The Pokemon phenomenon

SATURDAY MAILBOX

October 30, 1999

QUESTION RESPONSES

In October, we asked people to comment on a suit brought by West Coast parents against the manufacturer of Pokemon on the grounds that it promotes illegal gambling, and on the Pokemon craze in general: Can a holographic Charzard card really be worth more than Roger Clemens' rookie card, and does Pokemon have any educational value?

Pokemon cards are the creative outlet of the Nineties.

If Leonardo DaVinci were alive today, he wouldn't be painting Mona Lisa; he'd be drawing Pokemon cards. Creative characters such as Jigglypuff, Harlot and Wartortle help to inspire today's youth to give birth to great works of art.

If your kids are motivated to wager large amounts of money on a Pocket Monster, you should be paying more attention to how you raise your children, not to the balderdash they buy.

The Rev. Aaron Brager

The Rev. Daniel Marshall, Baltimore

My daughters and I play the Pokemon trading card game. The game is cute -- and involves strategy and planning.

To play, one buys a deck and customizes it with cards from booster packs or from trades. Trading the cards with friends adds a social dimension, but this has caused complaints.

The booster packs have been denounced as gambling because some rare cards can be sold for more than the pack cost. The rarity mix also makes collecting a complete set tougher.

When the company that produces them prints enough cards for everyone, trading will be easier, and the rare cards will be too cheap to gamble on.

Erin J. Schram, Savage

Pokemon may provide some harmless lessons in trading, but these cards also cause harsh competition, disappointment, distraction from academic activities and expenditures that some families can ill afford.

The cards also promote materialistic values. Children learn to value possessing more and better cards than peers. Parents who supply the money and share in the competitive collecting reinforce this materialism.

If parents cannot say no and provide positive diversions when children are young, how will they cope when kids become teen-agers -- and must be stopped from using drugs, being sexually promiscuous and engaging in vandalism and violence?

Charlotte Considine, Glen Arm

The Pokemon card game involves strategizing, computation and calculation of risk vs. benefit -- along with patience, endurance and teamwork.

By buying and trading, the kids learn our system of enterprise. They learn supply and demand. They learn budgeting.

The frenzy of bidding and trading at a Pokemon convention rivals Wall Street.

I would pose a question to parents who are concerned about Pokemon promoting gambling: How are you planning for retirement? Do your kids hear you discuss stocks, mutual funds or term-life insurance policies?

Maria Stone, Randallstown

Pokemon cards are difficult for parents to understand. But if they take the time to learn, parents will see that, under parental supervision, the cards are no more harmful than traditional baseball cards. The cards can also promote creativity. The other day my son was so busy drawing his favorite Pokemon characters and telling fantastic stories about their adventures that it took some prodding to get him to soccer practice.

And, as kid crazes go, a collection of Pokemon cards take up a lot less space than a collection of Beanie Babies.

Marcus Israel, Catonsville

In our household, Pokemon has been a proverbial double-edged sword -- or, should I say dagger, the weapon of choice among the dreaded Beedrill?

Negatives include homework assignments missed because my three boys huddle for hours in nightly trading marathons.

And our dinner is frequently interrupted by neighborhood kids who stand by our kitchen window clutching their precious three-ring binders neatly arranged with the Pocket Monsters.

When our sons notice their friends outdoors, they hurriedly scamper outside for some intense evening trading.

There are some pluses to the craze, however. Our 4-year-old now understands "doubles" and can sort and organize his cards. Pronouncing the difficult names of some of the monsters has improved his speech.

All three children have recognized the value of money and learned the art of trading and negotiation.

They've learned that the best deal is one that is good for both sides: a lesson painfully learned when an evil parent reverses a lopsided transaction.

Larry Lichtenauer, Reisterstown

Pokemon has educational value? You were just joking, right?

As the mother of an 11-year-old boy, I have endured about every craze of the past decade. I waited at the mall with thousands of preschoolers for a glimpse of Barney. I have scoured the Baltimore area for Thomas the Tank Engine toys and Power Ranger figures.

I have fed my son's Tomagachi while he was at school. And we have the largest laundry basket Rubbermaid sells to hold all our Beanie Babies.

Now its Pokemon. We have video games, T-shirts, cards -- the whole nine yards

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