Can YOU Beat a 10 Year Old at Pokémon?

As kids, I think a lot of us went through phase of Pokémon, there wasn’t a school that didn’t have packs of Pokémon Trainers huddled together to see whose pocket monsters were the best, and I was no exception to this rule, but like most people I outgrew it and moved on.

Unbeknownst to me, some years later my step brother had been caught under the ever spreading influence of the Pokémon phenomena and had asked me to battle him on ‘pokemonshowdown.com’, an online battle platform. Having both fond memories of thousands of hours well spent playing the games and a competitive personality I wholeheartedly accepted his challenge.

When I last played there were only around 250 different Pokémon which sounds like a lot, and I thought this too, until I was informed there are now 720 of them, with more on the way later this year. Not even knowing where to start, my step brother handed me a bunch of Pokémon I didn’t recognise but I thought to myself its ok, I still have a good working knowledge of the games mechanics from when I was playing them myself, and we began… I lost almost immediately to strategies I have never seen, to a ten year old no less, but I am a competitive person, I will not give up so easily I thought to myself and thus begun my descent into the madness that is today's world of Pokémon.

I quickly learned that there is far more to the games battling system than I ever gave it credit for, the main of which is “Tiers of Usage”. With there being way to many individual pocket monsters to manage and learn in a single game type, a community driven website took it upon themselves to manually sort through every individual Pokémon and break them all into tiers based on their strengths, weaknesses and regularity of usage.

This in itself blew my mind, 720 Pokémon sorted and catalogued into 7 neatly formed groups… The time this must have taken to do once, let alone every time a new game comes out with both brand new and altered older Pokémon alike.

Having conferred with my pre-pubescent rival we picked a tier between us and I got to work designing my perfect team. Honestly it would take nothing short entire book to describe the wealth of knowledge one would need to master this game at a high level of play but I will break down some of the core aspects of building ones team here.

§ Types

All Pokémon are assigned up to two types, some types are strong against each other, some are weak and some are neutral. This seems simple enough but building a team with balanced typing is harder than it may seem, a player will generally have a mixture of offensive Pokémon and defensive Pokémon, meaning finding a perfect mixture takes both time and research to ensure your team does not have any glaring weaknesses. Also if you want any chance of winning a battle, you either need to have the type match-ups memorised, or the image below handy.

( http://www.pokemonxy.com/_ui/img/_en/art/Type-Matchup_chart_EN.pdf )

§ Stats

Having the right types just isn’t enough when it comes to playing against people, you need to ensure your Pokémon have the correct stats for their role.

( http://pokemonshowdown.com/ )

As you can see from the above image, there are six stats to think about: HP (Hit Points), Attack, Defence, Special Attack, Special Defence and Speed. You wouldn’t want a Pokémon that you need to be able to take hits for your team to have no defences or HP, or a Pokémon designed to hit hard without and strong offensive stats right? Not most of the time, but strangely there can be exceptions to that rule. A Pokémon has more than just its base stats, it has something called EVs (Effort Values) which are an additional pool of stats that can be used or ‘spent’ to bolster a Pokémon’s base stats, this is done on the sliders next to the stats on the above image, making a Pokémon’s weak points far less weak, or its strong points far stronger.

§ Items

A major game changer in a game of Pokémon are the items each Pokémon can holding. Each Pokémon can hold one item, and while this may not sound like a point of importance, it’s almost essential that each Pokémon has an item, but more importantly, the right one.

( http://pokemonshowdown.com/ )

There are well over 200 items, that when held by a Pokémon can change the outcome of a battle, from a little to a lot, some may affect stats by increasing them, some may allow restoration of HP during a battle and there are countless others so I won’t go too much into detail here. The point is that something simple as a held item can be the difference between being crushed by your opponent or a dramatic comeback and victory on your part.

Now that we have gone through most of the essentials, I have no shame in saying I spent nearly two hours researching, planning and theory-crafting my team for this single battle, and if seems ludicrous to you, I challenge you to do better as its harder than it sounds, and I think I made it sound somewhat difficult here! Unfortunately for me, having what I thought was my perfect team isn’t enough, Pokémon Battling at a higher level requires you to successfully predict your opponents move which can be difficult at the best of times as you can either give your opponent too much credit by thinking they are better than they are and acting accordingly to find they stomped you with a novice move, or vice versa in not giving your opponent enough credit, or perhaps they are just better than you in which case you’re probably in trouble.

To cut this ever growing story much shorter than it could be, I was smarter than a 10 year old and I did win. Perhaps I should apply for the TV show “Are You Smarter than a Ten Year Old”, if Pokémon was the topic I would be bound to win! But the reason I chose to write about this experience is that people often assume Pokémon is a children’s game and think nothing more of it, and to those people I would like to ask, can you beat a child at Pokémon?