Just for kicks, I thought it might be interesting for people to share their memories of living through what I'm calling Pokemon's "Dark Age," which I would say lasted approximately from Gen III to Gen V. Now, to be clear, I am not talking about the quality of the games, anime, TCG, or any other affiliated media around this time. Rather, this was a dark time because right around the time Gen III started up, at least in the US, the initial hype train for Pokemon had died down, and the franchise was mostly considered "kids' stuff" and typically hated by the general public. I think the overall negativity started to decline after Black and White came out, but definitely by the start of Gen VI it was considered cool and nostalgic to like Pokemon again. It might just be a bit of fun to air out our collective traumas, as well as show some of the younger fans how rough it could get to be a Pokemon fan back in the day.
For me, I was still in elementary school for all of Gen III, so this didn't yet affect me very much. I had plenty of friends who both played the games and still watched the anime. However, a lot of that changed once I went to middle school, which was actually a few months after Diamond and Pearl came out in North America. At first, a lot of people I knew just seemed to casually quit being fans of the series, which didn't seem too unusual. However, over time I noticed a growing hostility, particularly from older students, towards people that would openly admit to liking Pokemon. The antagonism would range from being called names like nerd, p***y, or even the "F" slur, to just straight up being harassed and/or beaten up.
As you can imagine, I had to keep my fandom for Pokemon closeted at this time. Even around my own family, I felt ashamed to admit I still enjoyed it. As a result, I never got Platinum, HeartGold, or SoulSilver during their initial release, having to opt to pirate the games on my laptop just to play them in peace. I also kept up with the anime as best as I could through either YouTube (when available) or some of those sketchy streaming websites. My only solace was browsing online communities (such as Serebii) to bond with fellow fans.
By the time I got to high school, Black and White were about to be released. I wouldn't say there were a ton of people open about liking Pokemon at this point, but the overall hatred was moving more towards apathy from what I could tell. I had also built up a decent savings doing odd jobs around this time, so I could actually buy the games for myself. Once they were released, I found a small yet devoted group of acquaintances at school that I could just talk Pokemon with. It was a relief after having to keep my mouth shut about it for so long, and I actually look back on this time pretty fondly. Further into the future, by the time X and Y were released, even some of the preppier people at school had gotten a 3DS and were playing the games. I think this was also helped by the emergence of geek culture into the mainstream around this time. Playing Pokemon was just something people did, and this definitely paved the way for Pokemon Go to break into the public consciousness a few years later.
I know a lot of that sounded dramatic, but that was at least some of my experience growing up with Pokemon. Fortunately now as an adult, I can enjoy the franchise with little to no judgment from others. But even so, at some point you just have to stop caring what people think about your hobbies and like what you like in peace. Would love to hear some of your guys' experience with Pokemon during this time in your life!