I’ve been playing Pokemon games for over 20 years now, and I’m still not particularly good at them beyond knowing what types weaken what and using that to beat gym leaders and completing the games. For me, Pokemon has always been about catching the Pokemon I liked and cared about more than it was about being the very best like no one ever was. This is to the point where I stuck with my favorite six pocket monsters for every game up until Sword & Shield did away with the National Pokedex and made me have really reassess my priorities with the series.
I’ve spent so much time viewing Pokemon through that lens that when I see actual skillful play it’s like being shown an entirely new world. What’s more impressive is when a child like Simone Lim, who just won a tournament at the age of seven, pulls off an impressive read like her match-winning play that won her the title of 2020 Oceania Junior Champion:
— Play Pokémon (@playpokemon) February 23, 2020
When I was seven that would’ve been just as Pokemon Gold & Silver had come out. You know what I would’ve been doing at that age? Crying because I was getting frustrated trying to find Lugia in the Whirl Islands. Or maybe trying to get my Pikachu or Raichu to lay an egg so I could get a Pichu and complete my set of electric rodents. What I certainly wasn’t doing, or even considering as a possibility, was competing in a major tournament and being a real-life Pokemon champion.
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Even when I was a little bit older and in high school, the concepts required to play competitive Pokemon still eluded me. I played a match against a friend of mine who 1v6’d me with a Blissey, meaning I still feel a quick wave or pure rage whenever I see that round, pink, egg-carrying menace. She took down my Palkia, the literal god of space itself, like he was nothing. The shame. The embarrassment. Man, Pokemon really has found a way to make me look like a complete imbecile over the years. Both online and offline.
Am I more equipped with knowledge and game sense to play competitive Pokemon now? Probably. But that still feels antithetical to how I play the games, so I don’t see myself trying to ascend the ranks to Pokemon Champion like Lim did this past weekend.
While odds are I’ll never get to be a real-world Pokemon master, I can at least continue to exist in that world in other ways. Like when Sword & Shield’s new DLC comes out later this year and brings new (old) Pokemon to the Galar Region, I’ll be able to bring a few of my own personal favorites over to my copy of Shield Version and be content with my place in that universe as a mediocre trainer who just thinks Raichu is neat.