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The Pokemon phenomenon

THE BALTIMORE SUN

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

Do I find any educational value in this latest craze? No. Do I think trading Pokemon cards on the front lawn with neighborhood kids promotes illegal gambling? No.

Do I think the Charzard card is more than just another item to pick up before I vacuum? No.

Pokemon is just another toy -- no different from my Barbie collection or my brother's 150 Matchbox cars.

Anna Leonhardt, Ellicott City

Approximately 32 million Americans call themselves collectors of something. Trading cards are the third largest category of collectible.

Beanie babies and the Internet introduced a new generation to the collecting universe, and now there's no turning back.

Collectors will tell you that the appeal of collecting is not the collection -- it is the hunt and the competition, but also the connection with other collectors.

The items collected are not the story.

The story is a new generation feeling absolutely connected -- of contemporary families doing things together.

Together, they share in the exploration of the new, interconnected multimedia society.

Chris Cullen, Phoenix

Pokemon can have educational value. Any teacher (or parent) knows that the way to have kids retain what you teach them is to get them interested.

And, with a little imagination and ingenuity, Pokemon can be used as just such a springboard.

I home-school my son (who is in second grade). He is caught up in the whole Pokemon phenomenon -- from the cartoon show on TV to comic books, trading cards, Nintendo games and action figures.

Beyond the obvious, such as making reading fun with the Pokemon comics or doing math by calculating battle points and game scores, I've used Pokemon as a starting point for other lessons.

We used tea ceremonies seen in some of the cartoon episodes, for example, as a starting point for lessons about Japanese culture.

Athena Schaffer, Laurel

Pokemon is very educational. The TV show teaches strong ethics.

It's not just about one character's quest to become a Pokemon master, but about the moral dilemmas he faces along the way -- which are the same dilemmas all children face as they grow.

The video games are mentally challenging. They encourage children to develop strong memory skills -- and you can't win them with without using math.

Pokemon comic books, novels and technical manuals encourage children to read and expand their vocabularies.

From collecting and organizing Pokemon cards, children develop numerical and filing skills.

Pokemon is fascinating enough for adults to take an interest in it. This gives parents something they can share with their kids.

Pokemon's educational value is limited only by parents and teachers' ability to help children apply their hobbies constructively.

Timothy McClellan, Baltimore

I don't think the Pokemon cards are gambling because you do not bet money.

Also, there's a game you play with the cards; it's not just collecting the cards and selling them. Collecting cards is a way of meeting new friends, when you play the game or you trade in groups.

My interest in this game is to collect cool and fascinating cards with animals made out of water, fire and other elements.

Julian Spath, Baltimore

The writer is a fifth-grader at Oliver Beach Elementary School.

We were overtaken by the Pokemon phenomenon suddenly. It started as schoolyard chatter last spring and grew into a pop culture tidal wave over the summer. Our daughters (9 and 7 years old) have embraced it like nothing else we've ever seen.

In our house, Pokemon has been a welcome entertainment. Our daughters now rise early on school days to watch the 7 a.m. Pokemon show.

This has eliminated last year's demanding, pleading and cajoling to get the kids to the breakfast table; now they're in good spirits and ready to roll.

Card trading has been an interesting developmental tool. I never knew kids could be so savvy.

Watching my daughters deal with the clever local boys their age has impressed me.

I think I'll stay out of the way when it comes time to buy their first used car.

Adults are the ones who have turned Pokemon into gambling. Kids don't know about value -- and don't really care much beyond collecting all the pieces of a series.

The few episodes of the TV show I've watched have always ended on a good note that satisfied my sense of fair play.

I see that reflected on the playground as well. Play with Pokemon figures doesn't involve the kicking and taunting that other action figures seem to generate.

This fad will pass. But I'll miss Pikachu and pals when they ride into the sunset.

In the meantime, my children are doing reading, writing and 'rithmetic to the Pokemon beat -- and that's a good thing.

John J. Snyder, Columbia

Students say cards belong at home

Sixth-graders at Rock Hall Middle School have felt the Pokemon craze and responded to The Sun's question of the month. Here are some of their edited responses:

I think this Pokemon fad is going crazy. People are fighting over cards because one person gave them a bad trade.

It's just stupid to do anything like that over a piece of paper with a drawing on it.

