2220: Imagine Going Back in Time

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Imagine Going Back in Time
I wonder what the trendy adults in 2019 who are too cool for Pokemon will be into. Probably Digimon!
Title text: I wonder what the trendy adults in 2019 who are too cool for Pokemon will be into. Probably Digimon!


Cueball is checking his Pokémon Go app to check on the status of a Pokémon he had previously left in a gym (to defend it against the other two teams in the game). In the gym he sees that another player named "Reelect Trump 2020" has left a frog Pokémon, which is now standing next to his. Cueball, evidently not a fan of President Trump or his supporters, finds it distasteful to be indirectly associated with someone whose political views he finds unpleasant. Alternatively, it may simply be that Cueball doesn't want politics injected into a game that he plays for fun.

When he remarks on this to Megan, she observes how strange that remark would sound if he said it to his younger self from 20 years ago. Normally when people say, "imagine going back in time", they are merely constructing a hypothetical scenario to illustrate how rapidly society has changed over the years. Megan is likely pointing out that the idea of Donald Trump becoming the President of the United States (let alone coming up for re-election) would have seemed very farfetch'd just 20 years ago. However, it turns out that Cueball somehow actually does have the time-travel technology required to pull this off, and so he takes Megan's suggestion literally and goes back in time 20 years to do exactly what she suggested: he repeats the statement to his younger self to see what his reaction will be.

Unfortunately, past Cueball (in the year 1999) chooses to focus on a completely different aspect of the statement: the fact that Pokémon - a game that past Cueball sees as a children's game - will still somehow be popular in 20 years, and that his adult self is still playing it. These observations make Cueball feel uncomfortable, as they highlight the fact that he is spending time on pursuits that his younger self sees as frivolous or childish. He gets defensive and starts to argue with his younger self.

When his younger self begins to call it a sobering and cautionary tale, it may dawn upon present Cueball that he may just have changed how his former self will behave. (Could he, in the new iteration, never even begin playing Pokémon Go, and thus present Cueball may disappear and a different version of himself will exist 20 years later? Or could he have seeded encouragement for himself being more readily connected to all things Pokémon in the intervening years, putting himself further ahead of the resurgence in its popularity?) Or else future-Cueball is just frustrated at how past-Cueball is failing to notice his intended revelation — and in turn is failing to appreciate past-Cueball's own naive but still insightful interpretation.

Pokémon is a media franchise that debuted in 1996 in Japan as both a video game and a trading card game. It was originally designed for and marketed to younger children (the tie-in cartoon series constantly emphasizes its main characters are ten years old), with a design, aesthetic and gameplay that were optimized for a younger audience. Since then, and up to 2019, there have been a total of eight generations of video games on consoles. As the franchise continued to thrive and evolve, it's gone through multiple generations, including Pokémon Go, an augmented reality game for smartphones. These latest versions, in particular, have become popular with (and marketed to) adults, some of whom grew up playing the earlier generations.

In 1999 in North America, only the first generation of Pokémon video games had been released, consisting of Pokémon Blue and Pokémon Red and the anime-based spin-off Pokémon Yellow for the Nintendo Game Boy/Game Boy Color. The second generation of Pokémon video games would not even be announced in Japan until November 1999, and advertising for the North American release would begin in December of 1999. A person living in 1999, who has only seen the first generation, with no official confirmation that a second generation was even being considered, and unable to predict the nostalgia market that would appear later, would quite plausibly wonder about its popularity 20 years later.

Donald Trump was the president of the United States at the time of publishing, elected in 2016. Even during his campaign, the idea of his election was considered absurd in many circles, as he had never held any kind of public office, and had no background that would lend itself to expertise in government or public policy. Prior to his election, he was primarily known as a New York real estate mogul and host of the 2003 reality television show The Apprentice. While he'd been teasing the idea of a presidential run since the 1980s, and indeed was seeking the Reform Party candidacy in 1999 (at the advice of then-Governor of Minnesota Jesse Ventura, another actor-turned-politician), most people did not take the idea seriously, and the concept of him actually being President of the United States would have been hugely unexpected to most Americans in an earlier era. 1999 Cueball might regard the name "Reelect Trump 2020" as an ironic joke, like a campaign button for Vermin Supreme or the Sweet Meteor Of Death.

Randall released a comic about Pokémon Go less than a week after its release back in July 2016: 1705: Pokémon Go. But Pokémon in general has been a recurring theme in xkcd long before Pokémon Go was released.

Pepe the Frog is an internet meme that has become associated with Donald Trump after his use of it during his presidential campaign. The use of a frog Pokémon, therefore, is a callback to this internet phenomenon.

The Pokémon left in the gym is most likely Politoed, the only official frog Pokémon released in the game at the time of publication. It comes from the tadpole series with Poliwag that evolves into Poliwhirl which by using a King's Rock can be evolved to Politoed (instead of to Poliwrath). There are other frog-like Pokémon in the game which are scheduled to be added to Pokémon Go, but where people who dislike Trump might have chosen Toxicroak, it seems an unlikely choice by a fan that hopes Trump is reelected!

This comic's joke is similar to one used in the 1985 science-fiction film Back to the Future, in which Doc Brown (of 1955) is shocked to learn that Ronald Reagan would be the President of the United States in thirty years' time, when in 1955 Reagan was a TV actor.

Digimon, as mentioned in the title text, is another media franchise which is similar to Pokémon in some ways, though it is sometimes perceived as more "cool" and "adult" oriented. Its popularity in North America rose around 1999 with the airing of its anime series, but never became as popular as Pokémon.

This was the first of two time travel comics in less than a week, as the one two comics after this one, 2222: Terminator: Dark Fate, also had future Cueballs travel back to visit their past self.


[Cueball talks to Megan while looking at his smart phone.]
Cueball: Ugh. A player named "Reelect Trump 2020" put a frog Pokemon in the gym next to mine.
[Megan puts her hand to her face. Cueball is holding a device in his hand with an antenna. He uses the other hand to move a stick on the device.]
Megan: Imagine going back in time and saying that to yourself 20 years ago.
Cueball: Oh, I have a time machine! I'll try that.
[A sound effect between panels, likely the sound of Cueball's time machine.]
[Two Cueballs standing, facing each other. The one on the right is holding the handheld device, and is thus Cueball from 2019. He is apparently repeating his statement to the other Cueball from 1999, with only the last 3 words shown. He gestures towards the left Cueball. Above the left Cueball there is a frame with a caption:]
Cueball from 2019: ...next to mine.
[Cueball from 1999 is shown, with Cueball from 2019 speaking off panel.]
Cueball from 1999: I see.
Cueball from 1999: Pokemon is still popular in 2019?
Cueball from 2019: Yeah.
[Cueball from 2019 is holding a finger up in front of Cueball from 1999.]
Cueball from 1999: And it's cool for people your age to play it?
Cueball from 2019: OK, I did not come here to be mocked.
Cueball from 1999: This is a sobering cautionary tale.
Cueball from 2019: Listen, self...


  • The idea of people extending their childhood hobbies into adulthood was explored in a more positive light in 219: Blanket Fort and 150: Grownups. The blurred line between childhood and adulthood is a recurring theme on xkcd.

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I wonder if Randall had a particular "frog pokemon" in mind? Croagunk, Toxicroak, Froakie, Frogadier, Greninja...? 19:58, 25 October 2019 (UTC)

Hint: First, Pokemon Go didn't finished deploying generation 5 pokemons yet. Second, Trump is totally toxic. -- Hkmaly (talk) 23:17, 25 October 2019 (UTC)
The Poliwhirl family dates from Generation 1 and is the "original" frog pokémon. -- 23:59, 25 October 2019 (UTC)
Yes so fur sure the frog Pokémon Politoed from gen 2, since the Poliwag is tadpoles. I agree that Toxicroach or Croagunk would fit better with Trump in Randall's view, but it is a reelect Trump fan, so he would most likely use a green frog that is not "ugly". Have added this to the description with link to page with picture. --Kynde (talk) 22:08, 26 October 2019 (UTC)
Agree that Politoed is the most likely, but contrary to what the page says currently, croagunk and toxicroak have been in the game for a few months now. (I just had a bunch of croagunk in my area and evolved a toxicroak, which is why I had them in mind when I made my previous comment.) 20:13, 28 October 2019 (UTC)

"... and I suppose Marla Maples is the first lady!" 20:04, 25 October 2019 (UTC)

I know that Randall, and by extension Cueball, are not enthusiastic about the idea of dealing with a player who goes by "Reelect Trump 2020", but what does it mean that there is a frog Pokemon in the gym alongside? In other words, is Cueball's annoyance just that there is a Trump-promoting player in the game or is there more to it than that? -- 20:16, 25 October 2019 (UTC)

I see that at least you made the connection to the original "Back to the Future" when Marty meets Doc in 1955 and tells him that Ronald Reagan is President. RAGBRAIvet (talk) 06:04, 28 October 2019 (UTC)
Definitely the Trump-promoting, as Toxicroak wouldn't be that hard pokemon to remove, with max CP 2488. Wait, "next to mine"? Ok, so he plays same team as Cueball and Cueball CANT remove it due to that. -- Hkmaly (talk) 23:17, 25 October 2019 (UTC)
And it is not a toxic pokémon when it is a fan of Trump that put it in! See above. --Kynde (talk) 22:08, 26 October 2019 (UTC)
The frog Pokemon is likely a reference to Pepe the Frog, which is a meme popular with Trump supporters-- 20:52, 25 October 2019 (UTC)

Trump was quite sufficiently (in)famous by 1999. Remember that he divorced his most famous wife, Ivana, in 1991. His various business and romantic failures ventures were regular tabloid fodder throughout the 90s. If you think a 1999 person would have never heard of Trump, you're obviously too young to be using the internet younger than I am. I think the main joke in this comic is that Cueball goes back expecting his younger self to go, "wait, re-elect WHO??", but his younger self doesn't even bat an eyelash at that part. 21:03, 25 October 2019 (UTC)

Famous, yes. Expected to became president, no. And young Cueball might be too young to care about tabloids and celebrities. -- Hkmaly (talk) 23:17, 25 October 2019 (UTC)
Nobody - not even Randall - is suggesting ANYBODY didn't know who Trump was in 1999. He's been quite famous for decades. The surprise here is that he's president, not who he is. NiceGuy1 (talk) 03:29, 26 October 2019 (UTC)
He was famous enough to be a recognizable cameo in Home Alone 2 with no explanation (and Home Alone 2 was basically the holiday movie at the time, since no one liked Home Alone 3), but that fame was nothing compared to how famous he'd become later-- 15:07, 27 October 2019 (UTC)
There is a Home Alone 3? oO Elektrizikekswerk (talk) 14:05, 28 October 2019 (UTC)

Has no one considered that we have been "dumbed down" to the point that so-called adults playing Pokemon and so-called adults voting for Trump are inextricably linked and are symptoms of the same malaise - a general inability to think for ourselves and a deep susceptibility to marketing, advertising and following the herd108.162.241.148 03:05, 26 October 2019 (UTC)

Yes, but nobody important. 03:11, 26 October 2019 (UTC)
Adults playing Pokemon just means they’re happy doing what makes them happy, why should someone be ashamed of it? 10:35, 26 October 2019 (UTC)
Yes, I play Pokémon Go, I'm in my forties, and most of the other players I play with are adults although here it has had a revive with the kids in school again. I get a lot of fresh air and more exercise than I got before starting to play 2,5 year ago. And with Randall's obsession with Pokémon and his knowledge about the games mechanics he most likely plays it himself. There are millions of adults playing every day as it is one of the most downloaded apps in app store. --Kynde (talk) 22:08, 26 October 2019 (UTC)
If *children* are mocking you for being childish, you *should* probably sit down and think about it for a moment. The thought seems to have struck Randall, too. -- 21:58, 28 October 2019 (UTC)

Just as I remember reading in a 1969 textbook that Ronald Regan was going to someday be elected President if (then current) political trends that became the “southern strategy” weren’t addressed, I also remember reading at least one op-Ed piece in the late 1990’s that if the political parties didn’t clean house and get rid of undue influence from big donors that someday Donald Trump would become President. There were people worried about Trump in 1999. 04:13, 26 October 2019 (UTC)

I can't help but wonder if the wording of the title text is meant to invoke another shocking reveal when considering what "trendy adults" really are into these days.--Henke37 (talk) 15:30, 26 October 2019 (UTC)

What's with the width of this comic? It's too wide, and it breaks out of the standard xkcd.com layout a little bit. --NeatNit (talk) 16:31, 27 October 2019 (UTC)

I noticed this, too. Has this happened before? -- Dtgriscom (talk) 14:47, 28 October 2019 (UTC)

20 years ago, I was a whiny little shit and would have probably ranted that I'm to cool for Pokemon, instead of just admitting that it looks interesting and would have wanted a gameboy to play it myself. 10:10, 28 October 2019 (UTC)

I am not sure which I find more disturbing. Randall's apparent unthinking Trump Derangement Syndrome (I would have imagined him too intelligent to fall for mere politics) or the fact that Explain XKCD seems to have been invaded by Goldman Sachs advertising. If you are going to use an ad rotator, could you at least set it to display DIFFERENT adverts on the same page? I don't need to see the same advert 3 times. Seebert (talk) 12:55, 28 October 2019 (UTC)

In all fairness, I must point out that it is Cueball giving an kneejerk anti-Trump reaction in this comic, not Randall himself. While Randall does often project his own views through the characters of his comic, we cannot say for certain that that is the case here. In the past he has often created characters with incorrect or strawman positions in order to make a point or to satirize them. Hawthorn (talk) 13:46, 28 October 2019 (UTC)

Hmm, It seems to me that today's Cueball's (TP) dismay with the past's Cueball's (PC) reaction isn't about Trump, it's about calling him old and questioning his continued Pokemon-ing. This seems more in line with my impression of his priorities in life. With the two of them together, they could easily lose track of the 2nd half of the original odd statement and go off on the "what are you saying about me?" tangent - which makes the "I didn't come here to be mocked!" make a little more narrative sense. PC doesn't show any interesting in the Trump aspect, merely the idea of TP's still playing and being 20 years older, seems to be worth his consideration. I don't see it as changing the future sort of thing, don't you have to kill your grandfather or something to do that? Afbach (talk)

I had the feeling that old Cueball dies/disappears, because young one decides not to do childish things at age 40, altering the future. 10:19, 30 October 2019 (UTC)

Do you all think we should add the Multiple Cueballs tag to this comic? Because...um...yeah. --Account (talk) 19:35, 11 November 2019 (UTC)

Note: This topic is contained in a separate Talk page and was transcluded into the talk pages of new comics. This is to maintain a single discussion on the ads which affect all of explain xkcd. Click the "[edit]" button above to add comments about ads. --NeatNit (talk) 22:20, 3 November 2019 (UTC)

explainxkcd ads.jpg
When looking at the article page, I'm seeing several Google ads splashed across the full width of the article space, breaking it up randomly and making it more difficult to read (it sometimes interrupts the Transcript, for example, and also randomly crops up in the already-hard-to-read Discussion box). It looks awful. Is anyone else seeing them? I understand that ads are needed to pay for Explain XKCD's server costs, but they're really detrimental to the article. Hawthorn (talk) 13:13, 28 October 2019 (UTC)
Yeah, I'm seeing them, too, and I agree. ExplainXKCD is one of the few pages on my AdBlock white list. Please don't make me reconsider my decision. Elektrizikekswerk (talk) 13:47, 28 October 2019 (UTC)
Thank you for creating the new section. Yes, not only am I seeing them invade the text, but invade the text three times with the same advert. Perhaps we need a new tag to make room for advertising 13:59, 28 October 2019 (UTC)
I've added a tall screenshot of this to the right. Just from the thumbnail it's easy to see how disruptive it is to the page. --NeatNit (talk) 21:06, 28 October 2019 (UTC)
Oh, yours have images? Mine don't - they're just big white blocks with some text in them (which I think is even more disruptive since they are harder to distinguish from body text). But still, yeah, absolutely not a fan of this at all. It makes the site feel incredibly tacky. Hawthorn (talk) 21:34, 28 October 2019 (UTC)
Yes I also see them with pictures and it is horrible. :-( Will try to see if making a Admin requests will help... --Kynde (talk) 10:34, 29 October 2019 (UTC)
I'm not seeing them in the explanation - Maybe they fixed that? - but like FOUR times in the comments, which seems excessive. It seems less obtrusive than as described here - and shown, thanks NeatNit - but it still seems disgusting. They should keep them unobtrusive, like they've always been on the side. NiceGuy1 (talk) 05:17, 1 November 2019 (UTC)
I find it interesting that this Ad topic block is appearing on multiple comics (I saw it on 2221, where I added my other comments, then 2222, now this is 2220, and I see the same comments, including mine). I also find it interesting that after I left each comment on 2221 - between the comic's comment section and this one, like 8 edits or so, I kept finding things to say or corrections to my comments - I refreshed the page to see my edit show up, and after a couple I stopped seeing ads. Either there's a daily quota or it remembered that I closed each ad? Maybe a combination? NiceGuy1 (talk) 05:51, 1 November 2019 (UTC)
The topic showing up in multiple comic discussing is my doing - because this topic affects all of explainxkcd, I want to make sure it's always visible in the latest comic. I used wiki transclusion to do this. The discussion is actually held in Talk:2220: Imagine Going Back in Time/Ads and is inserted (transcluded) in all the other talk pages. --NeatNit (talk) 12:50, 2 November 2019 (UTC)
Oh, then may I say Way to go! I completely concur, this is an ongoing topic. (Though the ads seem gone now, at least for me) NiceGuy1 (talk) 05:11, 8 November 2019 (UTC)
Since the ads seem gone now, it seems like this section can stop being added to every new comic (though in my opinion it should remain on the relevant comics that were published during this dark time, I think 2220 until like 2225 or so...) NiceGuy1 (talk) 05:35, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
I'm only seeing 1 ad, always (regardless of which comic's explanation I'm seeing) after the second paragraph, always with pictures. The existence of the ad doesn't annoy me as much as the fact that it'll sometimes load after I've already read past that point, pushing the text I am reading down. -- 16:47, 29 October 2019 (UTC)
Click the X and report the ads for reason "Ad covers content". Maybe they'll even do something about it! 16:54, 30 October 2019 (UTC)
The thing is, that looks more like a complaint against the particular ad. Even picking "covers content" I get a response "Okay, we'll try not to show this ad any more". My objection isn't to the particular ad, it's to the EXISTENCE and PLACEMENT of the ad. I don't care what's IN the ad, it shouldn't be there at all! I accept the evil necessity of ads, just don't shove them down my throat, encouraging more people to use the ad blockers the obnoxious sites always whine about. NiceGuy1 (talk) 05:17, 1 November 2019 (UTC)
NiceGuy1 is correct. The complaint button is against a single advert, not against the advert block placement. It's not unlike filling a complaint against a business renting a billboard because you have a problem with where the billboard is placed. The business renting the space has no control over where the billboard is. 04:35, 2 November 2019 (UTC)

I'm not seeing these ads right now, have they been removed entirely? --NeatNit (talk) 12:41, 2 November 2019 (UTC)

I don't see them anymore either. Only the one on the left below the navigation bar remains, which has always been there and doesn't bother me. Bischoff (talk) 07:42, 4 November 2019 (UTC)
Ok, never mind. After I posted this and went back to the page the ads are back as well. Bischoff (talk) 07:42, 4 November 2019 (UTC)
All I see are the letters "Ads". Seems my Firefox blocks it. -- 13:57, 5 November 2019 (UTC)

I do not see any additional adds, but some additional linebreaks in between the pages, which fit the places described by those, seeing adds. Using Chrome on a company computer... So I do not know what exactly the settings are, but generally it does not block adds. (I even see the lunarpages add on the left) --Lupo (talk) 12:26, 6 November 2019 (UTC)

Last Wednesday (6 to 7 days ago), according to the time stamps on my previous comments above, I was seeing 4 or 5 ads in a rather short comment section (which went away after a few refreshes after a few comments). Now I see none. Maybe whoever turned them on saw the negative reaction and turned them back off? Or maybe they only needed a quick cash injection and turned it off after they got what they needed, LOL! NiceGuy1 (talk) 05:07, 8 November 2019 (UTC)

They indeed seem to have vanished. Elektrizikekswerk (talk) 14:42, 8 November 2019 (UTC)

