Pokemon by the Bay

This past Saturday was the Pokemon Regional Championships in San Francisco.

A Pokemon event in my area

Only it wasn’t really in San Francisco.

As is often the case, San Francisco was given as the location because if they said they were holding it in San Mateo, which is 30 minutes down the highway, most people wouldn’t know what they were talking about.  People barely know the way to San Jose, which is the 10th largest city in the US.

So it was more of a battle in the city down the road from the city by the bay.

But not being in San Francisco was probably better for all concerned.  It made the whole thing much easier to attend for most people I would guess.

The event was part of the Pokemon Video Game Championship Series.

This should not be confused with the Pokemon The Card Game Championship Series.

The Pokemon Video Game Championship Series is a set of regional events that lead into a national event in the case of the US and Japan, and a series of national events in Europe that lead into a regional event.  All of that leads into a world wide Pokemon Videogame Championship in Kona on the island of Hawaii at the Hilton Waikoloa Village.  (I’ve stayed at the Outrigger Waikoloa, right next door.  It is very nice area.)

Pokemon Championship Locations

With the San Francisco about a 30 minute drive away in San Mateo, I thought we ought to go up and see how this sort of thing was run.  It would get us out of the house and they were offering up a shiny Eevee download for spectators and participants.

We had a soccer game in the morning, which precluded my daughter from entering the junior division to compete, but after a post-game shower and some lunch, we were able to get up there in time for the senior division part of the program.

For the purposes of the Pokemon Video Game Championship Series (PVGCS), a senior is defined a somebody born in 1997 or earlier.  13 year old seniors.

I was not sure what to expect.  On the one hand, Pokemon is kind of a big deal.  Nintendo sells a lot of Pokemon cartridges for its GameBoy systems.  And this was one of only six regional championships in the US.  This could be a serious, big-time event.

On the other hand, I haven’t really got any sort of feel for how much actual Pokemon battling goes on outside of the storyline of the game.  When it comes to competition, I hear a lot more about the card game.  There are a lot more events for the card game, a whole ranking systems, and the whole world championship series.

We grabbed our Pokemon games, our DSs, and my camera, and headed up the road to San Mateo to see what we could see.

The venue was at about the county fair ground level.  The building in which they were holding the event was typical polished concrete floor, high ceiling affair which could easily be playing host to a Victorian collectibles show, a home improvement show, or an antique show on any given weekend.  Fortunately the weather was mild.  This sort of venue can be miserable in August, no matter how much air conditioning they have running.

But the first thing we saw when we parked was a line.


That picture is just one segment of the line, which went a couple dozen yards further, then looped back around and came about halfway back to where we were standing, if that makes any sense.  I was a bit worried that we were going to have to stand in that line.

I found an official at the end of the line who explained that it was only for competitors.  Spectators could go in the other door, which had no line at all.

The official was at the end of the line to keep any further potential participants from getting in line.  It was 1:30pm already and registration for the event was supposed to have concluded by this point.

The first sign

We walked into the spectator’s side of the building and were greeted by some inflatable Pokemon.  First, the trio that are featured in Pokemon HeartGold and Soulsilver.

Totodile, Chikorita, and Cyndaquil

And then, of course, the Pokemon superstar.


Size = importance.  The trio were about 3 feet tall each, while Pikachu was probably 8 feet tall and a good 12-15 long, looming there above the competition as he does above the whole franchise.

For non-competitors there wasn’t much of a show.  They had an information booth that was remarkably clean.  It was certainly uncontaminated by information as far as I could tell.  I asked the poor girl sitting there all sorts of questions for which she did not have answers.  I left her alone until somebody replaced her, then started up again, and got the same thing.  I even insinuated that I might somehow be a member of the press, asking if they had a press packet or a press liaison to whom I could speak.  No such luck.  The only information available was also readily available on large, clearly printed signs.

Aside from the non-information booth, there was the download area which had the usual big signs indicating how to download your shiny Eevee.

There was a demo station consisting of two chained down DS Lites where you could try out Pokemon HeartGold or SoulSilver.  I’m not sure I saw anybody who needed that sort of demo.

There was a demo station with two Wii consoles setup where you could try out Pokemon Rumble.  We’ve played the demo at home already, and from what I’ve read, once you’re done with the demo, you’re probably done with the game.  There was no Pokemon Ranch demo, since it does not work with HeartGold or SoulSilver.

There was a table setup with some kids playing Pokemon the card game.  I’m sorry, but the reason I started playing computer games was to jettison the accounting and equipment that went with so many role playing and war games.

Confirming again who was the star, somebody came out in a Pikachu costume, so you could get your picture taken with Poke-royalty.

Fat Pikachu!

And there was a little cafe that sold surprisingly good looking food at the unsurprising gouge-level pricing that is the standard at such events.

So it was clear that this event was really about one thing.  It was about the competition.  The hall was divided in half.  The spectator half was pathetic.  The competition part of the building was where the action was.

Lord Pikachu over the Competition

The competition was just kicking off when we arrived.  I was interested to see how this would be handled.

They have special stations set up.  All you have to do is show up with your Pokemon HeartGold or SoulSilver cartridge and team info sheet (VGC_Team_Info_Sheet_EN),  which lists out your team, and they provide the rest.  You do not even have to bring your DS, as you have to use the special DS stations that they provide.

Pokemon competition stations

You get in, you do your battle with the person you’re assigned to face, one of you wins and advances to the next round and one of you is done for the day.  Each of the competition tiers is a different color.

The orange tier awaits the finalists

I am not sure how they winnow the crowd down to the final set of players and eventually declare the winners.  Again, no press sheet and the site didn’t go into that much detail.  But they had a waiting area all set up for those who won out over the competition.

The Finalists Lounge

And what did you get if you made it through the gauntlet and became one of the top 16 players in the tounament?

1st Place:

  • A Regional Championships 1st Place Trophy
  • A Nintendo DSi system
  • Airfare and 4 day/3 night hotel accommodations for the winner (including parent or legal guardian for players under 18) to attend the Pokémon Video Game National Championships in Indianapolis, IN on June 25th-27th
  • An invite to participate in the Pokémon Video Game National Championships

2nd through 4th Place:

  • A Nintendo DSi system
  • A $300 travel allowance (including an additional $300 travel allowance for players under 18) to participate in the Pokémon Video Game National Championships.
  • An invite to participate in the Pokémon Video Game National Championships

5th through 16th Place:

  • An invite to participate in the Pokémon Video Game National Championships

Not bad.

I guess if you end up in 5th through 16th place, you are going to have to decide if you really, really want to go to Indianapolis for the national championship.

We watched some of the matches.  They had big flat screens at the end of each aisle of the competition that displayed one of the matches in progress.  They even had a competition station set aside for people to try out.  The line for that was both long and somewhat ill-defined, so we gave that a pass.  Besides, we didn’t have our Pokemon setup for competition.

But my daughter decided that she would get ready to compete in next year’s event.  We’ve gone over the rules and printed out the team info sheets so we can practice.  I just wish the video game site had as many resources for organizing and playing tournaments as the the trading card game does.  The trading card game seems to be the main focus for league play, the video game barely getting a mention.

Of course, the trading card game sells product at game shops, so it has that going for it.  The same cannot be said for the video game which, once sold, doesn’t generate any further revenue.

We might have to create our own tournament.

1 thought on “Pokemon by the Bay

  1. Armagon

    And I didn’t even know there were videogame tournaments, then again I’m not into Pokemon at all. Think I played one of the Classic Game Boy versions, probably Red or Blue *cough*.
    Nice writeup :)


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