Beware of the Poke Mania

Can such cute critters be bad influences? How one misfit's quest turned into a global bonanza

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Yet collecting Pokemon and pitting them against one another is not a new kind of quest, simply one tweaked with technology. In Asia, fathers and grandfathers still tell of growing up in the midst of World War II, of nights of not knowing what to do with yourself except sneak into the tall grass of the countryside to catch crickets, then take them home, cupped in your hand, to raise in the dark of matchboxes, training the insects for fights with the crickets of other boys who have been on the same nocturnal hunt. The more experience each cricket has had, the better a fighter it becomes--the tiny surrogate for the boy unable to fight in the war going on all around him. Pokemon is that kind of game. Except that there are many kinds of crickets, and all are potentially friendly monsters with fabulous powers. And nobody dies.

--With reporting by Lisa McLaughlin/New York and Sachiko Sakamaki and Hiroko Tashiro/Tokyo

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