In a feat worthy of the film The Wizard
, 15-year-old Sandy resident and Pokemon genius Nikoli Zielinski recently won the Pokemon World Championship Games in Washington, D.C.
Pokemon is a card and video game in which people become collectors of Pokemon (Pokemen? Pokemeece?) and train them to do battle against each other. This shaggy-haired champion has more dedication to a game than most people have for anything. "I play a lot of online battle simulators," Zielinski said in a recent phone interview. "I spend about four to five hours a day practicing, thinking about, and researching Pokemon."
Zielinski began playing the video games around 2009 and went competitive "about three years ago." As he developed his skills and started winning over and over and over again, he says, he realized he was a pretty good player. And he doesn't stray from what's he's good at. "I do not play the cards at all. I'm focused solely on the video games," he says.
Zielinski believes that while luck is certainly involved in winning, the game is played best with skill, strategy and something called probability management. The games are turn-based, allowing players to pick a character with particular skills to attack an opposing character who lack those skills and defenses. So, Zielinski says, “You need to manage probability, make sure you make the best possible play every turn, and take into account that this attack could miss, or it could get a critical hit and deal more damage,”
It’s his deep knowledge of the game and well-practiced tactics that took him all the way to Washington, D.C., to compete against internationally known champions like Mark McQuillan, the player he played against to win the championship. Check out the video below:
Using lineups based on teams created by three-time champion Ray Rizzo—a player he looks up to— Zielinski won a $3,500 scholarship, a trophy of Pikachu holding a trophy, Pokemon merchandise, the ability to move up from the senior's division to the master's division, and “the recognition that I am a world champion," Zielinski says. "That’s my favorite prize.”