So as you may know, I ran the website between 1999 and 2004. After that life happened and with Pokémon being what it was back then, I decided that the fun times were over and moved onto other, more grown up things. I did at least keep copies of the website up and running so that at least my work wouldn’t disappear unlike other now-forgotten Pokémon websites (may they RIP in peace). However, by 2012 I realized that Pokémon was actually sticking around, so I actually resurrected the site, albeit as more of a random blog thing where I would update it once a year. When Pokémon GO exploded in 2016, it just kept growing and I used it to make a 3D-360 virtual reality video of the 2016 Pokémon World Championships. Finally by 2019, I just had to start the site back up, and here we are!
But that’s only the tale of what happened to the website itself. What happened to me, personally, in that time? (Be prepared for TLDR Story Time… but hey, I’m trying to condense 20 years of personal history down to a few paragraphs!)
The end of our story……
So I started the website back when I was a junior in high school, and kept it going after graduating from high school (Class of 2000), taking a year off from any school, and then starting college at San Francisco State University during the Fall 2001 semester. Actually it was because of college that I opted to hand the site over to PMX, but when that didn’t work out, I took it back over for its final year. Ultimately college started to take so much of my time, and considering Pokémon wasn’t as popular as it was back then, combined with Wizards losing the Pokémon TCG license and thus my chance of having my art appear on an actual card went down the drain… I opted to just give up and move on.
But truth be told, what ended up being the straw that broke the camel’s back was that I had broken up with my girlfriend at the time, and that had messed me up big time. At least enough that I simply couldn’t give PA! (then known as “FakeCard.com”) the attention it needed to survive. On top of that, consider too that in 2004 there was no Patreon, no YouTube, no Instagram, no social media… there was no way for me to generate an income from my hobby like people can do today. And most of all, there was no guarantee for Pokémon’s future: clearly the games were on their way out… the recently released Pokémon Ruby/Sapphire may just be the last release for the Pokémon franchise, so what’s the point of trying to milk his dying cash cow? On the flip side, I knew I could make money off my artwork, but it would come from selling my artwork outright at events. Furthermore it would have to be original artwork, as there selling fan art back then was far more questionable than it is today.
So in 2004 I found myself at a crossroads: do I keep working on Pokémon Aaah! for fun, especially considering that there is no future for the franchise and no way for me to earn any money off my efforts… or do I put that energy into an art project that is wholly my own, and especially my own to profit from?
I chose the latter.
Film and Comics
Back during the original PA! years, I had worked on a local access TV show with my friends called Bwow TV. Basically everything you see 17-22 year olds do on YouTube, that’s what we did. We did so much crazy crap on camera and was able to package it all into a TV show. The show itself was produced at Pacifica Community Television (PCT channel 8/26) and lasted for 14 episodes and released two episodes month between 2000 and 2001, and was a minor hit in the area. This experience on working on a TV show unlocked an interest in filmmaking in general, and so between 2002 and 2004, I then wrote and directed three short films: Banana Edition, Dreams., and Schlepp. Again, this was all before YouTube was around, and it would’ve been something great to share on a fledgling platform… but we were simply ahead of the curve.
Around this time too my interest in comics became reinvitorated, as I started to learn more and more about zines and indie comics. Like, I always wanted to make comics, but my childhood experience with comics was either super hero comics or manga, both of which require insane degrees of artisitic skill as well as strict adherance to a particular style… neither of which I felt particularly confident in. But as I started reading Jeffery Brown‘s “Girlfriend Trilogy” (recently collected in Loved and Lost) and Craig Thompson’s Blankets, as well as countless webcomics, I started to realize that ANYONE can make a comic in ANY style, it didn’t have to be a highly detailed spectacle… as long as the story is good, it could literally just be stick figures. I made a few attempts at a webcomic—the most relatively successful being The Book of Huzzah—but nothing stuck. It wasn’t until I picked up a copy of Creepy Susie: And 13 Other Tragic Tales for Troubled Children by Angus Oblong that something finally took hold, which I turned into my first minicomic zine: Moose River. Again, all this was happening in the background of working on Pokémon Aaah! as well; I still enjoyed working on the site, but I couldn’t stick with working on such a kiddy franchise forever… I needed to have a more grown-up outlet for my artistic energies.
