I’ve been a long time Pokemon fan having played every main series game since Pearl. And in recent years the games official championships have had an explosion of viewers and participators. With the game now having garnered eSport status I still find myself being brushed off by most people when I participate in competitive Pokemon even by friends who play bigger eSports such as LoL and Dota. So today I would like to explore the true complexity of this Pokemon VGC along with some of the recent changes to the format and there impact on the community.
Some of you may not know this but there are currently 721 Pokemon, you also are only able to have 6 Pokemon on your team at a time. Which means there is a total of 137,579,356,487,018,880 possible team combinations this all before taking into account Items, EVs, IVs, Moves, Abilities and Forms. And that is just team combinations. You are also allowed to only take 4 of your 6 Pokemon team into battle meaning you have to look at your Opponent’s team and try and predict what they will bring along with the how to counter them. The format is also a “Double Battle” which means you always have 2 Pokemon active at a time. So you have to manage two Pokemon at at a time whilst also trying to work out what is the best plan of attack along with predicting your opponent is going do.
Maths also factors a surprising amount into this, you will often see top level players with notepads beside them and they’ll constantly be scribbling trying to calculate the percentage chance of out speeding the opponent to get the first shot in along with the percentage chance of the bonus affects from there moves taking place. So to truly be a Pokemon master you need to be able to manage all of these skills along with being willing to put in a lot of time just to get into this team of yours it can take several hours to just to get one Pokemon for your team of six and then you have to retry again if the team dynamic doesn’t work.
Pokemon VGC gained it popularity at the 2014 VGC World Championships receiving millions of views. Then Se Jun Park one using a Pachirisu on his team. And using it surprisingly well. For those not in the know Pachirisu is a Pokemon that is often caught early on in the game and then quickly discarded due to it’s weakness and small move-pool. This rocked the Pokemon Community for lack of a better word, showing that you too can be a Pokemon Master with your favorite Pokemon, Karen would be proud.
But then in 2015 the meta game stagnated having an incredibly small variety of Pokemon among the top level players. For example Landorous-Therian Form was on the team off all top 16 players in the masters division. The fans cried out asking for The Pokemon Company to do something. The logical decision would be to ban Pokemon that were overused and overpowered. But instead they added in a bunch of Pokemon previously banned for being too powerful. This changed so much of how people played the game. Yes there is more variety (This is just from what I am seeing, there hasn’t been any live streamed Pokemon tournaments at the time of writing) but at the same time there is a new Landorus if you will. Not as bad, but still rather prevlant. Xernas. Xernas was always a hassle to deal with before even when it was surrounded by legendries, but now amongst lesser ‘mons Xernas can be fatal to an entire team if not neutralized quick.
The VGC community has grown in recent years as I mentioned above. People are now able to make a living off making VGC Youtube videos, which doubles as practice. And the Friend Safari subreddit has gained thousands of members. But there is also a different side to the community. With legendries being non-breedable that means that you have to turn your game off and on again and battle them again and capture them and then get there IVs checked and it can take a couple of minutes just to do it once. So people have turned to twitter and social media. Asking and trying to exploit people to send them legendries to use. This was received negatively by most pokemon fans and demonstrates how far people are willing to go to get just one Pokemon.