South County Times – February 1, 2013, and Webster-Kirkwood Times – January 25, 2013
Local Pokemon players competed in the largest regional competition in Pokemon history – a gathering where Pokemon is not just a kid’s game, but a community and culture of friendship for all ages.
The 2013 Pokemon Winter Regional Championships (PWRC) were held last weekend at the St. Charles Convention Center. There were close to 600 registered players, according to Vince Krekeler, the event organizer and owner of Yeti Gaming in Crestwood.
Pokemon was launched in the late 1990s and consist, in part, of colorful creatures of all shapes and sizes that are similar to animals. The genre has fans around the world and has grown to include many products including the trading card game, video games, an animated series and a variety of collectibles and toys.
A sea of competitive players from around the Midwest flooded into the convention hall to happily greet one another with hugs, high fives, and smiling faces. People of many different ages, ethnicities and backgrounds assembled together in a peaceful and inclusive environment bound by one common element – Pokemon.
Elliot Williams, 12, from Webster Groves, took sixth place at the PWRC and will move on to the U.S. National Championships later this year in Indianapolis, Indiana. The ultimate goal for competitive Pokemon players is to qualify to play at the 2013 Pokemon World Championships held in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Elliot is a serious Pokemon player and is well on his
way to making that goal a reality.
Elliot plays the Pokemon video game just for fun, but plays the Pokemon Trading Card Game weekly at Yeti Gaming, the practice spot for several local champions. He has been to numerous local and out-of-state Pokemon competitions including competing in the 2011 World Championships in San Diego, CA.
Elliot is a bright and articulate young man who is building lasting friendships. He values the spirit of friendly competition.
“Playing your friends in competition is hard because you can’t go easy on them. You have to really try to play your best game,” Elliot said. “And beating them is the hardest part.”
To prepare for the competition, Elliot gathers his dice and makes sure his collector cards all have new card protectors to avoid damage. He also decides the value of his cards in his trading binder before trading with other collectors.
The fun part of the competitions for Elliot is telling his friends how his games went and the side events, such as a cookie-walk and art contest that allow him to stroll around and have fun with his friends.
The card game is said to encourage basic math skills, critical thinking, respect and good sportsmanship. The mental strategy and anticipation needed are described by many as comparable to the skills used in a game of chess. Players build card decks with their favorite Pokemon characters, each card with a differing strength and weakness, and then play against each other according to those characteristics.
Pokemon is not just for youngsters. Competitors are divided into three age divisions: juniors, seniors, and masters. The PWRC saw competitors ranging in age from 6 to 67. Competitors compete for prizes including travel awards and scholarships.
“Playing is really fun and I encourage people of all ages to try it instead of just thinking it’s a kid’s game because it is not,” Elliot said with excited conviction. “There are a lot of adults that play also.”
The PWRC event organizer and lawyer by trade, Vince Krekeler, has been involved with Pokemon for at least 11 years. Krekeler and his team worked since last September to get ready for the Midwest PWRC event.
“I love the fact that so many times this brings families with their kids together to do something that is kid centered and that the kids enjoy and can excel at,” Krekeler said. “But the parents can be part of the process… and be part of the kid’s life that you don’t get in a lot of other activities.”
Krekeler opened Yeti Gaming three years ago in Crestwood and is proud to say that the Pokemon National Champion from last year was from Yeti Gaming. Krekeler’s son, Alex, took third place at the Pokemon World Championship in 2011.
Kids involved with Pokemon seem to be putting down their cell phones and ipods to interact with each other on a face-to-face basis in stores and in leagues.
“Pokemon has done more to keep our family unit tight than anything else in the world,” Krekeler said. “My kids and I have traveled from Hawaii to Atlanta to Florida to California and all around the country to play this game and made friends all around the country.”
Published: South County Times – February 1, 2013, and Webster-Kirkwood Times – January 25, 2013