This interest in more grown-up arts set me on a path to meeting my girlfriend at the time, who was a Cinema major at SFSU. We originally met in two Political Science courses we happened to have taken and loved each others opinions about this and that (particularly of the Iraq War, which had just been declared), and also connected over filmmaking. That said, I was a Computer Science major at the time, but I found myself with little interest in programming… so with all this interest in filmmaking and the arts, combined with a really cute girl who was a cinema major… well, why shouldn’t I try to switch majors?? All that said, and cutting a long story short… the relationship ultimately failed, and in turn my broken heart started to negatively affect my concentration. This was a major catalyst of ending PA!/FakeCard.com when I did, and I also didn’t change my major either (remaining a Computer Science major). In fact, because I didn’t know how to process these emotions, I pulled inwards and focused my energies less on communal filmmaking and more into individualistic comicmaking. Around this time too, Jen Brazas—then known as NeoQueenJen—started working on her own webcomic series called Mystic Revolution (which she has since parlayed it into Savage Sparrow Studios)… so we basically encouraged on another to work on our art and comics.
In trying to process these emotions from the breakup among other changes, I started work on a brand new Moose River story around 2004, one that follows the social adventures of five differerent people: Anne Amoureux, Avery Mann, Shea Marerra, Emo Kim, and Betty Wilson. Betty is Anne’s mom, while the others are friends. They all live in a small town named Moose River, which is located in a made-up version of California’s Gold Country. I created these characters based on the experiences and actions of myself, my friends and acquaintances, and other random side stories I’ve picked up over the years. I worked on this story for a good five years and six chapters, but life ultimately prevented me from completing it around 2010. Still it was a ton of fun to write and it helped me get a lot of stuff off my check into a story that a bunch of people have enjoyed over the years. In fact, I recently started work on a new story which I’ve been posting on my personal Instagram.
The filmmaking part of my career, however, never really took off. Again, this was before YouTube, so even if I wanted to make movies and films, there was simply no avenue to work on something. What I did do was package my three short films as well as the best bits from our Bwow TV show into a double-sided DVD for friends and family… and that experience actually netted me a new job at a company called Aura Imaging. Originally it was to convert their old VHS tapes and other video media to DVD and YouTube, but it eventually transitioned into other web design and newsletter work.
In between things…
So as mentioned above, life matters prevented me from finishing off my Moose River story. I was still at San Francisco State University, and since I ultimately never changed majors to Cinema, I continued with my Computer Science major. If I was to graduate SFSU with something, at least I can choose something that’ll make my money. This is especially considering that my now-ex girlfriend as well as a couple other of my friends had graduated SFSU with their Cinema majors ultimately couldn’t do jack-squat with it. But complicating my own matters was that I had worked out about 90% of my Computer Science major when I had a serious revelation about my life: I HATED programming. I wasn’t very good at it to begin with and drifted from class to class with passing C’s… but I felt like I was forced to do it, as opposed to doing it because I had passion for it.
So I was another crossroad: do I force myself to finish my CS major, no matter how many Ds and Fs I get until I can squeek out a C… or do I switch majors to something that I actually have passion for? Given my comic and filmmaking interests, I thought about switching my major to Creative Writing again. I spent a semester trying to do that, but later realized that a Creative Writing major would be just as useless as a Cinema major.
It was around this time when I discovered that SFSU offered a unique major which I felt was the best of both words (writing and computers): Technical and Professional Writing. It’s currently offered at SFSU as “Professional Writing & Rhetoric”, but ultimately it’s a course that allowed me to be the middle ground between normal users and customers (who speak English) and the programmers and engineers (who speak… technicalese). Best of all, the major was set up so that I could apply the Computer Science work I did in order to knock out a third of it right away. Realizing this was fate intervening in my life, I hopped onto it and finally graduated SFSU in May 2012 with a BA in English (TPW).
After graduation I was at another crossroad in my life. I’m about to turn 30, I’m now free from school, and I have a fresh degree in a practical field. What do I do now?
Virtual Reality and COVID
So while I was sorting out my future plans… one random day at Aura Imaging one of the programmers (Dave Arendesh) brought in an Oculus VR Dev Kit 1 head set that he just got in order to share it with us. This was the first time I used any kind of virtual reality device since the Virtual Boy in 1995, and as cool as it was back in the day, VR was had never reached the quality of performance that it was expected to be. So for some reason I thought that VR in 2013 would be the same as it was twenty years prior… only to be blown away by what I saw in the Oculus DK1. In fact, what finally sold me on the idea that “VR is finally here” was when I forced myself to walk into a wall, and my knees automatically buckled as if to avoid smacking my face in the wall. When Dave and my other Aura Imaging coworkers asked “can we put video on this?”, I thought to myself…. I think we can! So over the next couple months, Dave, Guy (owner of Aura Imaging), Vince (a sound engineer acquaintance) and I founded a new VR company: MindVR.
