In the winter of 2011, I walked through a park near to where I live to buy a video game. If you ask anyone about the park, they’ll all tell you different variations of the same story. Either way, they’ll say, quite explicitly – “Never to walk through that park.” I can tell you the exact date I walked through that park, not because I can really remember these things, but because I was on my way to buy Pokémon Black and White, on release day.
Usually, I’d be happy to wait for a more convenient time – I’m not the kind of person to camp outside Krispy Kreme for a free doughnut. But in the winter of 2011, a few weeks before March 4th, my local GAME store had a promotional offer, where, through the purchase of Pokémon Black and White, they’d give you a couple of free trinkets to take home with you.
I can’t really remember what these trinkets were now. Perhaps trinket is the wrong word, anyway. To me, a trinket is something you buy sailing down some forgotten river just off the Mosquito Coast. A trinket is a handmade bracelet crafted under an açaí palm. Something you wear for good luck, maybe, when you’re wading through uncharted swamp forest, looking for the existential purpose your life always lacked.
GAME wasn’t giving away these kinds of trinkets. But once I’d actually purchased my copy of Pokémon Black, and nodded, and communicated with the store clerk, I exited the shop, looking through my plastic bag, wondering then, how much I’d really participated in the mass production of cheap goods, that were, for all intents and purposes, not delicately crafted beneath an açaí palm.
Sometimes, I like to play a game with my shopping bag. I look at the contents inside, and think about the percent of environmental destruction I’ve contributed to that day. If you’re really clever you can work out an algorithm to estimate methane emissions, and transport energy, and whether or not everything you love will end up in a carbon sink; because there’s something really special about being outlived by a shopping bag.
Aside from my copy of Pokémon Black, I think there were stickers, and pin badges, and a poster – definitely a poster. A huge poster depicting the legendary Reshiram, who’s tail can ‘scorch the world with fire,’ making it the nuclear warhead of Pokémon. Really, I always liked that Pokémon War Theory, the theory that suggested the world of Pokémon took place after a period of civil war and strife:
“Hey kid! What do you think you’re doing here? You won’t live long in combat! That’s for sure! I tell you what kid, electric Pokèmon saved me during the war!” Picture a live-action Pokémon movie. The kind of movie where LT. Surge is played by Willem Dafoe in a kind of reprisal of his character from Platoon.
Back on 4th March 2011, I remember using little balls of Bostik Blu-tack to attach my free poster to the wall of my cinder block bedroom, thinking that I had, despite all the fear-mongering, survived my walk through the park, that was, I should say, blisteringly cold. Fortunately, a few years previous to this, my mother had given me a scarf for a winter’s occasion – so when I walked back through the park, I concealed my face, looking, I suspect, reasonably unnerving to any passersby who had any premeditated thoughts of ‘robbing me for my trinkets.’
Had a tracksuit-wearing highwayman even considered stealing my copy of Pokémon Black, perhaps he would have had second thoughts, seeing my half-concealed face, and thinking to himself then, that I was, perhaps, just like him – a career criminal. A young boy, whose life lessons had been tough, and he had learnt, through a series of criminal court appearances, that the best way to avoid capture on CCTV, was to conceal his face with a scarf – his mother’s scarf, a scarf of no real significance, likely blended from two types of cotton and purchased, one afternoon, from the discounted rack at Marks & Spencer.
This year, someone found a dead body in that park, and all I can think about is Pokemon Black, and how I walked through that park once, and then went home, and made hot chocolate because it was March and it was cold out.