Pokémes Amis: Getting Involved in Your Local VGC Community

community_ashnfriends
 

Do you love playing Pokémon, and battling others, but don’t feel like you have anyone to hang out with and talk Pokémon on a regular basis? This might be the article for you! Here we will look at the different things you can do to get involved with, and help build up, your local VGC community.

This includes looking at:

Major City Groups

Most of Australia’s major cities have established Pokémon communities with both a Facebook presence, and reasonably frequent events. They are the heart and heartbeat of Australia’s Pokémon community, and the source of many grassroots events and meetups throughout the year.

Adelaide – PokéAdelaide
Brisbane – Brisbane Bisharps
Melbourne – PokéMelbourne
Perth – Pokéclectic
Sydney/New South Wales – Pokémon NSW

community_brisbanebisharpsCredit to Brisbane Bisharps

These cities and their groups are reasonably large, so it is not unreasonable to find the prospect of being an unknown in a big group of people at least a little daunting at first. However, the shared love of Pokémon quickly breaks down barriers. The Facebook pages these groups have are pretty good for general purpose use, including TCG, Anime and merchandise discussion as well as Video Game discussions, and for questions and answers regarding upcoming events or meetups. While this is great to get started, you can only begin putting faces to the names you see posting if you go out and attend some of their events, particularly if you are looking to get into the competitive side of things, or even just make real life friends.

As well as giving you valuable competition experience for the big events of the season – Regionals and Nationals, attending events held by members of your local groups lets you truly experience the friendliness and inclusiveness to people of all levels that the Pokémon community is known for. Although other IRL commitments kept me from events in the 2015 season, I can personally vouch for the friendliness of the community winning me over when I ventured to my first events during the 2014 season, and I know that win or lose, I would enjoy my time making new friends. At 2014 Nationals, I even ran in to an old friend that I didn’t realise was also a Pokémon fan. Many of the people involved in organising events through these groups are also often the ones volunteering to help with organising the major events of the season, like the previously mentioned Regionals and Nationals, so getting to know them at the smaller, local events can be helpful.

You can also find and share photos taken at events through the Facebook pages of these groups, which can be quite useful if you wish to show your friends what events and competitions are like. While we will explore and advocate the different ways to get friends together outside of tournaments and meetups below, it is very important to recognise that attendance is what makes these meetups and competitions, so make sure you take the time to come along and hang out with fellow Pokémon fans.

Forming a Local Group

We’ve already covered the idea that you can make friends at meetups of Australia’s city Pokémon groups, but what if you already had a bunch of friends you knew before heading to such meetups or events? And what if you were able to hang out with these friends and talk Pokémon on a regular basis, between times when you city group holds events?

Fear not, we will answer those questions below.

School and University

If you have friends at University, or School that you know like Pokémon, you may consider forming a club; or at least arrange frequent meetups to talk about and play Pokémon, if you prefer not to formalise proceedings. The benefits of forming a club is that link is then there for others to join, even in to the future when you are no longer at the institution, creating pathways to help new generations of Pokémon trainers find friends to join them on their journey to being the very best.

There is even a competition, the International Collegiate Pokémon Association (ICPA), where university students can compete against each other at Pokémon. To my knowledge, only the University of Sydney has an active Pokémon society currently, although Monash University in Melbourne did attempt to have a team represent them in the current ICPA season.

These friendships that you can make and grow by forming a local Pokémon club can also be a bonus for helping you out at grassroots tournaments and bigger Regional and National level events, by giving you people to practice, teambuild, and discuss the metagame with. It also means that you can travel to such events in a group, knowing that between rounds you have people to hang out with that you can trust to help you perform at your best on the day. As well as that, the rivalry friends can have to see who is the best, and who can go furthest in a tournament, can push both of you to new heights as you seek to stay ahead of, or overtake, your friend and rival.

Chat Groups

Prefer to chat over a messaging system or Skype? There are many Skype groups and other dedicated message groups out there dedicated to team building discussions and battle practice. One can form them by asking around for interest on forums such as Nugget Bridge, on the Facebook pages of the city communities, or on Pokémon Showdown, and agreeing on a consistent method of communication. One positive about Skype, or other messaging system groups, is that you can potentially communicate and team build with people from all over the world, which is both good for making you a more rounded person, but also means that if you are really paranoid about that sort of thing, you can trust that you won’t run into people at tournaments who already know your team inside and out.

By working together on teambuilding, you may, with your chat group, end up with a much more solid team than you could have built yourself – many hands make light work when it comes to testing and critically analysing things.

Teams and Team Blogs

Want to get your group’s thoughts and ideas out there on the Internet? Starting a blog might be a good idea. And if you get results, you can bet your blog will become more read and more influential. Many teams that I am aware of started out as group discussions, such as VGCWithHats, The Boiler Room, and AusTerrain, and now have their own blogs and team websites.

