Brock Willard managing editor
All of us have hobbies we enjoy, whether it’s professional sports, quilting, celebrity gossip, or in my case, competitive Pokémon.
For those of who’ve been living underneath a rock for the past 20 years, Pokémon is a video game franchise produced by Japanese video game company Gamefreak and licensed by international video game company Nintendo. It is one of the highest grossing media franchises of all time, encompassing video games, toys, clothing, card games, and even film and television projects. However, one of the most interesting facts surrounding Pokémon, at least to me, is the competitive e-sport centered around the game.
Competitive Pokémon started before there was even an officially sanctioned competitive format with the release of Pokémon Stadium in 1999. Players did not have access to the internet to play like they do today, but the game was no less intense than it is now. Players would travel to organized tournaments to battle with each other and even with only 151 species of Pokémon to choose from, the meta game was incredibly complex. In a competitive game, the term “metagame” refers to considerations and choices made by players to outplay other players. In the context of Pokémon, the metagame involves choosing different Pokémon or specific strategies, and these strategies can change frequently as newer and newer games are released and by extension, new species of Pokémon.
The reason you want to be watching any of this go down is that the competitive game has virtually no limit to the strategies that can be employed. Pokémon have a certain number of techniques that they can use, and there are nearly 1000 Pokémon currently released. Naturally, you can already see the math adding up quickly. In the soon to be released titles “Pokémon Scarlet” and “Pokémon Violet,” this metagame is going to become infinitely more complex.
To preface, every Pokémon has at least one type, a category which affects how much damage they can do and how much damage they receive from other techniques used on them. In the upcoming games, Gamefreak is introducing a mechanic where a Pokémon can change its type. That may not sound monumental on the surface, but it’s a game changer, quite literally.
Say you come into a battle with a Water type Pokémon ready to go up against a Fire type Pokémon (Water type moves are strong against Fire types). Your opponent throws out a Fire type but then activates the mechanic that allows them to change their Pokémon’s type and they change it into a Grass type instead (Water type moves are weak against Grass types). Your whole strategy is now completely bunk and you have to rethink the entire encounter. I’m sure you can see the potential for exciting surprises in official matches carried out by players who live and breathe this competitive e-sport.
Next time you’re deciding what to watch on YouTube, try looking into the history of the competitive formats of Pokémon, or even better, watch some matches from the Video Game Championships (VGC). Most are there to watch and you will find some truly exciting twists and turns.