At the age of five, all my son cared about was this silly game, Pokémon. Any reasonable parent should try to persuade a child, who wasted the entire day organizing the “bug-like” Pokémon figurines into neat little rows, to take at least a fifteen minute break from the game, and learn his letters, or, at the very least, go outside and play on the swing.
I rued the day that I ever gifted him with the Pokémon game, which turned into such an all-consuming obsession! I tried persuasion. I tried bribery. Nothing would take his attention away from lining up Pokémon figurines, watching Pokémon cartoons, or singing the Pokémon song.
In point of fact, I owe my son’s diagnosis as Aspergers to his obsession with Pokémon. I can also thank the Pokémon card game for providing the venue I needed to send my son on his road to recovery.
If I wanted any relationship at all with my son, I had to meet him in his world of Pokémon, becoming his worthy opponent, playing the Pokémon card game with him, boring hour after boring hour, for a boring year. This was the hazing ritual I underwent to become a permanent fixture of his world.
As his sole opponent in the only world he knew, I became his proponent in the real world. Pokémon was priceless!
As the solid team of players we had become, at my gentle urging, we began to play other games, like numbers and letters, then math and science, then language and literature, then philosophy, then political activism, then writing letters to the editor of the city paper, then a paid position as part-time reporter, then a scholarship at an exclusive college, then a paid position as researcher over the summer, then a position as Ph.D. candidate in mathematics.
I call this the “Pokémon Snowball Effect.” It’s the fundamental principal that, to wield influence over a child, an adult must start by entering that child’s world, becoming his ally, and winning his trust.
Children, of all ages, respond to the “Pokémon Snowball Effect,” with the caveat that grown children might need something more like the “Dungeons and Dragons Snowball Effect.”