Thomas, Strong

I think it is crazy that cards cost so much. They should be about 50 cents per pack of 12 cards or more, so people would not spend so much money on a pack.

Samantha Coleman

I should know a little bit about Pokemon because my brother is totally taken with it. He wakes up at 7 a.m. just to watch the TV show.

The problem is that this is on school days. The television wakes me up. When I go to school, I am still drowsy.

Courtney Glenn

I think a lot of bad stuff is going on with the Pokemon cards. But, even though they are not good for schools, that does not mean they have to stop making the cards.

If kids do bring them to school, the teacher can take them away.

Michelle Baiocco

I think that the Pokemon craze is a little out of hand. But I like the cards, and I collect them.

At first, I thought they were a waste of money. Then one of my friends gave me a card, and I started trading and it became fun.

Now I have 19 cards. I hope I get more. But I doubt I'll ever get them all.

I think that they are a distraction in school and may start fights. Some people are a little too serious about them.

Joe Thayer

About three weeks ago I was in my music class, talking to this boy about my Pokemon card, Weedel. We started to argue. And it got louder and louder. I got up out of my seat and got in his face.

I was about to punch him in his face. But I sat down in my seat so I would not get in trouble.

But the boy and I got sent to the guidance counselor. We told her about the Pokemon craze.

She told the principal, who announced that Pokemon cards were banned from school.

Littleton Fussett

Pokemon started as a television show that my 7-year-old brother adored. I really wish it stayed that way.

Now, they have trading cards, digital Pokemon video games, T-shirts and magazines, and I'm sure there are more items I haven't heard of.

Jordan Usilton

I feel the Pokemon cards should be eliminated from schools. They are taking children's minds off of their homework.

Pokemon cards are just another toy and just another way for the factory that makes them to make money.

The cards are a rip-off and they cause fights between children.

Myisha Walker

I think the Pokemon craze is stupid. It's senseless to pay $40 and $50 for a tiny piece of paper that can easily be destroyed.

In our schools and homes, they have caused fights and distractions.

Tysheka Johnson

I think you should not be allowed to have Pokemon cards unless you are 15 years old or older.

By that age, you should know that when you trade a card, you will not get it back.

Sam Kinser

Kids around the state are collecting Pokemon cards and selling them. Kids are bringing lots of money to school hoping to buy a card. This is causing interference in the classroom.

I believe that they should be banned from all schools.

Carl Mangels Jr.

I think the Pokemon craze is a good thing. I have 107 cards, and they are very educational. I read the information on the cards, unless it's in Japanese.

All my friends have cards, too. We trade them and that is good for our negotiating skills. One of my friends has a book that has all the prices of the cards, and we read about them.

Michael Burgess

I feel that the Pokemon craze is dumb. A kid is given an assignment and as soon as another kid who has Pokemon cards comes into the room, they are talking about Pokemon.

This is terrible.

Kids get bad grades that they didn't get before the craze came to our school.

Regan Mitchell

I think Pokemon cards are neat, but the money they are charging for them is ridiculous.

The cards give you skills you can use when you're older, as a businessman or a lawyer. The cards are just like baseball cards -- people trade them and sell them.

We're kids. We have to explore and have an interest.

These cards can also bring people together. If you get in a fight with a friend and you give him or her a Pokemon card and your friend will be happy -- and will still be your friend.

Charles Jacob

I think it's ridiculous that kids are spending $50 on Pokemon cards.

Some cards are not even real Pokemon trading cards.

Pokemon gives kids a hobby, but it can get out of hand.

Schools have banned Pokemon stuff because kids are getting distracted in school. And the more Pokemon stuff comes out, the more kids won't pay attention in school.

Kristen Jacquette

Game of cards, gambling gateway

Could Pokemon become a gateway to gambling addiction?

Sadly, we must say, "yes," because the competitive effort in Pokemon parallels that in sports betting, casino gambling, horse racing or the lottery.

Pokemon is simply gambling geared to the younger child.

This doesn't mean every child playing Pokemon will become a compulsive gambler. Neither will every child who collects baseball cards. But research shows that most male compulsive gamblers started gambling in their early teens with baseball cards

Pokemon might be a gateway to gambling problems, but that doesn't mean someone must step through it. We have a duty to teach children responsible behaviors.

Gambling is not one of them.

Valerie C. Lorenz, Baltimore

The writer is executive director of the Compulsive Gambling Center Inc.

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