King Of Craze Too Shy For Spotlight Pifather Is An Introvert

The creator of the Pokemon craze was a dweebish Japanese kid who spent all his time playing "Space Invaders" or hunting insects by himself.

Satoshi Tajiri was so withdrawn that he refused to accept a job as a utility repairman that his worried father had lined up for him, Time magazine reports in its current edition.

But the one-time geek has become an economic titan by turning his bug-ridden, computer-driven childhood into a global mania.

Tajiri's Pokemon like Poliwhirl or Squirtle are a combination of the monsters from Japanese TV shows and the critters he stalked in ponds and under rocks. The human hero of the series, a kid named Ash who wears a baseball cap with a swoosh on the front, is named Satoshi in the Japanese version of the game.

The combination has rocked the toy world as well as parents' wallets.

More than 15 million copies of the video game have been sold worldwide since Pokemon popped up on the Japanese market in 1996, according to Forbes magazine, and Pokemon-related sales everything from trading cards to key rings to Ash hats are expected to hit $6 billion next year.

And instead of dealing with insects, Tajiri now works the bugs out of mega-deals with Nintendo, Hasbro, Time Warner, Kmart, Wal-Mart and other marketing giants.

Pokemon was an unlikely candidate for American mania. The first time U.S. parents heard about Pokemon was a bizarre story out of Japan about hundreds of children suffering seizures when a cartoon show featured a series of flashes.

That was Pikachu, one of the most popular pocket monsters, shooting lightning bolts from its eyes.

Tajiri, now 34 and wealthy, remains a shy loner who spends up to 24 hours straight working on his computer and rarely gives interviews. He told Time, however, that computer toys were not his first love.

"As a child, I wanted to be an entomologist. Insects fascinated me. Every new insect was a wonderful mystery," he said.

Tajiri spent so much time playing video games that he created a magazine in 1982 called Game Freak to pass on tips to certain games to other video fanatics.

Before creating Pokemon, Tajiri designed two earlier games, "Yosshi's Eggs" in 1991 and "Mario and Wario" in 1993.