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The Quixotic Engineer

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Endearing Story From Penny Arcade

Penny Arcade's comics are great, but their news posts are often surprisingly fresh and funny too. The first part of yesterday's post told a particularly great story about Gabe's adventure signing up for a Gamestop Pokemon competition. The story made me nostalgic for Grade 5, when Pokemon Red & Blue were the hottest thing on the block. However, the second part, a reply from a 12-year old Pokemon fan, was quite possibly the cutest thing I have ever read. The little girl's enthusiasm really helped remind me of what video games are all about: having fun.

I hope the gents at PA won't mind me reproducing the story here, since on their site the two parts are separated by a much larger post about PAX. Thanks for the great read.

Part 1:

So I ended up attending one of the Gamestop Pokemon tournaments on Saturday. When I told Kara that I wanted to go she told me it would just be a bunch of little kids. I explained to her that Pokemon was no longer just a kids game. That a large number of men my age played Pokemon now. I told her I'd probably be surrounded by guys my age who took it way more seriously than I did. I'm really glad she decided not to go with me. As it turns out I was the oldest person in the tournament by roughly twenty years and the only one not wearing a shirt with Pikachu on it.

I showed up at the Alderwood mall Gamestop and entered my name. As the little kids poured in I became less and less convinced I should participate. The little boys with their Pokemon backpacks and the girls with tiny Pokeballs in their hair seemed to assume I was just someones Dad rather than their competition. It was actually really cool to see how much these kids love Pokemon. I've been so into it recently that I think I'd forgotten I should be having fun. With my pages of hand written math and charts of carefully plotted out EV training regiments I actually felt sort of dirty. These little kids were showing me teams comprised not of statistically optimal Pokemon but of their favorites. A little girl talked to me for five minutes about why she loved Kyogre so much. When she asked why I used Rotom I couldn't bring myself to tell her that his ghost/electric type meant he had a lot of immunities while giving him some surprising moves that should allow me to cripple sweepers with status effects but still fight off any Dark types I encounter. "I think he's cute." I explained. She smiled and nodded as though this was the reason she had expected to hear.

I noticed one of the kids there was actually quite a bit older than the rest of the group. Still probably half my age, but he towered over his opponents. I watched as he struck up conversations with the other children, inspecting their Pokemon and always finding them lacking. "I've EV trained my entire party." he said to a few of the kids who obviously had no idea what that meant. He showed of his multiple "shinies" to a couple of very impressed young men before explaining that he wasn't going to use them in the tournament because it just wouldn't be fair to everyone else. No, he would dominate them with a mixed bag of EV trained legendaries and obscure all stars culled from every single incarnation of the series. He was essentially being a little Douche.

I had just decided to pull myself out of the tournament in order to let the kids have their fun when Cory, who was running the show told me he'd matched me up against the little loudmouth in the first round. I figured I might have a chance to take him out and then none of the other kids would have to face him. So I stayed in and when it came time to play I synced up my DS and loaded my fairly mundane crew. It worked out that we were standing on the wrong sides of the television so his team showed up on my side and mine on his. The crowd of kids around me cheered and congratulated me on such an impressive roster. I explained that those were his and that mine were on the other side. "You really need to play more." one of the younger boys instructed. I agreed and selected my three Pokemon to take into battle. A few of the kids behind me would shake their heads in disgust as my finger hovered over each possible selection. My opponent, in what I can only assume was an attempt to show off grossly underestimated this old man's skillz. He tried to pull off an extremely risky strategy involving the near sacrifice of his first Pokemon for a "baton pass" maneuver and a quick stat boost to his second in line. This failed miserably as the aforementioned Rotom I pulled in did not give two shits about anything he hit me with. Once I'd taken him out I moved to the next round but really had no desire to continue. I played my opponent but then bowed out and gave him a free pass onto the next round. The young man I played earlier kept approaching me and telling me he could have beat me easy, he just used the wrong Pokemon. I nodded, yes well that's sort of the whole game.

I watched a bit more of the tournament and I was really impressed with the sportsmanship of the kids. I've been watching the cartoon with Gabe and it really stresses the importance of winning and losing graciously. Each of these kids when they lost shook the others hand and thanked them for the match. The winners complimented the losers Pokemon and strategies while impressing on them that it really was a very close game. I know they weren't my kids but as a thirty year old gamer with a kid of my own I could not help but be extremely proud of all of them. Their passion for the game was totally infectious and I've decided to throw away my spreadsheets. I'm no longer hatching five eggs at a time in order to find babies with the optimal natures and stats. I've also brought Beautifly back into my team. She's not very tough, but I like her, she's pretty.

-Gabe out

Part 2:

I just got this email and I had to share it with you all.

Dear Mister Gabe,

Hi! My name is Nausica (gnaw-sik-ca), I am twelve years old and I love pokemon. My mom got me the Pokemon Pearl for my DS and I love love love it, it is probably my favorite game. I heard about the pokemon tournament at Gamestop and really wanted to go, but I am really shy so I wasn't going to, but my parents talked me into it and said it would be a good for me and I would have fun.

Pokemon - Eevee

So I went and it seemed at first like it would be fun, there were alot of really nice kids there who all loved pokemon like me, it was really fun showing off my team of Evee's and seeing what other people liked too.

Then the older guys came, I dunno how old they were but they were much older then most of the other kids there, they pretty much ruined the fun of it for everyone else there. I guess they weren't really mean, but how they acted sounded alot like the boy you described, that you had a chance to beat. But unfortunately for the kids at the tournament I went too, there wasn't a nice guy like you to set an example for them. Needless to say most of us there didn't have a good chance against them, (I never knew what the special point things were even), and they never really told us nice job or anything. The guy that got me laughed when he saw my line up of Evees.

So afterwards I really didn't wanna play pokemon very much, and I thought I was gonna stop playing, cause I only really play to have fun, not to beat everyone else. Then today my mom (who is a big fan) showed me what you wrote, and it made me feel a million times better!!! :D

I couldn't believe I almost let some jerks take away my love of pokemon!

So I really just wanted to tell you thank you Mister Gabe! What you said ment alot to me and my evees!! You are a great person and I wish I could have been at your tournament to meet you!

Have a great day!!


ps! I'm naming my next boy evee after you ^_^

I think I'll probably be smiling for the next week thanks to this.

-Gabe out

Thank you Gabe & Nausica for reminding this jaded gamer what it's really all about.

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