Every ’90s kid remembers Pokémon, and, unlike Tamagotchi pets, Pokémon is still going strong, for both kids and adults. All over the world, people compete in Pokémon trading-card and video-games tournaments, which culminate in the World Championship. Eric Broffel plays the Pokémon trading-card game competitively for the Layton League and talked to City Weekly about his experiences.
Why do you think Pokémon is still popular after all these years?
It’s the kind of game that appeals to anyone, of all ages. The concept of the game is pretty much all about training these animals with superpowers and having them battle each other. In a way, that kind of builds the bond between people, because you have the similar interest and don’t just write it off as “the game for children.” The game is very casual: No matter what kind of competitive environment it is, it’s not as dead serious as Magic [the Gathering] or Yu-Gi-Oh!; it’s just more cartoon-y. The game has already introduced about 649 of these little creatures, so there’s going to be something for everybody to like.
How did you first get into playing competitively?
I started this as a casual kind of play when the trading-card game first appeared onto the scene [in 1998]. I think I truly got into the competitive scene back in 2010, when I got back into the game. I had a more stable job and I had more income to get better cards; that way, I could be more confident in how I play against people and still keep that friendly competition. The nice thing about the competitive scene is anything like tournaments is usually free. You can just make a 60-card deck, no more, no less, and come in and play.
What is the difference between playing when you played as a kid and playing now?
I think really the only difference is how sometimes the rules have changed. But it still has that balance that people can get into easily—you don’t need to go into an hour-long explanation as to how to do Turn 1. Pokémon is a very simple pick-up-and-play sort of game. It just takes time to master it.
How often do you compete in tournaments?
Usually when they come up, and when I can afford the trip; it just depends on the timing. I’m a pretty standard player, but I’m definitely not what you would call a pushover. Even if I, let’s just say, do horribly at a tournament, I still feel good afterward because I just had this chance to participate and meet new people. It also becomes a learning experience; maybe it taught me how to play the game a little better, maybe it caused me to see something like, “Hey, why didn’t I think of that?”
How do people respond when you tell them you play Pokémon competitively?
Aside from just the league group here, I’m not too ashamed to let some of my friends know that I do compete in tournaments sometimes. I think I’m beyond the age of feeling ashamed of what my hobbies are.
What happens at a typical tournament?
Usually a lot of the tournaments, at least from what I’ve seen, there can be a good 100, 150 people there. So, if you think Pokémon is just something for a narrow group of people, just look at the tournament list and you’ll be proven wrong.