When Pokémon first came out in the late 1990s, many thought it would be nothing more than a fad. How wrong they were.
Over the weekend, hundreds of would-be trainers made their way to Monona Terrace for the annual Madison Pokémon Regional Championships. Competitors faced off over two mediums: the classic handheld video games and the trading card game. Some of the matches were even commentated by professional gamers and streamed live on Twitch, according to The Cap Times.
With cash prizes of up to $5,000, the hobby your grandparents insisted on pronouncing “POH-kee-MAN” has turned extremely profitable. And the highest scoring players advanced to the Pokémon World Championships in Washington D.C. later this summer.
More than 900 gamers competed at the Madison event. That’s impressive for something that was supposed to go out of style before Y2K. And it might be an even more massive draw if only people knew about it.
“Nobody really understands that there’s a game behind the trading cards,” head judge Rick Mitchell told WKOW.
“No matter how bad you’re doing, everyone still wants to be talking to you about their teams and everything they’ve been strategizing about,” the 16-year-old said. “How (good) your team was, what you could possibly change. Everyone is so kind.”
Some attendees were just there for the love of the game. For many, Pokémon is a cultural touchstone. It’s something millennials have a personal relationship with it. I remember Pokémon getting banned at my elementary school because of the feckless wheeling and dealing it created among us card collectors. I can recall having cards taken away from me for looking at them during class.
Now I’m getting paid money to write about an international tournament centered around those cards. Who’s the Pokémon master now?
The Pokémon World Championships will be held in Washington, D.C. from Aug. 16-18.