Do you have what it takes to be a true Pokemon Master? Over 1,100 people thought that they did, flying from 25 countries across the globe last month to enter the 2009 Pokemon World Championships.
Way back in the summer of '04, I worked as a grunt at the Pokemon Center New York - now Nintendo World - smack dab in the middle of Rockefeller Center, New York (hell, I've still got the shirt). It was two stories dedicated to all things Pokemon, and while I'd always been a fan of the games it was here I learned how much further I had to go before being on the same level as the true diehards.
I love Pokemon, but compared to the people who flew out to San Diego, CA last month for the 2009 Pokémon World Championships? I'm just a casual - a dabbler, so to speak. More than 1,125 people, aged 6 to 55, came from 25 countries from across 6 continents (sorry Antarctica, no Pikachu for you) to compete in tournaments for both the Pokemon videogames and the Trading Card Game, with $100,000 worth of prizes - and the title of World Champion - up for grabs.
It's not like you could waltz right in, either - this was the premium, invitation-only shindig. You had to already be one of the best to earn your ticket in the regional and national qualifying rounds. Yessir, this was the proverbial Big (Pokemon) League.
The Escapist caught up with one of the competitors to chat about the prime-time experience. 12-year-old Kamran Jahadi took third place in the Juniors Division (Born in 1997 or later), when his team of Slowking, Clefable, Abomasnow, Machamp, Dusknoir and Weavile lost out to Jeremiah Fan's Rain Dance team. Even though he lost, says Kamran, he "wouldn't have changed anything" about his strategy.
"My favorite part [about going to tournaments] is meeting new people who like Pokemon like me," said Kamran, who has been playing Pokemon for almost six years now, and as long as he "gets good grades," he has no plans to stop anytime soon. In fact, he's already planning on returning next year, with his sights on the gold: "I'm going to compete in next years tournament and beat Jeremiah." A worthy goal, considering that the 11-year-old Fan went on to take first in their age division, beating out 9-year-old Santa Ito from Japan.
It's kind of depressing realizing that this 12-year-old could probably kick my butt up and down the block in a Pokemon battle, but best of luck on that goal of yours, Kamran. We'll be rootin' for ya.