Competitive Pokemon Battling 101: An Analysis

Pokemon background

This document is about the community of Competitive Pokemon Battling. What is Battling? What is Pokemon? If you are asking either of these questions read this section, if not, feel free to skip to the Competitive Batting section.

First I realized I haven’t explained on this blog what Pokemon is yet. I (definitely) wrongly assumed that everyone in the world (because that’s obviously who’s reading my blog) knows what Pokemon is.

For those of you who don’t know, the term Pokemon (Note that technically the word is spelled Pokémon but I didn’t want to bother with the accent before mostly and I probably won’t in the future) generally refers to a set of Video Games, Trading Cards and TV shows about fictional characters called Pocket Monsters (where the name Pokemon comes from). It’s been around since the late 90s. Since there are 600+ kinds of Pokemon, subsets of kinds are grouped into generations (commonly shortened to gens). (The following note credit of my english professor–the word generation implies family/community). (For those of you who want a lot more info, check out the Wikipedia page.) Below is an example of a Pokemon. This one happens to be the most famous one, Pikachu.

For Pokemon in general, battling is a key part of the video games, trading card games, and the TV show. In the video games, players use teams (groups of Pokemon) to battle.

Competitive Battling

Competitive Battling when I talk about it, refers to Pokemon players battling each other in the Video Games sense of the term. Competitive Battling is similar to battling in the Video Games but in Competitive Battling, two real life people face off as opposed to a person facing off with a computer controlled opponent.

Interesting Note: I would consider myself an outsider to this community.  While I’m an insider to the broader Pokemon Community, I’ve tried a few Competitive Battles and I haven’t done really well. For me to be an insider would take a lot more immersion, something i don’t have time for. However, there is a difference between knowing a community well and being an insider in one.

What does a newbie (someone who is new or a novice) experience when they are first looking into Competitive Battling? What draws them to it? I myself was drawn to this community because I’ve had an interest in Pokemon (specifically the Video Games) for a long time. I like the fact that people can come together over something as (some people would say) pointless as Pokemon. The idea that people come together over just one aspect of the game (albeit an important one) is pretty cool. One person in the Newbie Lounge (see below) adds to this: ‘Hey everyone! Ive wanted to join a pokemon forum for while now. Mostly because Im such a pokenerd, and none of my friends are. I wanted to to talk to others who shared my love of pokemon…’ [sic]. This community exists so people can come together with like-minded people.

So here it is, the newbie experience. With the main site I’m studying, the first thing newbies see is a thread containing the rules of the site. These rules help the community feeling and inhibit ‘bad’ people from just being mean. An interesting caveat with these rules: the subtitle reads: ‘These are the Rules, Read them or ELSE’. This text says a lot about the community. It almost seems like a double standard. The community wants to stop people from being  mean to each other but they are threatening newbies with this message. This might be perceived as okay because it’s a gaming community and thus a little bit of ‘teasing’ is acceptable.

Upon reading the above rules I found this line: ‘Being new does not give you a temporary immunity to the rules.’ You would think that a community would give newbies a break. One reason for this could be since this community is likely to include younger people, the administrators don’t want people taking advantage of others. On the technical side, it also prevents people from making an alternate account and ‘wreaking havoc’ with that account for a certain period.

The second place the newbie probably goes to the ‘Newbie Lounge‘. The subtitle says it all: ‘New to the forums? Don’t know what to do or just want to say hi? Get help and greetings back here!’ It’s a great way for newbies to start to become connected to experts in the community. The newbie wouldn’t be in danger of ‘getting yelled at’ (reprimanded) here. Newbies can interact with each other here as well.

This newbie who is looking around the forums would then go to the Competitive Pokemon section (since they are interested in Competitive Battling). Just for fun, let’s give this newbie a name, Joe. Since Joe has no specific interests, he would go to the 5th Generation Discussion (Since it is still the most popular generation for Competitive Battling as of this writing.). Being a newbie, Joe would be drawn to the guides. Specifically, a guide called Teambuilding- Ins and Outs. 

Sidetrack: what do I mean by guide? Well, in my community, I think a guide is a piece of text written by an expert with the purpose of helping a newbie out by providing information not easily found elsewhere. (Feel free to look at these examples.)

Anyway, the Teambuilding- Ins and Outs guide would help Joe be able to get together a team of Pokemon that would at least not get him laughed at by experts. Which brings me to the point that I have read. People who spend a lot of time in Competitive Battling sometimes make fun of newbies who use ‘stupid’ strategies or Pokemon. (This thread doesn’t go that far but does illustrate some of the issues.)

Note: In the above thread the ‘meanest’ comment I found was: ‘I really recommand doing some research more before teambuilding, you can use this team but I wont believe it will come very far sorry.’ [sic] So the tone isn’t really mean, just apologetic and maybe condescending.

What does this community in general think of people who make fun of other people? Well, back to the rules, one of them says:

‘8. Don’t troll or flame users. Be respectful.
Includes the use of language that’s racial, religious, rude, sexually explicit, insulting, threatening, abusive, hateful, ethnic, or just a general intent to annoy others.’

So it seems like maybe a little bit of teasing of new members is okay, but the outright ‘You’re stupid’ is very much frowned upon.

Anyway, back to Joe. He would head on over to the Warstory thread, still in the 5th gen Competitive area. While I’ve mentioned the Warstory genre before, I feel the need to go into more detail here. Something I would (somewhat) liken it to is War World II veterans sitting around telling each other stories about their service. All the participants would get a lot more out of it because veterans understand each other and their experiences. a lot more than the general public would.

But the Warstory genre is better in that not only can people post stuff that the general public doesn’t 1) understand and more importantly 2) care about, but other members reply to the post. They rate it, they say what the poster should have done differently, etc. This gives experts a chance to reply to newbies who wouldn’t know what they did wrong.

The original poster doesn’t just provide a factual account of the battle, they embellish it with side notes of what was going through their head and (possibly) their opponent’s. Some posters even go the extra mile and include pictures. For a great example, check this out. (I really wanted to include users who go even further and link to a video of the battle.  See the bottom of this post.)

For new people, this genre helps them see examples of battles and gives them ideas on how to build their team. This could be better than the Teambuilding guide, because the newbie sees strategies from many different people, not just one. The newbie also sees how teams stack up in ‘real life’ situations.

After that, Joe would build a team and use the rate my team subforum to have it rated. Once again, this has been mentioned before. I mentioned that the posts have the same format.  Well, according to the main website I’m researching, the administrators force people to use that format, so the community is definitely controlling this genre. So Joe would post a team and experts would respond with suggestions on how to make it better and have a greater chance of winning.

However the Rate My Team genre is not just for newbies. Experts also post to get advice from others on what weaknesses their team has. After all, experts want to win too.

Through his experience, Joe would realize that Competitive Battling has created and thus defines the Rate My Team and Warstory genres. He would also realize that both those genres have come to help define what Competitive Battling is, a community.

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2 responses to “Competitive Pokemon Battling 101: An Analysis

  1. Pingback: I Think I’m Taking a Viking to Competitive Pokemon (A Profile) | Blog++·

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