Pokin’ around


Just when you were starting to get “jiggy with it” when it came to your kid’s vocabulary, they’re off speaking a new alien dialect. Strange references to Pikachu, Squirtle and Bulbasaur are circulating around school lunchrooms and family living rooms. No, they’re not talking about the latest skateboard technique or Day-Glo candy. They’re talking about a hot, new fad that’s sweeping the nation.

Now that you’ve survived Furbies, Power Rangers and Beanie Babies, get ready for Pokmon. “It’s such a craze,” says local mom Carolyn Callahan. “Every time the kids get a new batch, they run all over the neighborhood and trade them like baseball cards.” Pokmon (pronounced po-kee-mon) is turning kids of all ages into pint-sized Wall Street types. “It’s really fun,” says 8-year-old Jasmine Callahan, “but sometimes I have to trade two cards to get one really good one,” adding, “and you want the really good ones.”

The Pokmon phenomenon started off (where else) in Japan as (what else) a cartoon, followed by (you got it) video games, toys and now trading cards. The inexpensive game has taken off and exploded into a multimillion dollar industry. Playing Pokmon, which means pocket monsters in Japanese, is fairly easy. The object of the game is to build up a collection, and if you’re lucky, you can become a Pokmon master. “Gotta catch’em all,” is the motto of the true master.

Various creatures inhabit the Pokmon forest. There are 150 in all, and each one has its own unique power and an ability to evolve into a higher level by winning battles against other Pokmon. The simple concept seems to have made it a hit among kids of all ages. “It’s as popular with the 6-year-olds as it is with the 12- and 13-year-olds,” marvels Callahan. In case you have any lingering doubts about the game’s popularity, consider this: Last week, 12,000 poke fans descended on the Woodfield Mall in Chicago to catch the Pokmon tour.

Yes, Pokmon seems to have replaced all else in young pop culture these days. Some parents and teachers may have discovered Squirtle shoots water, Charmander shoots fire and Bulbasaur can shoot out vines. As for the intricacies of the game, that might be better left to kids to explain. “I’ve given up trying to understand it,” says Callahan, “and I think it’s better this way.” On the upside, this mom finds Pokmon a great parenting tool. “When the kids get out of line, you take their poke cards away,” she explains. “It’s better than time out.” On the flip side, she says, when the kids are good, they get a new card as a reward.

Jasmine, meantime, is busy contemplating her next move. “You look for a good deal, and, at the end of the day, you get one, and you come home and you feel happy.” Sounds just like real estate.