Autism Created Pokemon

Great article by an old friend CoCo.

MARCH 12, 2017
Satoshi Tajiri

Satoshi has gone on record saying that he wanted the games to give children the same joy as he had during his bug collecting. People with autism tend to take up collecting as a hobby, so Satoshi gave them and everyone else a gift that only he could create: a whole new thing to collect.

By Colin Eldred-Cohen

Calling Pokemon a world-wide phenomenon would be a gross understatement. The franchise has redefined a generation through its hordes of games, TV seasons, manga adaptations, toys, cards, and so much more. But as Pokemon fans prepare for the release of Pokemon Sun/Moonor despair over Ash losing yet anotherPokemon League tournament, it’s easy to forget how it all got started. Before Pokemon Go, the Johto region, Master Balls, and even Pikachu, there was a man named Satoshi Tajiri. In honor of Pokemon’s 20th Anniversary, I think it’s only right to look at the man who started it all.

Born in Tokyo in 1965, the young Satoshi had various obsessions — collecting bugs as a kid and arcade games as a teenager. The latter captured so much of his time and attention that he actually cut classes and wound up flunking high school. His parents were concerned; they actually didn’t understand his obsession with games and thought he was a delinquent throwing his life away. He eventually took make-up classes and got his high school diploma, but he only did a two year stint at the Tokyo National College of Technology studying computer science and electronics.

If you think that he put a cork in his video game obsession during his studies, think again. When he was seventeen, he started writing and editing a fan magazine that focused on the arcade game scene called Game Freak. Sound familiar to any fans? That’s because Game Freak is one of the companies that makes the Pokemon games, their logo and name appearing every time you start the game up. How did it jump from fan magazine to game juggernaut?

Enter Ken Sugimori, the man who would later to go illustrate the original 151 Pokemon (for the uninitiated, the franchise began with 151 unique monsters players would try to catch; there are currently 721 with more to come). He came across the magazine in a shop, liked it, and joined the team as the illustrator. After Game Freak grew and got several more contributors, Ken and Satoshi decided that they were disappointed with the current batch of video games and decided to make their own. Thus, after studying the coding language they would need to go forward, Game Freak went from magazine to game company in 1989.

Shortly after, he pitched the idea of Pokemon to Nintendo, inspired by the possibilities of the Game Boy’s connectivity possibilities (the Game Boy was Nintendo’s handheld console in the 90s with the revolutionary ability to have players link their Game Boys together and play against one another). Since Satoshi had some game credits under his belt at this point, Nintendo went along with the idea (even if they didn’t completely understand it). While developing the game, Satoshi was mentored and guided along the process by Shigeru Miyamoto himself, the pioneer behind such titles as Donkey Kong, Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, and so much more.

Despite this, the process of developing the first Pokemon games for the Game Boy (Pokemon Red and Green/Blue) was anything but smooth. The six year effort to make the games nearly bankrupted Game Freak and five employees quit because of it. Satoshi even foregoed a salary, instead relying on support from his father. Given how popular Pokemon is nowadays, you’d think that the release resulted in a giant explosion of fanfare, but the media outlets didn’t give it a lot of press. The reason? Get this… they thought that the Game Boy was a dead console.

Oh, hindsight is a beautiful thing.

Not only did Pokemon become a hit, but actually saved Nintendo’s dipping sales. The franchise has gone on to become one of Nintendo’s greats, lasting through six generations of handheld consoles and will probably last through six more.

But I’m here to talk about Satoshi because this is one interesting guy. He relished his time developing the game and looked up to Shigeru Miyamoto. Case in point, in the original Japanese Pokemon anime, the main character we know as Ash is named Satoshi and his rival (Gary) is named Shigeru. It’s kinda sweet when you think about it.

But here’s the real kicker, the thing most people don’t know about him. Satoshi Tajiri is a high-functioning autistic. Yes, the creator of Pokemon is on the spectrum.

It actually fits when you look at it. People with autism tend to have fixations and specializations and you can see them in his past actions. When he was collecting and studying insects in his youth, he devoted so much of his free time to it that his friends called him “Dr. Bug.” I wouldn’t be surprised if that planted an idea in his head that would eventually become Professor Oak, the mentor figure in Pokemon Red and Green/Blue and later Pokemon Yellow. Also, that obsession with gaming in his teens? That didn’t just mean following the latest games that came out, he actually took apart and put together his own gaming systems to see how they worked. That level of intense dedication goes well beyond being an average fan.

