The Pokemon World Championships for 2023 are just hours away. As fans gather in Yokohama, Japan, to celebrate their love and dedication to the decades-long franchise, I am sent back through a lifetime of special moments the games, TCG, and the expanded universe have offered me.
While I have never had the opportunity to attend one of the Championship events in person, I’ve held competitive Pokemon close to me throughout my entire life. I was one of the lucky trainers who were around back when the games and TCG were first released. The memories led me to be a part of the gaming community and, more importantly, understand my strengths within myself.
Pokemon TCG in The Mountain West
It was 1999 in Mountain Home, Idaho, when I first discovered the Pokemon TCG. We had gone to a Pizza Hut in the middle of summer. A sticker dispenser was in the hot, stuffy entrance room to the parlor. After a loving donated quarter from my father, I held a female Nidorina card in sticker format. I remember sitting there through dinner, holding the sticker to the light and watching the holo faucets wink in the August sunshine.
I couldn’t tell you what went through my head at seven years old, but I knew the sticker was special, and it was only a matter of time before I had done enough chores, yard work, and dishes to purchase my very first Game Boy. A bright green, hefty handheld that I proudly sported Pokemon Yellow around in.
From there, my afternoons were spent watching Ash Ketchum battle through the Indigo League with Pikachu and collecting the original 151 cards in a well-loved shoebox under my bed.
Going on a Pokemon Trainer Journey For Life
As generations expanded the Pokedex, my love for all things Pokemon didn’t fade. My parents would always say, “Oh, it’s a phase,” and I think they truly hoped I would outgrow it. I can proudly say I had no shame, and no amount of social embarrassment kept me from bringing cards to school, battling with friends, and chasing after every new game that dropped.
When I was 12, the E-Reader came out, and I slotted it into my silver Game Boy SP and spent hours sliding the barcodes of my TCG cards, copying all the information into a notebook like my own, physical Pokedex. I remember thinking at the time that it was a shame “Pokemon Professor” wasn’t a real job.
By the time I was in college, I was a hardcore Shiny Hunter. I spent my days doing Nuzlockes through 3DS-gen titles, amassing the hardest Shiny companions you could catch, and enjoying the relief from being young, overworked, and in a career field I didn’t love. Pokemon connected me to people, and together, we battled life while battling in-game or with cards.
Pokemon Go Summers And Exciting Adventures
The summer of 2016 was one of adventure, growth, and transition. It was also when Pokemon Go catapulted me out of my house and into every park and city that I could get to. At the time, I was working nights, worn out and lonely. When the game was released, my best friend and I would go out and walk for hours, catching every Pidgey and Rattata we could find.
I met other players all over my little town who also shared a fierce love for Pokemon. We stood out together at lured stops and chatted about what Pokemon meant to us, how it helped us, and what it brought into our lives. One family talked about how Pokemon episodes got them through their daughter’s chemo treatments, while another explained that Ruby and Sapphire got her through an eating disorder.
For me? I shared how the games offered me escape during my parent’s divorce, connection as my mother went through sobriety treatment, a home when I moved out for school and didn’t have one, and friends even in the darkest and loneliest places. We stood, shaded under the maple trees, exhausted but happy to share our stories while also sharing the pink petals shaking off the PokeStop.
A Second Generation of Pokemon Trainers
One of the most amazing things Pokemon has given me is something to share with my son. I found out I was pregnant in 2020. I couldn’t leave the house. I couldn’t talk to people. Pokemon Sword’s beautiful landscapes were my escape as I battled the terror of a year completely secluded.
I ended up leaving my career as an IT technician to do what I am doing now – writing about Pokemon for all of you out there who are just as passionate and connected to the series as I am.
After my son was born, I didn’t try to influence him with my likes, but he quickly started to show interest in the plushies and figures I had – and still have – in my office. He asked for his own Pikachu pillow. He started watching XYZ with me in the evenings.
Last March, I ordered a Yamper sleeping pillow from The Pokemon Center, and when it came, he saw me take it from the box, and he lifted his little hands and asked, “For me?”. I took it out of the plastic and said, “Yes, little trainer. If you want it, he’s yours.”
He named his first partner “Moo” and has since amassed a Rowlet, a Piplup, and a Growlithe to his little team.
What Does The Pokemon Championships Mean To You?
To me, this special time of year is a chance to celebrate all the trainers, new and old, who have embraced this wild, magical life. We are a community united, and as we place our cards on the mat, throw a Poke Ball out into a digital arena, or wear our favorite types with pride, we connect like a constellation, lighting up the sky over the world.
And with that, I would like to say, Happy 2023 World Championships, Pokemon trainers. Fight hard, be loud, and never give up before it’s over.