Pokémon has always been an enormous franchise for many people across the globe. From its games to the television show and then to the sheer amounts of merchandise, Pokémon is a cultural force to be reckoned with.
But what about its emotional impact on others? For stand-up comedian and Pokémon enthusiast Courtney Wahlstrom, a viral post penned by her says volumes to that end.
The post that has gone viral with 35,000+ reactions, 23,000+ shares, and almost 5,000 comments is detailed below:
My 16 year old Charizard.
I wanna take a second to talk about Flames.
Flames is my first ever level 100 Pokémon. Ever.
Flames is from Fire Red. He reached level 100 not long after the games came out (January 2004.)
Since then, due to Nintendo continuing to allow you to transfer your Pokémon, each new generation he's gone with. (Along with a few other gen 1 Pokémon with the OT Court.)
He went from Fire Red, hung out in Emerald. I think he made a pit stop in Colosseum and XD Gale of Darkness. Then he went to Diamond, where he got the Sinnoh league ribbon.
Then he went to Soul Silver, then White. Then White 2.
Imagine how stoked I was the first time I saw him in 3D in X and Y, when he was about 9 years old. When for the first time ever in Pokémon Amie, I could pet him.
And even better yet, he could Mega Evolve now. It was insane connecting to such a tangible part of my childhood.
He has no competitive stats. He gets his ass mopped every time we do online, but he's still good enough for in game. He's helped boxes upon boxes of my other Pokémon level up through Elite Four trials.
Not long after he went to Pokémon Sun, and now he's on the TV in Shield.
I took him camping for the first time tonight. I did the math and he's literally 16 years old. That's insane to me.
Nintendo has managed to encapsulate my childhood in a tiny block of data.
Every time the option to transfer releases he always goes first. I'm honestly excited to see how far we can go together.
If somehow in 50 years he's still around, and I'm on my death bed, you best believe he's getting left in the will to some 9 year old girl who has worlds to explore.
This is cheesy, but I really don't have a lot of things to hold on to from my childhood, and to be able to continue to indulge in such a fond memory means more to me than I can express. I remember the hours I spent with him on my grandparents couch over the summer, the hours my 5th grade best friend and I would spend on weekends in the tree in my backyard. The boys from my school that didn't believe I had a level 100 Charizard getting their dumb Pokémon who DIDNT EVEN HAVE NICKNAMES lit on fire in the name of FLAMES.
My continual journey through adolescence into adulthood, with this little digital partner by my side.
I often wonder if Nintendo even considered this when designing their games, if it's just happenstance. I've never been ashamed of being a nerd I just needed to remind y'all in case y'all forgot.
Pokémon over everything. Goodnight.
Now, we here at Bleeding Cool have gotten a chance to actually interview Courtney Wahlstrom, and that we did.
BC: What was your first main-series Pokémon game?
CW: [My first] main-series [Pokémon game] was Pokémon Ruby.
BC: How did you get your first Pokémon to Level 100? Was this an active goal, or did you just get Flames there naturally?
CW: Flames was on my team throughout the whole game, so he naturally leveled up during the original playthrough, and I kept him on my team post game. I also made him go through the Elite Four gauntlet to level up other Pokémon I encountered in my journey. Once he was transferred into Diamond, I once again went through the Elite Four dozens of times to get boxes full of level 100 Pokémon.
BC: Have there been any instances where you may have lost Flames's game data? And thinking back on it now, how much would it have impacted you?
CW: My house was actually part of a fire that happened in my community back in January, and the wall my games sat on was the wall the fire was on. To be completely honest, it was the first thing I thought about losing, because I have about 2,000 Pokémon over all of the years I've been playing. My mom died when I was 16, and I've been forced to move around a lot so I barely have things to hold on to from my childhood. It would have really broken me in a way I can't explain, because it's not just about the Pokémon. It's about the memories I have of playing the games, it's about the way I feel when I see them.
BC: Has anyone else gotten in touch with you about this post, namely if they've had stories for you about similar instances? Could you recount to my readers any of those stories? Maybe the one that touched you the most?
CW: It's been hard because the post has almost 5,000 comments now. Some of the stories have been sad, like someone's brother stole their DS and pawned it so they lost everything. A lot of people have told me they have their starters from Pokémon Diamond still, and are upset they can't transfer to the new games. Someone reached out to me and told me that they used to have their starter, a Mudkip named Muddy which I found amazing because my first in game Pokémon ever was also a Mudkip named Muddy from Ruby, but after I beat the game he was level 93 and I got bored and erased the file, never to see him again.
BC: How has Pokémon as a game and/or franchise affected your life, for better or for worse?
CW: Pokémon has been one of the consistently good things in my life. I was a shy kid, so being able to completely immerse myself in a world to explore really founded my love for video games. My house is covered in Pokedolls, art, and figurines. I remember getting made fun of a lot for playing it but it never wavered my love for it. I've been a proud Pokémon fan since I got Pokémon Snap for my fifth birthday. I'll be 25 this year. My fifth grade best friend and I spent hours playing Diamond and Pearl together, my parents always got me both copies so I gave her Pearl so we could play with each other. When Pokémon Go came out I made some friends in Sacramento when I didn't know anybody by just going to a meetup event. Funnily enough, on the night my boyfriend and I met, I got him to sit next to me as we showed each other our Pokémon Go collections and that was the excuse I used to hang out with him the first time. [Since the initial] "We should drive around and play Pokémon Go!", We've been together for a year and a half.
BC: Hypothetically speaking if Pokémon as a franchise were to end, for instance, at the start of next year (regardless of the reasons), how would that impact your daily life?
CW: If for some reason Nintendo decided they hate money? I'd feel sad. It would be like losing a long lost friend. It's weird how these parts of culture become so deeply ingrained into ourselves and who we are as people. I still find myself with that child-like excitement when new games come out. Each new game is like picking up Ruby for the first time. It's the ability to leave my reality behind and truly become a Pokémon Master. It wouldn't be the end of the world because I tell myself I'm going to play through a game again then I don't. If they stopped releasing games I might finally be able to get better at other online competitive games.
If this interview and the viral post that preceded it wasn't reason enough to make you want to cry your eyes out, it might be good to personally examine why, because this was a lot to take in.
Here's to Courtney, and here's to The Pokémon Company for creating such an immersive and emotionally-wholesome experience with their games!