The Viking king watches as his two-legged fox fights against the wingless sand dragon. He smiles. Everything seems to be going well. Then, out of the blue, the sand dragon disappears and in his place, a flaming ape appears. The Viking hears his opponent say ‘gg’ as the ape sends a fiery punch that obliterates The Viking’s fox. He’s lost the battle.
If Pokemon happened in real life, I’m sure something like this would have happened to Ragnarok, the subject of this post. All of the monsters refer to Pokemon, with the fox referring to Ragnarok’s favorite Pokemon, Lucario.
Onto the main content of this post. After a previous post about how a couple of genres help to define the community of Competitive Pokemon Battling, I would like to take a look at the community through the eyes of an active member of the community. Ragnarok, as is his screen name (Note: I did not feel it necessary to ask for his real name), is a mod (short for moderator– someone who, in this community at least, answers questions from newbies and ‘disciplines’ rulebreakers). Below is his Profile Picture.
For those of you who love logistics, this is your paragraph. I was able to interview Ragnarok via Personal Message in the Serebiiforums.com site. I sent him a list of the questions and he sent me his responses.
First, I was curious as to why Ragnarok got into competitive Pokemon. He said that the reason he got into the community was because of ‘[t]he ability to extend the postgame content and battle with others around the world’. The first part is basically saying he wanted to make each Pokemon video game last longer. Something I can understand. The second part is more interesting to outsiders. To ‘battle with others around the world’ is something that people 15 years ago, when the Pokemon video games first came out, could only have dreamed of. This emphasizes the, well, community aspect of this community.
From my inquires so far it looks as if Competitive Pokemon Battling is pretty good. By that I mean everyone is pretty friendly. However Ragnarok had something different to say at multiple points during the interview response. He said there are some people who ‘look down on others not as skilled as them’. Ragnarok thinks this is silly as these ‘elitists’ are ‘not exactly lighting the world on fire with their own battling abilities’. I agree. Why would people who were newbies only a few short years ago look down on newbies now? Besides, as he said, they aren’t the best of the best at battling anyway.
When asked about what he didn’t like about the community, Ragnarok went on a bit of a rant. He said he doesn’t like, ‘those that big themselves up but don’t have the skills to pay the bills’. I liked his choice of words. It’s too bad that there are people in this community who feel the need to talk the talk but can’t walk the walk. Ragnarok also pointed out that although there are people who win consistently, no one can win every time because, ‘there are just too many variables to consider’. He believes there’s too much luck for someone to ‘big themselves up’.
In the same response, Ragnarok went on to say that he doesn’t like people who ‘at the start of each generation…try… to predict tiering decisions before a metagame has even formed all based on…previous [generations]’. Basically what he’s saying is that when a new group of games comes out, some people try to predict how the new Pokemon will affect the present Pokemon. Why is this bad? As Ragnarok says, ‘each generation introduces new threats, strategies and battling mechanics which always results [in Pokemon battling] shifting into uncharted territories’. He basically said that the new games throw off the old way of doing things so no one can accurately predict what will happen, even though some people try.
The third part of the response to what/who he didn’t like was people who are ‘unwilling… to deal with certain threats and call for their ban, rather than adapt their teams to handle them’. According to Ragnarok if people can’t have their team, ‘evolve and adapt to these trends, that’s just unfortunate’. Perhaps people don’t want to put the time into changing their team and instead just want any ‘threats’ to go away. This seems like something in real life. There are people who just want troubles to go away and not have to deal with them.
I asked about how the community has changed since Ragnarok has been a part of it (which has been about six years). His response was that members have started ‘whin[ing] and complain[ing]’ more. Ragnarok goes even further to say that if the community keeps changing in this way, ‘Less people will want to be a part of the community and the ones already in it will end up hating the game.’ That is a pretty grim statement by someone in the leadership position. Maybe this is just a reflection of the direction the world itself is going in.
So, I wondered, with that outlook, should people join this community? Ragnarok has this to say, ‘If they’re thick skinned then I would say yes’. However he doesn’t want, ‘complainers and people with nothing better to do than troll Pokemon boards’, where ‘troll’ means to ‘submit a deliberately provocative posting to an online message board with the aim of inciting an angry response.’ (source: google.com). In other words, Ragnarok wants people who want to enjoy Competitive battling and can ignore the negative aspects. He doesn’t want those who are more focused on hurting other people than enjoying the game.
With all these negative opinions, did Ragnarok ever think about leaving this community? ‘I heavily considered it … in Gen[eration] IV (4-5 years ago). Towards the end, Smogon [(A website that makes some important decisions about Competitive Pokemon)] banned Latias … on the whims of a group of people… Latias did a lot of good … at the time and to see it go like that severely hampered my enjoyment of the game as well as some resentment towards to the community.’ For those of you who don’t know, what he means is that because of the opinions of just a few people, no one in Competitive Pokemon could use the Pokemon Latias. This angered Ragnarok so much, he almost left.
However, not all of what Ragnarok told me was bad. He said he’s met, ‘really chill people’ and ‘some great people’. But I was surprised at how negative he was overall.
I asked Ragnarok if he interacts with more newbies than veterans. Since he is a mod, he ‘interact[s] with slightly more newbies but that’s just answering questions.’ The rest of the response surprised me. He says he doesn’t talk with veterans about Pokemon much because if he did the veteran would, ‘be sent into a rage about the latest “hax” they experienced or they’ll complain about a Pokemon and call for a ban’. (Where hax basically just refers to the opponent getting lucky.)
Has a leadership role affected Ragnarok’s experience? ‘In terms of battling experience, nothing much has changed.’ However, leadership has helped him, ‘gain experience in managing community projects…’ This makes sense to me. Once you know a lot about the mechanics of Pokemon battling, being in leadership won’t give you new insights. However, leadership in an online community easily translates to leadership in the real world.
But how much time does Ragnarok spend in the community? ‘I’d say it takes up 40% of my time when browsing.’ From his response, it sounded as if of that 40%, he spends most of his time checking news about Competitive Pokemon and not actually battling. Perhaps his negative experiences have caused him to focus on his mod role and not battle as much.
I decided to ask how Competitive Pokemon has changed Ragnarok. His response, ‘I’d say I am more tolerant now that I’ve been around people here. I also consider myself a bit wiser.’ Just like any community, being a member can make you ‘more tolerant’ to people with different opinions.
In light of all this, what is Ragnarok’s advice to newbies? ‘[J]ust battle and ignore whatever abuse you might receive from your opponent. If you keep battling but ignore the negative aspects you’ll have a good time.’ From what little experience I’ve actually had in this community, this sounds about right. I’ve done just two battles and since I’m not very good at all, I’ve lost both of them. Both times my opponent said stuff that highlighted the fact I didn’t know very much. That is part of the reason why I haven’t actively engaged in Competitive Battling more. Maybe I should take Ragnarok’s advice.
To extend these ideas, it would be a great idea to talk to others in this community and see their opinions on what Ragnarok talked about. Do they think that Competitive Battling is headed in a bad direction? As for this interview, I was surprised at Ragnarok’s overarching negativity. This hasn’t deterred me from Competitive Battling at all but it has given me what I wanted when I set out to do this interview: an insider’s look at the community of Competitive Pokemon Battling.