The execs at Nintendo must thank the gaming gods on a daily basis. Its Pokémon franchise has been running strong for over a decade. Just consider the fact that over 800 people - children, parents, college kids, all walks of life - turned out to play the Pokémon Trading Card Game and its separate video games at the Indiana Convention Center June 25.
Hordes of people crowded around the competition areas. Family, friends and foes stood outside the cordoned off game tables as rivals did battle on their Nintendo DS systems in the National Championship last chance qualifier. Many of the battles were played on large flat panel TV's for onlookers to observe. Some had their cameras and digital recorders out, maybe doing some recon or documenting strategy. Only 16 people would move on to play in the video game nationals June 26.
It's tough to remember the Pokémon video games ever being spectacularly complicated, but apparently, there is tons of strategy that goes into putting together a team for the video game competitions. World championship competitor Mike Suleski said there are so many factors in constructing a team of Pokémon that'll win, and you have to have some luck on your side. Suleski flew from Arizona for to qualify for the national bout and he did just that.
One competitor from Elkhart, Ind. enlightened me on the strategy side of the game. Derrick Bettis, a Purdue Lafayette senior, explained that different Pokemon and teams, in general, have specific jobs to do, such as limiting the number of turns the opponent has to achieve victory.
Across the gigantic convention hall, the Pokémon TCG players of the Master's Division (that's the division for competitors as young as teenagers, all the way up to the one 68-year-old player I found listed) chattered away. The competition seemed a little bit different than the battling between the video gamers, some of which shouted, just loud enough for onlookers to hear and with a tone of indignation, "Play better next time so you don't have to rely on a critical hit!"
The card players quietly shuffled their decks but stampeded to see who they were playing in the first round of competition. World Champion card player Jason Klaczynski, 24, said, "Pokemon people are too diffident to talk crap."
He said the game is "one of the friendliest games in the world." That might explain why all sorts of people, including the 68-year-old and a guy who shaved half his head and flipped his hair over (think Gary Oldman from The Fifth Element), look to Pokémon for competition and recreation. Who wants to play (competitively or not) with a bunch of mood-killing elitists?
Public relations for the event counted 5,000 people coming and going at the 2010 Pokemon National Championships. You might have to be an avid player to understand the game and the craze, but anyone can understand competition.