How 'Pokemon' Got Me Through Poverty
How a Nostalgic Gaming Series Has Stuck by My Side
Like most infants waddling around during the 90s, I grew up able to recite the Pokemon animated TV show theme song before knowing my multiplication tables. Okay. I still have trouble with multiplication. Regardless, the Pokemon franchise has always had a special part of my childhood and had later, on several occasions, helped me survive the years going into my adulthood.
Growing up, I loved the TV series. Team Rocket was always my favorite part of the episodes and their gimick never got old to me. My dad found a poster of Team Rocket that was framed up and SIGNED by the voice actors Rachael Lillis and Eric Stuart (Jesse and James, English version); it was my prized possession and it hung on my wall right next to my light switch so it was the first thing I saw turning the lights on. My cousin Dillon and I collected Pokemon cards to trade with each other and keep in binders, though I didn't learn the Trading Card Game rules until middle school. I remember finding a Dark Charmeleon card wedged in between the cushions of the school bus seat, and it's the most badass artwork I've seen on a trading card... but I'm biased. The card game really made some meaningful memories and friendships. When I turned 11, my parents got divorced, and to help fund the move, my mother sold that signed poster, and had also given away my Pokemon cards, but I still held onto my Dark Charmeleon.
When I got out of high school and hit 20 years old, I moved out with my at-the-time boyfriend into an at-the-time empty office building that had a bunch of old computers and extremely dated electronic hardware from the programming agency that was there before us. We could not afford the rent on the building by ourselves, so soon seven other friends moved in with us. (It was a horrible idea on so many levels, but okay, I was 20, give me some slack.) A few months after getting settled, I had a bad run-in with a police officer who cost me my job, my car, and all my money. During this time, I couldn't get another job, places were just not hiring, and I tried everywhere. Suddenly, I was thrust into a situation I had not ever been in personally: I was severely poor and resorted to stealing food from Walmart whenever I got the chance so I could eat. I was ashamed and could not let anyone know that my first attempt to go out into the world was a failure.
What I did have were some canvases, some paint, and my seven roommates insisted on having internet connection over paying the water bill. So I started looking for alternative options. What was something that I was familiar with. In my case, I was involved with geek culture AND the artist community. Through digging, I found that Twitch.tv had a small category for artists called "Creative." I fished out an old webcam and started broadcasting on the platform, painting various Pokemon. I had little success. People just are not interested in traditional artwork as commonly as digital painting, my webcam was not the best quality, and frankly, people want to watch people play the Pokemon GAMES, not a flat canvas version. So I had to find another option while struggling to crank out paintings and get some dang clients. My roommate (now husband) gifted me his Pokemon card collection as a birthday gift, and that is when I stumbled onto the huge online market for trading cards.
I knew vaguely about this underground black market for trading cards through my relationship with Yu-Gi-Oh players. For some reason, I did not consider that there might be one for Pokemon cards as well. Low and behold, there was, still is, a booming stock market for collectors and competitive players alike looking for the perfect piece of cardboard to either complete their binder, or as the trump cards for their decks. It also turns out that these fans are willing to pay top dollar for them. I knew what I had to do. I saved up what I could to buy a box set of Phantom Forces to unwrap and sell what was worth something. In the grand view of things, box sets are very expensive ($80 range) for some packs that may or may not have cards that cover the cost of the box set—plus profit. Box sets and packs could technically count as gambling, right? Like video game loot boxes? Anyways, I lucked out. I profited. Now I needed to find a buyer for the cards that are worth a damn. For anyone looking to start a side gig as a card trader/seller, there ARE official sites for setting up an online card store to sell through the site, such as TCG Player and Troll and Toad, or you can take a super easy/risky route and sell through Instagram. It is easy on the matters of direct messaging buyers: Take a picture of the cards you are trying to sell so people can see the quality of the card, and hashtags are a blessing. Instagram is also risky; scammers are abundant, but luckily, the community is very adamant about calling out scammers, and they will screenshot EVERYTHING, for better or worse.
Soon, I was able to get a valid state ID, afford to eat, contribute to the damn water bill, and Pokemon carried me on its nostalgic back for a year and a half until I finally got an interview.
Now I am 24 years old, live in an apartment with a loving husband, and as a hobby, I still paint Pokemon for YouTube. Just a weird fact that might add some kind of mysticism to my story, I share my birthday with the Pokemon franchise. Sometimes, your childhood sticks with you through very adult situations. Thanks Pokemon.