If you’ve followed me on social media over the past few years, it should come as no surprise that I have very specific beliefs about how great Pokémon is, what a positive it is for the world, and therefore how I believe Pokémon players should act. In this article, I’m hoping to convince everyone reading this to pay attention to their words and actions surrounding Pokémon and encourage some of you to become ambassadors for the game. We’re going to break this down into a few steps.
Why Be a Positive Influence?
In my mind, the reason that you want to be a good ambassador for the game is a simple one — you love playing Pokémon, you want to see Pokémon succeed so that you can continue to play Pokémon, and Pokémon is more likely to succeed if its community is a caring, welcoming, passionate one.
It’s easy to disregard the feelings or opinions of others, and it’s certainly easy to go about living your life in such a way that you offer no compromises. However, taking a look at the paragraph above, it should be easy to understand why being a good influence on the game is important — it directly benefits you! Even if you aren’t passionate about the game and play purely to see your friends, you are more likely to be given opportunities to see these friends if Pokémon continues to succeed and continues to schedule tournaments. Even if your motivation for playing is purely a financial one, again, you are more likely to have a larger financial gain if the game grows and high-stakes tournaments are scheduled more often. Behaving in such a way that contributes to the game and the community is only a net positive for everyone involved.
The rebuttal that I usually hear when having this discussion is that it’s not a player’s responsibility to ensure that the game is successful. While I understand this point of view from a very shallow level, I would like to believe that Pokémon has given all of us something. As a person who was reintroduced to Pokémon in 2008, I can safely say that the game is directly responsible for almost all of my closest friends, a fair amount of income, and a lot of incredible experiences that I wouldn’t trade for the world. I personally feel that I am responsible for giving something back to the game; and if you relate to any of the factors I listed above, I would hope that you do as well.
I’ve also heard arguments that the behavior of one player ultimately won’t matter and that no one is actually being driven away from the game because of rude comments online or a bad tournament experience. As someone who ran a League consisting mostly of Juniors, Seniors, and young Masters, I do not believe that one bit, and I have witnessed the repercussions of negativity with my own eyes. Your actions do have an effect on those around you, and behaving in a negative way directly impacts tournament and League attendance, not to mention the lives and happiness of other players.
With all that being said, let’s talk about some ways in which we each can contribute to a better community. Although I think the community at large is great, and I do believe that most players are truly positive forces, I think there are a lot of areas that we could improve on as well, so I’ll go over some of them here.
1. Be Welcoming to New Players
I can’t count the amount of times that I’ve been scrolling through the Virbank City group on Facebook and have seen a new player post about a particular ruling or show a picture of their decklist and get absolutely berated with strings of curse words and suggestions that if you’re not a good player or don’t immediately know every ruling that you don’t belong. This behavior is absolutely toxic and should not be tolerated (I myself have tried to comment on these posts to shame those who are being negative and to give legitimate advice/information, but there are only so many hours in any given day). I have personally witnessed multiple instances where receiving a negative reaction drives a player to not participate in community discussions or, even worse, quit the game altogether.
This sort of behavior isn’t only a problem on the internet though — it happens in real life just as much. New players should not be made to feel like they’re inadequate or made to be uncomfortable purely because they’re new and might not be as skilled or experienced as other players in the room. Again, this is something that occurs far too often.
In fairness, I will place some of the blame on these situations on TPCi, as there currently exists no stepping stone into competitive play (I don’t believe that most Leagues accomplish this) that would allow players to test out what it’s like playing in a tournament without playing against handfuls of hyper-competitive players chasing Championship Points. I’ve written on this topic at length, so I digress.
2. Be Inclusive
I’m assuming that if you’re a Pokémon player who is choosing to read my articles you are a reasonably intelligent person. Because of this assumption, I don’t feel the need to go over the fact that there should be absolutely no derogatory or otherwise offensive speech at a tournament. If you’re someone who is still using hateful slurs (especially at a public, all-ages event), then I’m not sure this article is going to do too much to help you.
With that being said, I feel there are a number of other behaviors that players partake in that on the surface might not seem to be a negative, but in my experience definitely are. For instance, I’ve taken it upon myself to not curse to any extent when at a Pokémon event (or on social media). I also try not to make fun of specific decks, cards, players, etc. — especially around newer players or players that I’m less familiar with. While minor, I feel that behaviors like this do have their part in excluding certain members of the community.
3. Keep Your Cool
Even more important than your general behavior at a tournament is your behavior when actually playing a game. Introducing yourself, making pre-game small talk, and generally being clear about your own actions while having a sympathetic read on your opponent’s actions are all ways to ensure that you’re a positive force for the community. I’m not saying that you have to be talkative and colorful throughout the match, but a general show of respect and positivity, coupled with a pair of handshakes can go a long way.
To the surprise of absolutely no one, I can be known to go on tilt at times, especially when I feel like a certain set of nearly impossible circumstances have occurred to somehow have a negative impact on the match I’m playing or the tournament as a whole (Junipering into an 8-card deck and not drawing the one card you need, your resistance breaks in such a way that you end up exactly 9th place, etc.), so I can definitely understand those who have this urge.
However, I pride myself on never having taken out my anger on my opponents, instead choosing to sulk alone or go eat 12oz of mall food court frozen yogurt to drown my sorrows. We all care about Pokémon, so emotions are going to come into play at some point, but it’s important to keep your cool and understand that it’s not your opponent’s fault you’ve drawn Energy for the past five turns.
Before we go, I want to say that no one is perfect, and anyone who has known me for a significant portion of time can tell you that I used to adhere to precisely none of these rules. I’m sure that even now I slip up here and there. The point of this article isn’t to shame anyone or to convince anyone that I am superior. I’m simply trying to make the game I love the absolute best it can be, and I truly believe that it all starts with the players.
Let me know what you think in the comments.