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Title: Pokemon: What's Behind the Latest Toy Craze

Source: www.the700club.org, November 15th, 1999.

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Pokemon: What's Behind the Latest Toy Craze

By Kim Bonney
November 15, 1999

-- The latest toy craze is Pokemon. It's the number one rated kids show on television and now the top movie at the box office.  Retailers are banking on the Pokemon creatures to be must-have items under Christmas trees this holiday. But some parents and educators say kids are becoming obsessed, even brainwashed. Is there trouble in Pokemon paradise?

The movie follows "Pikachu" and "Ash" to a remote island where they are lured into a massive battle. It's a showdown between the legendary "Mew" and the bio-engineered "Mewtwo," master trainer. Got it? If not, try asking just about any child in the U.S. under the age of 12.

One boy says, "The cards have attacks on the bottom and they have, like, hit points, and every attack does a certain amount of points, and the first card that runs out of hit points is the first card that's knocked out."

And another boy says, "And you have to have all the energies for the right kind of energies and the evolvations."

It seems the Pokemon craze is turning grade school kids into fanatics--gobbling up kids' time and their parents' money.

And exactly how much money is spent on these cards, say, in a year?

Says one boy, "Over $1,000, I'd say. Their prices are really high.  It's like $7, sometimes $9 for a single pack."

The name Pokemon is Japanese slang for "Pocket Monster." Nintendo, its Japanese creator, puts the total retail value of the animated cartoon, Gameboy video games, promotional toys and cards at $1 billion in the U.S. and $7 billion worldwide in just one year.

But clearly, collecting all the trading cards is what's driving the frenzy. Kids tote binders stuffed with them. Parents pound the pavement to find yet another pack of the cards, which go for $5.99 and up. The rarest cards run anywhere from $100-$400 on the Pokemon black market. The goal is to "catch 'em all." But with the odds of getting a "premium" card at 1 in 33, it's not as easy as you think.

Parent Donna Bortz says, "The only way you can get a certain card is to buy it on the secondary market or over the Internet."

Kids are so obsessed with collecting cards it's becoming downright cutthroat. There have been reports of students actually stealing cards. In fact, just last week in California, two boys ages 12 and 13 were arrested and could face felony charges for allegedly taking cards from elementary students' backpacks.

Bortz adds, "It has happened to my own son. A couple of his cards have
been stolen."

Also in New York, a boy is recovering after allegedly being stabbed over cards.

Why are children getting into fights over the cards? The answers CBN News received were simple.

"Because maybe someone has a better card than them," says one child.

"They probably say, 'I'll beat you up if you don't give me that card,'" points out another child.

And it's this kind of behavior that's prompting many educators nationwide to ban the cards on school grounds.

"A lot of parents are not aware of the spiritual nature of these things, and if they are, they think, 'Oh, it's harmless,'" says Max Lyons, school administrator.

"They understand that, you know, it's fantasy, and they understand fantasy from reality, so there's no problem there, not with my kids," says parent Leslie Dunks.

Critics like school administrator Max Lyons say there's something far more sinister behind this Pokemon universe. Children clicking on the popular Pokemon Web site can be linked to a selection of occult games.  In fact, Wizards of the Coast, maker of Pokemon cards, is the leading publisher of game-based entertainment products including Dungeons & Dragons and Magic the Gathering. Like many parents, Tim and Cherie Rice thought nothing of it when their kids first started watching the Pokemon cartoon.

"I thought it was a case of good guy versus bad guy, these little Pokemon that they capture, that that was the extent of it. You know, whoever had the most won. It seemed to be OK on the surface," says Cherie Rice.

But then their children began having nightmares.

"And I was really thinking this is something demonic that we're dealing with. They started pretending they were the different characters in the program and they would call up the different pokemonsters that they needed and they would role-play the chants and whatever it was," adds Cherie Rice.

A growing number of parents like the Rice's are putting a stop to Pokemon and not permitting their children to play it. And Lyons says parents need to wake up to the realities of this fantasy world.

"The good characters are using these occultic powers to overcome the evil. So what message does that send to children?" he asks. 

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