Pokémon is the world's second most popular video game franchise, just behind Mario. But if you were young-ish in the 2000s you'd know Pokémon was the best thing ever, until it tapered off. And this is what made the Australian Pokémon National Video Game Championships so interesting. Pokémon Corporation rented out the whole of Melbourne Park Function Centre, so hundreds of young fans could battle one another for two straight days. But who were these fans? And why did they still care? I went along to find out.
VICE: Hey Lachlan, what's great about Pokémon?
Lachlan: It brings so many people together from all walks of life, at any age, and from any level of experience.
Why do you think some people think this is geeky or lame?
Heaps of people, even grown men, come here to play what on the surface appears to be a kid's game. But there are so many in-depth aspects that someone of any age could enjoy it. Anyway, I tend to not care about people talking shit.
Can you describe the average person here?
Casual, welcoming, and friendly. No rudeness.
And how would you describe yourself?
I'd say very family oriented. I was home schooled. Also my greatest ambitions are to learn the violin and walk the Great Wall of China.
What's your life motto and how do you apply it to Pokémon?
Expect the unexpected. I deliberately use tactics that will throw my opponent off, and make them think I'm going to do one thing, but then I do another. I think that's applicable to life too in a sense that you never know what's around the corner. You have to be adaptable to change.
Hi Adrienne, why are you here?
Adrienne: I absolutely love Pokémon, and have since I was five. Now I'm 21 and still obsessed.
Are you competing today?
No I'm not good enough! People don't realise how complex these battles are. It's a lot like maths.
Why do some people think this is geeky?
Because it's so mathematical and intense. Also because it attracts really smart people – sort of like nerds, you know? Gaming is always seen as nerdy for whatever reason.
Can you describe the average person here?
What would you do with the money if you won a championship?
I guess I haven't travelled enough. I'd love to check out the Pokémon world championships.
Joshua, 17 (on right)
Hi buddy, why are you here?
Joshua: To play Pokémon, obviously.
What does it take to become a Pokémon master?
Tough question. I believe endurance is the main thing – keeping your stamina throughout the day as well as your hydration, and focus. You also have to be prepared for anything because a lot of the guys will deliberately choose weak Pokémon to kind of mess with your head. Those are the ones you need to watch out for.
Why do you think some people think this is geeky?
Most people definitely see Pokémon as a child's thing but you know they have their opinions and I have mine. I have good fun coming here so it's not going to stop me.
What would you do with the money if you win?
Right now I'm in year 12 so I reckon the wisest thing to do would be to put it towards university. I know that's not the coolest answer but man, I've got a future to think about.
How's high school treating you?
I like maths and science a lot. I guess you could say I'm one of the nerdier kids in the school. I can't disagree with that.
Have you ever dreamed about Pokémon?
Yeah, but the thing with dreams is they're so hard to remember. I can't give you details but yeah, I've definitely dreamed of Pokémon many times. I know that much for sure.
If you died today what bucket list items would still be left unaccomplished?
I'd be pretty bummed if I died today but if I did I guess it would definitely be to win a tournament.
Anything non-Pokémon related?
Get a girlfriend.
Got any life advice?
Train hard and good things will come. Sometimes never straight away, but eventually they will come. This applies to both Pokémon battles and the battles we face in life.
Hey bud, why are you here today?
Kaden: Because I came yesterday and made it in the top cut. I won a lot of prizes.
What do you love about Pokémon?
There's always something to do in the game, it's so hard to beat.
Tell me, is Pokémon as cool as it used to be?
I think there are four or five kids in my class who like Pokémon. It's not as popular now.
What would you say to any kids that think Pokémon is for geeks?
It's fun so I'll just ignore them.
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