Pokemon Players Lead The Way In 'Healthy' Gaming

Many gamers associate Pokemon with a demographic younger than what most games enjoy. There’s something simplistic about the game’s overall structure. Its storylines are simple and its morals old-fashioned.

Last weekend, we found out there was more to the game than just running around catching them all.

Over a casual non-sanctioned Pokemon gathering over in Cathay Cineleisure’s E2Max, we met community leader Ryan Loh.

The video game admin of Team Robo, Singapore’s official Play! Pokemon group had been the one who decided to found the online community of Pokemon SG. Ryan, who prefers to be known as Ry, had his hands full with the ongoing event – Batteru Factori 2 – or Battle Factory when we arrived. The casual tournament was the second in the Battle Factory series, with the beta run being held earlier in April. Even so, he managed to peel himself away from the intense battles to give RGB some insights to competitive Pokemon play in Singapore.

Local fans of the Pokemon video games, Ry told us, ranged from children just nine years of age, to young adults in their early twenties. This demographic distribution was evident in the attendance of the tournament. The older fans, most in their twenties and up, were more familiar with Team Robo. We asked what the need for the Pokemon SG group was, since Team Robo had already been established as the official Play! Pokemon group in Singapore.

“We just want a place for kids to play,” Ry explained. He went on to tell us more about how the group helped teach its members values in life, and was a good medium for like-minded individuals to get together and have fun.

“Ever since I founded the group, I’ve got to know so many people and their stories,” said Ry.

Team Robo’s video game admin has been playing Pokemon since its inception on handheld consoles, but only got into competitive play somewhere in 2008, when he was in secondary school. Given the age of many members of Pokemon SG, we wondered if any local ‘Tiger’ mums or dads had come down on their children for spending too much time on the game.

Ry said that while he had to speak to several parents, most of them were accepting of the fact that the game could be used as an educational medium. It was also a good place for their children to meet friends, and to learn to be independent. As Ry so succinctly summed up what most of his ‘kids’ learn from the group – “if you want good Pokemon, you learn how to do it, or you don’t get it.”

15 year old Isaac, who has been a member of Pokemon SG for two years and is currently an admin for the group, said that he had gained some sense of leadership skills from the group. Those were, he noted, something important to individuals like himself who were still growing up.

Watching the eager fans at Battle Factory 2 playing Pokemon competitively seemed like it was an everyday affair to them. For us old fogeys at RGB, however, it was an interesting new take on the game. Could Pokemon really someday reach the level of e-Sports? Nintendo is, after all, known more for producing casual games.

“I don’t think it’ll reach StarCraft level yet,” said Ry, when asked if he considered competitive Pokemon an e-Sport. He did note that most participants in national tournaments have their roots in Team Robo, and that “it’s been getting more competitive” in the local scene. Nonetheless, no one has been paid to play Pokemon professionally yet, not even in the US. Big tournament prizes are usually targeted at kids, and are generally of an educational nature.

In any case, given Pokemon SG’s vision of simply creating a common space for fans of the game series to congregate and compete, serious competitive play will only be on the cards further into the future. Right now, the focus is on the group’s members, who number at approximately 180, with up to 40 active members.

“You really enjoy a game if you have friends to play with,” Isaac told us, during our chat with him. And we couldn’t agree more!

If you’d like to find out more about Pokemon SG or competitive play, join their Facebook group! They also have a Facebook page that you can like for updates.