Philippine Pokemon trainers aim for the world stage

Victor Barreiro Jr.
Philippine Pokemon trainers aim for the world stage
Philippine Pokemon players discuss the basics of the Pokemon World Championships, and what it takes to get to the world stage

MANILA, Philippines – Fans from around the world will head to San Francisco from August 19 to 21  to not only share their love of the Pokemon gaming and media franchise, but also to compete in the 2016 Pokemon World Championships.

While the Pokemon World Championships features players of the video game, the trading card game, and the Pokken Tournament fighting game, within the Pokemon video game subsection of the World Championships are Philippine players trying to make their way to the world stage.

Rappler had a brief talk with Francis Tai, John Payumo, Arby Mia, Ericsson Marquez, and Mark Anthony Nasuli to talk about the differences between regular and world championship play.

Building your team

Unlike what you’d expect from a leisurely game of Pokemon, there are strict rules governing how the game is played in a tournament.

While hacks, cheats and specific Pokemon are banned in tournament play, the composition of a player’s Pokemon party is otherwise an opening for imaginative team construction.

The group noted that players can see their opponent’s team composition before the fight begins so learning to adjust and counter specific setups is important. 

Tai explained that a player’s fighting team is composed of 4 Pokemon, with two fighting on each player’s side at all times until either all of an opponent’s Pokemon have fainted or the time limit runs out. The group added that some bouts are a best-of-three series of matches rather than single-round elimination bout.

Payumo added that there are three brackets for World Championship play, divided into age groups. These are the Junior, Senior, and Master Division – with Juniors being born in 2004 or later, Masters being born in 1999 or earlier, and Seniors falling in between the two age brackets.

The various divisions compete not only for school scholarships, but also for the chance at a piece of a $500,000 prize pool.

Getting to the world stage

To even get to the World Championships, players had to be invited by competing and earning points in sanctioned tournaments in their respective regions.

Tai added, “They change the rules every year. Such as last year, you needed at a minimum of 400 points to be invited. But for this year, they changed it to 200 points minimum so they could invite more people.”

Nasuli, meanwhile, talked about the difficulties of being a Philippine player attempting to get to the world stage. Philippine tournaments, he said, are not officially sanctioned by the championship body, conferring no points for eligibility towards the World Championships.

“What we do is we travel, at least across the SEA (Southeast Asian) countries that have sanctioned tournaments, like Singapore or Taiwan or Malaysia,” Nasuli explained. Going through the costly procedure of traveling around Southeast Asia was the only way to get the championship points needed to get to the world stage.

On Pokemon Go

Asked about their take on Pokemon Go, the members of the group were supportive of Nintendo and Niantic Labs.

Nasuli explained: “It’s a nice introduction for anyone. It introduces them to the Pokemon community in general.”

“Pokemon Go has a positive effect such that more people are actually introduced to Pokemon. Hence, more people can actually be introduced to us, to the competitive scene,” he added.

Advice for prospective trainers

Capping off the interview, we asked them for their advice for people getting introduced to Pokemon and to the World Championship stage.

Tai and Marquez both prized the value of determination.

“Don’t feel discouraged, even if you play against someone really good… It’s more or less your determination to keep striving for greatness,” Tai said.

Marquez added, “Like any other game, just keep practicing. Don’t be discouraged by your losses, and learn from your losses.”

Mia advised players to be creative. “It’s not like, if you know there are powerful Pokemon, you have to copy them.” With more than 700 Pokemon available, you can find ways to incorporate your favorite Pokemon into a winning strategy.

Payumo and Nasuli, meanwhile, told players that a “love of the game” was what was needed to not only enjoy Pokemon games, but to also thrive as future competitive players who love the world of Pokemon. – Rappler.com

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Victor Barreiro Jr.

Victor Barreiro Jr is part of Rappler's Central Desk. An avid patron of role-playing games and science fiction and fantasy shows, he also yearns to do good in the world, and hopes his work with Rappler helps to increase the good that's out there.