When girls talk about how they’ve met their best guy friends and boyfriends, they name a lot of things that have helped them break the ice. Some identify their appearance as a contributing factor, others the help of a mutual friend. Me, I name the Pokémon franchise.
The year was 2001. After a very successful shopping trip with mum, my younger brother and I managed to secure a copy of Pokémon Gold. We were both a little Pokémon-obsessed back then, so we decided on a diplomatic solution to the problem of only owning one copy. I would play Pokémon Gold first because I was older (and therefore wiser, more deserving, etc) and he would get to have our old copy of Pokémon Red to himself in the meantime.
No sooner than I had defeated the Elite Four, Nintendo released Pokémon Crystal for Gameboy Colour and I managed to save up for a copy. Peace was restored once again in the Rooney household as my brother claimed ownership of Pokémon Gold.
Everything was going swimmingly, until I stumbled across a curiosity in the Crystal Version Handbook. It seemed that my favourite Pokémon, Vulpix and Ninetales, weren’t available in Crystal or Gold.
It was then that I became very close to a family friend that happened to own Silver, and he traded me the Vulpix. We would spend hours at each other’s houses, trading, battling and talking, gaming on the Nintendo 64 and reading Horrible Histories.
When our mums would come to pick us up, we would ask them jokingly to have a “Five-Hour Cuppa!” so we could spend more time together while they gossiped over tea. United over a shared love of Pokémon, he became one of my best friends.
One day, we were playing a game of Pokémon Snap on the Nintendo 64 as usual, when he passed me a folded note. It all seemed very mysterious, and deadly serious. I opened it to reveal, in scrawly Year 4 handwriting, the message: “I love you”. I replied, slightly flustered, that I loved him too.
Though later we parted ways, even today, Pokémon has had an influence on many of my friendships and relationships and remains to be an initial point of interest. I’ve had some great discussions when getting to know people about which generations of the game and show are the best, shared some hilarious nicknames for Gary in the game over the years (although most of them are restricted to ‘Stupid’ and ‘Pooface’), and spent many nights trying to work out how to play the theme songs on the piano.
So fellow lonely hearts, forget eHarmony: join a fan site instead! Because although I am still searching for someone who can put the ‘magic’ in ‘Magikarp’, the ‘charm’ in ‘Charmander’ and the ‘cool’ in ‘Tentacool’, Pokémon has given me a lot to be thankful for.
Erin Rooney is on Twitter: