Tajiri got into games when he was at technical school, spending all his time in arcades. He did not like school, and began skipping classes to spend more time at the arcades. This confused and upset his parents, who felt he was throwing his future away. Tajiri spent so much time playing games that one arcade gave him a full-sized Space Invaders machine to take home. Eventually, Tajiri graduated from a two-year program at the Tokyo National College of Technology. His father wanted him to be an electrical utility repairman, but this is not what he wanted.
In 1981, when he was sixteen years old, Tajiri won a contest sponsored by Nintendo rival Sega for a game design concept. A year later, in 1982, Tajiri and his friends formed a gaming magazine by the name of Game Freak. A friend and contributor to Game Freak was Ken Sugimori, who would later become the illustrator and designer of all of the Pokémon images, as well as the human characters and other aspects of the games.