During this time we were trying to think of what kind of camera we wanted to use for our VR efforts. The thing is, at the time there were no “virtual reality cameras” in existance… we had to make our own, or buy existing expensive rigs. So during this time I took a couple spare GoPro cameras we had and designed up a few different rig ideas. In the end I found a few layouts that worked, others that didn’t, and even tested one that a competitor was spending millions on supporting but I discovered it actually made some of the WORST VR video. The design we ended up choosing was based on an idea that Dave had about layering the cameras one over the other in two triangles… so when I tested it out, it actually gave us the BEST VR possible with GoPro cameras: it was able to replicate the normal distance of human eyes AND allowed us to get in close to any subject. On top of this, I found some really useful video stitching software which was normally intended for panoramas but I was able to use it to stitch our 3D-360 videos together into a viable format. It also helped that Google started implementing 3D-360/VR video formats on YouTube, allowing us to share our videos. We were on the start of something big!
Over the next few years (2014-2017), we worked with a number of clients, but ultimately growth was slow. VR was here and growing, but it was still fresh, and it was rather difficult trying to convince clients to film in 3D-360 and customers to watch them. Plenty of companies who bet on the growth of 3D-360 filmmaking ended up throwing in the towel, with Nokia’s OZO camera being a significant flop. Honestly tho the OZO couldn’t produce a convincing 3D video anyways, but its failure did not give many people confidence in 3D-360 filmmaking’s future. To make matters more complex was, just as we finally got some good gigs going… COVID struck. Now while virtual reality videos might actually be something that would take off given that everyone is stuck in their homes and need something from the outside world to bring into the home for them… it also meants that WE were stuck at home and incapable of filming anything. We lost ALL of our gigs, and I was officially unemployed.
The beginning of our story…
As time went on, I noticed that Pokémon actually did NOT die off as I expected it to back in 2004. In fact, it continued to thrive! Like, I never stopped playing the games, and with the release of Black/White in 2010, I got back into the TCG. After a few set released, I decided to start PA! back up again in 2012, albeit from scratch and as a low-key repository for some info collected about the BW sets (namely the print runs). However, it remained a low-key repository of random Pokémon-related thoughts. Even in 2016 when Pokémon GO blew up and the Pokémon World Championships took place in San Francisco, I never felt inclined to do anything with the site beyond trying to do some VR stuff with it.
However… in 2019, I had a sort of… “revelation” or “awakening”, for lack of a better term. Whatever it was, I was insanely inspired to produce artwork and write and be creative. It started with drawing and producing new Moose River stories for the first time in nearly a decade. But as much as I wanted to tell those stories again, I found myself at a new crossroad: Moose River was a more personal story, but it ultimately never brought me anything close to the success I wanted (or even had with PA! back in the day)…. or do I come back to Pokémon, now that I have a guarantee that it’s not gonna go away any time soon. Especially since artists now have all those tools that we didn’t have in 2004, like Patreon, Twitter, Instagram… AND the freedom to sell fan art! This time I chose the latter. So on November 2019, I officially brought PA! back as a regularly-updating website, complete with new info and a return to fake cards.
Now that said, I wasn’t exactly out of the woods yet… COVID stuck and it destroyed my ability to do business. Fortunately I was able to get Pandemic Unemployment Assistance from the Feds and California, but still… I needed to work! Another helpful boon was that my parents had just retired and sold my childhood home in Daly City for $1.2 million… and then were planning to move up to Roseville (near Sacramento). Being unemployed and having nowhere else to go, I decided to tag along with them for the free rent and stability to get back on my feet again. After moving I was able to find full-time work at Prestwood IT Solutions as a Senior Systems Engineer, and am I’m slowly paying off my debts and planning on my future. I also just turned 40 on October 2022, which is another point in my life I never planned for, but here I am.
And so here I am! I’m glad to be working on this site again… and even though I may disappear every now and again, I will never disappear for good. This site is my life and my face to the world. My wish is for the financial freedom to work on PA! full time, so I’m at least happy to have what time I do to work on it when I can. If I had a chance to do it all over again, of course I would do some things differently. One thing would’ve been to NEVER give up on PA! like I did. I wish I chose to keep working on it, especially in the light of sites like PokeBeach and Serebii who have been able to turn their sites in to serious business. Given that, while I don’t regret the decisions I’ve made in my past, I WOULD regret it if I stopped working on this site at this poing. But at the same time, had I taken a different course in life, I would not know the things I know today, nor would I be the person I am today. I also can’t say that, had I taken those different paths, I would be richer, more famous, or the complete opposite. All I know is that I am who I am today, and I want to make the most of it.
I therefore thank and appreciate everyone who visits the site and sticks around to see what’s next!
Life was good for them! Actually, I only just created this page, so I’ll need to get permission from them to share the story they want to share.
I’m hoping that maybe we hear back from these old heroes again and to thank them for all their help back in the day. And I know I’m still missing a few names who have helped the site out but I’ve lost track of. But if I remember any, I’ll be sure to mention them here.
Anyways, I’m just glad you’ve joined us again! And I look forward to entertaining you once again with more Pokémon TCG fake cards and other random Pokémon-related stuff.