That brings us to the poetic genius behind Pokemon. Satoshi has gone on record saying that he wanted the games to give children the same joy as he had during his bug collecting. People with autism tend to take up collecting as a hobby, so Satoshi gave them and everyone else a gift that only he could create: a whole new thing to collect. As a guy on the spectrum, I’ve been trying to collect all of the Pokemon since the fifth grade when I could recite and describe all 151. Nowadays, I could probably do… let’s say 85% of them.

So if you’re ever getting ragged on for not getting as good grades as your classmates or activities that other people find a waste of time, just remember that a bug collector who had to redo high school and had autism went on to change the world.



Stuff like this is so inspiring, don’t ever let your physical or mental disorders keep you from following your dreams. I have ADHD, but I don’t let it hold me back and I’ve learned to adapt to it. I have a 4.1 GPA. Suck it, stereotypes!


Well said deku. You’re an inspiration too:)

Thanks for sharing @garyis2000!
Where was this originally published?

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What an amazing article! You always read how Pokemon got started back in the mid/late 90’s but its always nice to read how it made into that point in the first place. On a side note, it’s always rewarding when you complete a Pokedex and visit the Game Freaks HQs in the games.

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Hi Gary,

While I think that there may be some relevant information there, I think this article has some merit but there are a lot of holes in the information. For instance, the citations are lacking and information comes mainly from ‘opinions’.

@reinasierpe might agree with her background, but this isn’t a really credible article.

It’s a great read but we need to think about perhaps, more critically where information is coming form prior to conceiving an opinion.

What are you saying? That Satoshi isnt the creator of Pokemon and that he wasn’t autistic?

I’ve been hearing about his autism for nearly 20 years though he doesn’t speak outwardly about it. So much of his story fits into the spectrum as well as his mannerisms. It would be best if he’d come out and discuss it but I appreciate the fact that he won’t be bullied into it.
I guess time will tell.

This has been written about for years by many different writers.
I wonder if Glenn would chime in though p-trade is right that in Japan there’s more of a stigma attached to mental illness and is brushed aside. Of course this could also explain, if it’s true, why Satoshi never discusses it.

Can I see some sources of other writers Gary?
I want to see evidence from interviews etc.

From this article, like I said… It is a nice read… but there is too much evidence that discredits the information (for instance the image) for me to take it as fact.

You gotta look it up yourself brother. I only have so much time. There’s hundreds of them.
If you google " Satoshi Autism Pokemon" you’ll find hundreds of articles including university entries. I saw the Northwestern article and one from I think you call it Autism Speaks. You’ll find a lot to choose from.
Oh, there’s dozens of proper pictures you’ll find too.


@garyis2000 - I just spent an hour searching all of the available university databases that I have access to, through our libraries. This was looking through psychology journals, education, arts & humanities, social sciences… All came up with no articles. I think this is it for my discussion on this thread.

After googling this article to find maybe a handful that all cite the 2011 blog post as fact, is not enough evidence for me. I’ve found numerous articles in my searches claiming that this information is not 100% accurate. The information allegedly came from Tajiri, yet he has never spoken publicly about it nor has he ever confirmed it. In fact, the information that everyone is getting this information from, his biography cites a myspace post and that post may or may not have been from him.


Michael, mate, chill =)


It’s all good man :blush:

I just don’t want you all to be under the assumption on something that isn’t true :blush:

There is nothing wrong with being factual, plus he might be more chill than you think.

I agree 100% with why you, @pokemontrader are trying to suffice this topic. Taking an opinion as fact can be very misleading, specifically if you still have faith in humanity. Allowing others to live a lie is something some do not take lightly, nevertheless the allowance of information being misinterpreted. But then again this is just me, some find ignorance to be happiness. I am not saying that this story means one who reads is living a lie, just that having peace of mind with fact means that one has a piece of mind.

Cool story though.

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Where is the rolling eyes emoji? I can never find it…


Oh man, my sides.

I think this has been interesting. Apparently, autism has many levels of severity, some very high functioning which is probably where Satoshi falls on the spectrum… It’s certainly not something to hide or look down on. Some comments here show the importance of having discussions on these type matters.
A two minute search brought up many famous people who have autism, including Satoshi.

The largest autism organization in the world, Autism Speaks (Google autism and they’re the first entry) has an entry of famous people who have autism. You can read about it at the link below (keep in mind Aspergers Syndrome is high functioning autism)

Two interesting points about autism are there are over 5 million people in the states with autism seeing as 1 out of 68 people get it. And secondly, boys are 4 times more likely to have it than girls, One famous girl, the beautiful Miss Montana, is shown here:

Great conversation guys:)