’Dell stopped Team Rocket,” or, “O’Dell became the Pokémon League Champion,” I felt like I had truly accomplished something for the first time in my life. 

I know that my story may sound like a sob story, but that’s not the case. It’s my love letter to the power and magic of games especially Pokémon.  

Well now you know a little bit more about me Happy International Pokémon Day! If you wish you can also follow me on twitter @ODellHarmonJr