You wouldn’t know it from outside Vancouver’s sleek downtown convention centre; inside the world’s best Pokémon players are battling for world glory this weekend.
An invitation-only event, all 600 of the world’s top players of the popular trading card and video game have invested money and countless hours of training, competing in regional and national tournaments on the road to B.C.'s glass city.
Created in the '90s, Pokémon is a Japanese-owned game-based franchise owned by Nintendo. Its popularity at one point became so strong, total sales of games and related merchandise reportedly accounted for one-sixth of Japan’s gross domestic product.
In its fictional anime universe, players hone their skills by catching, training and battling Pokémon – animal-like creatures of diverse abilities that famously speak only in phonemic variations of their own name.
“It’s been compared to a chess match in that there’s set things you can do, but in chess, you don’t get to attack 25 different ways with 50 different moves,” J.C. Smith, consumer marketing director of Pokémon Company International told video game website Polygon in an interview.
“How players are able to work that through is something they do over the course of a year, and continues to evolve as new strategies come out.”
At 14, Joey Gaffney of Surrey is a top senior division national champion invited to represent Canada at the trading card tournament.
“There are people from all over the world who are so good, especially Japanese players, they play really fast and it’s hard to beat them sometimes,” said the teen in an interview with The Vancouver Sun.
“Their play style is really intricate and more developed than others.”
Last year, Canada’s Chase Moloney was crowned victor of the senior trading card division. Not only did his Eeltwo deck prowess allow him to take home a shiny Pokémon World Champion trophy, he also scored a $10,000 scholarship – a prize this years' winners will also be awarded.
Check out these pictures from the Pokémon World Championships: