Chat Well

On Pokémon as a Live Event and the Importance of Respectfully Spectating

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Hello, Prizers! I haven’t written anything for this site in a while, so allow me to reintroduce myself.

My name is Mark and I’ve been playing the TCG for almost three years now. I play in the tiny Netherlands and started in the “Durant era,” also known as City Championships 2011. My first season was nothing spectacular, but in 2012-2013 I got my invite to Worlds in Vancouver as early as the end of City Championships. A few days ago, I earned my invitation to Washington D.C.

I’ve been meaning to write this very article for quite some time now, but the final announcement for the live commentators for the U.S. National and World Championships has finally pushed me toward actually doing it. The topic I’d like to talk to you about is demonstrating Spirit of the Game – not just as a player, but also as a spectator.

Competitive Pokémon is a little new to the live scene. It started off very, very rough, with occasional streams from third parties and the well-known Gamespot debacle. We’ve all had our fun and shaken our heads when those poor souls uttered the following phrases before thousands of viewers:

  • “Professor N
  • “Trash Claw”
  • “Metagross is good against Garchomp”

However, that was Worlds 2012. In 2013, I believe we can all agree we had some very reasonable commentary on the intense games at the World Championships provided by some of the best casters the Pokémon community has to offer. I’m sure this year’s World Championships is going to be even better, with the most successful pioneer in Pokémon commentary (Pooka) joining the fray.

With all the effort TPCi is putting into making Pokémon a legit event that reaches countless new faces with every stream, I believe we owe them and the game we all love so much to show our best to the outside world. And let’s be honest: I think we could do with some improvement on that regard!

Let me take you back to Canadian Nationals 2013. Several people near the top, including the winner, were under severe scrutiny from the Pokémon community for “declumping,” a practice that ran (and probably still runs) rampant. A common thing for people to say back then was: “If you tried that in any other card game, you would instantly get disqualified for stacking your deck.”

I’d rather not focus on the specifics of declumping and whether or not it’s legal or enforceable. What I want to focus on is the fact that the whole thing made the game and people involved in it look… foolish! There were people rearranging cards, there were judges not penalizing them for it, there were people defending the players and the judges, then there were people attacking the players and judges and calling each other all kinds of names. A lot of it happened in a (somewhat but not really) private Facebook group, but still, it looked ugly.

Not all that much later, Worlds 2013 happened. I’d like to skip both controversies directly involving Jason K. (the Random Receiver into N and the double Energy attachment) and head straight toward the big winner: Gino Lombardi and the stolen MacBook. No matter what side you’re on, you can probably agree that it was a PR disaster. What should have been a somewhat private matter turned into a public scandal that kept on being talked about with absolutely no purpose. Once again there was mudslinging all around and it was not a pretty sight.

In both of these cases, I think it was completely understandable that there was some initial spark. People want to discuss this kind of thing and that’s perfectly fine. But did it really need to be blown up, not just for a couple of days but even weeks? Probably not. In both of these cases, we, as a group, as a community, had a responsibility to represent ourselves properly. We are better than that, so we should act better than that. If you’re not willing to show respect for the people involved in a controversy, show some for the people that are not part of it, but are still represented by your poor behavior.


Something else that I’d like to discuss that’s more directly related to the official streaming is the audience. If you’ve been part of any stream audience (not just a Pokémon one), you know that the chat can be a very mixed bag. While at times there’s proper discussion on the game and the plays, a lot of it is very toxic. I have two main gripes in this regard that I’d like to bring up.

The first is trash talking of the players. Matter of fact is, players do not always make optimal plays: they sometimes miss huge opportunities. Maybe they are somewhat new to the game (very likely if it’s round 1). Maybe they’re nervous because they’re on the bubble, or are one game away from being thrown out of cut. Or maybe they have a completely different plan in mind.

What I like to see: “Why did he Red Signal Trubbish? I would’ve gone for the Yveltal-EX.”

What I don’t like to see: “Red Signaling Trubbish was super dumb. Yveltal-EX was the bigger threat.”

What I see way too often: “Wow, what an idiot. People suck at this game rofl. He had this locked up. Great plays Kappa.”

I’ll be the first one to admit: I’ve probably done something like all three of these examples. It’s easy to do: you’re somewhat anonymous; a lot of people do it; and after all, you’re not under any kind of pressure.

But it’s this kind of attitude that will eventually turn against you. If a new player knew how badly people reacted to his forgetting that Tropical Beach was in play, would he be willing to be on stream again?

“Big deal,” you might think. “They’ll just choose somebody else, hopefully a better player.”

Yes, I think this is a pretty big deal, and not just because I believe you should treat people the way you would like to be treated. What if everyone left in play refused to be on stream? There are some star players that do not want to be on stream anymore (think Dylan Bryan), so there’s actually a chance the stream can run out of options.

While TPCi can force people to be on stream in their big tournaments, do realize that this can have consequences for the streaming of smaller tournaments. In addition, if TPCi chooses to force a stream on a player who doesn’t want to be streamed, that’s going to add to the pressure they’re already feeling when playing an important loss. Would you like to be the cause of that?

The second is the overreaction to female players on stream. While I don’t have the numbers on me, I believe Pokémon is more gender-balanced than a lot of other trading card games. I don’t know about you, but I’d like to keep it that way, perhaps improve it. That’s not going to happen if the audience keeps focusing on the gender of one of the players rather than their actions.

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I’m not going to be as naïve as to expect every single person who reads this to suddenly turn around and change the way they react to a stream. I get it: I’ve been there. I too laughed when the Seniors World Champion used Tropical Beach on the final turns instead of winning the game with Frost Spear.

All I ask is that you show proper sportsmanship in public places like the stream. Not just as a player, but also as a spectator. If you have to be rude and make fun of people, do it in private with your friends. There’s Skype, Tinychat, Facebook… plenty of options.

If not for me, keep in mind this is at heart still a kid’s game. A huge part of this game is teaching important life lessons to kids: how to be respectful to one another. How learn from making mistakes. How to cope with losses.

Would you like to help with that?

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