It may look like the group of 30 people sitting in UCLA Hammer Museum’s Lindbrook Terrace staring intently at the Nintendo 3DSes in their laps are twiddling their thumbs, but each of them is battling foreign species, trading animals or exploring the new world of “Pokemon X and Y.”
These 30 gamers participated at the “Pokemon at the Hammer” panel discussion and event last Saturday afternoon to celebrate the release of “Pokemon X and Y,” battle each other and share their love of Pokemon. “Pokemon X and Y” is the most recent iteration of the Pokemon game series and was released worldwide two weeks ago.
The Pokemon panel was broadcasted live on the radio as part of the KCHUNG radio residency at the Hammer Museum. The two hosts of the KCHUNG radio show “Outbreak: Comics and More,” Brent Freaney and John Martin aka “Johnnie JungleGuts”, led the panel.
Martin said he was inspired to host the event after the wide success of the Pokemon tournaments he hosted while he was a student at California Institute of the Arts.
“It was shocking to me how many people were playing Pokemon at CalArts,” Martin said. “I knew people would want to participate at the Hammer (Museum), and I thought that the combination of an art museum and video games would lead to interesting discussions.”
Alex Faciane, Brooke Regalado and an eight-year-old boy, Sam Grotenstein, were the panel’s other members. They all said they had a strong attachment to Pokemon.
Faciane’s devotion to Pokemon led him to co-host the weekly YouTube show, “the Dex,“ which he said features trivia, etymology and intellectual discussions about every Pokemon character; Regalado is an Ash Cosplayer and active participant in California Institute of the Art’s Pokemon scene; and Grotenstein mostly plays and trades Pokemon cards. JungleGuts said that Grotenstein was there to represent the next generation of Pokemon trainers.
The panel started by discussing what Martin said is the fact that Pokemon, at its core, is a game which forces Pokemon characters to fight each other. Then the panelists raved about the many new aspects of “X and Y” they were enjoying, and the few they did not like. The discussion ended by examining if Pokemon is still popular.
Regalado and Faciane both said that they’ve noticed a recent increase in the public’s interest in Pokemon. Faciane said there has been a recent surge in subscriptions to his YouTube channel, which he thinks is due to the increasing popularity Pokemon is experiencing with the release of “X and Y.”
“I think ‘X and Y’ is literally made to make people who haven’t played the game in years come back to it,” Faciane said. “All the original Pokemon are in the game, and they brought ‘Gotta catch ‘em all’ back as the theme song.”
Regalado and many of her classmates from California Institute of the Arts, where Regalado said “everyone is currently playing ‘X and Y,’” attended the event. Regalado said she attended Pokemon at the Hammer Museum and sat on the panel to support Martin, whose Pokemon tournaments she participated in, and to connect and trade Pokemon with other gamers.
Michael Porterfield, a fourth-year English student, who spent at least 20 hours playing “X and Y” in the last two weeks, said he was excited to meet new people interested in Pokemon.
“I thought it was cool that they would host something Pokemon themed at an art museum,” Porterfield said. “I don’t feel like a lot of people at UCLA play Pokemon, and I thought I could meet more people here who did.”
Porterfield said he has kept playing all these years, despite there being weaker past versions of the game because in Pokemon the player gets to go on the hero’s journey.
“In Pokemon, you go all around the world meeting new people,” Porterfield said. “You’re the one who beats the bad guys. You’re the hero.”