Despite my proud pedigree as one of RPGamer's resident Pokémon supporters, I've never taken part in a Pokémon tournament. On the rare occasion when there was one taking place in my area, I never had a team of rowdy dudes ready to battle. This year at Gen Con, I hoped to address this shortcoming.
Unfortunately, my schedule didn't permit staying the entire length of the Nexus Gaming Alliance's Saturday tournament. Rather than risk dropping out late in the competition, I observed from the sidelines and learned a little about what made the assembled battlers tick.
The tournament was held in one of the convention's two video game rooms. It was set up for rhythm games such as Pop'n Music, Dance Dance Revolution, and Taiko no Tatsujin. Cat-eared ravers, Magic players waiting for their next tournament, and other half-costumed gamers drifted through the room, putting on bold displays of coordination and sound. Conflicting Bemani machines made communication in the room difficult. The fire of battle would have to serve in the stead of more nuanced conversation. Trainers shouted to one another before each battle before falling into silent concentration.
Twenty-two pokémon trainers participated. They ranged from middle-schoolers to adults in their mid-20s. There were slightly more males than females. Overall, it was a diverse crowd competing for a diverse selection of prizes.
The tournament's grand prize was a four-day pass to Gen Con 2012 (~$80). Other winners received a draw from NGA's prize bin, which was filled with swag from sponsors and donations from the alliance. Red Bull was NGA's newest sponsor: everyone who placed in the tournament received a can of energy drink.
Fonzi, the tournament's organizer, kept a cool head despite the noise and difficulty in keeping tabs on all the participants. He's been running Pokémon tournaments for the past year, starting with Pokémon Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum. When Pokemon Black and White 2 come out, he plans to move on to the newer games.
Fonzi assured me that had I entered, my team wouldn't be entirely at the mercy of graduates from Smogon University. He explained how the typical NGA tournament has a wide range of participants. Their earliest Pokémon tournaments were "heavily influenced and heavily involved in upper-level play," but younger attendees encouraged more utilitarian rules. Now, NGA provides a strict list of rules to promote play balance.
Although I couldn't stay long, the tournament seemed like a lot of fun. Trainers had a chance to show off their favorite pokeymans, meet fellow enthusiasts, and compete in digital bloodsports. From my limited sample, NGA is succeeding in their efforts "to bring amazing games to people they can't find anywhere else."
Saving Throw Archives