Mr. White and son go to their first Pokemon League Day.
For about the past two years, my son has been a big fan of the Pokemon card game. Unfortunately, his peers don't really play. Now, he does some trades at school and what not, but I get the impression that the majority of his classmates don't actually know how to play the game. That's fine, but the boy gets a bit starved for competition. There have been some monthly meet-ups at our local library that we've checked out and there again it's really just trading that's going on. He's been able to round up a game, but the opponent wasn't really sure what they were doing and I got the impression these meet-ups are just places for parents to hang out and visit while the kids traded cards.
I have two starter decks. One I bought when he got into it a few years ago and the other as a Christmas gift (he bought my wife and I each one...he wanted to face new decks). On occasion, we'll go out to Target (no game stores in my town) and buy a few boosters then go get lunch and check out our cards. We have a great time and I'll tune my decks a little, but I don't have any EXs or anything like that as I'll pass them along to him.
Now, I understand the game has changed with the introduction of the EX (and now Mega EX) cards. However, I'd guess the gameplay is still very much the same. Where I'd guess the race used to be to see who could evolve to Stage 2 first, the race now seems to be who can load up their EX first. At home, we don't have a lot of EX's so evolving is still a big part of play.
Last week I decided it was time to let him out into the wilds of tuned decks and real players, so off to Dragon's Lair we went for their Sunday weekly League Day.
He's a pretty good player, but I cautioned him that he'd be running into some buzzsaws at organized events. Being a pretty bright kid he understood the bubble he's been playing in and that his deck likely isn't going to be strong enough to net him many victories, but he was still really excited to go. Good boy.
We get there and I inquire about the structure of the League where the event organizer proceeds to hand me a registration card and passport for him. Every time you play a match you get signatures in your passport. Two signatures for a loss, three for a win. Fill up a white row and you to select a card from a box (seemed to be good stuff in there). Fill up a beige row and you get to select from one of 6-8 special League cards. Fill all four rows, and you get to choose a patch to affix to your binder, jacket, backpack, whatever. Now, I'm not up for always giving out participatory prizes, but this set-up was inspired, for reasons that are obvious, but I'll get to.
So, he's got his water/grass deck, his passport and is looking for his first opponent. Now, my son is a bit on the smaller percentile at the moment and is very shy. Also, going into the third grade, was easily one of the youngest kids playing there. I helped him get his first games going by zeroing in on a pair of young ladies that were playing DSs and looking at their cards. Come to find out they're going into 8th grade and attended a Pokemon camp at the store this summer, which is where their decks came from. Seems one of their parent's were in the area shopping and had dropped them off at the game store for a few hours. My son won his first game, but got rolled in his second. The girls were super friendly and probably the best case scenario for him to warm up to this environment. They were courteous and helpful in pointing out a few rules we had been playing wrong.
After two games, he's got 5 signatures, and I play him where he collects a few more. He's eager to claim his first prize and wants me to help him ask for it, but I convince him he earned it so needs to go claim it. I'm not going to lie. A big reason we went here is I wanted him to be in a room full of strangers and be in a situation to further work on his shyness. The set-up of getting a prize even if you lose helped with this tremendously.
He never won a second match, but wasn't discouraged at all. He scoped out who seemed to be fielding the most EXs and avoided them looking to give himself the best chance. Playing a match would help him fill his card so there was a reward in going up to someone and asking to play (you can't play the same person twice on the same passport). Still, initial hesitation was there after every game, but I was proud of him as he'd work up the courage to go ask someone to a game or for trades. He ended up playing a wide assortment from 5th graders up to adults (usually parents or some really friendly folks that looked to be in their 20s). He navigated his way into a few trades and was in his element among other enthusiasts. I tried not to hover around, as I would go 'check something out' in the store frequently. Again, employing courage was a goal here.
Though he wanted to stay all day, I called it when he completed half the card. I didn't want him to experience it all on the first day, plus I had planned for us to go out to eat afterward while we were in Austin and we needed to start getting home.
Ultimately, the day was a huge success on many fronts. The event organizers did a great job and with this being a weekly event it was obvious they had it down. They run $5 tournaments on the last Sunday of every month where kids compete within their age bracket. My son's deck still isn't in anywhere near the condition it needs to be in for a tourney, but he wants to go back to League Day and definitely wants to try a tournament. On top of this, he wants me to get a passport and really take an active role in playing folks at the League Day. This was a great bonding experience and will be even better if I commit to Pokemon a bit more.
Guess I gotta start catching some...
NOTE: At home we seem to really focus on having enough energy to fuel your Pokemon. It's a safe strategy. We quickly learned the key isn't in dumping loads of Pokemon and energy in your deck, but really more about trainers and items that let you go fish out the specific energy and pocket monster you need. No need for 20-30 energy. 10 will be fine...just have the means to drill for them. We've got some deckbuilding to do.