From PokeParents with their young competitors, to the adults who have been playing the series since its beginning in 1998, Fort Wayne was home to the 2014 Pokemon VGC Regional Championships on Sunday.
The Grand Wayne Convention Center was packed with more than 300 attendees in a room filled with Pokemon banners and plush toys. There were nearly as many Nintendo DSes as there were people. Each competing trainer brought there’s to battle other Pokemon trainers for a shot at moving on to Nationals.
For the people who attend Pokemon video game championships, the events are all about socializing with like-minded gamers and getting to compete in a family-friendly environment.
“Unlike some other game tournaments, I don’t really have to worry about people swearing at these ones,” said Shannon Hurley, a mother of two kids who were competing in the Junior Division.
But these tournaments are by no means family-exclusive events. Most attendees are adults who come in groups with their friends. There are adult siblings, life-long friends, and couples. Pokemon tournaments are filled with all kinds of people and can’t really be categorized into any one demographic, other than fans of Pokemon, of course.
Katzia Finlayson-Roberts and Jeremy Roberts have been married for five years and Pokemon has been a commonality between them. Appropriately fitting to their shared interest in a video game, they started dating after attending a Dear Friends concert, a band that exclusively performs Final Fantasy music. They’ve only gone to a few tournaments but have had positive experiences at them so far.
“I picked [my Pokemon team]on the car ride to St. Charles Regional and I did better than him!” said Katzia when describing her lack of preparation for the day’s tournament.
Katzia was far from the only person who put together their six Pokemon team at the last minute. It was actually quite common. To most of the trainers, the tournament wasn’t so much about winning as it was about socializing with fellow Pokemon trainers.
Ball State University student Robert Brooks summarized the attitude of many others when he said,
“Roughly half of my team is untested, so it could go pretty poorly. But I’m here to have fun with my friends, so it’s no big deal.”
Even with Nintendo DSes and hundreds of starter packs of cards given out to the best trainers, the general tone of the entire event wasn’t tense or confrontational. Instead it was relaxed and friendly.
Tournaments are held on regional, national, and world levels. The higher up the ranks you go, the better the prizes get. Many winners receive scholarships of upwards of $10,000 which can be used on most educations ranging from elementary schools to universities and graduate schools.
Like any tournament, however, the majority of people didn’t take home any prizes. To them the enjoyment came from spending a day with friends and catching up with other trainers. The tournaments certainly have the staying power to keep competitors coming back for more.
Devin Peltier-Robson has been playing the games since their initial release in 1998 and has gone to the tournaments every year. One of the main reasons he’s stayed in it is because,
“I’ve had a lot of friends keep me playing during the decade and a half that it’s been around. I went to the first World Championship in 2002, befriended a girl, and watched her go on to win the championship. We were in different age divisions. My mom battled her dad and that’s how we met. Her dad was so happy when she won.”