I'm going to stop adding this conversation to new comics for the time being, because it seems like the ads have gone. It's weird though; no admin has commented on this. If you still see ads, let me know! --NeatNit (talk) 05:37, 10 November 2019 (UTC)

I removed this from the talk page for all but the first comic after it was first posted (as on that page there where also discussion on adds) --Kynde (talk) 15:04, 12 November 2019 (UTC)
Seems like there are no admins active at the moment... --Kynde (talk) 15:04, 12 November 2019 (UTC)

I still have areas on parts of some pages (e.g. in the discussion part of 1109 from time to time, which are according to the inspect tool, frames for google adds. They either cover part of the text, so I cannot click/mark it (what I often do to find the line I am reading in easier, or just to have my hand busy), or they create big interuptions of the text. --Lupo (talk) 10:57, 14 November 2019 (UTC)

December return of the ads

xkcd ads dec12.png
The horizontal ads are back. Noticed some on 2227 and decided to report back to this thread that the issue has not fully ended. ChessCake (talk) 13:47, 4 December 2019 (UTC)
Yes, I got them too. Also in the past weeks I got containers/placeholders in some places, which, according to the inspecting tool, where also for adds. Since today or yesterday they are fillign with adds again. --Lupo (talk) 13:52, 4 December 2019 (UTC)
I'm seeing them too.
They're back.
Ahiijny (talk) 14:48, 4 December 2019 (UTC)
The top-level div for one of those ad elements has class google-auto-placed ap_container. Possibly related: https://techcrunch.com/2018/02/21/google-debuts-adsense-auto-ads-with-machine-learning-to-make-placement-and-monetization-choices/ https://wpadvancedads.com/adsense-in-random-positions-auto-ads/ https://stackoverflow.com/questions/51183831/prevent-adsense-auto-ad-from-showing-ad-in-specific-area Ahiijny (talk) 14:56, 4 December 2019 (UTC)
Yup, they're back... I've transcluded this page in the latest comic's discussion page, and I've added a new screenshot here (more disruptive than the one Ahiijny showed). I've also made a comment on User talk:Davidy22, hopefully he'll receive an email about that. This stinks. --NeatNit (talk) 23:35, 11 December 2019 (UTC)
Yes they are back with a vengeance. Sadly it seems neither Davidy or Dgbrt are active anymore or replies to any messages written on their pages. They are the two last admins that have been active here. But Davidy has not been for more than two years (2017) and it has been some times since Dgbrt was active (march 2019)... PS I'm not an admin, just very active ;-) --Kynde (talk) 14:35, 12 December 2019 (UTC)

As of today, I am seeing fullwidth ads, but only in the talk page space. Aside from the usual sidebar ads, the rest of the explanation page doesn't have any. --Aaron of Mpls (talk) 21:45, 17 January 2020 (UTC)

After being fixed again, it now appears that users are seeing the erroneously placed ads again. Not a very nice April Fool's joke... ProphetZarquon (talk) 14:20, 3 April 2020 (UTC)

I've just started to get some huge ads that basically take up my entire screen. Have we gotten any updates at all? Opalmagpie (talk) 02:59, 23 September 2020 (UTC)

I've got full-width ads in the discussion box, but nowhere else, which is interesting, and also FLIPPING ANNOYING! Darn it, those ads are taking up the discussion box and I hate it. (Note: Just really noticed the ads) Sarah the Pie(yes, the food) (talk) 23:20, 30 March 2021 (UTC)

I have spotted video advertisements on the website. I fear this issue is only getting worse with time now. If this isn't just me, we should probably start to insert this back into new comics' Talk pages. ChessCake (talk) 18:54, 13 April 2021 (UTC)

Notified Jeff, he checked the ad settings for the wiki, and the broken ads should finally be fixed! I went and checked a few pages, and I don't see the ads appearing in random positions anymore. Hopefully this concludes the issue. Herobrine (talk) 00:08, 13 May 2021 (UTC)

i used to think that pokemon was a rip-off of digimon, and it went back in time 10 years to use the idea before digimon. this is wrong[citation needed] Squishmallow fan (talk) 02:22, 10 February 2024 (UTC)