Pokemon: Get in the game

PONTOTOC – When patrons entered the Hardee’s in Pontotoc on Sunday, little did they know they were walking in on a battle.
A Pokemon battle, that is.
Pokemon players from around the state and even a few states away gathered at the restaurant to compete in the area’s Pokemon City Championships.
Pokemon, a franchise owned by Nintendo, started in 1996. It was originally released as a pair of Game Boy games, but, in its wild success, has been merchandised into trading cards, a TV show, toys, books, movies and more.
Pontotoc native Danny Thrasher started a Pokemon Trading Card Game league about two months ago so local fans could get together and play. He contacted Kathy and Mike Schell of Pearl, a husband-and-wife team and Mississippi’s only certified Pokemon tournament organizers, to host a City Championship in Pontotoc.
“It’s a very big deal for here,” Thrasher said.
Sunday’s tournament hosted about 18 players, mostly male, and mostly adults.
The basic premise of the game is that “your Pokemon has to beat the other guys’ Pokemon,” Mike said.
The Pokemon Trading Card Game is complex, he said, with players using their own trading card decks, and combination possibilities are endless. It all comes down to strategy.
“I’ve heard some adults who play say it’s like Rook,” Thrasher said.
“A lot of people collect the cards but have no idea there’s a game involved,” Mike said.
Each of Sunday’s rounds lasted about 30 minutes. There were three age rages: Junior (10 and under), Senior (11-14) and Master (15 and up). No Juniors competed at the battle on Sunday.
The Schells were the judges; they answered questions and monitored to ensure a fair game.
The winner took home 18 packs of Pokemon cards and a City Champ medal, the second runner up won 10 packs of cards, while the third and fourth runners up won four packs each. The Schells also had drawings for prizes like hats, pencils and play mats.
Premier Ratings Points won at Sunday’s games will be added to a player’s point values and could win them an invite to compete at the 2011 Pokemon World Championships in San Diego, Calif. Several of the players at Sunday’s tournament said they’d already competed in games at the National level.
Each of the cards feature a character, each with its own strengths and weaknesses, or something that can be used in battle, like energy.
Family of players
For Lynn Berthaut, her mom, Mary Hibbard, and her son, Patrick, 11, all of Brandon, Pokampémon is a family affair.
The trio arrived in Lynn’s Chevy HHR, dubbed the “Pokemobile.” All three played in the tournament and have been playing Pokemon for about two years.
Patrick, she said, is autistic and home-schooled. “Pokemon has everything – reading, math, strategy,” Berthaut said. “Anything that can be used as a teaching experience, without him realizing it’s a teaching experience, is always good.”
The family took part in Nationals last year and hopes to go to World this year.
“It’s a good experience – all kids should travel,” she said.
As Lynn chatted with her opponent, she looked over a few times at Patrick, who won his game quickly.
He shook his opponent’s hand, smiling, and said, “Good game.”
Contact Sheena Barnett at (662) 678-1580 or sheena.barnett@djournal.com.

Pokemon Pontotoc City Championship winners

1st Place
- Senior: George Stewart – Bartlett, Tenn.
- Master: Victor Pruett – Vernon, Ga.

2nd Place
- Senior – Patrick Berthaut – Brandon
- Master: Anna Schell – Brandon

3rd Place
- Senior: Jacob Gloer – Pontotoc
- Master: James Wilson – Huntsville, Ala.

Sheena Barnett/NEMS Daily Journal