Pokemon: SAS’ quiet revolution

While you may already know about SAS’ underground movement of sneakerheads, there is yet another quiet, unknown revolution making its way through the student body. Multiple times every day, people in this private group of 18 upperclassmen meet online to perform the same daily activity. Some call this activity a silly game, but they call it a lifestyle.

Pokemon showdown battle screen. Photo by Jeane Khang.

What is this mysterious movement? It is none other than Pokemon Showdown.

Pokemon Showdown is a free, online battle simulator including fan-made tiers, chatrooms, “practice modes,” and competitive battling. Active senior and junior pokemon players make use of a facebook group, facebook chat, and the Pokemon chat room “Health and Fitness” to organize tournaments among themselves. They claim to play daily, with battles occurring during almost every block of the school day.

“Basically, the computer generates six random pokemon for you to have, and six for your opponent,” senior Tristan Grigg said. “We play best out of five, and if you win, you advance in the tournament bracket.”  

But to this group, Pokemon is not just fun and games.

“It’s really intense, and it gets kind of personal after a while. People hold grudges,” senior James Song said.

James, who became the first “champion” of Pokemon Showdown after winning two tournaments in a row, received the grand honor of holding bragging rights, which many claim to be the biggest incentive for playing. Getting to this status, however, is not easy.

Close-up of two Pokemon. Photo by Jeane Khang.
Close-up of two Pokemon. Photo by Jeane Khang.

Another Pokemon player, senior John Choo, explained that there is a lot of technique involved: “If you want to win the tournament, you have to have the experience, the knowledge, as well as the skills.”

When in a battle, a player must take into account the other opponent’s type, the most basic of which are grass, fire and water (water beats fire, fire beats grass, and grass beats water). Then, he/she must choose the most effective attack move to maximize on their own Pokemon’s strengths and play off of the opposing player’s weaknesses.

“For example, if your character is both water and flying, then using an electric move would be sixteen times more effective than using a grass move,” Tristan explained.

Of course, as is often the case with randomly generated games, luck plays a big role as well.

“It’s kind of like poker – you don’t know what Pokemon you’re going to get, just like you don’t know what cards you’re going to be dealt,” John said. Even Tristan agreed, stating that some players are given some “insane Pokemons three times in a row,” granting them an unfair advantage.

Senior James Song plays a battle during his free period. Photo by Jeane Khang.
Senior James Song plays a battle during his free period. Photo by Jeane Khang.

Whether they win through luck or intelligence, Pokemon Showdown players claim that these gaming techniques and strategic moves teach them real-life skills.

“Because I have to anticipate and predict my opponent’s moves in Pokemon, I’m better at reading people in real life,” James said.

But one thing is for sure – this group does not play Pokemon Showdown in order to gain practical and social skills. In the end, they all agreed that there was only one reason for participating in this activity: “You play for the thrill of it, you play for the fame.”

Author: Jeane Khang

Jeane Khang is a Co-Editor-in-Chief of The Eye, along with Jenna Nichols, and is a producer of the Morning Show. This is her third year taking a journalism class and her 11th year at SAS. In her free time, she loves to learn dance routines, listen to music and eat Italian food. khang18778@sas.edu.sg

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