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The Pokemon Conundrum


Getting old is rough. It's a lesson my parents used to proclaim as I was growing up, but one that was quickly brushed off with the wisdom of someone who had not yet reached puberty.

But after the decades have racked up, those words are ringing truer than ever. Each time a child rolls his or her eyes at me for my obvious ignorance of all things cool, I fight the urge to smack him or her upside the head and make a proclamation about whippersnappers.

When I was young, the only playing cards we traded were Garbage Pail Kids. We would gather in clandestine groups on the playground to check out the latest collection. They were only slightly rude by today's standards, but back then, they were contraband, and we were pushing the limits, convinced we were second-grade rebels.

Since then, collectable trading card games have entered a new realm, thanks in large part to some heavy eastern influences—far-eastern influences. When the Japanese card game Pokemon invaded in the late 1980s, children across the United States lost their little minds. They raced to the store to stock up on booster packs in an unending quest to create the unbeatable deck.

I, a mature middle-schooler by that point, largely ignored the trend, assuming the cards would quickly disappear as yet another flash-in-the-pan fad. Then, there was a television cartoon and children were sporting T-shirts featuring characters that—to the un-Pokemon indoctrinated among us—were unidentifiable.

While Pokemon hit its popularity peak in the early 1990s, it is still being played by children, teens and adults who have grown up playing the strategy game. Not only do they gather with friends to play, but they come together en mass to compete for the right to call themselves world champions. That's right—there is a Pokemon world championship.

The first step along the road to global Pokemon domination is the city championships held in various locations across the country. Everyone with a deck is welcome to play and compete for points, which equate to rankings.

Unranked players can play at the city and state levels, and at the end of the year-long series, those with the highest rankings are invited to participate in the national championship in June. According to Pokemon USA, roughly 2,000 Pokemon players make it to nationals each year, where they compete for scholarships as well as a paid trip to the World Championship in August.

The top 10 qualifiers at the national competition are selected to attend the World Championship, where the largest contingencies represent the United States and Japan, although several European countries send players as well. Roughly 6,000 competitors gather annually at the world games.

Pokemon warriors will get a chance to compete in city championships beginning at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 13, at the College of Idaho in Caldwell, and at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 20, at Outpost 12 in Boise.

Players don't need to have any tournament play experience to participate, but they are placed in three age groups: ages 10 and younger, ages 11 to 17, and ages 18 and older.

For more information, check out and click on the organized play link.

I admit, I still don't fully understand the game, but I'll resist the urge to wave my fist and yell about kids these days. Getting old is rough.