A bonus of making your discussion group in to a team is that you can decide on a cool team name and make a T shirt to wear, like the Delphox Cubs, Ludicolo Patrol and the Brisbane Bisharps, when you turn up to events hosted in your local city.

community_ludicolo

Credit to Nicholas Bingham

Starting a blog can help those who are wanting to take their season a bit more seriously both advertise themselves, and keep a record of their performances and teams to share, particularly if they have a bit of success. It can also serve as a way to focus the efforts of the blogger or bloggers for that season, and that focus can sometimes make a difference in terms of resulting in success.

Helping Out

If you are active enough at events, you can learn how the events are run. Then, if more help is needed, or if you feel like taking a back seat from competing, you can still be useful and hang out with friends by helping run the event.

If you happen to live in a regional city, like an Albury, a Townsville or a Wagga Wagga, don’t feel excluded by the mention of these bigger groups from capital cities. It may be good to start your own Facebook group that holds regular meetups in those areas, since it isn’t always feasible or economic to travel 3+ hours to a major city for an event that isn’t worth Regional or National level Championship points.

Unlike official tournaments, unofficial tournaments don’t need to have Nintendo/TPCI official Tournament Organisers to run them. However, if you plan to help out with, or run, a small scale tournament among your friends to practice for upcoming official tournaments, you should familiarise yourself with the rules so you can be a fair judge should the need arise, and to make sure no players run into trouble by experiencing different rulings to what they should expect in official tournaments. There are no other special qualifications needed to be a volunteer helper, other than your enthusiasm, and hopefully some experience of how well-run tournaments are organised.

Nathan “Cappa” Cappelluti from Adelaide relates the following advice:

“If you want to be helpful, first off give your attendance at events, that’s a huge one. Then, as you become more of a common sight at tournaments, ask the people running the show if they want/need any help with organising.” Eventually, if you are attending and helping out often enough, you may even be able to step up to being the person running the event, although there is certainly no rush here, the most important thing is for you and everyone else to enjoy their time at events.

Interview with Lionel Pryce

To explore what it takes to get involved in and help grow your local community, we will now talk with Lionel Price (@CatGonkVGC on Twitter), a two time regional champion who has had a really big role in helping grow Australia’s oldest Pokémon community, Pokéclectic in Perth, and explore his experiences with being involved in Australia’s Pokémon community.

Could you tell us a little about yourself and Perth’s Pokémon community?

Pokeclectic was assembled after the 2007 Connection Tour, which was 3v3 DP Singles. We met up on a rough fortnightly schedule to keep training, the events have been going ever since.

How did you get in to Pokémon?

Was watching Cheez TV when they started playing this new show, and the rest is history.

What inspired you to help your Pokémon community out?

There isn’t really much reason to play unless you have someone to play against, or something to work towards.

What sort of things do you do to help your local community grow?

Until my kid came along, I had more or less a 100% attendance rate at the local events.

Promotional work is a big part of it as well, we give out fliers whenever we run events, and talk to a lot of the local conventions to see if we can help out in the gaming rooms. A community needs a sense of identity to function. This could be seen as exclusionary and elitist, but this is easily addressed by having the community include 100% of the players. It’s good to have a sense of belonging to something.

What is your favourite Pokémon memory?

Interestingly enough, my favourite memory was probably a tiny local tournament.

It was held at a pub as part of a charity event that had a bunch of metal bands playing to raise money for the tsunami victims in Japan. The ruleset was bizzare; 6v6, HGSS only, no legendaries allowed, no items, no species clause. Round robin with Top 2 cut. We started drinking at midday and kept going until we left, I got hauled on stage next to Claim The Throne to accept my prizes, a good time was had by all.

What’s your favourite Pokémon?

Oddish.

Do you have any words of advice for aspiring trainers wanting to get involved in their communities?

Just go ahead and do it. Getting good at Pokémon doesn’t take long and doesn’t take much effort, you just need the right mindset and the right motivation. The perception of a lot of gaming communities is that they’re full of hardcore tournament players who are strictly No Fun Allowed, but the only people like that in Pokémon are usually terrible and all the good players are really relaxed. The whole reason communities like this form is to meet people anyway, so if you hear of an event, just rock up and have fun.

Any last shoutouts or thoughts you’d like to share?

This is something very important for new players. Start off with standards then tweak them to suit your own playstyle once you get better at the game. Learn to walk before you can fly.

There is this constant perception amongst bad players that to be “good” at the game you have to use unusual Pokémon; not just unusual movesets, but that the species itself somehow matters. This is patently false, as demonstrated this year at Worlds. Standards are standards for a reason.

The reason why community-minded competitive players try to steer new players towards standards is that we want you to succeed, we want you to do well, we want you to join the community and have fun and ultimately outperform us. If you try something “original” and get stomped, you’ll probably come away from that with a negative impression of the game, and lose interest.

Thanks to Lionel Pryce for taking the time from his busy schedule to talk to us, and we wish him and the Pokéclectic community all the best for the season ahead.

About Mindape

A Pokemon fan since Blue and Red. Rarely seen as a trainer in the wild due to irl commitments, but dedicated to contributing to the community regardless. Rio 2016 Olympian.
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