Not to date myself, but Pokémon debuted on GameBoy when I was in the 7th grade. I had a GameBoy, but I had no interest in Pokémon. There were a few kids that played in school, but I was interested in other fun games, like Donkey Kong and Dr. Mario.
As the months went on, I began to notice that while fun was often the means, the end for these games was social capital: on the playground, in the lunchroom, but most importantly, on the bus.
The bus was where we talked about games and being good at the popular games was a powerful tool. When Pokémon’s popularity began to skyrocket, anybody who was anybody begged their parents to buy them the Pokémon game, and subsequently lots of AA batteries for their GameBoy.
For anyone who wanted to sit nearer the back of the bus, the solution was clear: get the game and spend time playing it. That gave you more Pokémon, stronger Pokémon, and more clout with the “cool kids” on the bus.
But what about when the solution isn’t so clear?
What if there are so many ways that you could fail?
Even with the game, some people wasted time and money on it and still fell farther from the inner circle.