Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Pokemon: The Man Who Created a Franchise

Satoshi Tajiri was born in Machida, a suburb of Tokyo, on August 28, 1965. His father was a car salesman for Nissan, and his mom was a stay-at-home mom. He was diagnosed with autism and has always been described as creative, eccentric, and reclusive As a young boy, Satoshi enjoyed being outdoors, and he was fascinated with insects. He would search ponds, forests, and other landscapes in search of new insects to catch and collect. In addition, he would develop creative new ways to catch these insects. However, in the late 1970s, the ponds and fields that Satoshi scoured in search of insects were developed into apartment buildings and shopping centers. At this time in his life, Satoshi shifted his passion for insects into video games. 
As a teenager, Satoshi became fascinated with arcade games and dedicated a large amount of time playing them. In addition, Satoshi hated school, and he eventually began skipping school in order to spend more time at the arcade. Satoshi's parents viewed this hobby as delinquent because it distracted him from his studies. They were afraid that their son was throwing away his future. Nonetheless, at the age of 17, Satoshi and his friends formed a gaming magazine named Game Freak. Throughout the 1980s, Game Freak posted modest sales and was quite popular within the gaming community.

Despite their son's relative success, Satoshi's parents still did not fully support their son's passion for video games. In fact, Satoshi's dad wanted his son to become an electrical utility repairman, and he attempted to get Satoshi a job at The Tokyo Electric Power Company. Satoshi refused to take the position. Instead, he would go on to earn his high school diploma through make-up classes and complete a two-year technical degree program in electronics and computer science at the Tokyo National College of Technology.

Eventually, as Satoshi learned more about video games, he began to desire to create his own. He always dreamt of creating a game that would allow children to experience the same feeling of catching and collecting creatures, like he did when he was a kid collecting insects. Furthermore, he felt like he could produce a game that was superior to any other game on the market. And so, he learned how to write video game software, which he taught himself how to do by taking apart a Nintendo Entertainment System. In 1987, he published his first game titled "Mendel Palace". Two years later, Satoshi founded his own video game production company called Game Freak, which he named after his magazine.

In the early 1990s, when Satoshi first saw two children playing together with Game Boys using a Game Link Cable, he imagined insects crawling along the cable between the two systems. From this, his idea for Pokemon grew. He pitched the idea of Pokemon to Nintendo, and, although the company did not fully understand the concept of the game, Nintendo decided to provide him with initial funding and concept work from another game design studio called Creatures, Inc.. Over the next six years, Satoshi collaborated with a Shigeru Miyamoto, the man behind Mario, The Legend of Zelda, Pikmin, and Donkey Kong, to develop the initial versions of Pokemon. These original Pokemon games soared in popularity and would result in various manga adaptions, several movies, more Pokemon games, and trading cards.
Satoshi is an excellent example of how mental illness, in this case autism, can help facilitate creativity. For example, Satoshi's autism gave him the personality trait of reclusive which fostered his independent adventures catching bugs in his childhood environment. This catching and collecting of insects would eventually provide Satoshi with the widely popular concept of Pokemon. Another trait  characteristic of creatives that Satoshi possesses is an incessant drive to pursue his passion for video games in spite of traditional routes for success such as schooling (although he eventually graduated high school and obtained a technical degree) and the job at The Tokyo Electric Power Company that his dad set up for him. Moreover, due to this passion for video games, Satoshi was interested enough to literally teach himself how to create video game software by taking apart a Nintendo Entertainment System. In addition, Satoshi's collaboration with Shigeru, another creative mind, fostered Satoshi's original idea for Pokemon to help bring the final product to fruition. Finally, Satoshi possesses vivid mental imagery which was demonstrated with how he imagined insects (which would become Pokemon) travelling through the Game Link Cable.


  1. This is really interesting-I never knew anything about the creator of Pokemon. How inspiring that he did not have traditional academic success but was still able to accomplish so much, similar to creatives like Einstein.
    One thing to note, though, is that although autism is still technically in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, it is not considered a "mental illness." It's a neurodevelopmental disorder. Just wanted to throw that out there since it's Autism Awareness Month.
    Anyway, great blog post!

  2. I found this incredibly interesting, having played pokemon for most of my childhood I wondered what the person who created it was like, but never did any research on it. I thought it was fascinating that he took those early experiences he had collecting bugs and kept it with him and later used it to help him develop pokemon. I also admire the dedication he had to stick with his passions even when his parents tried to dissuade him and even attempted to get him a "normal job."

  3. I remember Pokémon really taking off in grade school though I never really played the video games, I did watch the shows and it always struck me how different all the Pokémon were from each other. It's really interesting that Satoshi, as someone with autism seeking solitude, got some of his ideas from insects that he watched. His story sounds similar to Steve Jobs' in that he didn't take a traditional route for school, but still created a very successful product! In his case, his autism was a large factor in having the creativity and focus to imagine such a product.

  4. As someone who's also on the autism spectrum, it was really cool to learn how important being on that spectrum was to the development of Pokemon. I wouldn't necessarily say that it was because he was reclusive, though; one really common symptom of autism spectrum disorder regardless of how social someone is is to fixate on a few special interests almost to the point of obsession (in Satoshi's case, insect-catching as a kid and video games later in life). He probably wouldn't have been able to bring the two topics together nearly as well if he didn't have that absolute fixation on them that autism can lead to, so it really goes to show that sometimes things that people think are detrimental or "weird" can lead to some awesome creations!

  5. It was super interesting to learn more about the mind behind the game that I spent so many hours on in my childhood, and a TV show I was addicted to. I found it especially interesting how similar the game is to his childhood interests. He created a game through which he could continue to enjoy his passion of exploring, catching, and collecting things. It is also very admirable how he resisted so much pressure from his parents to pursue the thing that he loved. If he had given in, all of our childhoods would not have been the same.

  6. I'm glad you did a post about him. It's interesting to think about how this whole world was brought from his own experiences with catching insects. I like that you mention what his parents thought of his interests. It's hard to go against the way you're brought up and pursue a passion that goes outside of most people's comfort zone.

  7. What I find so interesting about this post is that for something that is so beloved by many children around the world, so little know about its creation. More so, the man who made my favorite childhood game and all the struggles he had. I think this is a true testament that there needs to be more visibility about mental illnesses in modern day society.


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