All photography by Meta4 Photos.
A couple of weekends ago, across March 4th and 5th, the UK's first major Pokémon tournament of 2017 took place in Sheffield, at the English city's Ponds Forge International Sports Centre.
After the fantastic year Pokémon had in 2016, with Go and Sun and Moon, it's natural for the mind to immediately leap to smartphones and 3DS consoles when considering the famous Japanese pocket-monster brand. But there's long been an active, competitive trading card game (TCG) scene, too—dating back to 1996, the year the video games debuted.
The Sheffield gathering, an official Regional Championship event offering both Championship Points (which add up towards qualification to International competitions and, ultimately, the World Championships) and prize money, showcased this TCG community, attracting 399 entrants from the UK and beyond. Additionally, 183 competitors entered the Sun and Moon tournaments, across the three age ranges.
Related, on Waypoint: Celebrating the Catch 'Em All Classics of 'Pokémon Red' and 'Blue'
Both trading card and video game disciplines are divided into three age categories: Masters (adults), Senior (ages 13-15) and Junior (under 12s). The senior winners for Sheffield were Goncalo Ferreira of Portugal in TCG, and Spaniard Albert Bos in Sun and Moon.
Congratulations, too, to Bilel L and Sam P, of France and the UK respectively, for their Junior and Senior video game triumphs; and to Italy's Lorenzo F and France's Sylvain C for the same age-range wins in the TCG tournaments.
Waypoint was at the event, photographing the action and soaking up the atmosphere. Because Pokémon's much, much more than you spending several hours exploring Alola, or your kid brother wandering the local park in search of AR critters to collect. And we wanted to show off some of that—the smiles, the sighs, the celebrations. This is a social, but equally serious, side of what's one of the most fun gaming franchises out there.
And it is, as you can see, kind of a big deal.