UNION, NJ — Paul Chua of Union won first place and the title of Pokémon winter regional champion after a weekend of video game battles in Doswell, Va., during the weekend of Feb. 13 to 14. Along with the title, he also earned points that count toward a potential invite to the 2016 Pokémon World Championships in San Francisco this August. Players who achieve a top championship ranking following the U.S. national championships in Columbus, Ohio, this July will earn a spot with the best players from more than 30 countries.
Paul didn’t advance to this level of playing overnight. It took many years of practice to achieve this level of proficiency. When he first started playing, he was so confused by the game he decided to take a break from playing.
“The first time I ever played a Pokémon video game was in 2003 when I was given a Game Boy Advance from a family friend which contained Pokémon Ruby,” Paul said. “As I was pretty young, I had no idea what I was supposed to do in the game and stopped for a while. My interest in the game rekindled when I saw a commercial for the newest Pokémon games at the time, Pokémon Diamond and Pearl.”
After that, Paul was officially hooked on the Pokémon games, immediately buying the new games as they were released. He started participating in championships in 2010, and he’s qualified for every World Championship since 2012.
“The competitions occur several times throughout the year,” Paul said. “Every few months, they have a series of regional championships. The series correspond to the seasons, placing well at any of these events will earn the participant championship points. These points are needed to qualify for the world championships in August.”
The top eight players are given incentives to travel to the national championships. The travel award provides free airfare and hotel accomodations. The ultimate prize for this competition is a $10,000 scholarship. There are also three age divisions: Junior, Senior, and Masters. Paul is playing his second year as a Master.
“My win at the winter regional championships in February at Virginia was definitely something shocking. This was my second year in the Masters division, and I was not expecting to win at all. I don’t remember exactly how many games I have played to get to this level, but I can tell you that it took a lot of time, effort, and practice. This game involves a lot of prediction and planning ahead in order to gain an advantage in a match. The risk/reward factor of the predictions adds to the excitement of the game. Like many other games, luck plays a huge role.
My experience of playing this game and going to these tournaments has been absolutely incredible. The social aspect is definitely one of my favorite parts,” said Paul. “If I make it to the world championships, I’ll get to meet people from all over the world. At almost every event you go to, you are welcomed by a community of friendly, good-natured people. In addition, you get a chance to talk to other players around your age that share common interests. I have met a lot of my friends from all over the world at these events. Now that the next set of regional championships is not until May, I think I am just going to relax a bit from these competitions and probably focus on school.”
Paul is currently a junior at The Academy for Information and Technology in Scotch Plains. He says that in addition to luck and practice, strategy is also a very important technique for winning these games. The object of the game is to collect four to six Pokémon, but only four of the six can be selected to operate at a time. Aside from improving his skills and competing for the scholarship, the social aspect is another motivation for Paul.
“The Organized Play event series is perhaps the best example of how Pokémon has positively influenced millions of people worldwide for two decades. Bringing together trainers of all ages from all walks of life, events such as the winter regional championships provide an opportunity for players to connect to their local community and compete among friends in a supportive and fun environment,” said J.C. Smith, senior director of consumer marketing for The Pokémon Co. International, in a recent press-release statement. “Thank you to all the players that participated in this tournament and congratulations to those that took home the esteemed title of winter regional champion. We look forward to following each trainer as they continue their journey through the championship series, culminating in what should the largest and most exciting world championships ever.”
Players of all ages and skill levels are encouraged to participate in organized play events that guarantee competitors the opportunity to play in multiple rounds, no matter what their win-loss record is. For more information on future tournaments including dates, locations, prizes, and tournament rules and regulations, visit www.pokemon.com/play.