Have you been playing VGC online and are unsure whether live events are something for you to try? We bring you today the experience of a new player, an old-school warstory of sorts, having played at a live event for the first time in Orlando, so that you may know what to expect from attending a major like this. Pokémon Scarlet & Pokémon Violet being a recent release make this a perfect moment to start!
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Hi, everyone! It’s Jack Fuld a.k.a. PikaTROD here. A bit about myself: I am a major Pokémon fan. I’ve been playing mainline Pokémon games since Generation 4, and have been on Pokémon Showdown playing competitively since Generation 6. I’ve built Smogon Singles teams, I’ve climbed the Random Battles ladder, and I’ve even competed in numerous Pokémon draft leagues.
Despite being in the competitive scene for a long time, there are many aspects of the VGC format that are completely new to me. Competitive Doubles is a format that I am still trying to wrap my head around. Even more importantly, Pokémon has always been a passion I have kept to myself. Before going to Orlando Regionals, I had never experienced what the Pokémon community was like. The article only captures glimpses of my time in Orlando, but I wanted to immerse readers in that moment. Whether you are a longtime veteran who hasn’t been to an event in a long time, or a newbie looking to make your name known, I hope this article can give you context on what current Pokémon events look like. Moreover, I hope it can help you feel comfortable joining an event near you. Enjoy the read!
Orlando Regionals from a Newcomer
A warstory by Jack Fuld. February 13th, 2023
Alarms set. Here’s the plan: I need to get to the venue at 8:30 am, so let me aim for 8 am. The Uber is a 20 minute ride. So I’ll wake up at 6:50. I’ll set two alarms, one at 6:45 to wake me up and one at 6:50 so I get out of bed. I’ll order an Uber or Lyft (whichever is cheaper) at 7:20, add a stop at the Einstein Bagels to pick up a breakfast egg sandwich and lunch bagel with cream cheese. Then I’ll arrive at the Orlando Convention Center, where I’ll take the Pokémon circuit by storm. I’ll be a Pokémon Master.
Outside the convention hall; the Orlando Convention Center
On the morning of February 4th, I was one of hundreds of competitors at the official Orlando Regional Pokémon tournament. It was the largest Video Game Championship (VGC) (over 800 players) and Trading Card Game (TCG) event ever hosted, with over 2000 people competing. After I checked in, I walked through pre-opened metal doors to enter the tournament space. The high ceilings, bright lights and seeming lack of windows made the venue look like a warehouse if not for the event. Tables and banners were placed in all directions. Swag pick-up was on the left. Trading Card mini games and a station for playing console Pokémon games were on the right. As I continued walking deeper into the venue, the rows and rows of tables and chairs opened up to me. With VGC players mostly on the right of the venue and TCG players on the left, the blue and green tableclothed playing-stations stretched out like the ocean. I’ve been playing Pokémon for a long time, but I’ve never experienced anything like this.
Inside the tournament; rows of tables for competitors
My round 1 opponent and I both sat nervously at our Switches. Xavier wore a black shirt, ripped jeans, a maroon sweatshirt and a baseball cap turned backwards. As we waited for the first round to begin, he nervously flipped through his team on his Switch. I began to introduce myself. We talked about how this was the first Regionals for us both, and how much nervous energy we felt. “Once we get each other’s team sheets, that’s when it’ll hit me, I think”, Xavier commented. In VGC, getting information about the other person’s team (also known as the teamsheet) was the last step before we began our game. I tapped my foot and eavesdropped on chatty competitors on my left and right until a man with a Shaymin plush on his shoulder brought in our team sheets. He walked us through how to set up the game. “Good luck, have fun!” Xavier and I shook hands and began the match. Each round of VGC was decided by a best-of-three-games. I won game 1, but I could feel the sweat from my palms rubbing onto my Switch. Game 2 I managed to stay in control and clinched a second win, beating Xavier in the best-out-of-three. Xavier and I lifted our eyes from our screens. “I appreciated your Sableye”, I told him. We reflected on the game, exchanged phone numbers, and took a picture together.
Me and Xavier, after our match
It was 1 pm by the time round 3 ended and we were dismissed for lunch break. I had 2 wins and 1 loss. Walking out of the convention center, I passed through crowds of people with Pokémon paraphernalia: Ash Ketchum hats, Hawaiian shirts with Pallosand and Gyarados, “It’s a Crit” shirts and more. I chuckled as I passed a man in his late 20’s fully decked out in a colorful Pokémon pants suit.
After taking advantage of Orlando’s sunny weather by lying in a grassy field in front of the center, I rushed back in at 2:30 pm for round 4. With a little bit of good luck, I slipped into a 4-1 record (my round 5 opponent could only shake his head in disgust as I critically hit his Volcarona. “I literally win the game!”).
Outside the venue; a beautiful day in Orlando
At 5:00 pm I began round 6. I was facing a Trick Room team with Torkoal and Hatterene, two uncommon Pokémon. My opponent was laser focused on his Switch, earbuds already plugged in and jotting notes by the time I had arrived at the table. As we set up, I attempted some friendly patter. “How are you doing?” His eyebrows raised into his curly hair as he took his left earbud out. “Hm? Oh, good.” He put his earbud back in. I sighed to myself. I won the first game, but could not secure the next two and lost the round. As my opponent got up, I could see that at the center of his gray shirt was a colorful outline of a Ho-Oh. “Dang. I thought I had that one,” I told him. He looked me in the eye. “My honest opinion?” I nod my head. “You could have played more aggressive. You built the team to take the lead and run with it. So run with it.” I nodded once again and smiled. “I appreciate that.” My opponent nodded back. He picked up his Switch and headed into the crowd.
As I stood up my head began to spin. I took a couple deep breaths. The length of the day had begun taking its toll on me. The day ended at 11 pm, myself with a 5-5 record. Out of the 800 VGC players, only the top 32 made it to Day 2. So much for taking the Pokémon circuit by storm. That being said, I held my head up high leaving the Orlando Convention Center. I left Orlando in three more Pokémon Discord servers than I had come in with. Pokémon was always a personal hobby, but here I was amongst enthusiasts from all over the world. Plus, I got an awesome Sobble hat!
The Orlando Regional Championships final match
I tip my hat to the winner of the Orlando Regional. I’m coming for that throne!