I realized something while dusting off my Nintendo DS the other day: Making friends is a lot like playing Pokémon.
If you’re anything like me, your starter Pokémon quickly becomes your ride-or-die. Your partner in crime. Your BFFL. For the first half of the game, you keep him at the front of your team, ensuring he’s the first one summoned to your side no matter what the occasion.
As your bond grows stronger and evolves, however, your starter takes a back seat, allowing you level up the other potential ride-or-dies in your crew. The newcomers aren’t better or more important, of course; you’ve just invested in your OG Pokémon enough to make him the most powerful and reliable asset on your team. You keep him at the end of your lineup but never leave him in the PC storage system, drawing comfort from the knowledge that he’s always within reach, just waiting to jump to your side the instant the gym battles of life take a turn for the worst.
And that, of course, is only the beginning.
Whether you’re looking to level up your people skills before the start of MoPOP's Virtual Anime Club or just interested in snagging them sweet, sweet Pokémans, here are a few more comparisons to get your gears turning.
Start New Game
Every time you move to a new city or start a new job, your quest to catch ’em all begins anew. The challenge always seems daunting, but you don’t think “I can’t do it—it’s gonna be too hard” when you buy the latest release, so why should the real world be any different?
This is anywhere you might find new people. Could be a bar, a book club, or just the office water cooler. Maybe you’re the type of player who always rushes in, excited for new finds. Or maybe you’re the player who prefers to rush out before a wild human appears. Either way, one thing’s for certain: You can’t expect to catch new Pokémon if you never venture into the grass.
Think of these as your attempts at making conversation. Regular Poké Balls are small talk; they may help you make a connection, but only if you keep at it and accept that the first one (where you talk about the weather) will probably fall flat. Eventually, with a little time and a lot of practice, you’ll upgrade to Great Balls and Ultra Balls, unique conversation starters that will increase your chances of making connections. You’ll even stock up on Safari Balls and Lure Balls to draw in hobbyists (think of it as the difference between asking a hiker “So… how you like them clouds, though?” and “Got any great trail recommendations?”)
The six Pokémon you carry with you are your lifeline. Having them in your corner gives you the courage to explore the tallest patches of grass and make it through the deepest, darkest caves. (Plus, strong ones are a godsend when you’re struggling to make it through that depressing Pokémon cemetery in, like, every game.) You’ll have to rely on different attributes for different challenges, so make sure to add some diversity and don’t be afraid to change up the roster as needed.
This is that one friend you take everywhere because they always seem to help you meet new people. Just like a Jigglypuff using Sing to put wild Pokémon to sleep, this person’s charisma and conversation skills draw people in, making them easier for you to catch.
You know that one acquaintance who suddenly evolves into your bestie out of the blue? That’s the Magikarp in a nutshell. Don’t give up on the ones who haven’t evolved yet; you may find yourself with an epic Gyarados if you just find something you have in common—even if it feels like you’re just using Splash every time you try.
Every introvert ever. Better use your best Poké Ball because after one try, they’ll teleport away.
The Legendary Pokémon
This is the coolest kid at school, the most confident person in the office. You spend countless hours and Poké Balls trying to catch them, but they shrug off your best attempts like it's nothing. Then finally—finally—you add them to your Pokédex… only to find that they don’t really live up to the hype and you’d rather stick with the Pokémon who have been by your side all along.
You know that one meh Pokémon you keep around just because they can use Fly or Cut to get you places? Good. Now you understand networking.
You wouldn’t expect your Charizard to keep helping you win battles if you just let his HP drop to zero, and the same is true when it comes to maintaining relationships. Make sure to restore your friendships to full health through regular hangouts or phone calls. Even just texting a meme of a Hyper Potion will do.
Yes, yes. Obviously, you’re the trainer. But you’re also someone else’s Pokémon. Someone out there relies on you to help them navigate their tall grass and dark caves. You’re their Gyarados. Their Jigglypuff. Maybe even their Pikachu. Be there for them, and they’ll be there for you. That, perhaps, is the true secret to becoming the very best friend that no one ever was.
Feeling inspired? MoPOP's Virtual Anime Club provides a space for all sorts of conversations like these, allowing kids ages 9-14 to connect with each other while discussing their favorite stories. It all starts October 11! Make sure you register before it's too late!